Propane tank safety guide

Updated October 12, 2022

Nothing beats a nice summer barbecue with friends, or sitting outside in the cool weather in the warmth of a patio heater. There’s one liquefied petroleum gas that makes this possible: propane. If you have any propane accessories, you’ll need to have propane tanks as well.

Handled safely and responsibly, propane tanks help you enjoy your outdoor space. In this article, we will provide you with some helpful tips for the safe storage and handling of your propane tanks, including where to store them, at what temperature to keep them, and how to prepare them for storage.

Propane grill with a propane cylinder attached

What is a propane tank?

A propane tank (sometimes called a propane cylinder) is a pressurized container designed to hold propane in its liquid form.

These tanks vary in size depending on their purpose, but for this article, we will look at the typical 20-pound household propane tank. These are approximately 45 centimetres tall with a diameter of 30 centimetres.

They are used for things like barbecues, fire pits and tables, or patio heaters. You can purchase or exchange them at hardware stores, supermarkets, or gas stations.

Propane is a non-toxic, colourless, odourless, and highly flammable hydrocarbon gas derived from natural gas processing and crude oil refining. It has a boiling point of -42 C, which makes it ideal for use in colder climates. It’s suitable for outdoor storage and year-round use.

How do I transport a propane tank?

You can use your vehicle to safely transport a propane tank to and from your home.

Place the tank in a well-ventilated part of the vehicle, like near a partially open window. Position the tank in a secure, upright position (even when it’s empty) so it doesn’t fall, slide, or roll during the trip. You can secure it to the seat with straps or place it on the vehicle floor.

Make sure the tank valve is closed, even when the tank is empty. Proceed directly to your destination and remove the tank to a safe outdoor area upon arrival. Never keep a full tank inside a hot vehicle or in the trunk, and never smoke inside the vehicle or anywhere near a propane tank.

Where should I store my propane tank?

Store your propane tanks outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from direct sunlight, ideally in the shade. The area in which you store the tank should not exceed 49 C. Place the tank in an upright position on a flat, level area at least 3 metres away from flammable materials. Never store the tank indoors or in an enclosed, poorly-ventilated space (such as a shed or garage) and avoid damp areas.

After barbecue season is over, you can store your propane tank outdoors during the winter months, despite the cold temperatures. You can place the tank under the grill’s cover to protect it from snow and ice. Or, cover the tank with a plastic tarp to prevent rusting. If you leave the tank under the barbecue, don’t forget to shut the valve.

Do I need to do anything to prepare the tank for storage?

Before you store the tank, look over the valves, the tank, and the connector hose for signs of wear and tear or leaks. Sometimes animals like mice or squirrels chew the hose, which can cause leaks.

You can check for leaks by spraying a non-abrasive soap mixture on the tank, the valves, and the hose, after disconnecting the tank. If you see any bubbles, this is a sign of leakage, and you should contact a propane supplier to dispose of the tank.

Never dispose of a propane tank with your regular recycling or garbage.

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Do propane tanks have an expiration date?

In Canada, propane tanks expire after 10 years and need to be recertified or requalified for safety reasons. Older tanks may develop leaks, rust, or punctures.

The date the tank was manufactured will appear on the tank’s collar as a marking such as 04 14 (as seen in the picture below). This means the tank was built in April 2014 and will need to be recertified in April 2024 (10 years from 2014).

Collar of a propane cylinder showing expiry date

If the date of manufacture is more than 10 years old, you will see a requalification stamp, which means it has been inspected by a certified requalifier. In this case, you will see a series of numbers ending in the letter E. For example, a marking of 04 PD3 14 E would mean that the tank was requalified in April 2014.

PD3 is the requalifier’s registered mark attributed by Transport Canada. The E stands for external visual inspection.

If your tank has passed the expiration date and has not been recertified or requalified, you can no longer use it and must dispose of it. A propane cylinder can not be thrown out with your regular, household waste; typically, hardware stores or supermarkets will accept expired tanks.

Propane tanks and home insurance

Propane tanks fall under personal property coverage, just like the equipment to which they’re attached.

In the event of a propane explosion, your home insurance provider may provide a settlement to help cover damage. Though home insurance policies are all different, most do cover accidental propane tank explosions.

Common exclusions are for explosions caused intentionally (of course), or from explosions relating to terrorism or nuclear disasters. Of course, the latter two have little to do with your propane tank.

Commonly asked questions

Where can I get a propane tank?

You can find propane tanks at hardware stores, supermarkets and gas stations. When your tank is empty, you can return to these places to exchange it for a new one. You can also have it refilled at a refilling station.

How long does a propane tank last?

Generally speaking, a 20-pound propane tank used for cooking on a medium-sized grill should give you about 20 hours of cooking time, while a larger grill would burn through the tank in around 10 hours.

Is propane eco-friendly?

Propane is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. It is considered a green fuel because it is eco-friendly before and after combustion. If propane leaks into the atmosphere, it doesn’t cause any damage, unlike natural gas, which contains the greenhouse gas methane.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home and Personal Safety resource centre to find more information about protecting your family and your home. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

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