More than half of all households in the United States, including Houston, use natural gas. Where does it come from? How does it get into our homes? Is it a safe fuel source? What happens if my gas line needs repair? Let’s tackle some of these basic questions about this common household substance: natural gas.

First, did you know natural gas is lighter than air and is colorless and odorless? Natural gas companies mix an ingredient called mercaptan , or thiol, which is a natural gas from decaying matter, to help “flavor” the gas so people can smell it. It gives off a rotten egg kind of smell so homeowners can smell if there is a leak and need gas line repair. Otherwise you would never notice until it is too late!

Natural gas is found deep under the earth, thousands of feet down. Companies drill big wells and pumps to bring it to the surface and pipe it many, many miles to each town. The underground gas mains pipe the gas to each individual home in smaller pipes that hook to a meter outside the home. These meters measure how much gas the family uses. Then even smaller pipes run throughout the home, connecting it to it’s final source, the furnace, water heater, clothes dryer, or stove.

Every once in awhile, gas lines, like any other appliance, pipe, or fixture in a home, might need repair. If you smell that tell-tale rotten egg smell, there are a few things you need to do immediately. Call your Houston plumber first and tell them the situation. Leave the premises and do not touch anything that might create a spark. Even light switches or telephones can do this! Wait outside or at a neighbor’s house until the gas company says it is safe to reenter and the situation has been resolved.