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FurnaceA gas furnace is an energy-efficient way to heat your home in Harrisburg, PA. Per unit of energy, gas furnaces create more heat than other petroleum products. Almost all of the time, natural gas furnaces efficiently and safely burn fuel to heat your home. On rare occasions, there could be an issue with a gas furnace. If you smell the odor of natural gas, it may or may not be normal. Here’s what you need to know if you notice this smell and some action steps on what you should do in each situation.

What Causes the Smell of Natural Gas

By federal law, natural gas providers and suppliers must add an odor-causing chemical called mercaptan to natural gas. That’s because natural gas has no inherent odor. It’s also colorless and tasteless. If the chemical wasn’t added to the natural gas, you’d have no way of detecting a gas leak. Mercaptan has a strong, foul smell that humans can detect at concentrations as low as 10 parts per billion. This is about the same concentration as your nose can smell gasoline, which has a strong odor from the refinement process.

Gas Odor at the Beginning of a Heating Cycle

If you’re standing next to the furnace when it initiates a heating cycle, you might smell the odor of natural gas for just a few seconds. This is normal. When the thermostat triggers a heating cycle, the gas supply valve opens and releases gas to the burners. There is a fraction of a second before the ignition or pilot ignites the gas. Once the gas is burning, the smell goes away. If the smell persists, you may need furnace repairs.

Persistent Gas Odor Near Your Furance

If you smell the odor of natural gas near your furnace and it’s not performing a heating cycle, this is a problem. Your furnace could have a gas leak. You should immediately get everyone out of your home, including any pets. Once you’re safely outside and at least 50 feet away from your house, call for emergency repairs.

Natural Gas Smell From Furnace Exhaust

Natural gas furnaces have a flue. The flue dissipates the exhaust gases to the outdoors. This is essential to your safety. If you smell gas during a heating cycle, and you have an open window near the furnace’s flue, it’s possible that the open window is allowing the exhaust gases to blow into your home. Close the window. If the gas smell goes away, this was the reason for the odor. If you smell gas from your furnace and the windows are closed, it’s possible that the flue is clogged. A bird’s nest or other debris could be in the flue. You should call for repairs if you suspect a clogged flue.

Gas Smell Elsewhere in Your Home

You may notice a smell of natural gas even if you’re in a room where there aren’t any gas-powered appliances. That’s because the vapor moves through the air. If there’s a gas leak, the vapor will follow the air currents in your home. If you smell gas in the basement, there could be a leak in your gas supply line before its connection with your furnace. You might smell gas in the lowest level of your home because the vapor is heavier than air. If you smell gas outside your home, it could be leaking in the supply line before its connection to your interior piping. If you smell the odor of natural gas anywhere in or near your home, it’s best to call the gas company for leak detection services. Evacuate your home, then make the call. It’s better for them to come out and check and find that everything is fine than to put yourself and your household members at risk of serious injuries or even death from carbon monoxide poisoning or an explosion if a gas leak were to ignite.

HB Home Service Team is the trusted provider of gas furnace repairs in Harrisburg. We also offer heat pump and cooling system repairs. Our heating and air conditioning maintenance and replacement services keep you comfortable year-round. For your convenience, we also offer plumbing, air duct cleaning, indoor air quality, dryer vent cleaning, and humidifier services. If you’re a Harrisburg business owner, you can also turn to us for reliable commercial HVAC services. To learn more about when it is and is not normal to smell gas near a furnace, get in touch with us at HB Home Service Team today.