Can a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Gas Leaks? Best Tips On 6 Common Signs Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Can a carbon monoxide detector detect gas leaks? That’s the question this post looks to answer…Please keep reading for more

Most people use electricity and natural gas to heat and cool their homes. They especially use natural gas because it is cheaper than electricity.

Besides, natural gas is eco-friendly, and who wouldn’t want to conserve the environment? However, natural gas has its downsides. If not correctly installed or maintained, gas appliances can leak, leading to fatal results if they go undetected for a long time.

Now, in efforts to prevent such a dreadful outcome, it is important that we return to our topic of discussion: Does the carbon monoxide detector detect a gas leak?

NO, a carbon monoxide detector can never detect a natural gas leak. This is because carbon monoxide and methane (natural gas) are naturally very different. Carbon monoxide is produced by burning fuel when there are low oxygen levels.

The difference between carbon monoxide and methane makes it difficult for the sensors in the carbon monoxide detector to detect the methane. While carbon monoxide can be produced due to a gas leak, it cannot be detected by natural gas.

Additionally, most smoke detectors are likely to detect the presence of carbon monoxide yet will not detect natural gas. This is because carbon monoxide is considered more deadly and poisonous than natural gas.

Also, while you cannot quickly identify carbon monoxide due to its colorless and odorless state, you can do so with natural gas. Its flammable nature makes it more volatile; hence, you do not need a detector to notice its presence.

Instead of using a carbon monoxide detector to detect natural gas, you can use a gas detector that will help detect various gas leaks. These are very useful, especially for homeowners with several natural gas appliances.

NOTE: Gas leaks are hazardous. They are highly flammable, increasing the risk of a fire breakout. What’s worse, natural gas produces carbon monoxide, a deadly, ‘silent killer’ gas that slowly kills people without warning.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Can a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Gas Leaks?
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Signs

Carbon monoxide is often considered a by-product of incomplete combustion.

It is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas that can enter your home through malfunctioning furnaces, clothes dryers, and gas—or wood-powered fireplaces. 

CO is considered a deadly gas since it is odorless and flammable. 

  • It increases the risk of a fire breakout since it can combust. Here is how it poses a threat to you and your loved ones:
  • It can suffocate you, kill you, or damage your body organs. Red blood cells in your body are responsible for transporting oxygen through your body, thus sustaining the life of your organs.

However, these cells absorb carbon monoxide faster than oxygen. If the CO level is high within the environment, it will displace the oxygen in your body and replace it with carbon monoxide, leading to consequences as dire as death.

Also, because carbon monoxide is not easily detectable, it can kill people in their sleep due to CO poisoning.

People who experience carbon monoxide poisoning will exhibit symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, chest tightness, stomach upsets, nausea, vomiting, poor muscle coordination, and passing out.

Following these effects, we recommend continuously checking for a CO leak. You can do this by having a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Please familiarize yourself with maintaining this device and testing it for optimum protection.

Let us also look at natural gas!

What Is Natural Gas?

Unlike Carbon monoxide, a by-product of incomplete combustion, natural gas is not a by-product. It can leak into a home because of a malfunctioning gas stove or a leaking gas line.

Natural gas is, in itself, a more flammable fuel than carbon monoxide. However, it is less dangerous than carbon monoxide. This is because states’ law demands that an additive be included to produce a noxious smell, more like rotten eggs. For this reason, it is easy for people to identify a leak from natural gas in their homes.

Besides, one can hear a whistle or a low hiss sound on the release of the gas, thus informing homeowners that there is a leak somewhere. As a result, people will take prompt action.

This is unlikely to happen if carbon monoxide gas leaks as it is colorless and odorless; you can hardly detect its presence, sometimes until it is too late.

Types of Gas Leak Detectors

A gas leak may result in the production of carbon monoxide gas, which is very deadly. Therefore, it is wise to have a gas leak detector alongside your carbon monoxide detector for an extra protective layer.

About eight gas sensor technologies are used to identify and monitor gas levels in your appliances.

Overall, we can classify the various gas detectors into portable and fixed. The portable detector will produce a warning with audible and visual signals if it detects dangerous gas levels. You can handhold or wear the portable gas detector on safety equipment to monitor the atmosphere.

Fixed gas detectors will produce physical and audible warnings upon detecting dangerous gas levels.

