Many people use propane tanks during summer to light up gas grills as they relax with family and friends. But, how do you store your propane tank in winter when temperatures dip and everybody retreats to their houses?
Propane tasks cannot freeze and explode, making them safe to store outdoors during winter. However, it is critical to follow proper storage guidelines to prevent propane depletion and pressure loss. A propane tank with low pressure cannot power your home appliances.
Although your propane tank will not explode due to cold, storing it safely and keeping it ready for use is essential. In this article, we give you details on propane’s freezing point and how to prepare your propane tank for winter.
Propane’s freezing point is -306oF (-187.6oC). Temperatures cannot be that low anywhere on the planet, meaning propane freezing can only occur in a laboratory. This also means that propane tanks do not freeze during winter.
The ice or frost on propane tanks is due to vaporization, when liquid gas attracts heat from the tank’s steel walls, boils, and vaporizes. Propane’s boiling point is -43.8oF (-42.1oC) when the liquid changes to a gas. It combines with ambient humidity and produces ice on the tank.
The propane tank becomes colder when the gas is in use, and ice or frost can form on its surface if you use the gas rapidly. The visible frost or condensation line indicates the amount of liquid propane in the tank.
Freezing winter temperatures affect propane tanks in two main ways:
- Loss of pressure: Propane liquid inside the tank, but it converts into gas and is released out of a valve when in use. The conversion occurs at propane’s boiling point of -43.8oF. When the temperature drops to -44oF (-42.2oC), the liquid cannot convert to gas and is not usable until temperatures rise.
- Propane depletion: A temperature drop significantly reduces the propane levels in the tank. Propane shrinks in colder temperatures, leading to inaccurate gauge readings. You have to refill the tank once the propane depletes.
How to Prepare and Store Your Propane Tank for Winter
Proper storage of propane tanks during winter is critical for your safety. Here are some safety tips to prevent accidents and tank damage.
Clear Out the Vents
Proper ventilation for your propane tank is critical to prevent carbon monoxide accumulation in your house. Small animals or tree debris can clog up vents when the tank is unused during summer.
Clear out your home’s ventilation system to allow unobstructed airflow. Hire professionals to inspect and clean the system if you notice blockages inside the vents.
Keep Your Propane Tank Outside
All propane tanks emit toxic carbon monoxide that affects air quality. Never store the tank in your house, even when it is extremely cold, and you are concerned about the gas freezing. Propane will not freeze, regardless of how low the temperature drops.
To safely store your propane tank outside, ensure that you:
- Keep the storage area well-ventilated and dry
- Always keep the tank upright, on a flat surface so that it does not tip over
- Always close the valve when nobody is using the tank.
- Store the tank under the shade, in cool temperatures, away from direct sunlight and open flames.
Check the Tank Before Storage
It is essential to check your propane tank before you put it away, even if you have just bought it. Check the tank, valves, and connector hose for any signs of wear or leaks.
- Disconnect the tank.
- Spray a mixture of water and non-abrasive soap on the tank, hose, and valves.
- Check for bubbles on the tank or on the connections. Bubbles indicate a leak.
- Do not try to fix the leak. Instead, contact a propane supplier near you.
Do Not Hide Your Propane Tank
Always make sure you can locate your propane tank, even when there is a heavy snowstorm. Drive a pole, stick, or flag near the tank to make it easy for you and the technician to locate the tank for a refill or routine maintenance in the snow when necessary.
Consider placing the tank on one of the bottom shelves if you have outdoor shelves secured to a wall. Keep it under a waterproof or open-air cover in a tank box to prevent rust and damage.
Keep the Tank Accessible
An easily accessible path to the tank is vital as you keep the tank visible. Clear the pathway by cutting any shrubbery or bushes and removing trash cans. During winter, snow covers everything, and obstacles along the path could be dangerous since they are invisible under the snow.
Get a Gas Detector
A gas detector has an alarm that goes off whenever there is a gas leak in the home. You will also know the gas leaks if you hear a hissing sound near the tank or smell rotten eggs.
In case you suspect a gas leak:
- Switch off the entire gas supply.
- Put out any fires in the house.
- Evacuate the house.
- Call your propane supplier.
- The technician will examine your home, make necessary repairs and inform you when it is safe to go inside.
Schedule a Yearly Inspection
Ensure you plan an inspection of your propane tank every year before winter to ensure all the components are in perfect working condition. Your tank might have been idle during the hot summer if you only use your tank in winter.
Do not attempt to repair or modify regulators, valves, or other parts yourself. Contact a professional technician to inspect all the propane tank’s components and fix any minor issues to prevent accidents.
Refill the Tank
Check the tank’s meter weekly in the fall before the temperatures drop. Your propane will be out soon, even if your tank is half full. Contact a propane supplier to refill your tank if you notice the gas level falling below half.
You will not have to worry about gas running out in the winter after refilling the tank. You also do not want to call suppliers for an emergency refill in a snowstorm.
To Sum Up
Propane tanks cannot freeze and explode even in extremely low temperatures. However, a gas leak and exposure to extreme temperatures can cause an explosion. Therefore, it is essential to observe safety guidelines when using and storing your propane tank to avoid accidents.