After seeing that massive fire of 20 pound propane tanks on July 30, 2013 at the “Blue Rhino” propane refilling plant in Florida, it got me thinking about how little I knew about the safe handling and storage of these highly flammable and explosive tanks.
So I started to do some research and found out a lot I did not know.
I thought I would share some of what I learned:
If you ever smell any type of gas immediately put out all smoking materials and other open flames such as the pilot lights on cooking stoves, heaters and water heaters.
If you are able to, safely turn off the cylinder valve. To close the valve turn it to the right (clockwise).
Immediately leave the area and call 911 or your local fire department.
Before you use any propane appliance, have a qualified service technician inspect your cylinder and appliance.
Some people may have difficulty smelling propane due to their age (older people may have a less sensitive sense of smell); a medical condition; or the effects of medication, alcohol, tobacco or drugs. Consider purchasing a propane gas detector as an additional measure of security if you use propane inside your camper or home.
Odor fade is an unintentional reduction in the concentration of the odor of propane, making it more difficult to smell. Although rare, this can be caused by the presence of air, water, or rust in the cylinder. New and reconditioned small empty cylinders that sit too long before being filled are prone to internal rust when moisture and air get inside.
NEVER store or place a propane cylinder indoors or in an enclosed area such as a basement, garage, shed, or tent.
NEVER store or place a propane cylinder in an area of excessive heat (120 degrees or higher) or near a stove, fireplace, or other heat source. The heat builds up pressure inside the cylinder, which may cause the pressure relief valve to release propane. Flash fires or explosions can result from exposing cylinders to heat.
NEVER store or place a spare cylinder under or near a barbecue grill.
DO NOT smoke or have any ignition sources such as flames or spark-producing electrical tools in the area while handling or transporting cylinders.
ALWAYS transport and store a cylinder in a secure and upright position so it will not fall, shift, or roll.
I have found a really easy and cheap way to securely store and transport a 20 pound propane tank. A 20 pound propane tank fits inside a plastic milk crate perfectly. Place the 20 pound propane tank inside a milk crate. Take a second milk crate and place it on top of the first milk crate. This makes a 20 pound Propane tank difficult to turn over and nothing can hit the value assembly. When you are ready to use the cylinder, just remove the top milk crate, make the connection and it is ready to use.
NEVER keep a filled cylinder inside a hot vehicle.
ALWAYS place the cylinder in a well-ventilated area of the vehicle when being transported.
ALWAYS proceed directly to your destination and immediately remove the cylinder from your vehicle.
The law places limits on the number of cylinders and the amount of propane that can be transported in closed-bodied vehicles such as passenger cars and vans. Ask your propane retailer for more information on state and local codes that apply to you.
DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TRY TO MODIFY OR REPAIR VALVES, REGULATORS, OR OTHER CYLINDER OR APPLIANCE PARTS. Propane cylinders have special components such as valves, connectors, and other parts to keep them safe for use with grills and other propane appliances. Damage to any component can cause a gas leak. DON’T RISK IT! Call your propane retailer or a qualified service technician for assistance.
It is important to inspect your cylinder and outdoor gas appliances for leaks. Do this before using them for the first time each season, as well as on a regular basis. This can be accomplished in a well-ventilated area with a simple “bubble” test:
Apply leak detector solution or thick soapy water to the connection(s) between the cylinder valve and the regulator outlet.
Slowly open the cylinder valve and watch for bubbles.
If bubbles appear, close the cylinder valve, tighten the connection, and repeat the process. If bubbles still appear, call your propane retailer immediately.
I found that an easy way to do this test is to make a soapy solution out of dish washing liquid and water. I then place the mixture in an empty, clean spray bottle.
When you want to check for a leak, you simply squirt some of the soapy solution onto the area you want to check and watch for any bubble that may form. By using the stream setting instead of the mist setting, you can direct the stream directly on the area you want to check without creating a mess.
MAKE SURE YOUR CYLINDER IS EQUIPPED WITH AN OVERFILL PREVENTION DEVICE (OPD). An OPD is a safety feature that helps prevent small propane cylinders from being overfilled. An overfilled cylinder doesn’t have enough space left if the liquid expands when exposed to warmer temperatures. This can cause an increase in cylinder pressure and create potentially hazardous conditions.
Most cylinders with OPDs have special triangular hand wheels with the letters “OPD” on them. In many states, cylinders without OPDs cannot be refilled. If you are uncertain as to whether your cylinder has an OPD valve on it, ask your propane retailer.
ALWAYS close the cylinder valve and seal with a plug, even if the cylinder is empty. Ask your propane retailer if a plug is required. A plug or cap prevents insects from building their nest inside to threaded portion of the valve assembly. A plug or cap also keeps out the dust and dirt.
NEVER use a damaged cylinder or a cylinder that has been in a fire. All cylinders must be inspected before they are refilled. The law requires periodic inspection of cylinders, and it is against the law to refill out-of-date cylinders. The last inspection date is stamped on the cylinder.
NEVER dispose of your propane cylinder by throwing it in the trash. Check to see if there are municipal programs for collection in your area, or contact your propane retailer for guidance on disposal of the cylinder.
A propane leak has a strong, unpleasant smell, like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal. Propane manufacturers add the smell deliberately to help alert customers to propane leaks, which can create a safety hazard. You can ask your propane retailer for a demonstration to help everyone in your home or building, identify leaks.