In one decade alone (2002 -2012), almost 800 incidents on gas distribution pipelines, including several hundred explosions, killed 116 people, injured 465 others and caused more than $800 million in property damage (America Pays for Gas Leaks – A report prepared for Sen. Edward J. Markey). Nearly 300 people die every year from natural gas poisoning caused by appliances that burn fuel, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Gas leaks can be dangerous anywhere; be it home or office, you need a gas detector to combat this potentially fatal hazard.
Gas Detector Technologies
Gas detectors are divided into two categories: combustible and toxic. They are further divided, based on the technologies they use. Catalytic and infrared sensors are used to detect combustible gases whereas electrochemical and metal oxide semiconductor technologies are designed to detect toxic gases.
Detection of Toxic Gases
These sensors or cells are usually installed for the detection of toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and chlorine. These types of sensors are responsive, sending signals via electrical currents. Some manufacturers may produce these with a digital display and easy to operate keypad.
Metal Oxide Semiconductors
MOS are mostly used for carbon monoxide detection. They operate using a gas sensitive film composed of tin or tungsten oxides. The film reacts with toxic gases and sends out a signal to the main device, which is designed to trigger the gas alarm.
Detection of Combustible Gases
These are some of the most commonly used gas detection devices. Combustible gases such as hydrocarbon cause catalytic oxidation, triggering the device.
IR Detectors are also equipped to detect hydrocarbon vapors through a system of transmitters and receivers. If the gas is present in the optical path between the transmitter and the receiver, the device will recognize this atmospheric change and respond accordingly.
Precautionary Measures to Avoid Gas Leaks
The following are a few of the most commonly noted reasons for gas leaks:
Check the stove burners – Leaving a stove burner on is one of the most common reasons that leads to gas leaks. Make sure you have turned the knob the right way.
Check the oven – As natural gas is odorless, gas companies add Sulphur for identification. So if you smell rotten eggs near your oven, check for a gas leak immediately.
Check your clothes dryer – If it is gas operated, us soap water solution on the seals and check if there are any air bubbles.
What to Do When the Alarm Goes Off?
The alarm system is designed to warn you of a potential threat; it will not fix the leak though. However, it gives you a heads up so that you may take preventive measures like evacuation. Here’s a list of steps you should ideally follow to systematically deal with a gas leak:
Quick assessment – As soon as the leak is detected, get everyone out of the affected area. Do not turn on light switches or any other electrical equipment. Do not use any form of fire igniting materials.
Call the emergency services – Use your neighbor’s phone to call the authorities and report the leak. Do not make a phone call in the affected area.
Open doors and windows – To allow ventilation.
Turn off the main gas supply – Only when you know how to.
Once you have taken these measures and evacuated the house, it would be advisable to let the professionals handle the situation.
Do You Even Need a Gas Detector?
If you are not convinced that this is an investment worth making for the safety of your family and property, then take a look at these facts:
20,000 people die every year due to Radon, a colorless, odorless gas. Without proper preventive measure, this gas can be trapped in homes; an issue that affects one in every 15 homes according to EPA.
The CDC reports that more than 400 people die annually due to carbon monoxide poisoning. This colorless, odorless gas even in a non-fatal dose causes 4000 people to be hospitalized every year.
With these numbers, it is obvious that a gas leak could be fatal. Gas detector is a onetime investment that could protect you and your family from unnecessary hazards.
Q:How Gas Detectors Work
A:A gas alarm detects harmful (and usually colorless/odorless) gases in the air, such as natural gas, carbon monoxide, propane and radon, etc. It employs a point detector which senses the amount of gas in the air, but the type of sensors used could vary: infrared sensors, ultrasonic sensors, electrochemical gas sensors are all examples of the different types of technology gas detectors may use. If a gas detector finds unusually high levels of gas present, it triggers an alert to notify anyone who is close by. The alert itself could be either visual or auditory, or both.
Q:What To Consider When Choosing A Gas Detector
A:Consider which type of gas alarm you would prefer, as there are various gas alarms for different harmful gases, such as for natural gas, carbon monoxide, radon, propane, etc. For this, you may need to look into the different sources around you which may emit harmful gases, such as burning fossil fuels, as well as the layout of the building that is to be covered to assess the number of alarms you’ll require and their individual range. Also consider whether you would prefer a portable gas alarm or a fixed gas alarm. A portable alarm is a small, handheld device that could be used as a personal monitor against toxic gases in the air and detects low oxygen levels, but should only be used by people who have received training. A fixed gas alarm on the other hand is permanently installed in a given location and monitors the area 24/7, sometimes through the use of open-path or beam detectors that consist of a remote detector and radiation source. They are especially useful in industry plants for monitoring concentrations of gas and vapors. Finally, before buying the alarm, check the packaging information for sensitivity ratings.
Q:How long does a gas detector last?
A:The lifespan of a gas detector depends on various factors including the technology used, gas exposure and environmental conditions. Infrared sensors and catalytic cells are typically used for explosive gas detection, with the infrared sensors lasting 2 to 3 times longer than the catalytic cells. These happen to wear out rather quickly if regularly exposed to gases. The same applies to electrochemical sensors that are designed to detect toxic gases; the more they are exposed to gases the shorter their lifespan becomes.