Proper propane tank storage is an important part of using propane around the home. You may be using your tanks to fuel a grill or a portable heater, but if you're not storing your tanks safely, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of trouble. Depending on where you live, you may even have formal propane safety regulations for storage that you have to meet or face potential fines or other consequences. Fortunately, it isn't difficult to store your propane safely and prevent any unfortunate mishaps before they occur.
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Why Is Propane Tank Storage Important?
Propane is a great fuel with a number of uses. It burns cleanly and even a small 20-pound tank can provide hours of usage for your grill, generator or portable heater. Unfortunately, that's also part of the problem. Propane is very combustible and is under pressure within propane tanks. If the tank becomes damaged, the escaping gas could cause it to tear apart, and if exposed to a heat source, the propane itself could explode. Regardless of what causes it, an exploding propane tank will result in a lot of damage and could potentially cause serious injuries as well. Even if there isn't an explosive decompression, propane is heavier than air and a small leak could result in propane pooling in an area and potentially making people sick (assuming that it doesn't get ignited.)
Proper Propane Storage
Propane should always be stored outdoors, preferably at least 10 feet away from any other fuel sources. Place the tank on a flat piece of wood or specially designed propane tank stabilizer to keep it from tipping over during storage. If you have a shed, detached garage or other outdoor building that's several feet away from your house, store the propane there to protect it from winds and other weather that could damage the tank. If you're storing the tank for the winter, avoid the temptation to try and keep it warm by bringing it inside; the freezing point of liquid propane is lower than -304 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do store your propane tank inside a shed or similar structure, be sure to open the door and allow the shed to air out for a few minutes before going in to get the tank in case any propane has leaked out.
Propane Storage Cages
If you want some extra security and protection for your propane, you might consider getting a propane storage cage to keep it in. These cages are like the ones that retailers use to store the propane tanks they have for sale and feature metal racks held within a steel mesh cage. Attaching a padlock to the cage door ensures that no one can access your propane tanks without permission. Consumer models that hold two to four tanks (or more) range in price from $300 to $650 or more, with different cage models offering different storage capacities and construction materials. Some areas may have propane storage cage requirements if you plan on keeping multiple propane tanks together, so this may be important if you own multiple propane tanks.
Propane Tank Inspection
Before putting any propane tanks into storage, it's important to inspect them for damage or other problems. Be sure that the tank valve is completely closed and the regulator hose was properly disconnected, then look for damage to the valve and hose connection unit. Look for signs of obvious damage to the tank and listen for hissing or other noises that may indicate a leak. Check to see if the tank appears to be empty or overfull by weighing it and comparing the weight to the tare weight (T.W.) that's stamped on the neck of the tank; this number tells you what the tank weighs when empty, so any weight in excess of the tare weight indicates propane in the tank. Divide that number by 4.2 to calculate how many gallons are in the tank (as liquid propane weighs 4.2 pounds per gallon). If you suspect any damage or leaks once your inspection is complete, the tank needs to be replaced. If the tank seems to have more propane in it than its stated capacity, you'll need to take it to a professional who can relieve some of the pressure from the tank.