How to Care for a Propane Tank
Unlike natural gas, propane isn’t something you can just set up and forget. Propane tanks require care and attention to keep your gas grill running smoothly, not to mention that without proper maintenance they can pose a serious risk to your family and home. Tanks are certified for 12 years, after which they can be re-certified for another 5 years. Natural wear and tear will eventually force you to trade your propane cylinder in for a new one, but there are a few precautions you can take to extend its lifespan as long as possible.
Propane Tank Storage
The biggest safety concern with propane cylinders is a potential gas leak, which is why they must always be kept outdoors in a well-ventilated area unless they are verified to be completely empty. If a propane tank stored indoors or in a garage were to begin leaking, the gas could pool and ignite with even a tiny spark (propane is denser than air, so it will collect near the ground). Outdoor propane leaks, meanwhile, will spread into the atmosphere with no risk of building up and exploding unless the leak is substantial. Just be sure to keep your tank stored far from doorways and windows so leaks don’t travel into your home.
Always keep your propane tank upright so the relief valve — which triggers when internal pressure changes — is never in contact with the liquid propane itself. It’s also a good idea to place your cylinder on a level, raised surface like a wooden pallet or cinder blocks because prolonged contact with wet ground will cause it to rust and become unusable. Constant shade isn’t necessary for propane tanks, but it will help them maintain stable internal pressure. And though freezing temperatures aren’t a concern either, your cylinder could benefit from a tarp covering or insulated blanket during extreme cold spells.Shop Propane Tank Covers
Refilling Your Propane Tank
The biggest difference between natural gas and propane is that you can run out of propane (natural gas will continue being piped into your home as long as you pay your utility bill). This means that you’re responsible for refilling an empty tank, which is usually less expensive than outright exchanging it for a new one at a grocery or convenience store. A simple web search for “propane refills near me” should turn up plenty of locations where you can get more fuel. Many U-Haul, farm supply, and hardware stores offer this service, and you can also likely get refills from a nearby propane supplier.
When to Swap Propane Tanks
Following proper storage guidelines can allow you to reuse your propane tanks for years, but you’ll eventually need to trade them in for new ones at your local convenience store or propane company. Visible rust or gouges on the exterior of the tank are telltale signs that it’s time to exchange your propane cylinder as soon as possible. If you sense something else is wrong with your tank, you can always bring it to a propane distributor for inspection.
Don’t be alarmed if the regulator lightly hums while in use. It’s also common for the exterior of the tank to form a thin layer of sweat or frost when it’s pumping propane to your grill — this is just condensation forming because of the pressure difference between the inside of the tank and the surrounding air.
Propane Tank Safety
Because gas leaks are your main concern, you should always make sure the hose of the propane tank is securely connected to the grill when in use and that the valve is completely shut when not in use. If you smell gas, your tank is likely leaking and needs to be inspected immediately. We also recommend that you never store more than one tank in a grill cart and that you slowly open the valve when feeding gas to your grill.
One final thing to be aware of: There’s a pinhole-sized vent on your regulator that helps the tank maintain pressure and function properly. You should position the regulator with the vent facing down so dust and water don’t clog it.