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Smelling Gas Around the Meter

jhausch's picture

Is that normal - to smell gas around the outdoor meter?  Does the regulator let some loose now and then?

(post #115167, reply #1 of 16)


call the gas company. they will send someone out right away.

(post #115167, reply #2 of 16)

OK - thanks.

(post #115167, reply #3 of 16)

yes it is normal for the regulator to bypass gas on occasion, and yes it is normal to smell gas around the meter, but you do have to make sure it is not leaking.

the best way to tell is get a spray bottle with some water and dish soap, use a little flux brush or small paint brush and get the soapy sudsy mix all frothed up and covering all joints/connections in the pipe and at the meter.

if you see any of the joints making soap bubbles you have a leak, watch closely for several minutes, i have missed small ones by not watching long enough.

the other test to make is to "spot the meter" by turning off all gas valves to all appliances and watching the indicator on the meter to see if it moves, if it is dead still you are probably alright, if it creeps a little gas is going somewhere.

(post #115167, reply #4 of 16)

Most if not all meters have a regulator and at the bottom of the reg is a vent which is probably where the smell is coming from. It might not be a problem but just get them to check it out. As the reg is upstream from the meter it is their gas that's leaking not yours.


(post #115167, reply #5 of 16)

Yes, the regulator vents, but best to call and report, they don't charge to test their own stuff, and they do want to know about a leak.

But don't lose too much sleep over it.



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(post #115167, reply #6 of 16)

First thing to remember is that natural gas has no aroma.  The smell comes from an additive, put in so that the human nose can detect it's presence easily.

So, if you can smell it you should report it. 

In an open space, outside, gas leaks aren't any great danger because they can only ignite and burn, except in exceptional circumstances where very high humidity and stagnant air combine with the gas to form a vapor.  In that case an explosion is possible.   

Natural gas isn't a danger to breath either, except when in an enclosed space where it can drive out the oxygen and cause aspixiation. 

Round One: I reported a minor whiff of gas near the meter, a few years ago.  They had a serviceman out in less than an hour.  He couldn't detect the exact point of the leak but, at my request, he replaced the fifty year old meter and the first section of steel pipe, the riser.   

Round Two:  Couple of weeks later I checked the new meter and discovered that the smell was still present.  The gas company sent out another serviceman who dug up a test spot over the old gas line from the street and found it to be significantly corroded.

Round Three: Gas Company sent out a private contractor who dug up the street, found the old connection to the main and....somehow...ran a new section of flexible plastic pipe as as insert, all the way to the riser pipe going into the new meter on the house. 

Problem solved.  At least as far as my nose knows.





Edited 7/2/2008 6:31 am by Hudson Valley Carpenter

Edited 7/2/2008 6:35 am by Hudson Valley Carpenter

(post #115167, reply #7 of 16)

If you smell it constantly, it's probably a leak. 

A friend of mine is a service man for the gas company.  He said they accidentally added too much of the foul smelling stuff to the gas a few years ago, and in one night got 1700 calls in their area from customers complaining about gas leaks.

He said they actually found some kind of leak at most of these locations.  Evidentally even the smallest leak shows up if it smells bad enough.

(post #115167, reply #8 of 16)

 Does the regulator let some loose now and then?


The vent on a gas rgulator that others are talking about is an ambiaent atmospheric pressure vent. It lets air into the regulator.

The purpose of the regulator is to step down the distribution main pressure from approximately 35 psi to the 6 oz need inside the home. The 6 oz. home pressure must be maintained as a constant for your appliance to operate correctly. The vent on the regulator lets the current atmospheric pressure into the regulator on one side of the diaphram and with the aid of a spring and valve assembly the gas pressure is constantly adjusted to the 6 oz. pressure you use. This occures no matter what the weather conditions are like day, night , or any season of the year (think high and low pressure weather fronts moving through you area).

If you smell or detect natural gas leaking from the vent on the regulator, the regulator diaphram and/or valve assembly is leaking.

It needs to be replace.

Here is a link to one of the regulators we use for residential service:

Shortcut to:

Just trying to clear up any misconceptions about regulator vents.

BTW if a vent gets plugged up by bugs or dirt you will start having problems with gas appliances not burning correctly.

(post #115167, reply #9 of 16)

Dave,  That was very interesting & informative!

(post #115167, reply #10 of 16)

You are right but because the diaphram is only a very thin membrain they can get pin holes. Also the reg might have an internal safety relief valve (IRV) which might also be leaking out the vent.
Oops, I see you answered it also:)

Edited 7/2/2008 10:14 pm ET by roger g

(post #115167, reply #11 of 16)

Acctually the membrane is not all that thin  and is pretty tuff stuff.

I use to get a foot or two of it from our regulator shop when I needed some thinner casket material.

 We didn't rebuild residential regulators, just the big ones for hp mains and transmission pits. Neat operation to watch.

(post #115167, reply #12 of 16)

Do you mean gasket material??????????

(post #115167, reply #13 of 16)

"Do you mean gasket material??????????"

Awww, why'd you have to go and spoil it for us. I was having a great time imagining the plight of the poor pall bearers trying to carry those thin, flexible caskets.


(post #115167, reply #14 of 16)

ah,.....   yer dead on!