No matter where it occurs in your house, a gas leak is a serious matter, and one occurring behind the stove or in the oven could be especially dangerous. Gas can accumulate in the closed space and become an explosion waiting to happen before you're aware of the problem. Both propane and natural gas have additives to make them smell like rotten eggs, though, and detecting this odor is the first sign of a possible leak.
The Smell Test
When you light your stove, it's normal for a small amount of gas to escape unburned, and you'll notice the fleeting pungent odor of ethyl- or methylmercaptan, the smelly chemical the gas company adds to propane and natural gas, which are both naturally odorless. If the smell lingers, or you notice it before you turn on the gas, that's an indication of a leak.
- Open the oven door. If the smell suddenly becomes stronger, there may be a leak in the valve controls, and gas may be escaping from the burners.
- Pull the stove out from the wall. If the odor of gas is stronger behind the stove, one of the connections between the main gas control and the stove is probably leaking.
- Smell each burner on the stove top in turn. A strong smell near one of them signifies a probable issue with the the valve that controls that burner.
Alternate Detection Methods
The smell of rotten eggs is a strong indication of a gas leak, but it isn't the only one, and you may need an alternative if your sense of smell is compromised or the additive in the gas has been deactivated.
Step 1 Listen for hissing.
If the leak is large, you hear the sound of pressurized gas escaping.
Step 2 Look for bubbles.
Spray the gas connections, as well as the valve and hoses, with leak detecting spray, which you can buy at hardware stores. You can also make your own by mixing a 50-50 solution of dish soap and water. Any bubbles you see are signs of escaping gas.
Step 3 Check your gas bill
An abnormally high propane or natural gas bill could signify a leak. To be sure, compare your current bill carefully with previous ones, keeping in mind the possible increases in gas usage because of cold weather.
Step 4 Let technology help you.
Purchase a gas leak detector online or from some home centers. A battery-powered, handheld device can detect combustible and refrigerant gases, and many have adjustable sensitivity settings that you can use to pinpoint a leak by incrementally decreasing the sensitivity. A hardwired gas leak detector, which sounds an alarm in the presence of gas, provides insurance against leaks that occur while you're asleep.
It's important to turn off the gas as soon as you suspect a leak. You'll have to turn it on again to perform any tests to verify the presence of a leak and pinpoint its location, but you should turn it off again as soon as the test is completed.
You can fix some gas leaks yourself -- but not all of them. For example, if you hear hissing and see bubbles forming from a gas supply connection, you can probably tighten the connection yourself with a wrench. Repairing leaks inside the stove unit should be left to a qualified repair technician, though. Leave the gas off until the technician arrives.
If the smell of gas is very strong, treat the leak as an emergency. Open the windows, turn off the gas, go outside and call the gas company.