When I stand right next to the water heater, I smell a little bit of gas at
certain height. If I move to 1 foot away, I no longer can smell it.
See this photo:
The red ellipse shows where I smell the gas. I smell some at lower spots,
but it's not continuous, meaning when I go lower, I don't smell it, then I
smell it, ...
I assume it has been like this during the last year, and there is no
cumulation of natural gas (like I said, only can smell it within a foot). So
I wonder, is it normal for a water heater with pilot light to emit some
natural gas odor, or should I try to seal all the pipe joints?
Your fire dept and gas company will check it out free, it could be Co
from a poor draft, blocked flue, There are Co-Ng detectors for about 40$
at HD, get it checked out by a pro you obviously dont have your
equipment serviced or cleaned regularly and you should.
No, it;s not normal to smell any gas near a water heater. It needs to
be checked out. You can start checking yourself by applying some soapy
water with a brush to the pipe joints. If there is a leak, you will
see bubbles. It's most likely the problem is before the combustion
occurs, not the exhaust, because the combustion products are odorless.
I have a followup question to this answer - unrelated to water heaters,
but sort of on topic - is there a "safe" amount of natural gas to
smell? Reason: I can smell natural gas near my meter, but only when I
put my nose right near the pipes. Anywhere else along the ground
around the meter I can't smell it - and I can't smell it on any of the
pipes in my house that I could reach (my neighbors probably think I've
lost my mind). I've had the gas company out several times, each time
they told me they could smell it too (with their nose up next to the
pipe), but said that they couldn't find a leak. I watched the last guy
who came out and he soaped up the entire pipe & meter and found
nothing. None of them has given me a good reason why this is
Any time the gas does not explode could be considered safe in a loose sense
of the term.
The odorant that is put into gas can leave a residue over time. I've
sniffed pipes and fittings removed from gas service and months later and
could detect an odor. If their equipment does not detect any gas, it is
probably safe and the leak may be gone, but the residue remains. So, you
are not smelling gas necessarily, but the odorant. Natural gas has no odor.
You did the right thing having it checked.
I have exactly the same issue before or after replacing my water heater. I
always smell a waft of gas at a certain height near the pilot fire chamber. All
tests prove negative, but the smell still haunts or hovers around that spot from
time to time, giving me an eerie sense that gas is oozing out from some tiny
I'm not saying this case is the same, but a few weeks ago, someone
died in a motel in Ocean City, Md. Apparently it was CO. About a
week ago, someone announced that it was because of "a missing pipe"
from a gas water heater. The motel said it moved the water heater
outside. It gets pretty cold some of the time in Ocean City, and I
don't think anyone else keeps their water heater outside, but they
have to do something to make people feel their motel is safe.
It is a replacement water heater installed about 1 year ago. If I turn off
the gas valve on the water heater itself, then the smell is gone.
Then I turn it to the pilot lighting setting and lit the pilot. Immediately
after this I stuck my nose near the control box (where the valve, lighting
button, and the temperature control is mounted) and smell gas.
I think it's safe (dangerous?) to say the leak comes from that control box.
And it's only 1 year old. The water heater is made by state industries
I found the problem. There are two gas tubes coming out of the temperature
control box, a big one supplies the burner, and a small one supplies the
The installer did not use any joint compound on these tube fittings, so they
leak a little. Instead, he overtightened the large nut, but that still
I bought some joint compound from HD (says ok to use on gas pipe) and put
them in the threads. That's the white stuff you see in the threads. This
eliminates almost all the gas odor. I no longer smell gas when standing next
to the water heater. I still smell a faint odor at the bottom of the control
I think a little bit of gas is leaking out between the nut and the tubes.
How do you seal this? Yes, I know I can call the gas company, or call the
installer to fix it. That would be the last resort. I want to learn
something in the process if I could.
Then you need to replace the fittings--joint compound is for _threaded_
pipe fittings where the threads make the seal, _not_ for tubing
fittings. In a tubing fitting (or a pipe union, as well) the seal is
the mating between the taper and the sleeve _not_ the threads at all.
Sounds like they tried to reuse an old fitting that has either corroded
enough to no longer have a precise matching or, in trying to make that
connection, overtightned and likely crushed the ferule.
The real solution is to replace the fittings if you have sufficient
length to get a fresh tubing end or the tubing and fittings if not.
I installed a new gas waterheater and for weeks later kept getting a
faint smell of gas odor. Rechecked my connections and they were tight.
Finally checked the internal connections and found a loose one - came
that way from the factory. Tightened it and never smelled gas again.
Your question is pretty dangerous, remember that this is a public forum and
therefore we can't tell what your situation and what your intelligence level
really is, so a question involving highly flammable gas typically is
answered very conservatively.
As to whether it is normal or not, it can yes. I have spoken with people
who do home calls and people who do training for PSE (Puget Sound Energy)
and on certain gas water heaters it is normal to smell gas around the burner
control knob. But your circle doesn't indicate that location so in my mind
you should perhaps ask your gas supplier if they can verify the installation
for you. It's what I did when I smelled gas in and around my gas control
box. No reason to risk sending your water heater into low orbit.
OK - what you are smelling is the odorant Ethyl Mercaptan which is
added to natural gas to make it detectable. Somehow the mercaptan is
being released into the air - with or without the gas. My suspicion is
some has "settled out" of the gas at the pilot. Only a fraction of a
small drop will be detectable by a sensitive schnozz.
On 11/11/2014 8:24 PM, email@example.com wrote:
I've had gas co out numerous times as the mercaptan smell is noticeable.
To date they've never been able to set off their high-priced,
presumable sensitive(???) detectors at any location.
I've become convinced by characteristics it's a remnant of the odorant
having been left after repair/replacement when piping has been open.
It's noticeably stronger in the well house if get a little water on the
floor near where the heater sits which I replaced the old "wild" pilot
valve on a couple of years ago with one of them newfangled, gee-whiz
thermocouple-countrolled doo-jobbie ones a couple of years ago.
I've not gotten one of the n-gas wall monitors thinking the likelihood
of them being sensitive enough to help if the gas company can't find it
with a portable going around all the piping and end devices was likely
It is disconcerting on occasion, however, 'cuz one wonders for absolute
certain whether it's just getting missed or what...
Odorant can fool you.
I worked at a place out in the country that had a small motel for new emplo
yees until they found a place. There were maybe a dozen rooms. The place
smelled so strong of gas I wouldn't have walked near it. Their claim was t
hat it was normal. The odorant addition machine only came in one size, and
so they had a large unit for that tiny motel. With that much odorant bein
g added it was bound to smell.
In hindsight, they were probably lying, but we all did survive. And move o
This is a farm residence/homestead; the pot is at the tap off the
pipeline at the meter location some quarter-mile from the house...which
brings up other stories that initially was un-metered tap for farm/house
use as part of the right-of-way easement grandfather negotiated in the
30's when they built the line. Some 30 yr ago now, the original
pipeline company was acquired by another and they somehow found an
escape hatch that state corporation commission backed them up on to
break all those existing agreements. I've been extremely surprised they
haven't come around trying to pull the tap entirely in order to get rid
of the hassle of these scattered residential taps all over the county...
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