Detecting Gas Leaks

gasLeakDetect

I had been smelling raw gas in the heated air rising from the oven chimney ever since I hooked up the stove.

So a couple of days before Thanksgiving I got a gas leak detector (UEi Test Instruments CD100A Combustible Gas Leak Detector ) to help pinpoint gas leaks.

It’s really cool. It claims to detect gases from the following:

Acetone, Alcohol, Ammonia, Benzene, Butane, Ethylene Oxide, Gasoline, Halon, Hydrogen Sulfide, Industrial Solvents, Jet Fuel, Lacquer, Thinners, Methane, Naphtha Natural Gas, Propane, Toluene.

I first tested it by opening the fuel cap on my car. It worked! So I put it to work on my stove. It’s not a precise instrument, no where near as sophisticated as what PG&E technicians have. It provides relative comparisons of gas levels through the frequency of clicks; none to low means low levels of combustible gases. As the sniffer at the end of the hose gets closer to a leak, the click frequency increases. I like this model because the hose can be bent and shaped to fit into small spaces.

The detector confirmed there was a high concentration coming from the stove’s chimney. Under the hood the oven and broiler valve leaked a bit without being turned on. It detected high amounts of gas just above the oven and broiler pilot lights.

gasDetect_oven

gasDetect_broiler

gasDetect_cooktop

For the next three months while learning and adjusting gas-related things, I used the detector constantly. It did a lot to help me learn about where gas could potentially leak, raised my confidence and lowered my fears of the dangers of working with gas.

After a short time it became very apparent that a gas detector is a VITAL device to have in a home if there are gas appliances. They work far far better than a nose. When it comes to finding out if gas going where it shouldn’t and avoiding explosions, they’re great.

And when DIYing a gas stove restoration, gas detectors are essential to the job.  Many gas stove owners don’t want to or are afraid to get familiar enough with their stoves. So if you take on a previously owned vintage gas stove chances are pretty good it hasn’t been maintained well enough and should be checked carefully. Gaskets, valves, seals, vents,

Sadly, the unit’s power and setting dial broke only after three months – not a good outcome for such a pricey item.  But the manufacturer stood by their warranty. They repaired the unit at no cost to me. It’s back home, working again. But I don’t use it as much, since I’ve addressed the major problems. It feels very comforting, however, to have one in the house.

4 thoughts on “Detecting Gas Leaks”

  1. We have a 1953 O&M (restored when we bought it in 1989 & used for several years). Before our move to WA from CA, it was converted from gas to propane as there is no propane in our rural area. We never used it once it had been converted and it sat unused for several years before it was installed. The first time it was ‘fired up’, flames shot out of the temperature dial/thermostat! That has been replaced. However, we have been unable to find anyone familiar with antique stoves to vet it for leaks. My husband is leery to trust it claiming there is no way to assure all leaks are located & repaired. Would like your opinion, especially if you have any recommendations for repair near the Olympic Peninsula. Thank you.

    1. It’s really no big deal to leak proof these stoves. The gas flow system is identical to plumbing. There are pipes, gaskets, seals, etc. If you have any gas-fueled appliances like stoves, water heaters, furnaces, I would very strongly recommend obtaining a hand held gas leak detector. They can be found on Amazon. Some talk about using the “bubble” test. It’s ok for major leaks, but if you want confidence that you’ve taken care to avoid uncombusted gases, use a detector.

      As far as repairs, unless something needs to be replaced, maintenance is very simple. You can do it yourself, which is worthwhile, IMHO, because if you are able to find anyone, they’ll likely charge a huge amount. I’ll be happy to walk you through anything you want to know. I would also recommend visiting the “Vintage Stove” Facebook group. There are owners and fans that will also be helpful.

  2. Pipe leading up to the oven pilot light has a pivot piece on it like on vacuum cleaners a the top of the intake hose. I am getting gas leaking from this and contemplating what it is for and how to plug it.

    Does anyone know anything about this?

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