Propane tank safety
Propane is a popular source of energy because it is safe, clean, efficient and often cheaper than most other source of energy. It is stored in a large propane tank directly on your property and connected to your indoor propane system to fuel appliances. Often, it is used for indoor heating but propane has a variety of uses, such as water heating, refrigeration, clothes drying, outdoor heating, pool heating, etc.
Propane system inspections and the GAS Check
However, safe as it may be, propane remains a highly flammable gas. Ensuring that your propane system runs safely is a relatively simple matter. Indeed, the most important components of propane tank safety are the recommended yearly inspections of your propane system. Most propane companies offer such inspections.
Furthermore, as you request quotes from different companies serving your area, you might ask whether they use Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) inspection programs to train their employees. The PERC and NPGA offer the GAS Check, which is twofold: the Gas System Check involves system inspection of the tank, gas pressure, piping condition, leak risk, gas odor and regulators; the Gas Appliance System Check adds to those venting and appliances.
What tank inspections include
Propane tank inspections according to the PERC and NPGA GAS Check programs involve verifying that the tank is located in a place that respects National Fire Protection Association (NPGA) safety rules, that the tank is in a decent physical condition and that it rests on good foundations, that the relief valve’s condition is good, that all fittings, plugs and welds do not pose a leak threat, that the service valve works, that the vapor return valve is not damaged, that the liquid level gauge is not damaged or blocked, that the float gauge is in good condition and legible. If the tank is underground, inspections also involve checking the tank dome condition.
Propane tank safety risks
The most likely occurrence if a propane tank is not installed or maintained properly is a propane leak. This can be extremely dangerous as propane is a highly flammable gas and can ignite easily. Propane leaks can result from poor valve and regulator maintenance. They can also be caused by somebody tampering with the propane tank – for example, if a car bumps into the propane tank even slightly and jolts the connection between the tank and the service line.
However, propane tanks do not explode and are very difficult to dent. They are manufactured according to such strict rules and it is almost impossible to damage propane tanks themselves. What rarely occurs but is possible is that the pressure inside the tank will rise because of a steady and lengthy increase in temperature (e.g., if a fire is lit under the tank). This can lead to the propane tank rupturing from excess pressure – it is called a BLEVE or boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion