What does propane smell like? Many homes use propane for cooking, water and space heating, and for powering lots of home appliances including clothing dryers and backyard grills.
However, while propane is quite a safe source of energy, it is a good idea to think about your safety as you fire up those propane appliances in the winter and fall.
But did you know propane gas has poor warning properties (for example, there is no color so you’re not able to see it) and your best bet, if you suspect there’s a leak, is to smell it?
What does propane smell like?
Of course, you want to be sure of what propane smells like because inhaling high concentrations of propane can harm your nervous system and can even kill you through asphyxiation (deprivation of oxygen).
In addition, propane is particularly combustible, and an electrical spark or even a lit cigarette could ignite the gas with devastating consequences.
So, what does propane smell like?
Well, read on…
What does burning propane smell like?
In a few words, propane smells like the dreaded rotten eggs! In other words, you should be concerned if you detect a conspicuous unpleasant sulfur-like smell (rotten eggs have an extremely potent sulfur smell).
I should add that propane is odorless in its natural state and the distinctive rotten egg smell that utility companies add folks associate with propane leaks to the gas as a precautionary measure.
Specifically, companies recognize that propane lacks strong enough warning signs meaning users are exposed to great danger in the event the gas leaks.
Adding a harmless odourant like Mercaptan or Methanethiol (which causes the pungent rotten-egg smell) is, therefore, a safety measure intended to help you quickly discern leaks in or around the building.
What to do if you smell propane
If you have a strong suspicion that propane leaks, make haste to extinguish all open flames and smoking materials. Leave the area (to a safe spot where there’s fresh air) while leaving the door open- get everyone else out of the building too.
Next, call 911, your propane supplier, or the local fire department and report the leak.
Needless to say, it is unwise to go back to the building before your propane retailer, qualified service technician, or emergency responder certifies the place safe for re-entry.
What you should not do
- Touch any electrical appliance or turn on things/devices that may cause an electrical spark or fire.
- Make calls from the area/house where the leak has occurred.
- Keep doors closed.
- Attempt to find (or repair) the leak.
- Assume another person will report the gas leak.
Beware of odor loss /odor fade
In some conditions- though it’s rare- propane inside the tank can entirely lose its bad odor or become too faint to be smelled.
Several situations may cause this issue, including:
- Propane leaking underground – if propane leakage is underground, it may diminish the concentration of the smell as it passes through the soil.
- Air, water, or corrosion– if water, air, or rust finds its way into the propane tank, the odor will likely fade.
- Propane sticking around- sometimes, the odor sticks to the interior of gas pipes and other parts where propane passes through during distribution.
What to do in case of odor loss /odor fade
If you are worried that you or your loved ones in your home could struggle to smell propane, consider investing in a propane gas detector (one or more).
These devices are precise, and with some even coming with a handy speaking voice alarm, they are a pretty dependable way to protect your family and property against hard-to-detect propane leaks.
What are the other symptoms of propane leaking?
Given that there is a chance of odor fade or even trouble with your natural sense of smell, it is important to be aware of other signs of propane leaking as part of your safety preparedness.
The symptoms of propane leaking you should watch out for include:
- Hearing a hissing sound near a propone-powered appliance/ piping/ storage tanks/cylinders.
- Unhealthy /dead houseplants in the room.
- Bubbles- leaks in a natural gas pipe sometimes cause bubbling if you have moist areas around your home.
There are some physical symptoms you can look out for. These include:
- Chest pain
- Unexplained fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Eye /throat irritation
Pets are in most cases more sensitive than humans with respect to air quality, and unusual behavior in your dog, cats, and other pets could also point to a possible propane leak.
To be clear, you should be bothered if your pets show symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, or lack of appetite.
How to handle Propane Poisoning
Propane poisoning is simply unintended or accidental gas intake (breathing-in or swallowing).
The primary reason inhaling – it’s more common than swallowing since propane is often available in a gaseous state- can be risky is that it displaces oxygen in your lungs, making breathing strenuous or impossible.
Remember that propane fumes are not inherently toxic and are classified as an asphyxiating gas for the reason explained above.
What are the first aid measures in case of propane poisoning?
Take these precautions in case of inhalation of high propane concentration:
- Move the victim to a location with fresh air and ensure he/she rests in a position cozy for breathing. Also, confirm that their airways are protected.
- Immediately call a doctor (or 911) and arrange transport to a medical facility as further treatment may be urgently required.
- Training personnel must immediately administer emergency oxygen if they’re breathing with immense difficulty.
- Where there’s no pulse, trained personnel should commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)/automated external defibrillation (AED).
Again what does propane smell like?
You have reason to worry if you catch a whiff of rotten eggs or sulfur – this is the usual propane gas smell.
Remember the recommended steps to take if you detect the foul propane smell: leave the house instantly and immediately call 911, the local fire department, and your utility company (once outside) to report the leak.
Finally, it is important to have all your propane-burning appliances inspected and serviced regularly by a professional- while undeniably dangerous, propane leaks are preventable.