Propane tank setup

Whether you are about to acquire a propane tank or simply wish to understand propane systems better it is useful to know how propane tanks are set up. However, whether you are interested in installing a propane tank, piping, valves, gauges or regulators, it is advisable to rely on a qualified service technician rather than run the risk of a dangerous and probably illegal setup if you do it yourself. For advice and setup services, request quotes from propane companies.

Propane tank distance rules

Propane tank setup is determined first by safety considerations. Propane tanks must be installed within certain distances of other structures such as windows, parking lots, playgrounds, sheds, vents, etc. Qualified service technicians will know what these are in your home and it is not recommended that you set up your propane tank yourself. Distance requirements usually follow the 10-ft rule, which means that there has to be at least 10 foot between the propane tank and other structures on the property. However, this may be increased if the tank is larger or for specific appliances, as illustrated in the diagram below.

Aboveground tank distance rules

Source: NFPA

Underground tank distance rules

Source: NFPA

Underground propane tank setup

Underground propane tanks have the same fittings as aboveground propane tanks but are situated in different places. The main setup difference between the two kinds of tank is that because the elements surrounding an underground propane tank are different (soil, water, etc. rather than air) safety precautions and rules in terms or tank and regulator protection.

Outdoor propane system setup

Piping connects the propane tank to propane-run appliances. This is also called an LPG gas service or yard line. It is visible as it leaves the propane tanks and where it connects with individual or multiple appliances (e.g., pool heater or furnace). The rest of the yard line is underground and relatively deep to avoid damage that could cause a leak. Yard line material must respect certain safety standards that vary according to your state – propane companies will be able to inform you on the materials allowed in your area.

Propane tank valves and gauges

Becoming familiar with your propane tank setup also implies knowing a little about the valves used to connect your propane tank: the delivery truck will pump propane into your tank through a fill valve; the relief valve allows for venting when there is too much pressure in the tank; the service valve enables propane conversion into vapor to fuel appliances; during propane deliveries the vapor return valve is used to remove excess pressure; liquid propane is removed from a propane tank through a liquid withdrawal valve. Similarly, the float/dial gauge enables to you determine how much propane is in your tank and the fixed liquid level gauge indicates when your propane tank level is at or above 80% capacity.

Propane tanks and regulators

Propane regulators control the flow of gas and decrease pressure between propane tanks and propane appliances. Regulators are crucial components of a residential propane system: a propane gas system will not run if the wrong kind of regulator has been installed.

Regulators serving a propane tank tend to be high pressure, two-stage or integral twin-stage regulators. While high-pressure regulators are used to service appliances and equipment that require higher-than-usual propane pressure, two-stage regulator systems enable pressure decrease between the tank and the gas service line and again between the gas service line and the propane-fuelled appliance, and integral twin-stage regulators are similar to two-stage regulators but combine both stages in the same piece of equipment. This is illustrated in the diagram below.

Propane valves and regulators