Propane is a valuable alternative fuel for many households and businesses. It’s used to power outdoor lighting, fireplaces, gas grills, and even to heat swimming pools. If you enjoy outdoor activities such as camping or frequently cooking in your backyard, you most likely use propane fuel. Propane is a flammable hydrocarbon gas used as bottled fuel and is generally kept in a metal canister or tank. As an energy source, it’s often used to power outdoor activities, but it can also be used to power generators and heat your entire home.
Propane has the benefit of being a nontoxic, nonpoisonous greenhouse gas that won’t harm groundwater or soil. But propane is extremely volatile and dangerous if not handled properly. So If you have a propane tank in your home, it’s essential to understand how to properly care for it year round.
Store Propane Tanks in an Upright Position
Whether storing or transporting your tank, it’s important to always place it in an upright position so the pressure relief valve at the top of the tank can function properly. Liquid propane turns into gas or vapor inside a propane tank. If the pressure builds up too much, the vapor escapes through the pressure relief valve. Storing your propane tank incorrectly comprises its structural integrity and can become a safety issue.
Regulate Propane Temp Control
Relying on a propane tank in extreme winter weather presents a unique set of challenges. A propane tank can freeze over in extremely cold conditions. Propane is temperature dependent, so the volume rises and falls as the temperature fluctuates. Therefore, propane becomes very dense in freezing temperatures, and the colder it is outside, the lower the pressure in your tank. Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to counteract the effects of cold weather on your propane tank.
- Keep your tank full
- Never cover up your tank
- Don’t allow snow to cover your tank
- Never pour water over your tank
- Invest in a propane barrel blanket heater
A barrel heater controls the temperature in your tank by providing even heat distribution. By maintaining the tank’s pressure, it improves its efficiency and performance which will inevitably save money on fuel.
Proper Propane Storage
It’s not a good idea to store a propane tank inside your home; however, a detached garage or shed several feet from your house is an acceptable storing unit. Propane tanks should sit on a flat surface such as concrete at least 10 feet away from other non-flammable material. Propane tanks should never be stored in standing water or on wet grass or mud. Water can corrode the tank and create a health hazard. In addition, placing your tank in direct sunlight for an extended period of time can cause the compacted molecules inside to ignite and possibly explode.
Regularly Inspect Your Propane Tank
Because propane is a highly combustible, you should regularly check your tank for leaks before and after using it. Inspections should be done in an open area with no other heat source around. When your tank turns 10 years old, it’s time to take it in for inspection regardless if it appears safe for use. At the 10 year mark, your tank needs to be requalified and then every five years after that. Your tank is not safe for storage if it has not been requalified at the designated times.
Check for a Propane Overfill
Overfilling your propane tank is a safety hazard and is even more dangerous when your tank is being stored. When you inspect your tank for an overfill, make sure you’re not wearing any nylon or static clothing, but do wear goggles and gloves since the propane in your tank is intolerably cold. You can tell if your propane levels need to be adjusted by checking the pressure relief valve or inspecting for leaks. You can also obtain a precise calculation by weighing your tank and subtracting the tare weight from the gross weight. Tare weight is how much a tank weighs empty. Convert the solution from pounds to gallons to determine how much propane is in your tank. If the number exceeds the allocated amount, contact the fire department for assistance.
Propane is an affordable and efficient power source. Yet it’s important to maintain standard precautions to ensure your tank works properly and minimize any safety hazards. When handled appropriately, a propane tank is a versatile, safe, and an extremely useful appliance.