Propane is a commonly used fuel alternative. These are some ways to make a propane heater safe to operate in your home. Propane is stored and transported as a very cold liquid. So cold that it can cause frost bite if exposed to your skin. In this page we cover safety tips for indoors propane heaters.
Propane tanks are constructed from carbon steel. They are incredibly puncture resistant. They come with a device that shuts down filling when the tank is at 80% capacity. This is to allow for pressure change that occurs with changes in temperature. Propane tanks are often painted white or silver in order to reflect heat and prevent severe pressure changes.
Although propane in it’s natural state has no odor, manufacturers add a chemical that makes propane smell like rotten eggs. This is to make it easier to detect leaks. Unlike natural gas and other flammable alternative fuels it does not pool on the ground, it dissipates into the air. Propane is converted to a vapor as it leaves the tank. Propane is heavier than air. This means that it will collect at the lowest point. It could collect in your basement for example.
Not everyone can smell propane. If a person has a cold, allergies or sinus infection they may not smell a propane leak. If a person smokes tobacco their sense of smell may be compromised. As people age they may loose their sense of smell.
If you are sleeping, the smell of propane may not be strong enough to wake you. There is also a condition called “odor loss” in which propane will lose it’s smell. For these reasons and others it may be a good idea to install some propane gas detectors in your home or business.
A propane gas detector is better than counting on your sense of smell because detectors do not rely on the odor of propane. The alarm will sound when a certain level of the actual propane gas is detected in the air. However, if you should smell the odor of propane but the detector has not sounded, always trust your nose.
If You Detect A Leak
When a propane leak is detected avoid low areas because this is where a propane explosion is more likely to occur. Air currents can blow propane anywhere so be careful if you smell propane. Extinguish all open flames and leave do not adjust any electric switches, such as lights. Do not use the phone or a cell phone. Sparks from any electrical switches can be the source of ignition that causes propane to catch fire or explode.
Immediately get everyone out of the building or residence where the leak is detected. If possible close the main gas valve that supplies propane. Call your propane retailer from a remote area safely away from propane fumes. A neighbor’s house or nearby building.
If you can’t reach the retailer then call 911 and ask for the fire department. Do not return to the area until it has been checked out by a professional. Have your entire propane system checked out for any possible leaks.
Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless and invisible toxic gas that is produced when all fuel is burned. High levels may occur when fuel is not completely consumed. They can also occur in an improperly installed system, an improperly vented system or when a vent is blocked with something such as a bird’s nest. These high levels can cause death. A carbon monoxide detector is always a good idea around a propane heating system.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: a headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. If you experience these symptoms or if your carbon monoxide detector goes off, leave the building immediately. Contact a professional and have it checked out. Do not return to the building until it has been declared safe.
Do not let your propane tank run out of gas. This could become a serious health hazard. A leak can be created when the tank is refilled. Air and moisture could get into the empty tank and cause problems in the system.
Proper maintenance is important. Have your propane appliances checked regularly. Make sure that all vents near your appliance are clear and open. Do not store any flammable materials near your heater. Remember that a professionally installed propane heating system has been designed with safety in mind. It is important that all parts be in good working order.