If you have a home inspection performed either as a buyer or a seller who is doing a pre-sale inspection and the inspector recommends investigation of your gas lines in the report, heed that recommendation.
The Potential Danger
Natural gas, while convenient and common, is also potentially dangerous because it is highly volatile. Every few months, somewhere in North America, a gas line is ruptured either by accident or because of some other destructive event and it causes a horrific explosion. In February of 2014 a natural gas explosion in Kentucky destroyed homes, barns, vehicles, and left a crater in the ground that is six stories deep. That was a large pipeline, but even a small household gas line can leak enough of the invisible fuel to blow a house sky-high.
Causes for Inspection Recommendations
A home inspector may make a note, for example if the gas meter and the regulator valve which is connected to it is in a location that is not up to code. The regulator may leak gas fumes into the air, which is its purpose when too much pressure has built up inside the device. If it is located near a window or vent, that gas could be carried back into the house. A gas line inside the home, like those running to or from an appliance, may be improperly installed. In some cases an appliance has been relocated, but the gas line that remains behind is not properly secured and capped to prevent accidental discharge of gas into the room.
Another common oversight is that gas stoves do not have “anti-tipping” features on them, so that if the oven door is opened the stove could fall forward. That could injure someone, for instance, or rip away an active gas line. Sometimes gas appliances are not adequately vented, or lines running from them that generate heat are not sufficiently insulated. Particularly in older homes, the gas lines may not be made of the right kind of material, and even in newer homes a copper gas line may not be labeled in a way to identify it. You certainly don’t want to have a “live” gas line in your home that is mistaken for a water line or sheath around electrical wires, because someone doing a repair might accidentally cut or break it.
What to Do Next
Whatever the cause for concern may be, your home inspector will recommend that the homeowner call a qualified professional to do a closer investigation. It is important to note that working with gas lines and appliances is highly specialized work that requires specific kinds of training and adherence to strict safety protocols. So you will likely need to contact the gas utility company and have them come to your home, or it could be an issue that can be examined and addressed by an HVAC professional.
Once that person has studied the situation they will make their own recommendations for any repairs, upgrades, or adjustments that they deem necessary to ensure the safety of the home and the proper functioning of your gas appliances. Once those are completed and they have given your home a clean bill of health you can rest easy, knowing that the potential hazard has been remedied.