9 Propane Safety Tips for Home Heating

9 Propane Safety Tips for Home Heating

With cooler months in the forecast, people will be loading up on propane to warm their houses. Propane gas provides many additional benefits for homeowners, as you can use it for heating water, cooking, washing and drying.

It is important to think about safety first as you fire up your propane appliances in the fall and winter. Propane tanks include many  features, such as carbon steel construction, puncture resistance and built-in pressure maintenance devices. Those safety features, combined with following important propane safety tips can help you reduce the risk of accidents and keep your family and home safe. While this article is focused on propane safety tips, it is also important to remember that propane is safe and effective to use. There is a common misconception that propane is more dangerous than other fuels, which is not true.

9 Propane Safety Tips for Home Heating

Knowing how to detect a propane leak, when to get your system checked and what to do if you think there’s an issue can ensure your propane system continues to run smoothly and safely. Follow these tips to get the most of your propane heating system.

1. Keep the Tank Clear of Clutter

Your propane tank needs plenty of space, so make sure items are not stacked up around it — especially flammable materials, such as paper or textiles, or anything that could ignite. In the fall, sweep up any leaves that might pile up near the tank, and in the spring, keep grass clippings and other debris away from it.

It is also a good idea to keep items away from any propane appliances in your home. For example, store newspapers and other flammable materials far away from the heating system or propane water heater, to minimize the chance of fire. 

2. Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Maryland law requires carbon monoxide detectors in any homes built after 2008 that use fossil fuels (such as propane). Even if your home was built before 2008, you still want to install CO detectors, as well as smoke alarms, on each floor of the house and near sleeping areas. Since carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, you need to have an alarm that lets you know when the levels of it in your home are higher than they should be.

Be sure to have a plan of action in case a detector goes off and periodically check the batteries to ensure they are still working.

Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

3. Read the Owner’s Manual

The owner’s manual for your propane tank can provide you with specific information about the best way to care for it and how to increase its safety. The manual will let you know what to do if there is a leak or another hazardous situation. More likely than not, the manual will recommend contacting a dedicated propane specialist or emergency responder in the event of an emergency or to repair your tank.

4. Pay Attention to the Pilot Light

Your propane heating system might have a pilot light, a small flame that burns constantly. When the system is functioning properly, the pilot light should stay lit and not go out. A pilot light that regularly gets extinguished could be a sign of a problem within the system.

Although re-igniting the pilot light can seem like an easy enough fix to do on your own, your safest option is to call in a professional to fix the problem. Although it is not likely, there is the risk of fire or explosion if your propane heating system is not operating properly and you attempt to re-light the pilot. For safety’s sake, call in the pros.

5. Know What to Do If You Smell Propane Gas

First things first, you need to know what propane gas smells like. Then, you need to know what to do if you or anyone else in your home notices the odor. The best way to describe the smell of propane gas is like that of rotten eggs. Some people might say that it smells like a skunk or a decaying animal. The unpleasant odor is not the natural scent of propane. Instead, the fragrance is added to the gas by manufacturers for safety reasons.

If you smell propane or think you smell it, extinguish any flames, such as the burners on your stove, put away any electronic devices, such as your smartphone, and get out of there. Once you ar

6. Establish a Regular Delivery Schedule

Work with SMO Energy to set up a regular delivery schedule and ensure you always have a sufficient supply of propane gas to heat your home. Periodically check your tank’s fuel gauge even if you have automatic delivery. If the tank has less than 20% of fuel left, contact SMO Energy for a refill so that you can continue to keep your home warm and comfortable.

Keeping an adequate amount of gas in your propane tank is also important for preventing leaks when the system is refilled. When you receive a new delivery of propane, a qualified service technician will perform a leak check or leak test to verify that your tank is in good working order.  

You can protect your propane tank and prolong its life by keeping it filled. 

SMO Energy offers many delivery options, including same-day/next-day delivery*, free automatic delivery and no hidden fees. You can also manage your account online so that there are never any hiccups with payment.

7. Have your Propane Tank Serviced Periodically

Regular inspections and maintenance on your propane tank are critical. Your propane provider can inspect your tank and let you know if any fixes or changes are needed. Signing up for a service agreement can give you peace of mind that your tank and propane appliances will be regularly maintained and that any problems can be fixed quickly and easily.

Regular inspections and maintenance on your propane tank are critical.

8. Have a Professional Repair Your Propane Tank

It may seem that a problem with your propane tank or system is an easy fix and something you can solve on your own. For safety’s sake, even if a problem seems simple, always call in a professional to take a look and perform any needed repairs. If you try to tighten a loose valve on your own or fiddle with the connectors or other parts, a leak or another, more complicated problem could develop.

9. Check on Your Propane Tank After Any Storms

Southern Maryland sees its fair share of storms, from snowstorms to thunderstorms. Some storms could cause leaves and branches to build up around your propane tank, while others might lead to piles of snow or blocks of ice around your tank. After a storm, inspect your tank and remove any debris from the area. You might need to brush snow away so that vents and valves are clear. When removing snow and other debris from around your propane tank and system, use a broom rather than a shovel to reduce the risk of damage. 

