Homeowner’s Guide to Propane Safety: Must-Know Tips

a flame burning from a spilled propane

Table of Contents

The propane system is an absolute gem and has been a real game-changer in the energy scene. It’s arguably the most reliable and sustainable renewable gas, especially with the entry of biopropane into the market. But for all its apparent benefits, propane gas has been a real slow killer, where lack of propane safety has taken the lives of many users and propane leaks are responsible for thousands of accidents. 

According to a journal covering 2012 and 2016, there were 68 275 propane heating system incidents, most of which were burns to the face. There are definitely more cases than this statistic tells, as apparently, this is just a glimpse of what reaches the news.

So, are there any measures that we can undertake to keep propane safety at a high level? Learning the propane tank safety tips can help avert many cases that primarily occur due to ignoring the obvious signs. Join us as we elaborate further on the most important propane safety tips you must undertake. 

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Important Propane Tank Safety Tips

Is propane safe? Like any fuel, propane has its upsides and the apparent potential of being lethal if mishandled. The key to getting things right is upholding the essential propane safety tips we’ll cover in this section at length. 

Know How To Respond To The Smell Of Gas

If you use propane, you are familiar with its characteristic smell, which is not just there by mistake. If you have difficulty smelling propane you should head over to our piece that dives into this in detail. Propane smells like rotten eggs or the typical skunk spray, so if it is highly concentrated, you may be forgiven for thinking there’s a dead and rotting animal in your neighborhood. 

You can smell propane by design, and the big thing is that it is actually part of the safety features to keep you safe without installing propane gas detectors. By default, propane is odorless gas. 

Nonetheless, propane gas tank manufacturers, having known the harm of a propane leak, infused Ethyl Mercaptan into the gas, which, upon interaction, produces the characteristics of a skunky smell. This way, you can always react to a propane leak in case it happens. 

Tips to deal with a propane gas smell

Here’s the most important tip to understand when you smell gas without having any propane gas detectors. Normally, when using propane appliances for furnace, fireplace, or cooking and you switch on the gas burner, there will be a minute smell in the room. This doesn’t give a cause for concern. But if the gas smell is more intense than usual, it has the potential to induce an explosion, and it’s now time to take action.

  • You must first unplug all electrical and propane appliances capable of producing a spark, as this is all that is needed to start a fire. Also, switch off all the electrical appliances and disconnect the electricity from the mains. 
  • If you have a carbon monoxide alarm make sure you check the sensors to see whether they detect elevated carbon monoxide levels. Here you need to mitigate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t turn on the light in a room, set your security alarm, or shut the door to hard as these may all spark a gas explosion or a fire.
  • Walk to the propane gas main supply (it must usually be outside) and shut off the valve to ensure no more gas enters the pipes. 
  • Open all the windows, doors, and openings. 
  • Next, vacate the area as you seek help. Hanging around a room with a significant propane leak is extremely risky.  
  • Take caution not to trip while vacating, so be calm and wear shoes with a good grip. You may get caught in the looming fire if you strain your ankle while leaving. 
  • Once out, report the incident to the local fire department and qualified service technician.
  • Stay away from the building until the rescue team has analyzed and deemed it safe for reoccupation. 
  • Have the propane equipment systems checked and fixed to avoid another leak from a propane cylinder. 

Always Secure and Store Propane Cylinders Upright

various sizes of propane tanks resting outside on pavement.


Among the cardinal golden rules when ferrying and storing your propane cylinders is that they should be upright. The underlying principle is that propane gas in the tank is usually in liquid form. However, there’s a film of propane gas in a vapor state at the upper part. This is the gas that comes out when you turn on the propane appliances. 

So, store portable propane tanks upside down causes the liquid propane to contact the relief valve, which may cause liquid propane to come out. In addition, this may compel the concentration of huge masses of propane in the storage area/transporting vehicle. This a fire and safety hazard, especially if the escaped gas comes into contact with a flame source. 

