Propane is a versatile fuel used for heating, cooking, and powering appliances. Propane tanks, also known as cylinders, need to be stored properly to prevent leaks, corrosion, and other hazards. Understanding safe storage methods is essential for anyone using propane.
- Store propane tanks outdoors, at least 10 feet from buildings and ignition sources.
- Secure tanks upright on a firm, level surface.
- Protect valves with covers and keep them tightly closed.
- Check for leaks, rust, dents, or other damage before refilling.
- Never store propane indoors or in an attached garage.
Where Should You Store a Propane Tank?
The most important rule is that propane tanks should always be stored outdoors. They should be at least 10 feet away from buildings, vehicles, and any ignition sources like grills, fire pits, or pilot lights. This distance helps reduce the risk of explosion or fire in the event of a leak.
Propane is heavier than air and can pool in low spots if there is a leak. For this reason, do not store propane in basements, pits, below-ground shelters, or other subsurface locations. Vapor from a leak can accumulate in these areas and explode if ignited by a spark or flame.
Garages are also unsuitable for propane storage, even if detached from the home. The interior of a garage still presents a risk of explosion and fire. Propane tanks are best stored completely outdoors in a well-ventilated area.
Acceptable Outdoor Locations
– On exterior walls of buildings, as long as the tank is at least 10 feet from doors, windows, and ignition sources.
– In outdoor sheds or enclosures designed specifically for propane tanks.
– On residential decks or patios made of non-combustible materials like concrete.
– In carports or pergolas built with metal beams and an open-air roof.
– Beside or behind garages or workshops. Maintain the 10 foot clearance zone.
The open outdoor air will help quickly disperse any leaking gas and reduce risks. Just be sure tanks are not placed where vehicles may strike or damage them. Avoid storing propane near streets, alleys, or driveways if possible.
How to Position the Tank
Propane tanks come in a range of sizes from small camping cylinders to large capacity tanks for homes and businesses. Regardless of size, proper positioning is vital.
All propane tanks should be stored in the upright position on a flat, stable surface. The base of the tank must sit squarely on the ground surface. Concrete slabs, brick patios, gravel beds, and level dirt surfaces are ideal.
Never lay a propane tank on its side or at an angle. If a horizontal tank leaks, the liquid propane can pool and create a more concentrated vapor cloud at ground level. Always keep tanks vertical with valve fittings on top.
The storage location should be free of things that could puncture or damage the tank if it falls over. Remove any sharp rocks, construction debris, branches, and other objects that could pose a hazard. Try to avoid areas with routine foot traffic that could bump or knock over a tank.
Elevating the Tank
Some people recommend elevating propane tanks slightly off the ground using a cradle, stand, or concrete blocks. This can protect the base from corrosion due to moisture.
If you do opt to raise a tank off the ground:
– Use non-combustible materials only. Wood, plastic, and other combustibles could ignite if the tank leaks.
– Make sure supports keep the tank completely vertical and stable.
– The platform must support the full weight of a filled tank.
– Allow clearance underneath for mowing or weed trimming.
Improper elevation methods can result in an unstable tank that is more prone to falling over and disconnection. Unless you construct a sturdy platform, it is usually best to sit propane tanks directly on the ground.
Other Safety Precautions
Beyond location and positioning, a few other precautions can help you safely store propane tanks:
Use Tank Covers
Tank valve covers protect fittings from debris, dirt, and physical damage. Always keep covers secured except when connecting or disconnecting equipment.
For small camping cylinders, snap-on plastic covers are inexpensive and effective. Full size tanks usually come with a metal cover that screws into place. Always use manufacturer-approved covers and keep spares handy.
Check for Damage
Before refilling a propane tank or connecting it to equipment, make a thorough visual inspection. Look for:
– Dents, cracks, holes or other signs of corrosion.
– Damage to the base that could impair stability.
– Debris obstructing valve fittings.
– Loose, damaged or missing valve cover.
Carefully feel the tank and valves by hand to detect any irregularities not visible externally. Even minor damage can expand and lead to dangerous leakage under pressure. Never use damaged tanks – have them inspected by a propane supplier.
Consider Locks and Chains
Locking the tank’s valve cover and chaining large tanks to a fixed object can help deter tampering or theft. Just be sure locks do not obstruct access to the Emergency Shut Off Valve if needed. Use locks sturdy enough to resist bolt cutters and heavy tools.
Adhere “Flammable Gas” signs to tanks to make the contents and hazards clearly visible. For small cylinders, propane tank tags are a handy option. All labeling should be easy to read from a distance.
Keep Valves Closed
Except when actively dispensing fuel, all tank valves should be fully closed. Triple check that valves are completely sealed before leaving tanks unattended. A leak caused by an open valve can rapidly fill the storage area with flammable vapor.
Some additional precautions may be necessary depending on your specific situation:
Many homeowners exchange smaller cylinders through propane suppliers by swapping their empty tank for a full replacement. Always keep empties outdoors in the designated storage area. Never store them indoors while waiting for exchange.
RVs and Travel Trailers
Caravan and RV owners should store propane tanks exactly as they would for homes. Keep them disconnected from vehicles in outdoor areas when not in use. Never store tanks indoors, even when vacant.
Industrial forklift trucks commonly use large removable propane cylinders weighing over 100 lbs. Store these hefty empties in a secure upright position on a firm non-combustible surface, preferably in a locked cage or ventilated shelter.
Bulk Home Tanks
Bulk propane systems rely on fixed tanks permanently installed on the property and refilled by truck. Maintain clear access to bulk tank valves for emergency shut off. Keep the area free of flammable materials like dry leaves, mulch or debris.
Warning Signs of Improper Storage
Watch for these red flags that may indicate your propane storage needs improvement:
– Tanks tipping over, sliding across the ground, or generally unstable.
– Exposure to water accumulation or drainage.
– Rust, corrosion or caked-on debris on tanks or fittings.
– Faded or illegible tank labelling.
– Unprotected valves without covers.
– Tanks stored near roads, foot paths or vehicle routes.
– Cylinders kept indoors or inside garages and sheds.
– Tanks crowded close together in groups.
What Not to Do
To recap, avoid these hazardous practices when storing propane tanks:
- NEVER store propane indoors or in enclosed spaces like garages.
- DO NOT place near ignition sources or combustibles.
- No underground storage – keep tanks above ground.
- AVOID crowded tank arrangements without spacing.
- DO NOT store tanks horizontally or at odd angles.
- NEVER place tanks on unstable, uneven or soft surfaces.
Following the safety rules outlined in this guide will minimize risks and help ensure the integrity of your propane system and storage area. Being attentive and proactive reduces the chances of serious accidents.
Storing propane tanks properly is straightforward when you understand the basics of safe handling. Always keep tanks:
– Outdoors only
– 10+ feet from buildings and ignition sources
– Upright on a firm, flat surface
– With valves sealed using protective covers
– Free of damage, debris and moisture
– Separated from each other for stability
Avoiding indoor storage, maintaining accessibility, and checking tanks before refilling are also critical safety steps. With sensible precautions and vigilant monitoring, propane tanks can be securely stored for home and commercial use. Following best practices gives you peace of mind and reduces risks for your property, assets and individuals in the area.