Carbon Monoxide Detectors Do Not Detect Natural Gas Leaks

We learned a scary lesson while working on our basement remodel this past weekend. Last week, we had all the framing done by our contractor.


Since he was finished with the framing, that meant it was time to move on to electrical. That’s where things went wrong.


While my electrician was drilling a hole to run wires, he drilled into a gas pipe. The house quickly filled with natural gas, and because of where the puncture occurred, the shut off valve didn’t work.

It took 30 minutes before we were able to shut off the gas from outside the house. Meanwhile, we quickly got everyone out of the house, including the dogs, because there was a very serious risk of the house exploding.

Thankfully, the gas company made an emergency visit and once the house was aired out properly, they declared it safe to return inside. They did say we were pretty lucky – since we have a gas furnace, the pilot light could have easily caused a spark that would have turned our home into a fireball.

After the service tech left, I realized that not once had our carbon monoxide detectors gone off. I checked them, and they all appeared to be fully functional.

I mentioned the issue to the repair guy that returned to fix the broken gas pipe the next day, and he explained that carbon monoxide detectors do not detect natural gas leaks, because natural gas isn’t carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is actually a byproduct of incomplete combustion of natural gas – the most common time for that to happen is when a gas appliance doesn’t function correctly.

Now I understand why it’s so important to have and frequently test your carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide, according to the EPA, is an odorless, tasteless, colorless deadly gas. Natural gas, on the other hand, does have an odor, so you can smell it when there’s a leak. Both are very dangerous, and even though I wish the gas leak had never happened to us, I’m glad I learned the difference so I can research more how to make sure my family stays safe in case of another accident.

Have You Ever Experienced A Gas Leak?


  1. Suzy Allen says:

    Oh my goodness how scary! We’ve never had a gas leak, but we don’t use any gas right now. We have in the past though.

  2. Wendi Scharrer says:

    We have experienced a gas leak..however it was outside. My husband was putting a dog fence up and hit a gas line! OPPS! So glad you were all ok. Lesson learned here also!

  3. Dandi D says:

    That is scary! We haven’t ever had a gas leak, but we’re all electric, so that would be why!

  4. Rachel N says:

    I had no idea! Can you smell natural gas? Or is there a detector that you can get for it?

  5. Wow, this is definitely a good lesson learned! If we ever have work done, I am going to remember this!

  6. That’s pretty scary….we don’t have gas in our tiny apartment. What I smell is the occasional warming plastic or wood smell when I have something too close to the electrical baseboard heat.

  7. Susan L. M. says:

    I have never had a leak, but I have a friend who started to turn on her gas stove to make tea then changed her mind. She never lit the burner or turned it off. A couple hours later she passed out on a bed and her husband found her. Luckily he smelled it and took her outside and she was fine! I guess because it slowly built up she could never smell it, but he did, thankfully. They do make detectors for gas, too, I believe!

  8. Very good to know. Thanks.

  9. Tabitha says:

    So scary! Wow! That reminds me I have to get a new carbon monoxide detector! Eek!

  10. Wow. Scary

  11. Good to know, although I am a little nervous seeing that we have natural gas!

  12. Melissa T. says:

    WOW! We have gas too and I never knew they dont pick up natural gas leaks, that’s scary. That’s why Im so scared of doing any work ourselves, I’d rather professionals do everything…. You would think that a professional electrician would be a little more careful though. Did they take any blame for it?… I’m glad everyone got out safe and that the house did not explode cuz that would have been horrible!!

  13. I thought the whole point was to deal with natural gas. Is it an issue of concentration levels?

  14. Chelsea Saulpaugh says:

    Luckily, I’ve never dealt with a gas leak before and I hope I never need to. It is scary that it can be so undetectable!

  15. Stacy Lewellyn says:

    holy cow that’s scary!!

  16. Wow that’s really scary! That could have turned into a headline news story SO fast! I’m so happy your family is safe!

  17. sarah heart says:

    🙂 Natural gas actually doesn’t have an odor, it is something they add in so you can smell it 😀

  18. Jessica P. says:

    Definitely sounds like you need a new electrician! We have a gas stove and I’m always really worried about it leaking or somehow exploding. Switching it out for an electric model as soon as we can afford it!

  19. Wow! I would have totally freaked out!!!! We had a couple small leaks in the one house we lived in and I was a wreck!!!!!! It didn’t help that our gas company took 2 months to fix the one since it wasn’t ‘urgent”

  20. Crystal L. says:

    That IS scary. I don’t currently have natural gas, but when I lived in Idaho we did and that was always a worry.

  21. Jennifer Brooks says:

    Wow, that is so scary! Glad y’all are okay!! We haven’t experienced a gas leak. Closest situation I can think of was a day when our furnace started making really weird noises.. loud ones. I was so scared it was going to explode! I was out of there pretty quick!