 Fixed gas detectors can be mounted near the process area of a plant, a control room, or any area that requires protection from gas leakage. An underground pack could be such an area.

Let’s look at some of the main types of gas detectors.

Electrochemical Gas Sensors

These detectors work by oxidizing or minimizing the gas to an electrode for a positive or negative current flow. This would then allow the measuring of a specific gas concentration.

We use electrochemical gas sensors to measure the concentration of a target gas within an external circuit.

Electrochemical and catalytic combustible gas technology is the most popularly used and understood.

  • Catalytic Bead Sensors

These detectors measure combustible gas accompanied by an explosion hazard, especially when concentrations are between the lower explosion limit (LEL) and the upper explosion limit (UEL).

Catalytic Bead Sensors work on the principle that when a gas oxidizes, heat is produced, which the sensor converts through a Wheatstone bridge-type open circuit.

One of the beads in the catalytic sensors is made of a unique catalyst that enhances oxidation. The other bead does the opposite; it inhibits oxidation.

Currents will flow through the coil to achieve the oxidation temperature of 500 degrees Celcius. In turn, this will increase the platinum coil’s resistance, thus creating an imbalanced bridge.

The change in resistance is directly associated with the gas concentration within the atmosphere. The gas reading would then be displayed on the meter or a similar indicator device.

Infrared Gas Sensors

Infrared gas sensors are an excellent alternative to combustible gas measurements. They are used when no oxygen is in the atmosphere or when carbon monoxide levels are above average. 

These detectors operate on the principle of light absorption. The change in the absorbed light is then measured relative to the light intensity at a reference wavelength.

The infrared gas sensors compute the notable difference in the light absorbed and then report on the gas concentration following the absorption.

  • Photoionization Gas Sensors

Ionization entails the absorption of light energy by a gas molecule. This type of gas detector uses an ultraviolet light source to convert gases to positive and negative ions easily identifiable with a detector.

The photoionization sensors will then detect or measure the charge of the ionized gas. The charge describes the atmosphere’s concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in this case.

Other types of gas detectors are:

Battery-Powered Gas Leak Detectors: These are excellent, easy-to-use gas detectors. They have a light indicator that makes it easy to identify a gas leak in your home.

Spray Natural Gas Leak Detectors. These are great options if you are working on a budget. You only need to spray the solution onto the pipes that you are monitoring.

Wait for about five seconds until the solution bubbles. If it fails to bubble, it indicates no gas leak. The presence of bubbles signifies the presence of a gas leak, thus calling for immediate action.

Plug-In Natural Gas Leak Detectors. 

If you are concerned about a power outage, look for a plug-in natural gas detector with backup batteries. This type of detector will save you from any heavy lifting in monitoring a leakage. All you do is plug the detector into a wall and wait for an update about the gas levels in your home.

Single and Multiple Gas Detectors

Most spaces require the careful monitoring of a single gas target. However, restricted and confined spaces must be monitored in case of oxygen deficiency and toxic and combustible gases. You must also consider single and multiple gas detectors when deciding the type of gas leak detector you need.

Therefore, invest in a detector that suits your application and your unique property needs well.

Here is what a typical multi-gas detector will do for you:

It will monitor the levels of oxygen while detecting the presence of toxic and combustible gases in a given environment. Different multi-gas detectors will detect different types of gases depending on the requirement in a specific environment.

Multi-gas detectors monitor substances like hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, oxygen, and combustible gases. The detector can detect sulfur dioxide, ammonia, and chlorine VOCs depending on the sensor’s configuration.

Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Natural Gas?

Isn’t it ironic that a natural gas leakage may produce carbon monoxide, yet a carbon monoxide detector cannot detect the natural gas? A commonly asked question is whether a carbon monoxide detector can detect natural gas.

The answer is as simple as the question: no, carbon monoxide detectors do not detect natural gas.

This is because carbon monoxide is very different from natural gas. It is created when fuel is burned and when the concentration of oxygen is low.

Therefore, carbon monoxide has a different composition from natural gas. This inhibits the ability of a CO detector to detect any natural gas leaks.

Like any other safety system, gas systems must match the exact type of hazard in the atmosphere to function properly.

Therefore, it is essential to note the distinctive features of carbon monoxide and natural gas, as this information explains why a CO detector cannot detect natural gas.

