How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes
Is it normal to smell gas near a natural gas meter?
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Gas meters have a disc-shaped regulator next to them that reduces the pressure of the incoming gas down to the correct, much lower level for the appliances in a home. The regulator utilizes a spring, piston, and rubber-like diaphragm in combination to keep a constant, reduced gas pressure in the pipes coming into the home. There is a pinhole “atmospheric pressure vent” on the side of the diaphragm that is sealed from the gas flow, and its purpose is to maintain normal atmospheric pressure on one side of it.
Some regulators are marked with “VENT” next to the screening over the opening, like in the photo below, but the vent does not release natural gas unless the diaphragm is damaged. There is also likely to be a sticker on the regulator that says “IF YOU SMELL GAS, CALL YOUR GAS COMPANY."
So the only reason to smell gas around the meter would be a leak at the regulator or one of the pipe connections. We recommend that you call the local gas utility right away to come over and check it out, and not smoke or take any action that would cause a spark near the area of the gas smell in the meantime. It is possible to use a soapy water solution over the meter and pipe surfaces and check for bubbles to find a leak, but the gas company will do it for free.
Incidentally, if the vent gets clogged by dirt or bits of debris, you may have problems with your gas appliances not burning properly.
The last part of connecting a gas appliance is the flexible tubing called an appliance connector. For the installation standards, see our blog post What are the requirements for installing a gas appliance connector? Also, got to our blog post How can I tell the difference between Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) and a Flexible Appliance Connector (FAC)? for how to tell these two types of flexible tubing apart. And, for the requirements for installing black iron pipe at an exterior location, see Is black iron gas pipe code approved for exterior (outdoor) installation?
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