Score one for independent women everywhere! :) Yesterday I made my very first true house repair. I fixed 5 natural gas leaks on 3 appliances at gma’s house. Her house has always smelled like gas for as long as I can remember but for whatever reason the leaks have never been sought out. I can still detect a smell of it somewhere in the wall between the furnace and the dryer but that leak will have to wait until we close on the house since some drywall will need to be removed to find it.
A nice technician from our local gas provider was extremely helpful in explaining how the gas system works. He showed me how to control the gas flow at the main source and how to repair any basic leaks I ever find. I am extremely wary of all fire and electricity so I was nervous to give this a go – but now I feel confident that anyone can do this type of repair easily and quickly using just a few precations. Here are the steps I followed. Disclaimer: I am not a professional in any sense of the word. Do not use these directions as your only source of information. Consult a professional before taking on a project like this. Thank you.
Basic supplies needed for an easy-to-access natural gas leak between the fixed gas line and an appliance:
– Two adjustable wrenches, or one adjustable and one pipe wrench, depending on need.
– Pipe Dope and a toothpick/Q-tip or something else to apply it with – small tubes of PD can be found at your local hardware store for under $2 (teflon tape works in a pinch, but it doesn’t age as well as Pipe Dope and you have to be sure to apply it clockwise or it can bind and cause leaks)
– A good flashlight to shed light on the situation
– A plastic sheet to protect surrounding areas incase you drop any Pipe Dope (it’s icky-sticky stuff), I just tore open a big garbage bag as a makeshift tarp
Optional: a bottle of Snoop to check your work when you’re through or for if you’re having trouble pin-pointing the leak
If actual damage has caused the leak you may also need new couplers, piping or flex-line -which you can pick up at your local hardware store for fairly cheap.
Step 1: Have a professional seek out the location of the leak. Most gas service providers will offer this service for free if you call and report a smell of gas. Be prepared to have them come immediately since they treat all reports as a possible emergency – and be prepared to fix the leak right away because, as a policy, if they find one they will turn off your gas until it is repaired
Step 2: If the professional hasn’t done it already, turn off the gas valve at the provider supplied source (for an apartment, turn off the valve at the dwelling/unit source), then wait several minutes or until you no longer smell gas from the suspected leak, and until the smell in the room/house has fully dissipated, before proceeding
Step 3: If there is a local gas shut-off valve for the appliance, turn that off as an added safety measure
Step 4: Use one wrench to hold the pipe (or neighboring coupling) steady, and use the second wrench to twist and loosen the coupling. If the leak is up-line of a local shut-off valve you can try to simply further tighten the connection instead of going to the trouble of unscrewing it and applying your PD
*a note for us weaklings: to loosen stubborn couplers, positioning the two wrenches so that squeezing them together (like squeezing a nutcracker or pliers) will give you much more torque than holding them independently
Step 5: apply Pipe Dope to the male end of the connection (on the threads). Only apply enough to help lubricate the threads so they can be fully tightened. Be sure not to get any Pipe dope inside of the pipe as it can cause issues down the road
Step 6: reconnect the coupler and tighten as much as possible. Repeat Steps 3-6 on any other leaks that were found
Step 7: turn on the gas at the source. Remember to turn the valve very slowly. Opening it too quickly can burst the diaphragm in the meter. Here’s a video clip of the technician opening the valve Gma’s house so you can get an idea of how slow to go:
Step 8: Since the gas has been off for a bit the air in the house should be completely clear of any gas smell (it dissipates pretty quickly) so it will be pretty easy to tell if any of your fixes didn’t hold once the gas is back on. Immediately move to any repaired leak that didn’t have a local shut-off valve to check if you can smell any gas still leaking. Next, go to any repair(s) that do have the local shut-off valve and turn the gas on to the appliance. If there is still a leak present you will smell it right away if you sniff the repair site.
If there is still a leak you might want to use a bottle of Snoop to pin-point where it’s still leaking, or if it turns out you’re unable to find/fix it yourself, you’ll have to hire a local HVAC pro to come take care of it for you – but at least you did what you could!
Step 9: Re-light all appliances that require a pilot light: the furnace (if it’s as old as the hills; newer ones have an electronic ignition), hot water heater, gas fireplace, etc. Directions for lighting pilot lights should be located on each item’s warning stickers
Step 10: Squeal and giggle and do the happy dance because you are an independent, kick-ass DIYer!
Now go get yourself a tasty treat because you did good work today!