Did you know your nose might be called upon at any moment to save you and your family?
If you use natural gas to heat your home or power your oven, you might be familiar with the fact that your gas company adds a rotten-eggs smell (mercaptan) to its otherwise odorless natural gas to help you know if there’s a gas leak.
But what if you can’t totally trust your nose?
I just went through one of these real-life ‘moments’ a few nights ago.
Let me set it up like a Lifetime movie…
After the Opening Credits
Scene 1: Fade up to a nighttime shot of a typical suburban neighborhood.
The full moon glows overhead.
An ominous music track begins…
Zoom in to a house containing a sleeping family, all cozy in their gas-friendly home.
Dissolve to the parent’s bedroom.
Cut to medium shot of the happily sleeping husband. The clock on the night table glows 4:00am. Next to it, an outdoor thermometer display reads 15 degrees.
Cut to tight shot of the wife’s eyes popping open.
“Are you awake?”
“Murphenpoppen. Cragglesnaffen. Mmmrph. Uuuhh.
“Do you smell something?”
“I think I smell gas. Do you?”
“I’m not sure. My nose is a little stuffed. Hang on.
I don’t think so.”
“I do. Would you go downstairs and check it out?”
The husband gets out of the bed and embarks on the critical mission.
His weapon of choice: His nose.
The stairs creak ominously as he descends.
Fade to back.
Putting the Nose to Work
I’m happy to report my life is not a Lifetime movie.
That said, here’s what happened next…
I walked carefully about the kitchen and the basement and put my nose in action.
I sniffed the stove. I sniffed the oven. I sniffed here and there. I sniffed everywhere.
Our two cats watched me perform this strange human ritual of safety.
They were not impressed.
My verdict: Nothing.
I couldn’t detect any signs of a gas leak.
I think I may have picked up the essence of a few charred remains from dinner.
(My meat-broiling skills have been a little off lately.)
But my nostrils did not reveal anything else out of the ordinary.
So I shared my findings upstairs, and we both went back to sleep.
Time to Team Up with Technology
The fact that I’m still here to document this incident means my conclusion was correct.
And I want to thank my wife for waking me up in the dead of night to go on what might otherwise be considered a fool’s errand.
(Up until then, I hadn’t figured out a post topic for this week!)
Because I suddenly realized how nice it would be if I had a little technology on my side the next time to help with the investigation.
The Digital Sniffer
We all have carbon monoxide detectors in our homes, but it’s not common to see digital gas sniffers hanging around. I guess the rotten egg smell is supposed to do the trick all on its own.
The gas detector market is mostly focused on devices that can zero in on the precise location of a gas leak. These $200-$300 (and up) sniffers will help your plumber isolate the spot on the gas pipe needing repair.
But these expensive gadgets overshoot my particular parameters.
I just want some affordable tech to tell me,
“Yes, your nose is correct. There’s gas in this room! Get out now!!”
I’d let the professionals take it from there…
Conversely, I want a device to support my conclusion if, in fact, there isn’t any gas hanging around the house.
I would certainly sleep better knowing that the rest of my night won’t play out like an explosive scene from a Michael Bay movie.
Sure, your schnoz should easily detect the rotten egg scent, but what happens if you’ve just recovered from one of those nasty January colds?
Sniffing Out the Best Solution
The good news is there are a few less-expensive sniffers out there that should do the trick.
- Gadget Boy really liked this $21.50 Portable Gas Detector on Amazon.
Though he fully admits it’s not as good as the more expensive competition, I wonder how powerful a $20 unit can really be…
- Home Depot’s got this General Tools Pen Style Natural Gas Detector for $39.99.
It gets generally good reviews, though a few shoppers dissed it.
- There’s the Extech FG100 Combustible Gas Leak Detector for $55.41 on Amazon.
But there aren’t a lot of posted reviews. So it’s hard to really know…
Here are a couple more choices out there around the $100 price point:
- Sears has the higher-end gooseneck Extech EZ40 for $129.99.
- Amazon has the UEi Test Instruments CD100A Combustible Gas Leak Detector for $136.10.
It has almost all great reviews on Amazon, and Gadget Boy liked it too!
Earlier I hedged with the phrase, “should do the trick.”
It’s worth repeating each of these choices received some percentage of reviews saying the device came up short. And the fact that there are other options costing hundreds of dollars more is a reminder that these sniffers have certain limitations.
That said, the EUi CD100A appears almost universally loved.
Keeping Your World Safe, One Sniff at a Time
A digital sniffer can be exceptionally useful to have around the next time you “think you smell gas.”
But should you entirely trust one of these ‘more-affordable’ units?
Of course not.
(I wouldn’t completely put my life in the hands of a $300 device.)
Just think of a digital sniffer as simply another addition to your overall tool belt to help you protect your world.
And your nose will thank you!