Difference Between Carbon Monoxide and Natural Gases

Industrial manufacturing, mining, and gas and oil industries are typical work areas that would increase your exposure to natural gas.

In extreme scenarios, prolonged exposure to natural gas will project through symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and potential asphyxiation. This is why installing protective measures in areas where natural gas can be exposed to an ignition source is crucial.

Natural gas is highly flammable and, thus, will explode when in contact with ignition sources. You don’t want to imagine how catastrophic such a situation can be!

Carbon monoxide is a typical by-product of a burning fuel that can rapidly accumulate in enclosed spaces. Those working in professions that require the operations of fuel-burning tools and arc welders are at a higher risk of CO exposure.

The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide may seem less harmful, so one would hardly detect its presence until it is too late. This is why you need a gas leak detector!

CAUTION: Both carbon monoxide and natural gas are toxic and a considerable threat to the health of human life. Therefore, ensure that as an employer or homeowner, you take the necessary action to limit any risk of exposure. That’s why we are talking about gas leak detectors.

How to Detect a Gas Leak

Gas leaks are quite dangerous and life-threatening if not responded to on time. This is why it is crucial to detect a leak early to prevent any potentially fatal outcome. Described below are the four primary ways of detecting a gas leak.

Using Gas Detectors

  •  Use a carbon monoxide detector in your home. We mentioned earlier that carbon monoxide detectors cannot detect natural gas leakage. However, carbon monoxide is also a gas you can detect using a CO detector. Ensure you install a CO detector in a knee-level outlet since the CO gas is slightly heavier than air. Have the device installed on each level of your home.

Also, ensure that the CO detector is not blocked by a piece of furniture or curtain, as they will prevent airflow. Children or pets can also tamper with the device; if you have them, ensure that you plug them into chest-level outlets.

  • Use a Handheld Natural Gas Detector to Identify the Leak Source

Portable gas detectors help sense the gas concentration in a specific location within your home or work area. Stay keen on the display meter. The alarm will go off whenever it senses an extremely high concentration, thus letting you know that an area is unsafe.

You can purchase these devices from your local hardware store.

  • Set a Radon Detection Test In Your Home’s Lowest Level.

Radon is a form of natural gas found in the ground that is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. To test for it, use a short-term test kit. Place it at your home’s lowest level, where people spend time, and leave it there for about 90 days.

There’s an envelope provided in the kit. Use it to test in a lab from which they can calculate the radon level. If it reads 4PCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more, you must hire a licensed expert to install a radon mitigation system on your property.

  • Check for Signs of Natural Gas In Your Home

Natural gas is designed to produce an unpleasant odor, such as a rotten egg or sulfuric smell. This smell will inform you of a gas leakage near your stove, water heater, or other appliance.

Examine the gas stove burners to ensure they are turned off completely. If you notice the smell, turn off the gas supply line immediately and leave the room if there’s too strong of a smell.

  • Listen for a Hissing or Whistling Noise Near Your Appliances or Pipes.

You will likely hear gas leaking from loose connections. A hiss or a whistling sound that gets louder over time is a sign of a possible gas leak. These sounds are produced when gas escapes through a tight place.

NOTE: Not all gas leaks will produce sounds.

  • Examine the Flames on Your Gas Stove to See If They Are Yellow Instead of Blue

Usually, gas stoves produce blue flames as an indicator of sufficient oxygen. However, when the flames turn yellow or orange, the natural gas is not burning completely, thus contributing to a gas leak.

  • Watch for a White Cloud or Dust Around Your Gas Lines.

Natural gas is usually colorless. However, a leak may stir up dust, forming a small cloud near our pipes. Stay keen to observe any mist or clouds you cannot account for.

  • Check your Houseplants if they are Dying.

Carbon dioxide usually sustains plants’ lives. However, gas leaks limit the amount of carbon dioxide gas they receive, resulting in wilting or yellowing plants. You will notice this if you keep plants in areas like the kitchen or fireplaces where gas leaks are common.

  • Check Out for any Physical Symptoms.

Inhaling natural gas or carbon monoxide will limit the amount of oxygen your body receives. This will result in symptoms like body pains, headaches, lightheadedness, or nausea that you cannot account for.

Gas leaks can also cause reduced appetite, breathing difficulties, fatigue, and eye and throat irritation. If this happens, check your gas lines and appliances to determine whether there is a problem.