Store Propane Outdoors

Never use a propane gas that’s in the same building as you. The ideal storage space to store portable propane tanks is an exterior spot away from the vicinity of your house. And this is irrespective of whether it is in the summer or winter. Noteworthy, winter’s cold temperatures – cannot significantly affect propane system functioning, so don’t use this as an excuse to move it indoors. 

How about in the summer? The same applies, but you should ensure the tank rests on a concrete platform like carbon steel construction and provide a shade cover above. 

But what is the logic behind our insistence on storing the tank outdoors? The gas is highly flammable, so having it indoors is risky if there’s a significant gas leak. Keeping it outdoors means the leaking gas finds its way into the atmosphere, thus averting a possible accident. 

How about during a refill? Should you transport propane supply in your car/RV? No. Use a pickup truck to transport propane safely. Also, ensure it is well-secured using a rope upright while in the vehicle. 

Keep Propane Tanks Out Of Direct Light

Keeping propane tanks exposed to the sun predisposes them to an explosion. The ideal scenario is to ensure your gas tank never experiences temperatures above 120 °F (49 °C). 

Regularly Replace & Inspect Propane Cylinders

If you’re in the US, your propane gas tank is reserved to provide you with a service life of 12 years under propane tank regulations. Canada has set the mandatory replacement time cap at ten years, after which you can continue using the tank if it is passed fit for continued use for an additional duration. 

All this information on when the tank is due for replacement is on the collar area, where you’ll find out its manufacturing date. Therefore, ideally, you need to check out this information and ensure you recertify your tank and don’t continue using a propane tank that has already expired. 

Regularly Inspect Valves, Hoses, and Regulators

Leaks can be slow and subtle, but they can be fatal when left for an extended duration. So, when you use propane for heating, it makes sense to regularly inspect the cylinders even when they are far from their expiry date. 

The primary focus points to maintain propane safety should be these propane tank parts – the valves, hoses, and regulators, as these are the obvious potent leak points. So once every year, get a technician to open the cylinder valve and check for leaks using soapy water. You will notice the formation of bubbles if there’s a leak after application of this water.

If you detect leaks, the best thing is to shut down the safety relief valve and fix it. Then, you can continue using the cylinder. Also, remember always to shut the valves when you are not using the cylinder. 

Is it OK To Leave A Propane Tank Outside In Summer?

a propane tank in front of a home

There’s no harm in leaving your propane tank outside in the summer, but you must take precautions to protect it from damage, especially if you live in scorching areas. First, it should be placed on a slab/solid surface. 

Also, you must ensure it is shielded from direct sunlight, so ideally, you need a shade above the propane tank. This way, the ambient temperatures will not rapidly increase their pressure. Also, as noted earlier, it is important to keep check of the temperatures and ensure they are within the 120 °F (49 °C) upper threshold. 

Is it OK To Leave A Propane Tank Outside In Winter?

Like in the above case, leaving your propane tank outside is also safe, even during chilly winter. Extremely high temperatures can cause the tank to blow up, but with low winter conditions, this is not possible. The only harm with the chilly temperatures is that they can lead to a drop in the gas pressure, which will also affect the rate at which it exits the tank. 

So, there’s no need to erect a cover above the tank in winter. The lowest temperature threshold should be −40 °F (−40 °C). Hence, leaving the tank in the open is ideal so that the ambient temperatures can help raise the temperatures. 

But at the same time, ensure that the tank is not in direct contact with the ground, as this will accelerate rusting, especially under snowy conditions. So, you should elevate it above the ground and regularly remove the ice around it to prevent the area from accumulating water. 

Summary

Maintaining propane safety is the only way to steer clear of the propane tank dangers highlighted above. With this guide, you’re now ready to operate safely and reap this gas’s massive benefits and potential, which is among the best energy sources. 

We are part of your journey to getting the best from the gas, and we do this by linking you up to the best dealers in your locality. So, have you run out of propane gas and don’t know who to contact? Worry not. Compare Propane has a simple way of linking you to the nearest best service company. 

That is all for now; stay safe and enjoy propane gas’s massive benefits and conveniences.

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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