Accidentally leaving the gas stove on for hours without a flame is nothing unheard of. It is unfortunately a common kitchen mistake and also a common cause of harmful accidents in the kitchen.
It is never wise to step away from your gas after you have turned it on. Anything can end up distracting you and you will leave the gas on which will cause a very dangerous situation in your house.
Leaving the gas on without lighting a flame can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and the problem with this is that carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that affects our lungs negatively. So before anyone realizes it, a lot of it reaches the windpipe causing serious tissue damage or even death.
So how should you deal with the situation after you left the gas stove on without flame? Let us find out.
Is It Dangerous To Leave A Gas Stove On?
Yes, it is extremely dangerous to leave a gas stove on. LPG is the most used fuel in gas cylinders and it is also one of the most dangerous. Two things can possibly happen when you leave the gas stove on and forget to switch it off.
The first is a potential fire or risk of explosion. When the gas is not turned off, it will continue to leak into the kitchen air and remain stagnant there. Especially if there is no ventilation from where the gas can escape from.
When this happens, the tiniest spark of fire can cause a huge fire. Even flipping a switch can create a fire. If left uncontrolled, the gas cylinder may explode. Incidents like this have the capability of claiming lives even.
The second possibility is carbon monoxide poisoning. It is a major cause of death around the world and most of them are a result of gas leaks from residential areas.
This harmful gas is not present in natural gas itself but rather is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. Carbon Monoxide can fill up a space without being detected because of its elusive chemical properties.
This is why most modern constructions always include a carbon monoxide detector in the kitchens.
How Long Can You Leave A Gas Stove On?
There is no ideal answer to this as you should not be leaving your gas stove on without a flame at all. But still, it is human to make mistakes and if you have accidentally left a gas stove on without flame then it is not advisable to leave it like that for any more than 15 mins approximately.
Leaving your gas stove on without a flame for approximately 15 minutes can result in the gas level within the room or house reaching a hazardous point.
There is no ideal number of hours for which you can leave the gas stove on and still deem it safe. Because accidents do not follow a clock when taking. Sometimes it may happen within 10 mins and some other time nothing may happen even after leaving the stove on overnight.
Although, ventilation does play a huge role in this situation. If the fuel is continuously released in a closed-off space, you will be able to smell it in a matter of minutes. Therefore, there cannot be a set number of hours to leave your gas stove on.
Also, keep in mind that if a poorly ventilated kitchen that is saturated with fuel catches fire, there will not be enough oxygen supply leading to carbon-monoxide formation. So, before that happens you should turn the stove off and admit more air into the room.
What Happens If You Leave the Gas Stove on Without Flame?
The gas that is left on without a flame happens in two ways, one from the valve and another from the regulator. The latter is more common. People turn on the supply of fuel from the gas stove burner and then forget to light a flame. As mentioned above, this is dangerous.
These are the things that can happen if you leave the gas supply on for a very long time:
Say you left the gas stove on all night or for a major portion of the night. And then you suddenly remembered it and came back hurrying into the kitchen to turn the gas off.
You switch the light on and that starts a fire. This happens because the air is saturated with the gas from the stove and the spark from the switchboard ignites combustion.
If the ventilation of the kitchen is low, then this is even more of a possibility. LPG is highly combustible and the slightest hint of anything that burns will set it on fire. This also means that every corner of the kitchen will catch fire in that very instant.
As a direct result of the abovementioned fire being caused by gas or fuel, an explosion may occur soon after when the gas cylinder bursts. However, you must remember that a cylinder catching on fire is very different from it exploding.
A cylinder contains liquified fuel under considerable pressure and it will probably not even explode even if you manage to puncture it with a bullet. The only reason for a LPG gas cylinder to explode is when it is exposed to large amounts of heat and for a long time.
So, when a kitchen catches fire, the cylinder which is usually kept in an enclosed space is suddenly under tremendous amounts of heat because the liquefied gas starts turning into vapor. This is when it explodes and you better not be anywhere near it if it happens.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
To be fair, this is what gas leaks are mostly known for, as these days most houses have fire detectors which are automatically set up to put out any fire or alert a concerned authority. The real problem of a gas stove left on is the carbon monoxide buildup that follows.
Carbon Monoxide is formed when fuel burns with insufficient oxygen. This is most often the aftermath of when the gas is left on for an extended period of time inside a kitchen where windows are shut off and there is no ventilation.
The air is responsible for supplying the oxygen and so when fuel burns in poorly ventilated areas, CO is formed as a byproduct. The larger number of LPG gas burning will lead to more CO production. Moreover, CO is a non-detectable gas and it binds with human hemoglobin and forms Carboxyhemoglobin. This bond is reversible in some cases and when it is not, people die.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the 2005 National Health Care Survey, between 1979-1988, CO poisoning was the cause for over 500 unintentional deaths in the US. You can read about it here.
What to Do If the Gas Burner is Left On Without Flame?
If you have the gas on accidentally then do not panic and follow these simple steps:
Disconnect the Stove from the Cylinder
It goes without saying but the first thing you should do is to turn the stove off right after you enter the kitchen. And to have extra precaution, just disconnect the stove from the cylinder by turning off the gas valve so that the main supply of fuel is gone and all chances of a further gas leak is eliminated.
Ventilate the Kitchen
Assuming that you have a separate kitchen space where the gas cylinder is housed, immediately open all the windows and let the accumulated natural gas dissipate.
If there is not enough ventilation near the gas stove, get a portable fan with batteries and point it towards the window to accelerate the dissipation process. Do not use an electricity operated fan as it may cause a spark.
If you are not in possession of a battery-operated fan then just vacate the kitchen and let the gas dissipate on its own.
Relocate the Gas Cylinder
After 10 or 20 minutes of opening the window or when there is more airflow in the room, bring the cylinder out.
This is because you never know how much gas is still there in the air of your house and to avoid any chances of an explosion, it is best to relocate the cylinder in an open space such as a balcony, patio, or backyard.
Look For Signs of a Gas Leak
Now you have to wait for the gas to dissipate. Depending on the amount of gas that has leaked and the size of ventilation available, it may take a mere minutes to several hours for the gas to completely go out. It is better to check if there is any smell of gas anywhere and then resume normal activity in the kitchen.
Signs of a gas leak also include dizziness, nausea, headaches, difficulty in breathing, etc. If you notice a rotten smell of eggs then that may also be a sign of a gas leak as natural gas reacts with atmospheric nitrogen and other gasses to form ammonia which smells like rotten eggs.
So if you notice any of those happening afterward, you should immediately consult a physician.
Call a Pro
If the gas has consistently leaked for a whole night or a day then it is better to call a professional in order to test the safety level in your house. To completely rule out chances of gas inhalation, it is always better to take help from a pro.
Once you have realized that you have left the gas on, the most important thing is not to panic. If you start panicking and accidentally bring in something combustible into the LPG gas saturated room, then there will be nothing left to be salvaged.
You should also not try to switch on any light while turning the gas off.
All of that being said, you should be careful while handling a fire operated appliance like a gas stove and never leave it unattended or turned on without supervision. Make it a point to always check if you have turned all appliances off before going to bed everyday to avoid such a mistake.