Propane is a safe and efficient fuel gas, but when it is mixed with oxygen in the air it is highly flammable. While leaks certainly aren’t common, when propane burns it forms carbon monoxide (CO), a deadly gas that doesn’t have any taste or smell. This is why Mark Heard Fuel Co. does everything possible to ensure our customers understand how to store propane safely and recognize the risks of potential leaks.
These are some of the questions customers often ask us, and the answers we give.
- If propane doesn’t smell how will I know it is leaking?
Manufacturers of propane add a strong rotten-egg smell to the gas so that users will smell it if it leaks. But unless you’ve smelt propane gas before you might not know what kind of smell to expect. For this reason, we suggest that when one of our delivery drivers brings fuel to your home, you ask him to identify the leaky smell you might expect.
- What should I do if I smell propane?
If you smell gas get everyone out of the building immediately. If safe to do so open windows to allow fresh air into the building. Shut off the main gas supply valve on the tank, cylinder, or appliance you think is releasing CO. Don’t turn electrical switches on or off, and don’t use phones, matches, or anything electrical.
If you don’t know where the supply shutoff valve is, please ask one of our drivers to show you. It’s one of those must know things.
- Will everyone smell the leaking gas?
No! Some people find it difficult to detect the smell of propane gas for various reasons including age, illness, allergies, and the presence of other odors. Somebody with a head cold or hayfever might miss the smell entirely. And if you’ve been cooking a spicy curry, that smell might overpower even potent propane gas smell.
Also, a leaking gas smell may not be strong enough to wake a sleeping person, or the smell might not be evident throughout the building.
- Is there anything I can do to ensure people in a home or building will know that propane is leaking?
Yes, you can. It is a good idea to consider installing a propane gas detector that will sense the gas even if you and others don’t smell it.
- Can Mark Heard Fuel help if we smell gas?
Absolutely. Get outside into the fresh air and once you are free from gas present in the atmosphere, call us for immediate assistance.
- Apart from the odor are there any other signs that propane might be leaking?
On rare occasions, propane might leak very slowly and contaminate the air with CO. You might notice that indoor plants start to die for no reason. There might also be evidence of condensation on cool indoor surfaces. Sometimes there will be discoloration or a soot buildup at the warm air outlets of heating systems.
- How does propane catch on fire?
If propane gas leaks out of tanks or cylinders and mixes with oxygen it can go up in flames very quickly. Common “sparks” that result in fire include lit cigarettes, electrical sparks, and even static electricity that you don’t even realize is there (such as that created from a cell phone).
- Are there any risks if I run out of gas?
Not under normal circumstances, but to be sure the State of Georgia has strict out-of-gas regulations that have been drawn up in collaboration with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to protect your family and property.
For example, the regulations require anyone delivering propane to an out-of-gas customer (or a new customer) to perform a complete system check. It’s nothing major, but it does take time, an adult must be present, and there will be an added charge of $50 during normal hours and $100 after hours and holidays.
- What does an out-of-gas inspection involve?
Essentially a leak and safety check, an out-of-gas check includes an inspection of all lines, appliances, regulators, and control valves in your system. A thorough safety check can take as long as an hour to complete and the propane customer is required to be present. MHF always warns customers of the charge for this pressure/system check – which is $50 during normal hours and $100 after hours and holidays.
- Is there anything I can do to minimize the possibility of leaks?
Yes. Make sure all appliances that operate using propane are regularly maintained as well as being outfitted with the right parts to run propane gas. Most appliances manufactured and set up to run natural gas. When you new appliances, make sure yours is set up to run on the correct fuel or order the appropriate conversion kit. We install nearly all propane appliances. As a last measure of minimizing leaks, a qualified service technician should perform an appliance inspection. Contact us for more information in terms of frequency and pricing. We’ll make sure you stay safe.
- What other tips can you give me?
Don’t take it for granted that everyone knows what to do if they smell leaking gas. If you’re using propane in your home, office, church, or factory, please ensure each and every person knows what to do if they smell gas or think the air might be contaminated.
We can assure you that propane gas is convenient and safe. But it is absolutely essential to follow certain procedures to avoid accidents. Here are some useful tips:
- Be sure to have your propane appliances installed and maintained by a reputable propane supplier.
- Be ultra-aware that poisonous CO can be produced from incorrectly installed appliances.
- Make sure your appliances are properly vented (when required). We are available to inspect installations and venting systems to make sure they are compliant and correctly installed. Talk to us if you aren’t sure.
- Always have a BC-rated portable fire extinguisher handy. Be sure it is charged and you know how to use it. Don’t be embarrassed to ask us what to do. MHF is here to help.
- Do not tamper with any of your appliances. If you smell gas don’t light the appliance. Remember: If you can’t light it, don’t fight it!
- Keep your head away from the valves on your propane tank or cylinder. A sudden discharge could result in injury. Stay safe rather than risk being sorry.
- Water can damage control valves on appliances. If the control gets wet replace it. It’s not worth the risk keeping them.
Don’t ever try to be a hero. There is always the danger of fire or even an explosion. Rather evacuate your house, office, or factory, and call for help.
When used properly, propane is an exceptionally safe energy source. Mark Heard Fuel Co. is here to help it stay that way.