Does the smell of rotten eggs waft through your house? If the answer is a disgruntled yes, you could be dealing with a sewer gas leak. Plumbing is a complex machine that works best when it goes unnoticed so, a sewer gas smell in the house can put a damper on life in general.
Before you go into a state of panic, make sure you’re covering all your bases.
Don’t worry. You won’t immediately die if you breathe in sewer gas. So long as you keep your windows open and the house well-ventilated, you can collect yourself. You shouldn’t leave the issue to fester but, you have some time to make a plan of action.
Here, we’ll walk you through how to deal with this situation and get your house back to normal.
A Brief Intro to Residential Plumbing
Knowing a bit about residential plumbing will help you with the next steps. You’ll be able to explain what the problem is when you get into contact with a plumber.
First things first, you know there’s a problem when there is a smell present. The sewer gas smell is hydrogen sulfide. The compound comes from decaying organic matter (what we call sewage).
It’s crucial to realize that hydrogen sulfide is not inherently problem-causing. The gas is a normal part of any sewage system. You can expect your plumbing system to filter the naturally-occurring hydrogen sulfide gas directly up and out of your home through the vents.
Also Read: Most Common Plumbing Mistakes DIYers Make
Locate the Source
You have arrived at the trickiest step of the list. Finding out where the smell is coming from can be complicated. Depending on how many machines you have hooked up to your plumbing, you could potentially have your work cut out for you. Don’t rule out any spot as you could also have multiple leaks in your system.
Consult this list of the most common problem areas that will help you get started on your search for the cause. Remember that this list is not extensive and, the leak could be a building issue if you live in an apartment or condominium.
Check your vents and pipes. If you notice any leak between piping or ventilation that has moisture condensed, you have the source of your sewer gas smell. Whether you bought your home from someone else or built it from the ground up, these could be signs that your plumber cut corners. You could also attribute the leaks to the age of the home and system.
Are your pipes copper or PVC? If they are copper, you run a higher risk of coming across cracks in the piping as the home ages. When operating smoothly, the reinforcement on your pipes prevents leaks. With age or after a natural disaster, sometimes this extra protection crumbles.
Blocked Air Vents
Have you been neglecting your air vents? Maybe you’ve been busy or, you haven’t thought about it, but dirty ventilation can lead to a lot of health issues besides having to breathe in the sewer gas smell. If you recently bought new vents, a thorough clean might be enough. Replace older ventilation if you can, the issue might clear itself up.
Drains are like the air vents of the septic system. These are responsible for the transportation of toxic substances through the septic system. Be very careful with what you flush down the toilet or pour down the drain. The bad curry that you poured in the sink could now be decomposing and causing the sewer gas smell in your home.
Water is essential to keeping your plumbing system working well. If you use your toilets and your drains, the water keeps flowing through and providing a barrier. When you don’t use the plumbing anymore, it dries up. Thus, your pipes lose a protective shield and could start to leak sewer gas.
Is your toilet tightly fitted to the sewer lines of your home? If not, you could be looking right at the cause of your gas smell. A loose appliance means that hydrogen sulfide can leak into your home from a gap in the pipes.
When Is the Sewer Gas Smell Too Bad?
If nothing is wrong with your system, the sewer gas is not deadly. With a blockage that isn’t taken care of promptly, you could be looking at health issues.
Though hydrogen sulfide is the main component of sewer gas, there are other elements as well. Within the mixture are methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. If you allow the blockage and issue to build up, the levels of these compounds could reach toxic levels.
In high levels, hydrogen sulfide is toxic to the oxygen systems of the body and could lead to organ damage. Prolonged ammonia exposure causes eye, nose, and throat irritation. Again, at high concentrations, you could experience organ damage.
Ammonia is also extremely flammable. Methane and Carbon Dioxide are relatively nontoxic so, you shouldn’t have to worry too much. Make note that large amounts of methane are highly flammable. Sewer gas leaks are also a fire hazard.
Stay Calm and Call a Professional
As soon as you notice the smell, call your plumber. They will work with you to schedule a sewer repair that works within your schedule. In the meantime, try to limit your exposure to the smell. Open all your windows and doors to ventilate the smell outside. If you have internal air filters, those will help keep the sewer gas at bay until the professional arrives.
The plumber will assess your home for potential leaks and problem areas. They will quote you for their work and make a game plan to get the leak stopped as soon as they can. When the sewer gas has been taken care of, your plumber will recommend maintenance and prevention measures to protect your pipes.
You don’t need to worry unless you are experiencing extreme symptoms. If you have fatigue, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, or poor memory/concentration, you should seek medical help in addition to calling your plumber.