Propane Facts

October 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Propane Facts

The Ontario Propane Association offers the following propane facts on propane pressure and usage:

Understanding Propane – Get the facts

Is Propane Dangerous?

Fact:  Used with care, propane is a safe and convenient fuel. Propane gas is not toxic. However, should a leak occur, the build-up of propane gas can become dangerous.

Because propane is heavier than air, it tends to settle in the lowest available space. Very small amounts of propane are required to create a flammable mixture of gas and air. In the limited space of a recreation vehicle, for example, a propane leak can create a hazardous situation.


How Important is Ventilation?

Propane requires a large volume of air to burn properly. In fact, 23.5 cubic feet of air is needed to burn just one cubic foot of propane. With adequate ventilation, an operating burner gives off a number of harmless products such as carbon dioxide and water vapour. But a propane appliance starved of oxygen can quickly produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide.

For safety’s sake, use your propane appliance only for the purpose for which it was designed. Don’t for example; use a cooking appliance as a space heater. Never use a heater that is not vented, even for temporary heating, in a residence, in any enclosed space, or any place where sleeping accommodation is provided. Carbon monoxide poisoning could result. Never store propane cylinder indoors.


What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless and extremely toxic. Unconsciousness and death can result from prolonged exposure to the carbon monoxide produced by a malfunction or misuse of a combustion device. Poor ventilation will increase the risk. Carbon monoxide detectors are available that sound an alarm when dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are present.

If any of the following symptoms should develop, get into the fresh air immediately.  More propane facts –

1. Headaches and tightness across the forehead and temples;
2. Weariness, weakness, dizziness, and nausea;
3. Loss of muscular control;
4. Watering and smarting of the eyes.

How is Propane Stored?

For recreational use, propane is generally sold and stored in a cylinder. Assuming it’s kept in good condition, and within the 10 year inspection date, the cylinder can be refilled indefinitely. When properly filled, 80 per cent of the cylinder contains liquid propane. The space above the liquid, to the top of the cylinder, holds propane vapour.

Enough space must be left in the cylinder to let the liquid propane expand, if the cylinder is exposed to warmer temperatures. Without this space, the “relief valve” may open and release propane, creating a potential safety hazard.

The collars of the propane cylinders have markings “TC”, “CTC”, or “DOT” showing that cylinders have been made to an acceptable specification.

In cold climates and during winter months, heating propane tanks and cylinders using a heated blanket or Gas Cylinder Warmer will boost PSI and save on refills. Powerblanket has developed a heated cylinder jacket that wraps around the outside of propane tanks and cylinders to protect against frost and freezing temperatures.  Powerblanket’s unique heat spreading technology, evenly warms tanks and cylinders to optimal temperatures, increasing output and saving only unneccessary refills.  Visit Powerblanket.com for more details.


Watch Those Connections!

Prior to 1994 cylinder valves had a left hand thread for connection to appliances. The left hand threaded fitting that connects to the cylinder valve has to be turned to the left (counter-clockwise) to tighten. Some older connectors have a hand wheel requiring only hand tightening, some require a wrench to tighten and some have an “O” ring. Always ensure that the rubber “O” ring on these traditional fittings is in good condition and in place before connecting to the cylinder valve. The “O” ring is a small rubber-like washer that fits into a groove in front of the threads. Double check this connection when you are doing your “soap and water” leak test (see below). Repair a worn, damaged or crooked “O” ring with a new one, which may be obtained from your propane supplier. For this type of connection, use a proper sized wrench (not pliers) to tighten the threaded connection between the regulator and the cylinder valve. Whenever a cylinder is not connected for use, a special plug or cap should always be installed on the outlet of the cylinder valve. This left hand thread plug is designed to prevent a leak of propane should the valve be accidentally turned on.

Since 1994 barbecue cylinder connections have been redesigned and will either be a right hand thread plastic nut connector or a quick disconnect device. The new type connections are not interchangeable with each other. These new connection types are equipped with an internal device designed to prevent the flow of propane unless the valve is connected to the appliance. The cap or plug provided by the manufacturer should be installed on the valve outlet whenever the cylinder is not connected for use to protect the valve from dust and other foreign matter. Do not use the old style left hand thread plug with these new connections as a propane leak could result. Ensure all connections are leak tight before operating your propane appliance.

