My Propane Heater Is Giving Off a Gassy Smell

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When you smell propane gas, close the supply valve until you identify the reason.
When you smell propane gas, close the supply valve until you identify the reason. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Propane is an economical and environmentally friendly fuel choice, but if used incorrectly it can be dangerous. Additives are added to the odorless propane to alert owners of a problem, either with the appliance, tank or fuel lines. A gassy smell that reminds you of skunk spray, a dead animal, rotten eggs or sulfur is an indication that a hazardous situation such as a gas leak or spill may have occurred and immediate action must be taken.

Propane Gas Leak

If your propane heater or other appliance gives off a gassy odor, shut off the gas supply immediately and contact a professional to make sure a hazardous situation like a gas leak has not occurred. Propane can cause a fire or explosion, so make sure you are well away from the source of a possible leak before using your telephone to call your propane supplier, appliance manufacturer or 911. If the odor is detected within a building, remove everyone until given an all clear.

Low Gas Supply

If you notice a gassy odor when using your propane heater or other appliance, it may be because you're running out of gas. Don't let the supply become completely exhausted as an empty gas tank can cause a serious explosion. If the gas supply feeding the propane heater has run out, immediately turn it off as well as the valve at the gas tank. Contact the gas supplier on how to proceed. The heater should be checked by a trained service person before it is used again.

Pilot Lights

There are many reasons a pilot light can go out on a propane heater, but when the flame is extinguished, gas is escaping into the air and if it accumulates it could cause a dangerous situation. Luckily, the propane gas additive will alert you with a gassy odor. If the pilot light goes out often, call the appliance service technician. The cause could be as simple as the location being in an area that is susceptible to drafts.

Propane Heater Maintenance

Keep the propane heater clean so that it gets the air circulation it needs to run properly and safely. If it has fallen over or suffered a jolt, it's possible that the gassy odor means that the regulators, fittings or safety devices in the appliance have become loose or are not working correctly because they are damaged. These are problems that you should not attempt to correct yourself. Contact a qualified appliance technician to repair and inspect your propane heater before it's used again.

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