You’ve probably heard a lot about propane in the last few years and are wondering just how safe it is – especially when it comes to storing it.
A garage may seem like an ideal place to store your extra propane tanks. But actually, the garage is probably the least safe area in or around your home to store propane!
Propane is so great for many things, and yes you should look into using it. But there are a lot of things you need to know about propane when it comes to safety.
The Best Way To Store A Propane Tank
There are a few things you need to keep in mind when storing a propane tank:
Don’t Store It Inside. Don’t store your propane tanks anywhere closed in! This includes garages, sheds, or anywhere else inside.
Watch Where You Store It Outdoors. Keep your tank in a dry, well-vented environment on shelving or secured to an outdoor wall. And make sure the area is flat so your tank won’t fall over.
And keep your tank away from your home’s windows or air conditioners, radiators, or other vents just in case there is a leak.
You’ll also want to store your tank a minimum of 10 feet away from anything that could possibly ignite it. And if you have more than one tank, don’t store them too close to each other. If one happens to ignite it will likely cause the other ones to ignite as well.
Ensure Your Tank Is Closed. Learn how to close your tank properly whenever it’s not in use to prevent leaks.
Inspect Your Tank Occasionally. Check for dents or rust on your tank every so often. Peel off the labels and other instructions – don’t forget to put them in a safe place – and look all over your tank for signs of damage.
Can I Store Propane In The Garage?
No, you don’t want to ever store your propane in the garage!
As mentioned, you shouldn’t keep your propane tanks in an enclosed space.
Keeping propane in your garage could also prove to be dangerous because that may mean it’s located near your car, or any paint or other flammable materials often kept in the garage.
What Is Propane?
Propane (also called LPG-liquefied petroleum gas or LP gas) is an extremely efficient and portable fuel, first found in the early 1900s, which you can use for a variety of reasons.
It’s composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms and is chemically categorized as C3H8.
What Is Propane Used For?
Propane can be used as fuel for a variety of purposes around the home and even for your car. One of the most common reasons people keep propane around is to power their BBQ, but other reasons include:
- Hot water
- Home heating
- Fuel for vehicles
- Powering outdoor lights
- Powering generators
Propane often wins out over other methods of fuel and heat sources like electricity and oil because it offers less appliance maintenance, greater convenience, and higher efficiency.
Almost anything that can run on electricity can run on propane. And since propane has more benefits, and is generally more cost-effective, more and more households are switching to propane – and storing propane on their properties.
Where Does Propane Come From?
Typically propane is a by-product of domestic natural gas processing. However, propane can occasionally be sourced from crude oil refinement.
The U.S. produces more than enough LPG -liquefied petroleum gas to meet even the hugely growing demand for propane, and is the main country where most propane originates from.
Is Propane Bad For The Environment?
Propane is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels! It’s not toxic so it poses no harm to any soil or water sources it comes into contact with.
And several U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tests show that vehicles powered by propane produce 30-90% less carbon monoxide and about half of the toxins than gasoline vehicles.
Even when it’s burned, propane more than meets the clean air standards set out by the EPA.
How Does Propane Get Into Your Home?
In the U.S. there are 56,000 miles of pipelines and tons of retail and commercial locations where you can purchase propane.
To fuel your home with propane you’ll likely want to get a large tank buried in your yard so you won’t have to worry about continually topping up any tanks. It’s safe and reliable.
Most people will also have tanks filled with propane to fuel BBQ’s, lawnmowers, generators, and many other things on their property.
What Does Propane Smell Like?
In its natural form propane is completely odorless. However, since propane leaks require immediate attention most manufacturers have added an unpleasant smell to the product to alert you of the issue.
A propane leak has a very strong, quite unpleasant smell. A few ways people have described the smell of leaked propane include:
- A skunk’s spray
- Rotten eggs
- A dead animal
Are Propane Tanks Dangerous?
As mentioned above, propane itself is not dangerous, however, you could run into some potential troubles with the tank it’s stored in.
Propane is placed in tanks in liquid form. When it comes out it’s in the form of gas to use as fuel. This means the tanks are continuously under pressure – and any sort of rupture, or increase in pressure, can cause an explosion.
The tanks can also wear down after time, causing leaks.
What Should I Do If I Have A Propane Leak?
If you think you smell leaked propane based on the descriptions above, immediately turn off any possible ignition sources, turn your propane off if you can, get out of the area, and call your local propane company or 911 immediately so they can come to deal with it.
Is Propane Flammable?
Propane itself only becomes flammable if it reaches 920F, which only happens in the hottest of fires. However, if propane is mixed with air (oxygen) and exposed to something that can ignite it such as open flames, electric sparks, static electricity, and any type of smoking material, it will become an extremely flammable gas. The risk of propane igniting becomes even greater if it’s exposed to chlorine or oxidizing agents.
The gas and vapor from propane can travel fast once it gets out so keep it a far distance (at least 10 feet) from any flammable materials.
Can Cold Weather Freeze Propane?
When you use propane to light your fires and use it as gas may be in the vapor state, but inside the tank the propane is a liquid because it is pressurized.
It will never get cold enough in any part of the world to freeze the propane in your tank. This would require a temperature of -306F! However, the boiling point of propane is -44F so if the temperatures in your area drop below that the liquid in your tank won’t vaporize – and therefore be unusable.
How Do You Keep Propane From Freezing?
As just mentioned, you’ll only have a problem with your propane if it drops below -44F, so if you live in an area where this doesn’t happen you don’t have much to worry about.
For those who do store your tanks outside during cold weather, there are a few things you can do to keep your propane tanks useful:
Keep The Tank Filled Up. A propane tank is more likely to freeze when it’s not filled up because that means there is more vapor in the tank. A full tank means you have more liquid and less vapor, and the temperature is less likely to be affected.
