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Propane Safety Tips for Consumers: What to do if you smell gas

Date: February 5, 2019

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Propane has an excellent safety record—both as a residential and commercial fuel. This is due in large part to strict safety standards that have been established by the National Propane Gas Association. These standards and guidelines cover everything from filling portable cylinders to running fuel lines to hooking up appliances and installing propane tanks.

Periodically, your propane company will mail you information that explains steps to take if you smell gas, as well as topics like propane gas detectors, carbon monoxide safety, general appliance safety tips and more.

What to do if you smell gas

Propane is an odorless gas, but propane manufacturers add an odor to alert homeowners in case of a gas leak. This smell has been compared to rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or even a dead animal. Make sure everyone in your home can recognize the smell. If you are concerned that you or others in your home may have difficulty smelling propane, consider installing one or more propane gas detectors.

Here’s what to do (and what not to do) if you smell propane in your home or business:

  • DO get everyone out of the home and away from nearby areas.
  • DO attempt to shut off the valves at the tank if it is safe to do so.
  • DO call your propane supplier and the fire department for help from a telephone that is away from the home or business.
  • DO NOT attempt to find the leak.
  • DO NOT attempt to repair your appliance or relight your pilot.
  • DO NOT turn on or off light switches inside the home.
  • DO NOT use a phone inside the home or in nearby areas.
  • DO NOT light matches anywhere inside or near the home.
  • DO NOT return to the building or area until it is determined to be safe by the responders.

Preventive maintenance

Without question, propane is one of the safest fuels you can choose for your home. But to stay as safe as possible, you should always pay close attention to the operation of your gas appliances. The best way to keep all your propane equipment running properly is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for preventive maintenance. Be sure to consult your owner’s manuals for what’s required.

Appliance safety tips

When gas appliances operate properly, propane burns with a blue flame. If you see yellow flames—or notice significant amounts of soot on any equipment–the gas may not be burning completely. This can create carbon monoxide. Contact your propane company for service if you notice a yellow flame or soot on your appliances.

You should also regularly check the outdoor vents of your appliances to make sure combustion gases flow unobstructed to the outdoors. Insects, birds and small animals have been known to build nests in vent pipes. To prevent any damage, use a broom or a soft brush to gently remove any obstructions you find in your vents.

When it comes to propane repairs, don’t do it yourself

In this digital age, the initial response to solving a problem is to go online and do research. That’s why do-it-yourself (DIY) projects are such a big trend these days. It seems like people of all ages and skill levels are checking out You Tube videos for a quick-fix way to heal whatever ails their Arizona home.

But what those videos don’t usually show is what happens when that amateur repair doesn’t go as planned. Over the years, there have been some costly—and even dangerous consequences. That’s especially true when someone starts fiddling around with gas appliances.

Propane repairs present unique challenges that more often than not require extensive training and expensive diagnostic equipment to assess and fix.

Attempting to fix or modify a propane appliance can cause severe damage and lead to dangers like explosions or carbon monoxide leaks.

The bottom line: If you need a propane repair, don’t attempt to do it yourself–contact your local propane professional.They have the training, experience, and tools to find and fix your problem quickly, correctly and safely so you can focus on the things that matter in your life – like having fun with your family.

More safety tips

  • Make sure that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are installed on every level of your home, following manufacturer’s recommendations for placement and maintenance. Test your CO detectors every year, and replace batteries at the beginning of each heating season (you should replace the whole unit every five or 10 years, depending on the unit you have).
  • If you have a propane backup generator, make sure it has enough fuel to run for at least a week in the event of a power outage. Run your generator periodically to make sure it is operating properly. This will also help critical moving parts remain lubricated.

If a severe storm is forecast:

  • Always follow the instructions of local authorities for evacuations and shelter-in-place emergencies.
  • Clear debris from vents, chimneys, and flues after a storm to prevent a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide. You should also keep a clear path to your propane tank to ensure efficient deliveries.
  • If you suspect that any of your propane equipment has been damaged or is not working properly, do not attempt to operate them. Have them professionally serviced right away. Remember: if your gas supply is shut down for any reason, safety codes require you to call in a licensed professional to restart your system.

Read more safety tips here and then contact your propane company if you have any questions or concerns.