All You Should Know About Propane Tank Inspection

a mechanical engineer inspecting a propane tank

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What is a propane gas inspection, and why does it matter to have a qualified agent recertify your propane tank? Well, the answer is simply to uphold personal safety. Liquid propane gas tanks are long-lasting and have been in good shape for almost a decade. But when they hit the 12-year mark, you must do propane tank recertification for further use. For context on why this is important, let’s check out some recent stats about the gas. 

Propane Inspection Statistics

According to a 2018 report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) covering the duration between 2012 and 2016, about 2900 residential fires were initiated by propane. These infernos led to catastrophic injuries of at least 155 people every new year, with casualties averaging 25 per annum. Also, a recent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report reveals that each year, there are approximately 600 explosions related to propane grills.

Hence, propane tank inspection matters immensely, and we’ll further elaborate on the essence of this in the article. 

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Do Propane Tanks Need To Be Tested?

One of the most common questions you’re probably asking yourself is whether you really need to inspect your tank’s status.

Well, as hectic as it may seem, you really need to do it as it’s a Federal law requirement. The body entrusted by the US government to oversee that your gas is recertified on time is the Department of Transportation (DOT). The Department of Transportation dictates that all propane gas refilling companies thoroughly test the containers for leaks and their general condition before every refill.

If you look at your propane gas tank keenly, you’ll realize that there are plumbing joints at various points. These are areas where most leaks are likely to occur, so the inspection further focuses on the solidity of these areas. Also, get yourself acquainted with propane tank parts. Finally, the test looks into ascertaining the seal integrity. Propane cylinders therefore need multiple types of tests – volumetric expansion test, proof pressure test, water jacket method, marked service pressure test, etc.

How often does a propane tank need to be inspected?

The period when a newly supplied propane gas tank is considered to be in good condition is 12 years from its date of manufacture. After this duration, you must take the propane gas tank for inspection and recertification after every five years. The information about when the tank is due for the scheduled recertification is usually on the tank’s collar. 

For instance, take the case of a propane gas tank with a time stamp of 06 21. It means that such a tank was manufactured in June 2021 and thus should be inspected in the same month of manufacture date in 2033. 

So, if the tank has reached the recertification period, the certifying propane dealers will input a stickler to the tank. This label has the inspection date and features an alphabet code of A, B, C, or D. 

Let’s see other scenarios where the inspection details are not as highlighted above. 

Date Only

You may have a case whereby the propane tank only has a date and no other letter after the date. This means the tank is probably new and has not yet undergone the first recertification.

Date followed by a Letter

The other typical scenario is encountering a date followed by a different letter from the A, B, C, and D highlighted above. There are two main cases of such a situation.

  • You may have a date followed by the letter S on the tank. This implies that the inspector applied the internal water jacket hydrostatic test method to inspect the gas tank. Tanks checked with this technique go for seven years before they need to be reinspected again. 
  • The other case is when there’s a date and an E at the end of it, implying visual and external inspection of the tank. Such a tank requires reinspection and recertification every five years after the date on the sticker. 

Hence, the codes on the propane gas tank are crucial in enabling you and the technician to know when the tank is ready for inspection and recertification. 

How Do You Get A Propane Tank Recertified?

propane tank inspection certificate

Assume that you have just checked the sticker on your propane gas tank and realized it is due for recertification. Or, after just a visual inspection of your tank, you note some visible defects, such as profound rusting on the tank, that need attention. What are the steps for a recertification, and who certifies propane tanks

  • Here is where Compare Propane comes in handy. Visit the Compare Propane- Start Saving page and enter your details to be guided to the nearest Propane dealer in your area. 
  • Next, contact the refilling agent of choice to schedule a re-certification appointment. You’ll be provided a date when to take the tank for recertification. To ensure that you’re within the right period requirement for recertification, ensure you read the inspection dates on the tank correctly. 
  • Take your tank to the scheduled agent for the recertification process. The company will perform a thorough certification on the tank and put a sticker on it to indicate the inspection and the next recertification date. If you’re experiencing any hurdles in this process, make sure you consider switching propane companies.
  • Now, your gas tank is in good shape, and you can use it for up to five years before you get it back for inspection and recertification for further use. 

Who Recertifies Propane Tanks?

The propane provider is usually the company that also specializes in inspecting and recertifying the tanks. This is primarily because they’re mandated by the DOT to always inspect the dot propane tank before filling it with gas. They have mechanical engineers who are in charge of this process.

The inspection and requalification focus on several aspects, such as if the propane tank has been involved in a fire, is rusty or has leaks that are safety hazards. 

What happens if you use an expired propane tank?

At the beginning of the article, we highlighted the devastating effects of propane accidents and the scale of their damage. As per the CPSC, there are approximately 600 propane tank explosions yearly, leading to deaths, serious injuries, and property destruction. Therefore, the rule of thumb is that you should never use an expired tank for personal safety. Make sure you know how to tell if it has really expired.

Remember that it is not the propane inside that expires. Rather, the expiry date represents the period that lapsed since the last inspection. Therefore, the scheduled inspections are key in enabling the gas-filling agents to nab the faulty propane tanks, remove them from the market, and prevent probable accidents. 

How many times can a propane tank be recertified?

There are no absolute times that a propane tank can be recertified, as this depends on various factors. These include: 

  • The condition of the propane tank
  • Type of the propane tank cylinder
  • Previous tank requalification method. 

Propane tanks are built to last for around three decades on the condition that they are well-maintained, above the ground, and galvanized cylinders. The average lifetime for composite and aluminum propane tanks is even longer, primarily because these are rust-proof. Also noteworthy is that underground propane tanks have an average shelf life of about 20 years, although they can reach 30 years with proper maintenance.

How Do I Know if My Propane Tank Is Still Good?

The only way to know your propane cylinder is still in good shape is to visually inspect it regularly. If you detect serious defects on the gas tank, it is advisable to call a filling agent for a more thorough propane tank inspection to help avert a possible gas leak/accident. 

Regularly check the collar/cylinder head area for the previous propane tank inspection, date of manufacture, or recertification dates.

Also, if you need to locate the best propane gas filling companies in your locality, we’re here to assist you. Just fill in your email address and location details, and we’ll guide you to the most accessible agents in your area. Thanks for reading to the end, and we hope you enjoy using propane gas in your household applications. 

Find More Important Reads

Why are propane prices cheaper in the summer?
How long does propane tank last?
How to tell if a propane tank is empty?
How to properly dispose of propane tanks?

Ryan McCabe

Ryan McCabe

Ryan is a home and small business energy expert, having overseen retail propane, heating oil, and HVAC services companies. On ComparePropane, Ryan writes about things that people should know when shopping for or using propane in their homes and businesses. 

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