Tuesday, March 21, 2023


RVelectricity – Just Ask Mike (J.A.M.): COVID Nose and propane gas—Danger!

Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. This week I discuss the potentially dangerous condition sometimes referred to as COVID Nose aka anosmia, or the loss of the sense of smell.


Dear Mike,
I heard that you had COVID last month and couldn’t smell gas from an unlit stove in your house. Glad you’re all right. What happened? —Shelly

Dear Shelly, 

Well, about two months ago I contracted COVID while attending my 50th high school reunion. I was flat on my back for 3 weeks, while my wife had the sniffles for 3 days. She says it’s because women have to be strong enough to take care of their kids and their men at the same time, so they’re not allowed to get sick. Hard for me to argue with that logic…

However, both of us lost a lot of our sense of taste, as well as our sense of smell. They call it COVID Nose, which seems to happen in up to 50% of those infected with COVID-19. Technically, it’s called anosmia, or the loss of the sense of smell.


So here’s how the dangerous condition of an unlit gas stove filling up the house with natural gas, which neither of us could smell, occurred. We had dinner for the boys that Sunday, which is always a full-contact sport. My wife turned on the back burner of her gas stovetop to warm up something a bit, but didn’t realize that the flame soon went out.

None of the boys smelled gas since we have a big vent hood over the stovetop and natural gas is lighter than air. (Note that the propane in your RV is heavier than air so it will accumulate near the floor.)

The plot (and the gas) thickens…

Soon after dinner the boys left and my wife turned off the vent hood fan, but didn’t notice the black knob on the black control surface of the stove was still turned on to low, but without a flame. For the next few hours I was beginning to feel nauseous, which I blamed on my hamburger having too much seasoning. Little did I know it was the beginning signs of gas poisoning.

Because we have a gas furnace and water heater in the basement, we have an explosive gas and carbon monoxide detector in the basement. But since natural gas is lighter than air, it was filling up the ceiling in the kitchen and spilling into the living room and up to the second story.

‘Round midnight…

When I went to bed around midnight in a room with an open window and whole house fan pulling in clean air, I was feeling a little better. But when my wife woke up to use the bathroom downstairs a few hours later, there was so much gas in the first floor that she finally did smell it.

Going to the stove, she finally saw that the knob was on low without a flame. She quickly shut it off, opened the outside door and windows and ran up the stairs screaming “Gas leak!” We both ran outside to sit in the back yard until the gas cleared, then counted our blessings.

That unlit burner had been leaking gas for at least 10 hours. Neither of us could smell it until the concentration reached dangerous levels that were likely life-threatening as well as explosive.

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What does this mean in your RV?

Since your RV is a lot smaller than a house, it takes much less time for a propane leak to reach explosive levels. And it just takes one spark to turn your RV into a bomb.

So always check that your propane detector is working. I’ll note that many of them include a warning to test weekly.

Check those detectors!

Also, be aware that smoke, CO and gas detectors have a lifespan, after which they need to be replaced. And finally, they all need power from your RV’s 12-volt battery or converter to operate at all.

So if your propane detector isn’t working, get a new one now. And if you’ve recently had COVID, then be doubly aware of the potential of a propane leak in your RV or natural gas leak in your bricks-and-sticks house. Plus, if you feel nauseous, this could be a warning sign of carbon monoxide or propane poisoning. So be alert and stay safe.

Read this interesting in-depth report from CNN Health about what causes the loss of the sense of smell and taste and some things that can be done for it.

OK, everyone. Remember that electricity (and propane) is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.

Let’s play safe out there….

Send your questions to me at my new RVelectricity forum here.

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

You don’t want to miss Mike’s webcasts on his YouTube channel.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign



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5 months ago

Wow! Glad you are both safe and now fully aware. My wife occasionally forgets to turn off a burner on our electric cook top – however we do have propane heat with our home backup dual heat system.. Of course we have propane in the motor home for heat and cooking. Having read of your experience – I wonder about the many gas explosions on the news and how something like your experience might have been involved. Thanks and glad you are still with us.

5 months ago

So glad you are both safe and getting better from COVID. Prayers for your full recovery.

5 months ago

Thanks Mike. That is a great reminder of natural gas and propane safety!

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