Natural gas is non-toxic, colorless, odorless and combustible. For detection and safety, Washington Gas adds an unpleasant, sulfur-like odorant called mercaptan to the majority of natural gas traveling through its pipelines. Mercaptan gives a strong odor so you will be able to detect escaping natural gas. Gas traveling through a small portion of our transmission pipeline is not odorized. Because gas is lighter than air, when released, it rises and mixes with the air. Outdoors, it dissipates into the atmosphere. 

When Natural Gas Burns 

Natural Gas Flame

Natural gas burns only when it is mixed with air in certain concentrations and ignited—by a spark, a match or some other source of heat. Gas appliances are designed to mix natural gas with air at a controlled rate.

The burner flames from your gas appliances should always be blue and steady. The bright blue color shows that the correct amounts of gas and air are combining for safe operation. Yellow or wavering flames indicate that gas is not burning completely and repairs or adjustments are necessary.

However, gas fireplaces, which may have a luminous yellow flame, still burn completely without the formation of carbon monoxide. These fireplaces have a safety device that automatically turns off the unit if the oxygen level falls below what is needed for proper combustion.

Some gas appliances have pilot lights that burn continuously, and gas appliances always produce flames when operating, even if you can’t see them.

Natural Gas: The Energy Efficient Choice 

From the kitchen to the laundry room, and all throughout your home, nothing adds efficiency, comfort and convenience like natural gas products.

  • Facts About Natural Gas

    • Natural gas supplies nearly one-fourth of all of the energy used in the U.S.*
    • Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel on the market today because it produces much lower emissions than other fossil fuels like coal or oil. It is also extraordinarily efficient.*
    •  Natural gas produces primarily carbon dioxide, water vapor and small amounts of nitrogen oxides.*
    • Natural gas emits 52-56 % less greenhouse gas emissions than coal for the same amount of electricity.*
    • Homes using natural gas pay $653 less on average per year than homes using electricity for the same applications.*
    • Compared to older models with efficiency ratings of 60-65%, new natural gas heating systems can save up to 40% on utility bills.*
    • Natural gas dryers dry laundry faster, at about one-third the cost of electric models.**
    • Preferred by the best chefs, natural gas appliances can help you cook meals for about one-half the price.**
    • A natural gas range cooks almost twice as many meals as an electric model, for the same cost.*


    Sources: *American Gas Association, **Department of Energy

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