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Living Safely with Propane Appliances

How Important is Ventilation?

Propane requires a large volume of air to burn properly. In fact, 23.5 cubic feet of air is needed to burn just one cubic foot of propane. With adequate ventilation, an operating burner gives off a number of harmless products such as carbon dioxide and water vapour. A propane appliance starved of oxygen or poorly maintained can quickly produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. For safety sake, use your propane appliance only for the purpose for which it was designed. Don’t for example; use a cooking appliance as a space heater. Never use an unvented heater, even for temporary heating, in a residence, in any enclosed space, or any place where sleeping accommodation is provided. Carbon monoxide poisoning could result. Never store a propane cylinder indoors.

What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless and extremely toxic. Unconsciousness and death can result from prolonged exposure to the carbon monoxide produced by a malfunction or misuse of a combustion device. Poor ventilation will increase the risk. Carbon monoxide detectors are available that sound an alarm when dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are present. If any of the following symptoms should develop, get into the fresh air immediately or seek medical attention.

  • Headaches and tightness across the forehead
  • Weariness, weakness, dizziness, and nausea
  • Loss of muscular control
  • Watering and smarting of the eyes

How is Propane Stored?

For recreational use, propane is generally sold and stored in a cylinder. Assuming it’s kept in good condition, and within the 10 years inspection date, the cylinder can be refilled indefinitely. When properly filled, 80 per cent of the cylinder contains liquid propane. The space above the liquid, to the top of the cylinder, holds propane vapour. Enough space must be left in the cylinder to let liquid propane expand, if the cylinder is exposed to warmer temperatures.

Without the space, the “relief valve” may open and release propane, creating a potential safety hazard. The collars of the propane cylinders have markings “TC”, “CTC”, or “DOT” showing the cylinders have been made to an acceptable specification.

The Regulator

A regulator is located between the cylinder or tank and the connection to the appliance. The regulator reduces the gas pressure from the cylinder and maintains a constant pressure for delivery to an appliance. A regulator should always be installed with its vent opening pointing downwards. If this isn’t possible, cover the regulator with a proper cover to prevent the entry of rain, freezing snow or other liquids. The cover will also prevent the ice build up over the vent opening during the winter. A plugged regulator vent can cause excessive pressure resulting in high flames and explosions when the appliance is ignited or operating.

Check for Leaks

Before using a propane appliance, particularly if you have just connected a cylinder to it check for leaks using the methods outlined below.

Check for Leaks Instructions

  • Make up a dish soap and water solution.
  • Turn the cylinder valve on with the appliance shut off.
  • Spread the soap and water solution over the hose and the connections with a paintbrush.
  • Any leaks will result in bubbles forming in the solution.

If a Leak is Indicated

  • Shut off the cylinder valve immediately.
  • Repair any leak [follow manufacturer’s instructions].
  • Repeat “Check for Leaks Instructions” until no leaks are indicated before operating the appliance.
  • If you cannot stop the leaks, consult a certified propane fitter.

Never go over connections looking for leaks with a lighted match, cigarette lighter, or any other flame.