The likelihood of a propane accident occurring is extremely low and propane is not a toxic gas. Nevertheless, propane remains a highly flammable gas and because it is heavier than air (and can displace it) leaks can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning (a quarter of all propane-related fatalities). This makes it crucial to ensure propane appliances are installed, connected, and maintained according to the highest regulations and standards.
Choosing a propane company with respectable safety policies and credentials
The simplest way to avoid appliance safety risks is to ensure that your propane company has a good safety record and responsive customer care. When comparing quotes from propane dealers, enquire as to the safety reputation of each propane company, check if they have a 24/7 emergency help line, ask whether they provide appliance maintenance services and ensure their technicians are properly regularly trained. Safety should be as important in your final decision as pricing.
Propane appliance safety basics
When moving into a home where propane is an important source of energy it is recommended that you choose a propane company that offers Gas Appliance Systems checks or another type of installation verification. This should be one of the criteria you select when requesting quotes for various propane dealers for tanks, propane and services. Basically, this means that a qualified service technician will inspect your home (tank, connections and appliances) and ensure it is fitted in such a way as to avoid risks of propane leaks. Similarly, your propane company might offer servicing options and save you the trouble of looking for a technician every time an appliance needs maintenance.
Because of the potential risks associated with propane systems, safety regulations and standards are very strict at federal and state level. The National Fire Protection Association’s rules are those to which most propane companies and technicians refer for appliance installation and maintenance. It is not advisable to try to install, maintain and repair propane appliances yourself as this leads to an increased leak risk (and therefore carbon monoxide poisoning or an explosion if there is a spark) and can damage the appliance.
Propane appliance safety recommendations
- Running out of gas. If you run out of gas but leave a valve or gas line is left open a leak may occur when your propane tank is refilled. Also, your appliance pilot lights (which ignites the main burner) will stop, which can be dangerous. Running out of gas requires a leak test in most states. It is recommended that you contact your propane company or a qualified service technician.
- Pilot lights. If an appliance pilot light goes out you should not attempt to light it yourself. Rather, call your propane company or have a qualified service technician relight it for you. If an appliance pilot light goes out regularly, the appliance is probably faulty.
- Appliance maintenance. Safety and efficiency require regular propane appliance maintenance. You should leave this to a qualified service technician. Every year, have your propane system inspected to reduce leak risks. Ensure appliance vents are not obstructed (for example, birds like to build nests in pipes). Check that propane is burning with a blue (and not yellow) flame.
- Connectors. Call a qualified service technician to inspect connectors when moving appliances around your home. Never use appliance connectors that are not approved or recommended by the appliance manufacturer or a qualified service technician (American National Standards Institute sets appliance connector standards). Have a qualified service technician inspect any old propane appliances (more than 20 years old) when moving into a new home. Ensure that unused connectors and gas lines are properly capped or plugged.
Your own safety and that of your family is your priority. When in doubt (moving into a new home, installing a new appliance, if you suspect there is a leak, or if you simply have a question), contact a qualified service technician or your propane company.