Natural Gas Safety

Recognizing a natural gas leak

Natural gas, in its purest form, has no smell. However, Vectren adds a very distinct odorant to the gas, called mercaptan, that smells like rotten eggs or sulfur, whereby detecting a leak is very easy. Beyond the smell, signs of an outdoor gas leak can include patches of dead grass or vegetation, blowing dirt, bubbling water or a hissing sound.

See

You may see blowing dirt, bubbling water or dead vegetation.

Smell

You may smell a rotten egg or sulfur odor.

Hear

You may hear a hissing or roaring sound.

What to do if you suspect a natural gas leak

In the event a gas leak is detected inside of a home or business:

  • Leave the home or business of the gas leak immediately, as well as areas where the odor of gas is noticeable
  • Do not use the phone or a cell phone while in the building. If you notice the leak while talking on the phone, do not hang up
  • Do not turn any lights, appliances or any electrical sources on or off
  • Do not light matches
  • Do not open or close windows
  • Do not start a vehicle if it's parked in a garage that's attached to the home/business of the suspected leak nor utilize an automatic garage door opener upon exiting
  • Call Vectren at 1-800-227-1376 from somewhere other than the location of the gas leak

In the event a gas line has been struck or ruptured outside of a home or business:

  • Leave the area of the gas leak immediately, as well as areas where the odor of gas is noticeable
  • Do not attempt to re-start or move powered equipment
  • Call Vectren at 1-800-227-1376 from somewhere other than the location of the gas leak. The party responsible for the damage to the gas line should also call 911 and report the incident to police and/or fire officials
  • Alert neighboring property owners of the potential leak
  • Remain in a safe area until emergency personnel arrive and do not enter the home/business or neighboring premises

Vectren offers safety training for contractors, excavators, emergency responders and fourth-graders.
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Gas appliance safety

Natural gas appliances are not only economical and efficient, they are safe, too. Like all appliances, they must be used properly. Natural gas heaters, dryers, water heaters and ranges will give many years of safe, economical service if a few simple guidelines are followed.

  • Natural gas appliances should be installed and maintained by qualified service personnel according to the manufacturer's instructions
  • Natural gas appliances should only be used for their intended purpose. (Do not use gas appliances such as an oven, range or clothes dryer to heat the home.)
  • Keep aerosols, paper, boxes and other combustible items away from open flames, like that on natural gas appliances.
  • Have the furnace checked by a professional every year before cold weather begins. Inspections should include:
    • Check vent pipes for cracks, leaks and sufficient venting.
    • Inspect internal components for excessive wear or damage and replace or repair as necessary.
    • Make proper internal adjustments for maximum efficiency.
    • Clean internal and external areas including the burner chamber, heat exchanger, vents, registers and thermostat.
  • Make sure the water heater is set to a safe temperature—120° F—or no higher than necessary. Higher temperatures may cause scalding, especially on children.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in the living and sleeping areas of the home.

Gas connectors are corrugated metal tubes used to connect gas appliances in the home to natural gas supply pipes. Some older, uncoated brass connectors may have a serious flaw in the end pieces, and over time, can separate from the tubing and cause a serious gas leak, explosion or fire.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, these uncoated connectors have not been made for more than 20 years, but many are still in use. Although not all uncoated connectors have this flaw, it is very difficult to determine which ones do.

Therefore, any uncoated brass connector should be replaced immediately with a new plastic-coated brass or stainless steel connector. Connectors can wear out from too much moving, bending or corrosion and should be replaced whenever the appliance is moved or relocated. Only a qualified professional plumber, HVAC or appliance repair contractor should inspect and, if needed, replace your connector. Moving the appliance, even slightly, can cause the complete failure of one of these older, weakened connectors and possible result in a deadly fire or explosion.

Many older gas appliances have a small, continuously burning gas flame, the pilot light, that ignites the main burner. Newer models have electric igniters. It is important to know which appliances have a pilot light and always refer to the manufacturer's relighting instructions or call a heating equipment professional to relight the pilot light.

Responsibility for gas piping

The customer is responsible for the maintenance of all gas piping from the gas meter to all gas appliances. Buried gas piping that is not maintained is subject to potential hazards of corrosion and leakage.

For your safety, all buried gas piping should be periodically inspected for leaks. If the buried piping is metallic, it should also be periodically inspected for corrosion. If an unsafe condition is found, the gas piping will need to be promptly repaired by a qualified professional plumber, HVAC or appliance repair contractor.

When digging near buried gas piping, the piping must be located in advance by calling 8-1-1 or your local One-Call Center at least two full working days prior to digging. Digging should always be done by hand. Learn more about Call Before You Dig.

Excess flow valves

An excess flow valve (EFV) is a safety device installed on a natural gas service line that automatically shuts off the flow of gas in the event that the service line is severed. A service line is the gas line that runs from the gas main located at the front or rear of the home to the customer's meter. Federal regulations (The Code of Federal Regulations 49 CFR 192.383) require operators to install EFVs in all new and renewed gas service lines, regardless of customer classifications (including single family residences, multifamily residences, and small commercial entities) for customers consuming gas volumes under 1,000 standard cubic feet per hour. During normal operation, the valve remains open allowing for the continual flow of gas to the home or business. If this line is severely damaged (due to some type of digging activity, for example), the EFV will automatically restrict the flow of gas and reduce the probability of property damage or injury. Customers should be aware an EFV will only perform as described when a major leak occurs outside of their home. The valve will not prevent small leaks that may happen on the service line. The valve will also not detect or prevent leaks that occur inside a customer's home.

Customers have the right to request the installation of an EFV on their service line. It is the customer's responsibility to pay for this installation. Costs will vary based on the location of the service line; Vectren estimates costs will average between $1,500 and $2,000 per installation. Upon request by a customer, Vectren will investigate and determine the cost of the installation, which the customer will be required to pay prior to work being done. This cost does not include any charges that may be incurred later if the EFV requires further maintenance or replacement. This further cost, which cannot be estimated precisely at this time, is covered by Vectren.

Due to certain EFV design limitations, an EFV cannot be installed in every condition. For instance, an EFV may not be applicable for customers with a load greater than 1,000 cubic feet per hour or where the EFV would interfere with necessary operation. If you have questions or want to request that your service be evaluated for an EFV, you may call Vectren's New Service Department at 1-800-990-1930.

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