Get A Pressure Gauge. A pressure gauge will show you at a glance if the pressure inside the tank has dropped. If it does, fill up the tank to get more liquid and less vapor in the tank.
Use A Warming Blanket. You can buy special warming blankets for propane tanks. If you keep the bottle outside during wet or snowy weather make sure the blanket covers the valve and valve handle. There are a few different types of blankets you can find at your local hardware or camping supply store:
- Electric elements to add active heat
Does Propane Shrink When It’s Cold?
Propane does contract as temperatures decline. This is why it’s important to get a pressure gauge so you’ll know if the pressure is dropping. And you should top it up with more propane if you do notice it drop.
Are Propane Tanks Safe In The Sun?
Yes, propane tanks are generally safe in the sun and heat. Most propane tanks are specially designed to withstand higher temperatures – up to about 120F.
It is best to keep the tanks out of areas that receive direct sun, as that may cause the pressure in the tank to rise over time. And as you’ve already learned, the pressure rises it can potentially cause the tank to explode.
What Temperature Can Propane Be Stored At?
Propane is fine if stored between -44F and 120F. So, in the majority of the world your propane will be fine no matter the time of year. However, you should keep a pressure gauge on it to monitor any pressure changes – which could potentially occur even if you’re not out of that temperature range.
Should I Keep A Propane Tank In My Vehicle?
You might think keeping propane handy is a great idea and be tempted to keep a tank in your trunk. But you should never store a propane tank in your vehicle! The combination of sunlight, heat, and motion can create a potentially flammable environment.
How Do I Get My Propane Tank Home?
Obviously, you must transport your propane tank on occasion and there are some safety precautions you can take while doing so:
Store It Upright. Place the tank carefully in your vehicle with the safety valve positioned on top. Double check that the valve is turned off.
Secure It. Ensure your tank won’t tip over while you’re driving. Most drivers put it on the floor of their vehicle and secure it with other objects such as blankets so it won’t tip over. Or you can strap it in with a secure seatbelt.
Take It Out As Soon As Possible. Try not to make any stops, especially if it’s very hot outside. You’ll want to get your tank into a well-ventilated area as soon as possible.
Check Into Delivery. Often the retailer you purchase the propane from will offer delivery services to save you the trouble of transporting it. They generally have trucks which are specialized for transporting propane safely.
Does LPG- Propane Go Bad Or Have A Shelf Life?
Unlike gas and diesel fuel, LPG-propane doesn’t go bad. The only thing you need to watch out for is the bottle. You must inspect it on occasion for rust and other degeneration. The bottles typically should be replaced every 10 years or sooner if you see rust or other wear.
Does Propane Degrade Over Time?
You may see an expiry date on your LPG tank but this date has nothing to do with the propane itself. That date is actually the gas cylinder inspection date. You must get your tank inspected or changed by that date to prevent any issues.
Propane itself can be stored indefinitely without going bad.
Why Would A Propane Tank Hum?
Any humming you hear coming from your propane tank is generally nothing to be concerned about.
Humming usually occurs if it’s a hot day outside, or if your propane tank has been overfilled. This can cause the rubber diaphragm to vibrate and sometimes put excess strain on the regulator – creating a humming noise.
The humming should go away in time, but if it doesn’t you may want to look into getting a new regulator.
Should A Propane Tank Make Noise?
As mentioned above, humming can be caused by simply overfilling your tank or using it on a hot day and is nothing to be concerned about. However, there are two other noises you may hear which you’ll need to deal with.
Knocking Sounds. A knocking or mild banging sound can mean there’s a bit more of a problem. It could mean there’s a bad mix of gas and air. You should consult with a professional to deal with this – don’t try to regulate the mix yourself.
Hissing Sounds. Hissing coming from your tank can prove to be quite dangerous! This is a sign that you’ve got a leak! You’ll need to get this looked at immediately by a professional.
Do Propane Tanks Explode?
Propane tanks can explode as a result of a propane leak – but it’s unlikely to have anything to do with the tank itself. Most of the time explosions occur when a tank is left open and the gas leaking out is ignited.
When explosions occur from the tank itself it’s due to a type of boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE). This happens when pressure builds up in the tank so much the tank can’t handle it – therefore it ruptures and explodes.
How Long Does Propane Last In Storage?
As mentioned above, propane can last forever in storage. It’s the tank that can start to cause you trouble after about 10 years or so.
Is An Overfilled Propane Tank Dangerous?
An overfilled propane tank can certainly pose a serious risk! Having too much propane in your tank means it may not have enough vapor space left at the top. So, if your propane tank heats up if it’s exposed to warmer temperatures it could crack or even explode. And if it’s attached to an appliance it could potentially cause serious damage to that as well.
Can You Die From Propane Fumes?
Yes, you can die from inhaling propane fumes. The buildup of gas can certainly be deadly. Propane can overpower oxygen in your lungs and make breathing difficult to impossible.
Propane can also release carbon monoxide (CO) which can result in a fire as well as CO poisoning. In fact, carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the U.S.
What Are Some Warning Signs Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Even if you don’t smell anything, if you suspect you may have been in contact with carbon monoxide watch for the following symptoms:
If you’ve been around carbon monoxide and have any or all of those symptoms, get outside into fresh air and seek medical attention immediately!
How Can I Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide can not only occur from propane – but also oil or natural gas heating or fireplace or appliance. It’s important to have all these systems inspected regularly and for you to watch for any damage between inspections.
It’s also totally worth investing in a carbon monoxide detector. These work like smoke alarms, are easy to install and will alert you if it detects carbon monoxide so you can get out of your home safely and call for help immediately.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare