If you cook or heat your property with the aid of propane, you may feel understandably concerned about keeping containers of this combustible gas on hand. Fortunately, propane tanks can provide up to 30 years of reliable service, but only if you give them the proper care and attention. Here are some key factors in caring for your propane tank.
Practicing Safe Storage Habits
Store propane tanks outdoors whenever possible. Even the most carefully-maintained tank can leak, causing gas to accumulate inside an enclosed area. A tiny spark could then cause a catastrophic fire. Keep your outdoor tank at least 10 feet away from a source of flame such as a barbecue grill.
Pay attention to ambient temperatures when storing your propane tank. Propane gas pressure rises as its temperature increases, potentially creating a dangerous situation at or above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, you should never leave a propane tank in a hot vehicle. Store your tank in a shady spot.
Make a point of storing your propane storage tank in an upright position. This orientation protects the valve against possible damage or other circumstances that might cause it to leak. Try placing a small propane tank inside a milk crate which can contain it on all sides and provide a stable base.
Recognizing Potential Trouble Signs
Some propane tanks can resist damage more readily than others. While industrial tanks may feature thick steel construction, smaller tanks may feature lighter materials such as aluminum. Aluminum resists rust more thoroughly than steel, but it also suffers from greater vulnerability to dings, cracks, and dents.
If you see peeling paint, dents, rust, or other signs of structural damage to your propane tank, don't just place that storage tank back into service or storage; instead, replace it immediately for safety's sake. If you smell a rotten-egg odor, assume that your tank has sprung a leak and replace it.
Scheduling Tank Maintenance
Propane tanks that remain unused for long periods may develop tiny leaks without your realizing it, setting the stage for trouble the next time you use them. Before using a long-neglected tank, check it for leaks by covering it in soapy water and watching to see whether telltale bubbles form at the connector valve.
Annual maintenance inspections from your propane supplier can help to ensure that your propane tanks have no dangerous leaks or structural weaknesses. Any propane tank more than 10 years old should receive a professional inspection from a service technician, who will either re-qualify it for use or remove it from service.