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Gas Leak: Recognize, Prevent, and Take Action

21 March 2024

Since gas permanently entered our homes (early decades of the 20th century), it has brought well-being and convenience, but also health risks. Explosions and fires caused by gas leaks are anything but sporadic events: domestic incidents caused by Methane or LPG in cylinders in the four-year period 2019-2022 were almost a thousand (to be precise, 983, that is, over two per day), with 121 deaths and 1507 injuries. Gas leakage, in short, is a serious domestic emergency that can endanger people's lives and cause significant material damage.

Against this danger, prevention is fundamental, by adopting simple daily measures and installing detectors and alarms. But it is equally important to recognize gas leakage when it occurs in order to intervene promptly and appropriately.

Gas leaks: the causes

The most common causes of gas leaks in the domestic environment are related to wear and tear, corrosion, aging, or incorrect installation of systems.

Appliances such as stoves, boilers, and water heaters lose efficiency and reliability as they age, becoming more prone to breakdowns and defects. Even when they are not defective, simple wear and tear can compromise the safety systems of more modern appliances.

The problem of gas leaks in the home also concerns pipes, joints, and fittings. Rubber flexible tubes lose elasticity over time and can therefore deteriorate, causing cracks or holes. Metal pipes, on the other hand, can corrode or break due to impact or vibration.

But even a simple worn gasket or loose fitting can cause a gas leak.

And then there's human error, such as inadvertently leaving stove knobs open; ignoring any warning signs (like odor); causing impacts or damage, for example, during a renovation.

How to recognize gas leaks and what to do

Both Methane and LPG (common household gases used for cooking and heating) are odorless. For this reason, artificial odors are added before distribution so that people can detect the presence of gas in the environment.

These odors are unpleasant and pungent, commonly likened to that of rotten eggs or cabbage. Sensing these odors is the first warning sign and should never be underestimated, especially if accompanied by a hissing sound (or other similar noise) and an unstable, yellowish flame on the stove.

Strong headaches, nausea, and vomiting can also be linked to the presence of gas (or more often carbon monoxide) in the environment. 

Smell gas? Act immediately

In case of a leak, promptness is essential. But it's also important to take the right actions and avoid those that could further compromise the situation.

What to do

  • Make an emergency call
  • Close the main gas valve
  • Turn off any appliances and devices that are on
  • Aerate the area by opening doors and windows slightly
  • Evacuate the area.

If the gas leak seems mild and could be due to a malfunctioning appliance or worn-out pipe, once you've taken the above actions, you can try to identify the point of leakage. You can do this by checking the meter once the main gas valve is closed: if there's still consumption, it means the leak is downstream of the meter and upstream of the valve; if not, then the leak is most likely downstream of the valve.

To find it, you can use a mixture of water and soap: apply it with a sponge at the "suspected" point or points; if there's a gas leak, bubbles will form. Once you're certain of the damage, you can call a plumber for repairs.

But if we can give you advice, doing it yourself with gas is always discouraged: if you discover a gas leak in the kitchen or boiler room or even just suspect it, immediately contact a qualified professional, who with the right tools and experience will be able to fix things without unnecessary risks.

What not to do

  • Waste time and not call for help immediately;
  • Turn on lights and flames (not even a match or a lighter) and operate electrical appliances (including computers and cell phones) to avoid sparks;
  • Smoke;
  • Forcefully open doors and windows causing sudden drafts (which could increase gas dispersion with greater risks of explosion);
  • Use the elevator (which can cause sparks).

Who to Call

If the smell is very strong, it means that the leak is significant, perhaps because there is a rupture in the main pipeline of the distribution network. In this case, the first ones to contact are the Fire Brigade at 115, who have the technical skills and equipment to intervene with full knowledge of the situation.

Indeed, all gases are not equal and do not behave the same. For example, LPG, being heavier than air, tends to stagnate downwards, seeping into cracks and basements like cellars. Conversely, methane, being lighter, tends to rise upwards.

That is why it is essential that those intervening know exactly what to do and have the necessary equipment to secure buildings and their occupants based on the type of gas, building structure, urban context, etc.

If the gas leak is due to a meter malfunction, it will be necessary to contact the network operator, i.e., the company that sends you the bills.

How to Prevent Gas Leaks

Prevention is better than cure is not just a saying but also a good practice, which in the case of gas can save lives.

The first fundamental rule is to carry out regular periodic maintenance. In the case of heating boilers, the law requires checking emissions, but this is mainly aimed at reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to this check, general maintenance should always be performed, including, for example, cleaning the burner, checking the tightness of the installation, and inspecting ventilation in the room.

Each boiler is equipped (or should be) with a booklet indicating the interval between each check. In any case, the technician at the time of installation or inspection will determine the frequency of periodic maintenance, which is usually annual or biennial (depending on the type of gas and/or the power of the installation).

Do not overlook having other appliances such as the cooker, oven (if gas-powered), and associated fittings and pipes inspected by qualified professionals.

Periodic maintenance also has the advantage of saving on bills because keeping appliances efficient means reducing consumption.

Replacing the boiler or cooker is necessary when they are too old to be repaired or are no longer certified or compliant.


So far, we have discussed what you can do to recognize and prevent a gas leak. But we know well that this may not be sufficient due to distraction, absence from home, or simple forgetfulness. That's why technology lends us a big hand, helping us with automatic checks 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This is the case with gas detectors, highly sophisticated electronic devices designed to monitor the presence of both methane and LPG in the environment and sound the alarm if certain values ​​are exceeded. If installed in a domestic environment, they increase safety and reduce the risks associated with gas leaks.

Thanks to an internal sensor, these devices constantly monitor air quality. In the event of exceeding the threshold (in our case, a gas concentration equal to 10% of the lower explosive limit), they trigger an optical and acoustic alarm. In some models, the sensor is detachable: this means that, when it expires, it is not necessary to replace the entire device, but only the sensor.

In most cases, they are easy to install devices, but to be effective, it is necessary to comply with precise regulatory requirements. For methane, the detector must be placed on a wall no less than 30 centimeters from the ceiling; for LPG, on the other hand, it must be low but not less than 30 centimeters from the floor; both must be installed at a distance between one and 4 meters from the source (boiler or stove).

Even in the case of installation, however, we advise against DIY, because only a qualified professional is able to make all the evaluations needed to determine the correct positioning and, above all, to issue the conformity certificate.

This is even more necessary when it comes to accommodations intended for short-term rentals, bed and breakfasts, and tourist accommodations. As of January 2024, in fact, for these types of properties, the obligation to install control devices such as gas detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers has been introduced. The conformity certificate issued by a qualified professional is the document that protects you from fines and legal troubles.

And, of course, always choose approved devices, compliant with Italian and European regulations.

Geca offers a wide range of devices, manufactured and tested in Italy. They are the result of over 30 years of experience in the home security sector, guaranteed for reliability, precision, and high-quality components.

Contact us and we will be happy to advise you on the most suitable detector for your case.

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