possible gas leak

Hello,
my uncle recently installed a new gas hot water heater.
A day later, I notice a slight odor coming from the furnace room - this smell was probably there from the start, but no one noticed it. Told him about it. He went in and sniffed around and said he knows what natural gas smells like, and didn't smell anything. We did a leak test, and sure enough there is a small leak at the valve. This particular valve is old. On one side there is a bolt/screw, if not tightened enough, it leaks. He tightened it. We did another leak test, and no bubbles this time, and the smell has gone away.
I went in the next day, and smelled around. Near the gas supply to the heater (inside the outer door) I smelled something, but didn't know if it was metal or gas. I did a leak test on all the connections again and saw no bubbles. Is it normal for there to be an odor in that area? Is it the metal I am smelling? He thought the previous leak was just the metal smell, but it was actually gas. Don't know what to do.. all connections pass the water/soap test. The smell is not detectable anywhere except within a few inches of where the gas line connects to the heater. If there is a leak, it's probably very small. Could it be within the heater, too, where a leak test is not possible? How much gas would need to be released to cause an explosion? If I installed a gas detector, would it sound if any gas were present, even tiny amounts?
Also, the valve itself makes contact with the hot water heater, due to the way the gas pipe is installed. It comes down from the ceiling diagnally and doesn't quite clear the heater. Is that a code violation? There is clearly some pressure on the valve.
At this point I am considering calling the city to inspect the installation and check for leaks. I know he would not be happy about it, but I am a bit concerned. What should I do?
James
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The gas co will come out for free, old people often dont smell as well I got a Nighthawk Ng- Co detector as my folks could not smell a bad leak. The alarm won`t alarm for anything minor and im sure that is what it is but you should fix it.
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Yikes! If there's even the slightest possibilty of a leak, get somebody to inspect it! I think he'd be a lot less happy if an explosion killed you and/or leveled your house, don'tcha think?
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Joseph Meehan wrote:

I caught a faint smell of gas at the meter a few months ago. One call to PG&E and they had a guy out in an hour. Sure enough, the old shutoff valve was leaking. IIRC, when I called they not only had a special 'hot line' for that type of thing, they were very appreciative that I called.
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jhughes37 wrote:

In most areas the gas company will do the inspection for free. I strongly suggest it. Gas is safe, but leaks are not.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia\'s Muire duit
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You didnt REPLACE the valve? Cheap $3 insurance and you didnt replace it... BTW...your nose is NOT a gas detector.

Leak tests are possible if you have the correct tools anywhere. How much gas is needed to go boom? Not as much as you would like to think. Gas detectors are helpful, but not worth a damn if you have a problem from the start.

Dont know..you guys call for an inspection when you installled the heater?

Ok..that answers that...no...you didnt call for inspections.
Plain English here....who gives a damn what he thinks if you have a leak and they find it?
They will come out, use something a hell of a lot better than the soap and water test....most use electronic detectors, and they are better at finding all leaks than soap and water. The "soap and water"that we use to verify or to do a quick check on leaks actually works better than most concoctions made up at home, and has added cling incredients added to insure that we get a good coccoon of bubbles when there is a leak.
Get it checked..if there is a leak, there is no need testing the basement to see if its explosion proof.

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I appreciate everyones help.
He did not get a permit. It wasn't until after installation that we found out one was required.
He now knows he should have had one before doing anything. Is it too late to get a permit now? He wants to get the permit and have the installation inspected. Will they find out the heater was installed without a permit and issue a fine?
in order to replace the valve, the outside gas must be turned off, and he'd have to make some cuts in the pipe. He won't do this until we have a permit.
I don't think there is a leak, but not taking any chances.The gas is provided by the local utilities department. On their web page there is a number to call if you suspect a leak. If they come out, what happens?
James
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If your city requires a permit for water heaters and you did not get one don`t call the city call the gas Co, Leaks are what the gas Co has training in. Fines are what the city has training in.
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It is not a good idea to have any strain on the piping or gas valve. That can cause a leak. It can also cause the thermostatic automatic valve on the water heater to malfunction, which could just be a nuisance or could actually be dangerous. Pipe strain also violates code. See Section 407.2 of the International Fuel Gas Code. It is not a good idea to use real soap and water to test for leaks. Soap is corrosive to the piping over the long haul. If you did use soap, wash off the joints with plain water. We use stuff that is non-corrosive. The pipes should all be square, level and plumb. Diagonal piping is often frowned on by local gas companies. In addition, I hope your uncle installed a drip leg (sediment trap) on the gas line where it connects to the water heater, as it protects the gas valve from dirt and scale. It is also required by code (Section 408.4 of the International Fuel Gas Code).
Stretch
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Have it checked.
There is a chance that you are just smelling some residual odor from the gas, but why take a chance?
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If no leak he will just leave.l If there is a leak the gas will be turned off until the leak is repaired. Years ago, the gas company in my city used to fix minor leaks on the spot, but that was many years ago and things may have changed.
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wrote:

Just piping in with my neighbor's experience. He smelt gas, he called the gas company, the gas company verified he had a leak(around the furnace supply), they shut him off at the street. They said when he fixes it, they will return to turn him back on. Have a nice day. :)
So, I'm guessing unless you have some 'service plan' they don't volunteer to help you.
tom
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In our town we had a gas explosion a few weeks ago. Homeowner smelled gas and called the gas company. Inspector came out, probed the ground and punctured a high pressure line. Minutes later the house exploded and also took out half of the house on either side of it. (no one injured)
Rare that it happens, but it can and does. Original leak was caused by an accident with a dump container in the yard. My end of town does not have gas but I sure with it did. I miss having gas appliances.
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Just piping in with my neighbor's experience. He smelt gas, he called the gas company, the gas company verified he had a leak(around the furnace supply), they shut him off at the street. They said when he fixes it, they will return to turn him back on. Have a nice day. :)
So, I'm guessing unless you have some 'service plan' they don't volunteer to help you.
It depends on the gas company. They all have different policies. When I was in western Pennsylvania, we had 3 local gas companies. They all had different policies.
Stretch
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