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Natural Gas Safety

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How to recognize a natural gas leak

Natural gas, in its purest form, has no smell. However, CenterPoint Energy adds a very distinct odorant to the gas, called mercaptan, that smells like rotten eggs or sulfur, whereby detecting a leak is very easy.

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Look for signs of a possible leak

  • Persistent bubbling in standing water
  • Discolored or dead vegetation around the pipeline area

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Listen for any unusual noise

  • Whistling, hissing or roaring sound

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​Smell*​

  • Distinctive, strong odor, often compared to rotten eggs or sulfur

    *Some persons may not be able to smell the odor because they have a diminished sense of smell, olfactory fatigue (normal, temporary inability to distinguish an odor after prolonged exposure to it) or because the odor is being masked or hidden by other odors that are present in the area, such as cooking smells or damp, musty, or chemical odors.
    In addition, under certain rare circumstances, odor fade (the loss of odorant so that it is not readily detectable by smell) can occur. Odor fade is caused by physical and chemical processes. Other factors that may cause odor fade include: construction and configuration of the customer’s gas facilities; presence of rust, moisture, liquids, or other substances in the pipe; gas composition, pressure, and flow; intermittent, little, or no gas flow over an extended period that normally lasts until the gas flow increases or becomes more frequent; new pipe installations; steel and larger pipes; and certain types of dry soil.
    For more detailed information on odorant fade, refer to the ​Safety Bulletin​  for contractors who work on natural gas piping, appliances, and equipment and customers.

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What to do if you suspect a natural gas leak

Inside your home or building:

  • Step 1: Leave immediately on foot! Do not use electric switches, telephones (including cell phones), drive or start a car or anything that could cause a spark.
  • Step 2: Go directly to a safe location, on foot, and call both CenterPoint Energy at 800-227-1376 and 911. Do not use e-mail or the Internet to contact the company about a leak, and never assume someone else has reported the leak.
  • Step 3: Alert your neighbors. CenterPoint Energy checks suspected natural gas leaks at no cost to you.
  • Step 4: Never try to repair a natural gas leak yourself. Leave all repairs to a trained technician.

Outside your home or building:

  • Step 1: Leave immediately on foot! Do not use electric switches, telephones (including cell phones), start or drive a car or anything that could cause a spark. Move in a upwind direction away from the leak or vapor cloud where you can no longer smell gas​ and maintain a safe distance.
  • Step 2: Go directly to a safe location and call both CenterPoint Energy at 800-227-1376 and 911​.
  • Step 3: Warn others to stay away from the leak. Abandon any equipment being used in or near the area.

Energy Safe Skills


CenterPoint Energy offers Energy Safe Skills, a no-cost, turnkey safety curriculum for secondary, post-secondary and job readiness instructors. Register now for the program to teach your students about working safely around buried utilities.


Damage Prevention Safety Training


CenterPoint Energy offers a no-cost damage prevention and utility safety training for excavators and emergency responders. Request a safety training covering state and federal digging laws, identification of buried facilities and safe excavation best practices.


Gas appliance safety

Natural gas appliances are not only economical and efficient, they are safe, too. Like all appliances, they must be used properly. Natural gas heaters, dryers, water heaters and ranges will give many years of safe, economical service if a few simple guidelines are followed.

Natural gas appliances should be installed and maintained by qualified service personnel according to the manufacturer's instructions
Natural gas appliances should only be used for their intended purpose. (Do not use gas appliances such as an oven, range or clothes dryer to heat the home.)
Keep aerosols, paper, boxes and other combustible items away from open flames, like that on natural gas appliances.
Have the furnace checked by a professional every year before cold weather begins. Inspections should include:
Check vent pipes for cracks, leaks and sufficient venting.
Inspect internal components for excessive wear or damage and replace or repair as necessary.
Make proper internal adjustments for maximum efficiency.
Clean internal and external areas including the burner chamber, heat exchanger, vents, registers and thermostat.
Make sure the water heater is set to a safe temperature—120° F—or no higher than necessary. Higher temperatures may cause scalding, especially on children.
Install carbon monoxide detectors in the living and sleeping areas of the home.

Gas connectors are corrugated metal tubes used to connect gas appliances in the home to natural gas supply pipes. Some older, uncoated brass connectors may have a serious flaw in the end pieces, and over time, can separate from the tubing and cause a serious gas leak, explosion or fire.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, these uncoated connectors have not been made for more than 20 years, but many are still in use. Although not all uncoated connectors have this flaw, it is very difficult to determine which ones do.

Therefore, any uncoated brass connector should be replaced immediately with a new plastic-coated brass or stainless steel connector. Connectors can wear out from too much moving, bending or corrosion and should be replaced whenever the appliance is moved or relocated. Only a qualified professional plumber, HVAC or appliance repair contractor should inspect and, if needed, replace your connector. Moving the appliance, even slightly, can cause the complete failure of one of these older, weakened connectors and possible result in a deadly fire or explosion.

Many older gas appliances have a small, continuously burning gas flame, the pilot light, that ignites the main burner. Newer models have electric igniters. It is important to know which appliances have a pilot light and always refer to the manufacturer's relighting instructions or call a heating equipment professional to relight the pilot light.

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Natural Gas Line and Meter Inspection

To ensure safe and reliable service to our customers, federal regulations require CenterPoint Energy to periodically inspect its equipment, including the piping and natural gas meter the company owns.

- CenterPoint Energy owns the natural gas meter and the piping that comes into it from the distribution main line.

- Customers own the piping that runs from the meter to the natural gas appliances and it is the customer's responsibility to maintain this piping.

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Excess flow valves

An excess flow valve (EFV) is a safety device installed on a natural gas service line that automatically shuts off the flow of gas in the event that the service line is severed. A service line is the gas line that runs from the gas main located at the front or rear of the home to the customer's meter. Federal regulations (The Code of Federal Regulations 49 CFR 192.383) require operators to install EFVs in all new and renewed gas service lines, regardless of customer classifications (including single family residences, multifamily residences, and small commercial entities) for customers consuming gas volumes under 1,000 standard cubic feet per hour. During normal operation, the valve remains open allowing for the continual flow of gas to the home or business. If this line is severely damaged (due to some type of digging activity, for example), the EFV will automatically restrict the flow of gas and reduce the probability of property damage or injury. Customers should be aware an EFV will only perform as described when a major leak occurs outside of their home. The valve will not prevent small leaks that may happen on the service line. The valve will also not detect or prevent leaks that occur inside a customer's home.

Customers have the right to request the installation of an EFV on their service line. It is the customer's responsibility to pay for this installation. Costs will vary based on the location of the service line; CenterPoint Energy estimates costs will average between $1,500 and $2,000 per installation. Upon request by a customer, CenterPoint Energy will investigate and determine the cost of the installation, which the customer will be required to pay prior to work being done. This cost does not include any charges that may be incurred later if the EFV requires further maintenance or replacement. This further cost, which cannot be estimated precisely at this time, is covered by CenterPoint Energy.

Due to certain EFV design limitations, an EFV cannot be installed in every condition. For instance, an EFV may not be applicable for customers with a load greater than 1,000 cubic feet per hour or where the EFV would interfere with necessary operation. If you have questions or want to request that your service be evaluated for an EFV, you may call CenterPoint Energy's New Service Department at 800-990-1930.

Need more information? Contact us