  • Locating Natural Gas Leaks on Your Pipes

Mix 1 C (240 ML) of water with 1 tsp (4.9ml) of dish soap).

Any liquid dishwashing detergent can test a gas leak. However, a liquid laundry detergent can work just as well. Stir the mixture of soap and water until it forms suds.

Brush the soapy water solution on your pipe connection

Dip a small paintbrush into the soapy water to coat the brush bristles. Paint a thin layer on the pipe connections where you suspect a potential leak. Brush the whole area till it gets saturated.

Check if there are any bubbles in the area where you brushed the solution

A gas leak will reflect through bubbles in the soapy water solution. The absence of bubbles means there is no gas leak. Keep brushing and looking out for bubbles till you identify the potential leak source.

Once you identify the source of the leak, mark the spot with a pencil.

Once marked, call a licensed professional to come and fix the leak. Fixing gas leaks yourself is quite dangerous, especially if you are inexperienced.

How to Prevent Gas Leaks In Your House

It would help if you were extra careful about potential gas leaks in your home, as they can adversely affect your family and cause fire outbreaks and other accidents.

The leaks can result from old and malfunctioned appliances, poor ventilation, poorly installed appliances, and faulty pipes. 

The following are effective measures for protecting your loved ones and preventing gas-related accidents:

  • Frequently check your appliances

Check your appliances regularly to ensure they are in perfect working condition and for wear and tear.

  • Monitor the Gas Lines

Hire licensed professionals who will give you an accurate report on the state of your gas appliances.

  • Check your Gas Safety Documents

To prevent future gas leaks, you want to ensure that your appliances are installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, so you need to hire experts to do so.

  • Avoid Smoking

This is a no-brainer! Avoid smoking, especially if you suspect a possible gas leak, as it could lead to a fatal explosion.

  • Hire Professionals

This is the best way to prevent gas leaks. Ensure that those who fix your gas problems are trained. They will ensure the safety of you and your family. Besides, they will also give you specific details on what to look out for in case of a leakage.

How to Fix Gas Leaks In Your Home

Seeking professional help is the best way to fix your gas leakage situation. However, knowing how to repair your gas line will be useful, as you may need to act promptly to prevent further damage. Consider the following steps to fix your gas leaks.

  • Switch Off the Gas

Working with a turned-on gas source is quite dangerous. Any tiny spark would lead to a disastrous fire. Also, the fumes are hazardous when inhaled. For these reasons, ensure that you turn off the gas supply before you begin fixing it.

  • Identify the Leak. 

Ensure you wear protective clothing like a mask, gloves, and goggles as you detach the leaking pipe. Better call your utility company if you are unable to find the leak.

  • Eliminate the Extra Gas

A leak often occurs because of too much pressure on the gas pipe. If this happens, you may need to replace the existing pipe with a stronger one. Disconnect the leaking gas line to stop the leakage. 

  • Clean it Up

Like any other appliance, your gas line also undergoes wear and tear. Rust and other impurities will build up, contributing to your gas leakage.

Therefore, regularly cleaning your gas lines is an effective preventive measure against leaks. Clean with sandpaper to even out the surface. Wash off the impurities using acetone.

  • Seal the Leaks

An epoxy seal will work perfectly for you. When installing the pipes, avoid fitting them too tightly, as too much pressure will result in a leak again.

  • Test the Lines

Once you’ve completed these steps, test the gas lines to determine whether they function as desired. Test the lines before applying the protective covering to ensure easy leak sealing.

  • Replace the Covers.

After sealing all the leaks, it is time to put the protective covers back on to protect your gas lines. If you still experience the gas leak symptoms, immediately call in a professional for further help.

Do Gas Leaks Make You Sleepy?

When gas leaks occur, they change the oxygen concentration in the atmosphere. This will lead to sudden unexplained symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye and throat irritation, fatigue, and breathing difficulties.

Final Thoughts

Alarm systems, including carbon monoxide detectors, are adequate safety measures. Depending on what it’s designed to detect, they will alert you when there is danger. So,

Can a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect Gas Leaks?

No! Carbon monoxide and natural gas are utterly different from each other. Therefore, the sensors in a carbon monoxide detector can hardly detect gas.

Check for gas leakage using portable and fixed detectors while examining physical symptoms. 

For adequate protection against leaking, ensure that a licensed and qualified technician installs your gas appliances.

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