A friend just went through a situation where their Gas Hot Water Heater decided to spring a leak in the middle of the night and they were in a slight panic while trying to get the situation under control. I thought this might be a good time to go over what you should do if you find you have a leak of some type whether gas or water in your home.
The first thing that you want to do if you find you have a leak of Gas is to assess the situation and then remove everyone from the home. Gas has a bad smell and the odor is added to the gas by the gas company so you know there is a leak. Naturally occurring Gas underground before it is collected and processed has no smell. If you inhale too much gas you can become unconscious and then maybe die. This is why you should leave the home immediately if you are not at the point of the leak when it happens and feel you can safely shut the device down. (such as you are servicing your gas stove and smell a leak then you will have time to shut the valve off but if you are not actively servicing an appliance and smell a leak its best to leave the home immediately.)
Turning off your Gas and Water
If you have a water leak in your home go to your water meter and there should be a cutoff valve on each side of the water meter close it and your meter should stop and the flow of water into your home will be cut off.
Next if you have gas in your house and believe there is a leak go to your gas meter which is normally on the outside of your home and again there should be a cutoff valve before the meter and turn it off. This will shut off all gas to your home.
If your home is serviced by a propane company there will not normally be the same setup as a home on Natural Gas. You should contact your Gas Company to come out and teach you how to shutoff your Propane at the Tank to stop all gas entering into your home.
If you do not know where these things are you need to ask the gas and water company or a plumber to come to your home and show you.
At this point you can make decisions with some sanity about how to proceed from where you are.
Turning Off Gas Or Water At The Appliance
The best situation for a single appliance like your heater or your water heater or a gas stove is to use the shutoff valve located at the appliance. Each appliance should have a Gas and if needed a water shut off valve right at the appliance so the appliance can be removed and replaced or so it can be serviced.
When in doubt though if you smell gas get everyone out of the house and turn the gas off at the meter and call your gas company for emergency service. They should send someone out as soon as possible 24 hours a day. Another option is calling your fire department and they are trained to turn off gas at the meter.
As a home owner you should review each appliance in your home that uses water or gas and understand where the shutoff valve is. in Bathrooms you might not have a valve that can be turned off and the whole home shutoff is your best bet.
First floor items are normally turned off in the basement. Toilets have valves at the floor if the leak is after the valve. All sinks have shutoff valves just before the sink. water heaters should have a hot and cold water valve shutoff and if Gas should have a Gas Shutoff on the Gas Line.
Some heaters such as baseboard or radiant floor heating systems will have water plumbed to the heater so it can be placed under pressure to fill the lines. Some oil heaters also act as the home’s hot water heater.
Learn how to safely shutdown your devices/appliances so you aren’t in a frantic panic when problems happen. and find out where your main shutoffs are at your meters.