  22. Jo-Ann Brightman says:

    I am glad that you were able to avert a serious incident. I have never had a gas leak.

  23. Raquel Beaty says:

    Oh how scary!! At my old job we had to practice evacuation in the event of a gas leak(it never happened, but we had to be prepared if it did)! We had strict instructions not to turn anything electrical off or on, and to avoid shuffling our feet on the carpet! I’m glad your house did not go up in a fireball and that you are all okay!

  24. Super scary!! So glad that everyone is ok and you got the pets out too!! My family and I have been really lucky to never have to deal with a leak!!

  25. desiree says:

    we been there and done it got the carbon thing and then had a gas leak and had to have the comopony to come and get it fix

  26. Mia Dentice Carey says:

    YES…when I lived in apartments in Pittsburgh…SO SCARY!!!!!

  27. Fortunately natural gas has a funky smell to it, so you’re likely to notice (or at least we hope), but wouldn’t it be nice if there were a an alarm you could place in your home to detect natural gas leaks? It’s always been a huge fear of mine. My concern has always been that we acclamate to the odors around us as they increase and don’t always notice them. If the odor comes on all of a sudden… well sure, you’re likely to smell it, but what if it’s slow to accumulate? You may or may not realize there is a smell at all.

    wendy2lindsey at yahoo dot com

  28. Rachel Rodman-Kunkler says:

    Scary. Glad no one was hurt.

  29. That is so scary! I’m glad you’re all ok. I desperately want to run a gas line to our house for a gas stove, but things like this make me rethink. Yikes.

  30. Wow. That is scary. We did actually have to have fire department come to our place a few times. Would come home and smell an odd burning smell after being gone for hours. They kept thinking we had been cooking but no. Once in middle of winter they came and checked out the furnace, turned out block was cracked so they actually made us shut it off. Good thing we had electric heat upstairs and a landlord who replaced it right away.

  31. Wow, scary! Glad you’re all safe!

  32. G Bailey says:

    natural gas is odorless; it has an oderant added to make leaks easier to detect

  33. Jenny Howard says:

    This is scary for sure! Oh my!!!

  34. This reminds me that I need to set up my radon detector in the basement. It’s only been 6 months since we moved in…. Sigh.

  35. It’s good to know. Thank you!

  36. Meghan V. says:

    Didn’t the electrician check before drilling into the wall? It seems like they would so that they wouldn’t be liable for anything.

  37. AlannaB says:

    How scary! We did not know that the area that we live in has a high level of radon and houses with basements (like ours) are greatly effected. Before we purchased our house, our inspector told us about his, so we hired someone to check it out. Sure enough, the level of radon was equal to smoking a few packs of cigarretes per day! Could you imagine what damage that could do to a baby? Luckily, this house had a radon removal system (although it was not functioning at the time) and we got it repaired right away and did not move in until the house was safe to move into.

  38. Nena Sinclair says:

    I experienced a natural gas leak about 10 years ago. They say you can’t smell it, but I did and I called our utility company. It was late at night and they were there right away. I’m thankful it didn’t happen after I went to sleep. This is a great article and it gives important info. Pay attention!

  39. Mikayla says:

    Wow! I am glad I read this! My DH and I are going to be refinishing our basement soon, I will definitely have to keep this in mind! Thanks so much!!

  40. I did not know that! My carbon monoxide detector always goes off for no reason. >> I have had several people come and look at it, but they can never find anything. Mine also has a button that flashes gas every once in a while.

  41. As far as I’m aware I’ve never had a leak but I’ve been in apts that only require smoke detectors. I did grow up with a gas furnace but I guess I was lucky.

  42. Whitley Lyles says:

    At the home we lived in last year- we had a leak. It was a very scary thing to realize. Especially when you dont know when it started and how long you had been at risk 😕

  43. How scary! I am glad you are all safe!! We have never had a leak inside, but outside? My youngest smelled it, and I thought he was kidding. After the pilot light wouldn’t stay lit, I called the gas company who brought out this cool little meter. It went nuts, so there was a substantial leak, which was fixed in 20 minutes. My youngest kept saying “TOLD you–” lol.

  44. Rena Hyde says:

    Oh wow I never knew that! Thanks for the info,

  45. Scary stuff! Your remodel could’ve turned into a much bigger project.

    Samyra – Natural gas is a mixture of primarily methane and carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors only detect carbon monoxide, which can be a byproduct from malfunctioning natural gas appliances, among other things: . In this situation, ‘fresh’ natural gas was leaking straight from the pipe, before it passed through an appliance to cause any carbon monoxide leftovers.

    The most common detectors are carbon monoxide only, but there are a few more versatile detectors available that can detect any combustible (explosive) gases, including ‘fresh’ natural gas. Here are some:

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