Last December I noticed a strange smell in my kitchen but I couldn’t work out what it was or where it was coming from. A few days passed and I still couldn’t figure it out. I did wonder whether it could be gas, but the internet suggested that gas has an obvious smell, plus it had been several days and my house hadn’t blown up.
Anyway, just to be sure I went on Amazon and bought a gas leak detector. My order was still on its way when I walked past some roadworks and I thought “maybe it is the same smell”. So when I got home I phoned the gas emergency number just to be safe.
Let’s just say the person on the other end of the phone wasn’t convinced it was a gas leak, mainly because gas should have an obvious smell and it should really have been obvious to me if it was a gas leak and I shouldn’t really be wasting their time. After checking a few things (did the smell go away when the gas was turned off? etc), he did agree to send someone out though.
The engineer arrived about three hours later (I got a priority service as I live in a block of flats, but it was still 11.30pm by this time!). I told him the story and how I wasn’t even sure if there was a leak. After asking me to turn the gas back on, he waved his tester around where I thought the leak might be: “Slightly higher reading than normal, but nothing to suggest a leak”. He then stuck his tester behind the cupboard and it immediately starting beeping. “Yep, there’s definitely a leak here”.
That was a relief. I was justified for having called him out and felt less like the boy who cried wolf. After inspecting, he advised that one of the joints had come loose. The gas had been slowly leaking through and then filtering through the cupboards which explained why it was such a weak smell. As a free service, he could only make it safe and I would have to call out someone else if it actually needed fixing. Fortunately in this case, making it safe was tightening the joint and since that seemed to do the job, he went on his way.
The next day, the Amazon gas leak tester arrived. Oh well, at least I have it just in case I need it…
Fast forward to this week, and there’s a strange smell in my kitchen which I can’t work out what it is or where it’s coming from. Ah, I’ve got just the thing for this! So I find my tester, but nope, all negative, not detecting anything at all (I’ve tested it directly on the hob as in the instructions so I know it does detect something). Maybe I don’t have a gas leak at all.
A few more days pass and I still can’t figure it out and I know it can’t be gas because my leak detector would have told me. But last night, I decided that maybe it was the same smell as before and it possibly was a slightly stronger smell nearer the cupboard, but again, it was so weak that it was hard to be certain. Like before, I tested turning off the gas supply at the meter and the smell did seem to reduce so it might have been gas, but was I certain enough to phone for help?
This morning I decided that it was probably safer to get it sorted. Rather than going via the emergency number, I went straight to a local gas engineer. If it’s happened before, it probably needs more than just tightening, and I’ve already shut the gas off at the mains so I don’t need the emergency phone person judging me again for not knowing what gas smells like. However, by not going for the free service this time, I have to pay a £160/hour charge just for the call-out so there had better be a leak!
The engineer arrives and I direct him to the cupboard where the previous leak was. I turn on the gas and he waves his tester around, but there’s no response. Was I wrong this time? Did I waste £160 for nothing?
But then he moves his tester to a different part of the pipe and it frantically starts pinging. That was a relief. I was justified for having called him out and felt less like the boy who cried wolf. After inspecting, he advised that the test point connection was faulty. The gas had been slowly leaking through and then filtering through the cupboards which explained why it was such a weak smell. He didn’t have the replacement part, but he would have to order one and come back. In the meantime, he made the pipe safe by capping off the connection and he went on his way.
Here’s what I’ve learnt from my experiences:
- A gas leak doesn’t always smell obvious, whatever the internet and the man on the emergency helpline say. Maybe because my leak wasn’t big enough. Or maybe my nose isn’t very good.
- A gas leak detector doesn’t always pick up everything. Maybe because my leak wasn’t leak big enough. Or maybe I was just testing in the wrong place.
Will it happen again? Hopefully not, but I’m feeling slightly more paranoid about it happening and me not noticing.