If you smell gas inside for your safety-first thing to do is to open doors and windows so that you are not breathing in the gas. Do not turn on light switches or operate any electrical appliances. Then go outside and call the plumber right away to get someone to your house as soon as possible.
If you are looking at this article after you called San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) as the first step, as they do not charge to come out, it is most likely that the gas company representative will lock your meter. You already determined by the smell that you have a gas leak but this will mean that you will be out of any gas service for the next few days at minimum even after the repairs are made. The timeline differs substantially when the gas company enters the picture.
Here is what happens when the gas company gets involved.
This is the first day that the plumber begins work at your house. The plumber will begin work to find the leak and make repairs either to fittings or valves that may be the cause, to a section or the entire line, whichever is needed. This will be determined based upon your situation but if there are any other leaks on the system or any weakness in the system it will have to be addressed at this time because of the requirements to pass an air test of 15 pounds of pressure to get the meter turned back on.
A permit from the City of San Diego needs to be pulled. This is generally a simple form to complete. If your house is historically designated a site plan needs to be provided or drawn up. The permit process will entail meeting with the Historic Resources board staff for the permit to be approved.
Whether it is easy to find and repair or whether the entire system needs to be completely replaced, after the plumber finished with his work the system needs to be put on test. This means that the fixtures are separated from the piping system and the piping is filled with 15 pounds of air pressure. It must hold this amount of air pressure to pass the city inspection.
Next there is a meeting with the city inspector.
Caveat: The city claims that there are emergency inspections that are available and if that is possible we can arrange it. However, in most instances plan on the inspection the following day after the system is holding and able to pass the air test. In some instances when we have attempted to obtain a faster response to a gas shut down, on behalf of our clients an inspector was not available to come out any earlier.
Be prepared that the inspection will be the day after the system is put on test and holding the air pressure.
Powers Plumbing will generally be able to meet the city inspector. The City Inspector will call the day of the inspection in the morning around 9:00 – 9:20 AM and typically provide a three to four-hour window of his/her arrival. We aim to ensure that the system is passed and address any questions or issues that may come up during the inspection. In most cases the City Inspector will examin the gauge for 15 minutes to ensure that it holds and does not drop indicating that there are no more leaks. It is then the City Inspector who officially marks your file as passed and communicates this with SDG&E.
Once passed, the plumber will return to reattach your appliances to the gas system.
While the plumber is at your home attaching appliances we recommend that you call SDG&E to unlock your meter and light the appliances. SDG&E works 24/7 and will add you to their list. It may mean that they come in a few hours or late at night or the next day.
Your gas system is important and your safety is paramount. While some look at this situation as a hassle, expensive and inconvenient it is better to address it before a more serious problem occurs. Give yourself a pat on the back for noticing the smell and taking action and avoiding a more severe or dangerous situation. In this day-and-age there are still horror stories of explosions that occur and it is far better to avoid a tragedy like this by maintaining your system when you are alerted to it than by those alternatives.
We hope that this gives you an idea of the steps of the gas line repair when you call SDG&E. If you call the plumber first we may be able to make the repairs and get you back in service more quickly, even if we identify that you need substantial piping replaced, because we won’t lock the meter to make the repairs. Call us if you need clarification on this process, especially if you smell gas.