The following safety rules apply to the handling of propane cylinders:

Never put a cylinder in place for use without making sure it is secure.
Always keep a cylinder upright.
Never put a propane cylinder in a closed vehicle. When transporting it, secure the cylinder in an upright position to prevent tipping. If transporting in a truck, block the trunk lid open. If transporting within the passenger compartment, leave the windows open.
Cylinders are painted in light-reflecting colours. If you must repaint them, do not use dark or flat colours, which absorb heat. This could cause the propane liquid to expand and be released through the safety valve.
Never take a propane cylinder indoors if it contains, or has contained propane. This is dangerous and unlawful.
When purchasing a new cylinder, be sure that it is the size that fits your appliance bracket and the cylinder valve connection is compatible with the connection type on your barbecue.
Check that the cylinder valve is closed whenever the cylinder is not in use and before connecting or disconnecting the cylinder.
Check that all valves on appliances are closed before connecting a cylinder.

The Regulator

A regulator is located between the cylinder and the hose connection to the appliance. The regulator reduces the gas pressure from the cylinder and maintains a constant pressure for delivery to an appliance.

A regulator should always be installed with its vent opening pointing downward. If this isn’t possible, cover the regulator with a proper cover to prevent the entry of rain, freezing snow or other liquids. The cover will also prevent the ice build up over the vent opening during the winter. A plugged regulator vent can cause excessive pressure resulting in high flames and explosions when the appliance is ignited or operating.


Can Leaks be Detected?

Propane is both odourless and colourless when produced. However, to make the presence of the propane detectable, an odour-producing substance is added to it by the propane producer. This odourant has a distinctive “rotten cabbage” smell that is consumed and not noticeable when a burner is operating.

If you detect such an odour, don’t light a match or turn an electrical switch on or off. Turn off the cylinder valve, ventilate the area, and search out the source of the leak.

Your propane system should be checked periodically for leaks even if the characteristic “rotten cabbage odour” is not detected.


Check for Leaks

Before using a propane appliance, particularly if you have just connected a cylinder to it, check for leaks using the following method:

1. Make up a dish soap and water solution.
2. Turn the cylinder valve on with the appliance shut off.
3. Spread the soap and water solution over the hose and the connections with a paintbrush.
4. Any leaks will result in bubbles forming in the solution.
5. If a leak is indicated, shut off the cylinder valve.
6. Repair any leak (follow manufacturer’s instructions).
7. Repeat 1), 2) and 3) until no leaks are indicated before operating the appliance.
8. If you cannot stop the leaks, consult a certified propane fitter.
9. Never go over connections looking for leaks with a lighted match, cigarette lighter, or any other flame.

Disposal or Recertification of Outdated Propane Cylinders

Refillable propane cylinders are used in many applications today. The most popular size is the 20-lb. propane cylinder used with many backyard barbecues. A propane cylinder must have a safety examination and be recertified at 10-year intervals, beginning from the date of the original manufacture stamped on the collar of the cylinder. It is illegal to fill a propane cylinder older than 10 years that has not been recertified. Corroded or damaged propane cylinders could leak propane. Outdated relief valves may not operate as intended. Either of these conditions could lead to a fire or explosion.

Should your propane cylinder be 10 years old, you, as an owner, have one of two choices—either disposal or recertification. If you wish to have your propane cylinder recertified, your propane supplier will have the cylinder recertified and date stamped if it complies with the requirements. A fee will be charged. Your propane cylinder, when recertified, is good for another 10 years of service. Do not attempt to dispose of your old cylinder by putting it in the garbage. Take the cylinder to your propane supplier for disposal.


Cold Weather Solutions

Everyone knows when working with gases, each gas has its sweet spot. In a liquid propane (LP) tank for example, part of the volume is occupied by liquid and part is occupied by gas. The pressure of the gas is governed by the temperature of the liquid. Powerblanket GCW Gas Cylinder Warmers help heat and insulate propane to achieve maximum safe output.  Even better is their UL/CSA rating and safety record.  Powerblanket offer tank wraps for small 20 lb. BBQ grills & RVs… all the way up to very large 1000 lb. and larger commercial tanks & silos blankets.

See their entire cylinder heating line at http://www.powerblanket.com

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