- Home Improvement
4 Amazing Combustible Gas Leak Detectors Reviewed
Which are the best natural gas & propane sniffers for 2017?
Winter is on approach, and it's getting colder outside. We've already turned on our gas fireplace, and I made sure to check it over before relighting. As someone who has dealt with scary leaks before, I highly recommend a natural gas leak detector to anyone who relies on combustible gas for heat.
Natural gas has a lot going for it. It's plentiful, clean to burn and rather inexpensive to operate. It's also extremely hard to detect in the air, which is why a smell has been added to make a leak easier to notice. That smell is helpful, but locating the source of the leak? Not always so easy. Same goes with propane and other combustible gasses. Sometimes gas fitters aren't super helpful, so why not try to locate the source of the leak yourself?
This article looks at some of the best natural and combustible gas leak detectors around, giving a review of each one and why you might consider it. We'll look at everything from features to price tag. We'll also touch on what to do in the event of a significant gas leak. Let's get started!
Soapy Water as a Natural Gas Leak Detector?
Soapy water is often employed to find pin-sized gas leaks on pipes and fittings. Basically just coat your fittings with a thick, soapy mixture, and watch where the bubbles form (if any).
It's effective, but not always practical on large or hard-to-reach systems.
Gas Leak: What to do?
If you're smelling rotton eggs in your home, there's a good chance it's a natural gas leak. The sulphurous smell is actually added to the gas (which is naturally odorless and tasteless) to make it easy for you to detect.
If you smell it strongly, leave the house immediately and call your gas provider for inspection. Don't flip electrical switches, light a match or touch anything. Natural gas is highly combustible, and it's also dangerous to breathe in high enough concentrations.
Do not try to suss out the leak yourself, or attempt to patch it!
The personal natural gas leak detectors I'm reviewing in this article are intended for two purposes: a) homeowners trying to track down small, annoying leaks that your gas company won't deal with, or b) HVAC professionals and gas fitters who require a more accurate method of combustible gas leak detection than the soapy water method.
TIF 8900A: A good combustible gas detector with leak size indicator
This is one of the best gadgets I've ever reviewed, and it's a phenomenal natural gas and propane leak sniffer. It has about the best customer reviews for a product I've ever come across, and it's all for good reason.
It is a solid and professional quality gas leak detector, and it's meant to be easy to use but powerful. The 15 inch long stainless steel sniffer arm is flexible to fit into smaller spaces. The response time is immediate, so it's a good one to pass slowly across an area that you suspect may have a leak. You don't need to hold it in place for a long time.
It has an adjustable sensitivity, so you can use it to detect the presence of both large scale and tiny leaks. The sensitivity is what makes this device stand out, and it's capable of picking up pinhole sized leaks with great accuracy.
The combination audio and visual (LED) indicators make detection a snap. It even shows the level of leak (in measures of light and sound), so you can zero in on the source. I even like the retro throwback styling!
On the whole this is one of my favorite natural gas and propane leak detectors on the market; it's strong, reliable and will last you for years.
UEi CD100A: A combustible gas leak detector with wide range of uses.
This is a phenomenal combustible gas leak detector by UEi Test Instruments. It has a huge range of detection capabilities, and it's useful for picking up hints of natural gas and propane, as well as a slew of other harmful gasses. It's great for home use, but also for professionals in the sciences, HVAC and heating services, or even general construction.
It's capable of detecting acetone, butane, ethylene, gasoline, lacquer, natural gas, propane and refrigerants, as well as many others. The sensor is extremely accurate and quick, and you can expect near instantaneous response when sniffing around for the leak.
As for sensitivity, this is a very good product, able to pick up 50 PPM of methane at the low end. That makes it perfect for sussing out those tiny leaks that the gas company might overlook. You can adjust the sensitivity to pinpoint the location.
The flexible sniffer is 18 inches long and features a small LED light bulb at the tip to help you in darker environments. The main detection signal is audio, with clicks increasing in interval as you get closer to the source. There's an LED light indicator as well, that flashes with the clicks. You can use it with headphones, if that helps.
It runs on a 9v battery. Durable and powerful, this is a great natural gas leak detector for both personal and professional use, and it's cheap to boot.
Portable, Tiny Natural Gas Leak Detector
OK, what if you want to leave the minute detection to the professionals, and you just want an inexpensive, simple detector for use in the home or on vacation? You're not out of luck, there are a bunch of decent miniature leak detectors out there.
Let's be clear, none of them hold a candle to the two more expensive models I've just reviewed. But they get the job done and they work in a pinch. It's a good thing to have on hand in case you're not able to trust your nose.
This particular model runs on two AA batteries and fits in the palm of your hand. It is useful for detecting propane, acetylene, natural gas and butane leaks at the source.
It's not the most sensitive, but it's tuned to detect gas leaks at the lower exposure limit for humans, and it has a three stage LED warning light that indicates the severity of the leak. It also has an audio signal.
With this portable natural gas sniffer, you'll need to hold it for a few seconds to get an accurate reading. It's not as quick or nearly as sensitive as the others I have reviewed, but then again it's a tenth of the price.
Simple, portable and inexpensive, this is a good natural gas leak sniffer for personal use.
SafetySiren Combustible Gas Detector & Alarm
Peace of mind goes a long way. If your home relies on some form of combustible gas to heat, you might want to consider going with a wall mounted detector and alarm. The purpose is slightly different, in that it detects gas leaks passively, but it's a nice thing to have on hand.
It's actually super easy to install, since it plugs directly into a wall outlet and receives power that way. It then takes samples of the air every 2.5 minutes, and detects the presence of either propane or methane (for natural gas).
If it detects anything above a certain threshold, it will sound a high pitched alarm to wake you and your family. It has been calibrated to double check and ensure there are no false alarms.
These are great because they can be placed near your heating source. One of these near your furnace is a great way to maintain peace of mind while you sleep.
It actually has very sensitive detection for such a small device, and it's so easy to install it's almost a no-brainer. One note of warning, however, it doesn't work to detect carbon monoxide, so you'll need to get a separate detector if you're concerned about that.
What kind of heat does your home use?
OK, my combustible gas leak detector found a leak. What now?
Even the best natural gas leak sniffers and detectors are only to be used as a tool. They can help locate the source of potential leakage, but beyond that it's up to you what you'll do with that information.
I never recommend trying to patch up a gas leak by yourself, not unless you're trained in that field. A patch may work temporarily, but it may not last over the long run. And it's easy to become accustomed to a trace gas smell in your home.
Remember that Federal Safety Standards require that gas companies must do regular gas leak inspections in any building receiving natural gas. So you can probably get them in to inspect and potentially repair.
I'd also caution you to avoid working with any gas fitters or HVAC professionals that you're unsure of. As a personal story, we called in a gas fitter to check out a potential leak in our basement. Sure enough he detected it, then used a pipe coating to seal it up. We still smelled gas, but he used his detector and said it was all clear.
After three weeks of smelling gas, we called in a different guy. He shook his head at the shoddy patch job done by the other guy. Both were licensed professionals, but their quality of work was drastically different.
What's your natural gas / propane leak story?