Frequently Asked Propane Safety Questions

When it comes to the safety of their residential propane heating systems, and to the use of propane in general, people often have questions. Get the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about propane gas and propane safety.

Frequently asked propane safety questions

1. How Safe Is Propane for Home Heating?

Like other fuels, such as oil or natural gas, propane is perfectly safe for use as a home heating fuel. Propane itself is non-toxic, so it will not cause health issues.

If you are concerned about the safety of propane, there are things you can do to protect your family and home. Having your system checked regularly and scheduling regular propane delivery will ensure your system is operating as it should be. You can also install propane gas detectors to help detect any leaks.

2. What Are the Advantages of Propane?

Propane has several benefits when used to heat a home and for hot water. If you do not have access to a natural gas line, propane can be a suitable alternative fuel source. Propane also burns more efficiently than other fuels, so you end up using less of it.

Another advantage of propane is that if it leaks, it is released in gas form. You will not have to worry about cleaning up pools of liquified propane gas or about the gas leaving residue or stains on surfaces.

3. What Are the Disadvantages of Propane?

One of the disadvantages of propane gas is that you need to keep the tank filled. Unlike natural gas or electricity, which travel to your home from a central source and are not stored on your property, you are responsible for making sure you always have enough propane for fuel. Automatic delivery can help to keep your tank full at all times, though. 

Another potential disadvantage of propane gas is that it is flammable, meaning you need to take certain precautions around it. For example, you need to know how to store portable propane tanks to reduce the risk of fire and should also know how to care for a larger tank installed on your property. 

4. What Does Propane Gas Smell Like?

In its natural state, propane gas is odorless. Companies that produce propane add a chemical called mercaptan to it to give it a distinct odor. Mercaptan is harmless, but it does make the gas smell like rotting eggs. 

5. Is the Smell of Propane Dangerous?

The smell of propane itself isn’t dangerous. Instead, the problem is in what the smell might indicate. If you smell rotting eggs or something like a skunk, it could mean you have a propane leak or that your propane system is malfunctioning in some way. Rather than being dangerous, you can think of the smell of propane as a warning sign that you need to vacate the area and call in a qualified technician.

There is one thing worth noting about the smell of propane. Some people have difficulty smelling propane, either due to a reduced sense of smell, a cold or a history of smoking. Over time, the smell of propane can become weaker, too, as the concentration of the odor decreases. Rust buildup in the tank can also interfere with the strength of propane’s odor.

It is also possible that your nose and brain “get used to” the scent so that you no longer notice it. If you are concerned that you will not be able to smell propane, you can install a propane detector in your home to alert you in the event of a leak.

6. What Should You Do If You Smell Propane?

The best thing to do if you smell propane, think you smell propane or if a detector is going off, is to leave the area. Evacuate your home or the area where you notice the gas smell. Once everyone is safely out of the house, call 911 or a local fire department to have them come out and take a look. You should also call your propane retailer to have them evaluate and repair your system and tank as needed.

Most Common Signs of an Issue With Your Propane Tank or System

How can you tell if something is wrong with your propane system or the tank itself? There might be a few signs that let you know something is up and that you should call a technician in to take a look:

  • The smell of rotten eggs: Often, people know that something isn't right with their propane system because they smell gas. If you notice a strange smell, particularly the scent of rotten eggs, it could be a sign that your tank has a leak or that there is something wrong with the system itself.
  • Rust on or in the tank: If a tank runs out of fuel, rust can develop on the inside of the tank and, in some cases, on the exterior. If you see signs of rust, call your propane provider right away. Rust not only weakens the tank, but it can also interfere with the odor of propane, making it more difficult to tell when something is wrong.
  • Damaged tubing: If your system uses rubber tubing to connect to appliances, the tubing should stay in good shape. Replace cracked or torn tubing as needed.
  • Dents or dings in the tank: Dents or dings on the surface of your tank can be a sign that it is damaged or weakened. You might need to repair or even replace the tank, so let your propane provider know about any visible deformities.
  • Extinguished pilot light: When the pilot light goes out, it could be a sign that the tank is out of fuel or that there is another problem with the system. A pilot light that goes out repeatedly could signal a problem with the appliance itself.

SMO Energy Can Answer All of Your Propane Safety Questions

SMO Energy offers reliable propane delivery to homes and businesses across Southern Maryland. Our trained and qualified service technicians are happy to answer any questions you have about propane safety or to address any concerns you have about your home’s propane heating system. We offer same-day or next-day delivery with no hidden fees, as well as automatic delivery and payment plans to make keeping your home comfortable as convenient as possible.

Don’t use propane gas? SMO Energy is still here to meet all of your heating and air conditioning needs. We offer 24/7 heating oil delivery and HVAC equipment installation, repair and maintenance. We’ve been serving the community since 1926 and are committed to being your total home comfort provider. To learn more, and to schedule your next propane delivery or to sign up for our automatic delivery service, call 1-888-222-3720 or reach out to us online today.

*No delivery fee applies to all deliveries 100 gallons or more, same-day delivery is applicable to a $35 fee. **Same day and next day delivery service are subject to change based on weather conditions. Unsafe road conditions create an unnecessary risk to SMO drivers and the environment. $35 fee for delivery between 50 and 99 gallons.

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