Normally, a residential propane system is at constant pressure. That is, if there is propane in the propane tank, connections are fitted properly and appliances are functioning normally. However, loss of gas pressure may lead to a propane leak after too much expansion or retraction of the piping system.
Propane leaks are very dangerous, even if propane is not a toxic gas in itself. Indeed, propane is flammable so leaks can cause fires or explosions. Also, propane is heavier than air so it can concentrate in low areas of your home without your detecting it for a while. This is why the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has imposed an additive to propane to make it easier to smell and facilitate leak detections.
Avoiding propane leaks
There is no reason there should be a propane leak in your home. Propane systems are configured to respect very high safety standards and most propane users find it a convenient and comfortable source of energy.
The easiest way to avoid propane leaks is to have your propane system regularly checked and maintained by qualified service technicians. Maintenance and inspections are simplest when done by technicians from your propane company so you might see whether this can be included in quotes you request from different companies as you choose the supplier that best suits your needs.
Checking for propane leaks
The quickest and safest way of immediately detecting a propane leak is to familiarize yourself with the smell of propane. Most propane companies have a consumer information brochure on propane safety, which includes a scratch test to enable customers to identify propane gas if it is released from the system. Ensure you select a propane company that trains you in this regard because even a faint smell of propane can mean that there is a serious gas leak.
Besides knowing what propane smells like to increase your chances of detecting a leak, propane gas detectors are readily available on the market as an extra measure. You should not believe that just because there is a propane gas detector, you have nothing to worry about. It is recommended to always stay alert with regards to propane leaks. However, if manufacturer instructions are followed propane gas detectors provide a useful safety aid. Ensure you purchase one listed at Underwriters Laboratories (this is a guarantee of quality).
What do you if you suspect or find a propane leak
Propane leaks can be very dangerous since propane is a flammable substance. Therefore, leaks can lead to fires or explosions and cause injuries or even death.
If you suspect a leak YOU SHOULD:
- LEAVE the building immediately and ensure everybody in the home does the same.
- SHUT OFF the tank service valve (to close gas flow).
- CALL your propane company and the local fire department.
However, YOU SHOULD NOT:
- look for the propane leak;
- try to repair appliances;
- light pilot lights;
- turn on/off lights inside the house;
- light matches inside/near the building;
- call from inside the house.
Having a leak test
If you have closed the service valve because you suspect a leak or if you have run out of propane, you will be required to have a leak test. Indeed, the NFPA imposes a leak test for any interruption of gas supply, whatever the reason.
Your company will need to send a qualified service technician to your home to ensure that as supply is reconnected there is no leak risk. The price of a leak test depends on your propane company but generally they cost between $40 and $100.