11 Common Propane Tank Problems (and how to take care of them)
Propane is a useful, reliable energy source, and you may be drawn to it for a number of reasons. Maybe you’re building an off-grid cabin in the woods. Maybe you want to power a backup generator so that you’ll always be prepared in a power outage. Maybe your business uses a lot of propane-powered equipment, and you want to keep a generous supply on hand.
Or perhaps you just want a clean, reliable energy source for your home.
Whether you already use propane or are just getting started, you should be aware of potential problems that may arise with your propane tank and how to solve them.
Thankfully, you can easily avoid most propane tank problems by keeping your tank well-maintained and in good repair. Here at Affordable Tanks, we offer tank servicing and repairs that will alleviate problems before they even begin!
That being said, let’s go into more detail on the eleven problems you may encounter with your propane tank and the best solutions.
1. Propane Leaks
Your propane tank setup should not leak. Leaks waste propane and can be very dangerous.
Not only is propane toxic if you inhale too much of it, but it’s also dangerous to have a flammable gas floating freely in your home. If you have a propane leak inside your home, you should immediately put out any open flame and exit the house. Then you should shut off the propane supply and call your repairman to see if they can do an emergency repair.
For immediate help, you can also dial 9-1-1.
Propane may also leak from the tank itself or from the valve or outdoor gas line. An outdoor leak is not as immediately dangerous, but you still want to get it fixed as quickly as possible.
So how can you tell if your propane is leaking?
The easiest way to tell is by smell. Propane itself is odorless, so manufacturers mix it with a pungent chemical called mercaptan. The added mercaptan gives propane its characteristic “rotten egg” smell, which makes it easy to detect leaks before they become too dangerous.
If you hear a hissing sound at any of the connections, that’s another indication that you might have a leak.
To check for leaks yourself, you can buy a liquid gas leak detector from your hardware store. If you apply the liquid to your gas lines and connections, it will form bubbles if there are any leaks. This will help you detect micro leaks that may be wasting your propane.
However, the best way to deal with leaks is to prevent them from ever happening in the first place!
If you get your propane system checked over every few years, your propane service technician will notice any problem areas and prevent possible leaks before they even happen.
2. Tubing Malfunctions
While propane tanks themselves are very sturdy, the tubing that connects the tank to your home is a different story. Although it does its job well when properly maintained, it can cause some headaches.
First, it’s best to get your tubing installed by a professional. If you attempt to do it yourself, you’re more likely to make a mistake that will cost you more in the long run. Also, you’ll have to check with your local code authorities and obtain the right permits. A professional propane tank installer will have the tools and expertise to install it correctly, safely, and legally.
Even then, your tubing will be one of the weaker spots on your system, more susceptible to leaks and wearing out than your tank. Keep a close eye on it and check it periodically for leaks.
If you’re not careful, you may disconnect the tubing by accidentally catching it with a weed eater, lawnmower, or another piece of equipment.
So what can you do to protect your propane tank tubing?
There are several solutions to this problem. You could create a mulched flower bed around your propane tank, or cover the ground around your propane tank with gravel, so you won’t need to mow or weed-eat close to the tank. You might also consider buying an underground tank.
If you do notice a leak or need your tubing serviced in any way, it’s best to call in a professional.
With smaller tanks, such as 20 lb tanks, you may try to change the tubing yourself, but it can be challenging to find the correct thread. Instead of buying it online, take it to a hardware store where you can compare your tubing to make sure you’re getting something that fits your tank correctly.
Bigger tanks, such as 120 gallon, 500 gallon, or 1000 gallon tanks, should always be serviced by a professional.
Want to learn more about different propane tank sizes? Check out our blog: What Size Propane Tank Do I Need?
3. Regulator Malfunctions
The propane inside your tank is highly pressurized, and your regulator converts it to the correct pressure for your appliances. If your regulator is worn out or damaged, it may leak, or the gas pressure can fluctuate, causing problems.
Signs of a malfunctioning propane tank regulator include:
Low propane flow
Fluctuating propane flow
Propane not coming out of your tank at all
Yellow flames instead of blue flames in your furnace or stove
A popping or roaring noise when you use your appliance
Smelling propane when you use your appliance
If you think your propane regulator is malfunctioning, ask your service provider to check it out. You’ll need to replace your regulator periodically to keep your propane system running smoothly.
If your regulator is over ten years old, you should get it looked at even if you’re not experiencing problems yet. Regulators do wear out with time, and it’s best to prevent issues before they happen.
4. Tank Malfunctions
Your propane tank is the sturdiest part of your propane system. If you’re having issues with your propane system, it’s likely not the fault of your tank.
However, propane tanks are not indestructible. They can break down, particularly if they rust. Smaller tanks expire 12 years from the date of manufacture, which you can find stamped on the collar. After 12 years, you’ll need to get your tank re-certified.
For larger tanks, laws can vary from state to state. If you’re renting a tank, the company you rent from is responsible for ensuring that your tank is certified correctly. If you buy your tank, be sure to buy from a reputable company that can service your tank and make sure it’s adequately certified.
Here at Affordable Tanks, we don’t just sell you tanks, but we ensure that the tank you buy is properly certified and in good working order. We are committed to keeping your tank serviced, well-maintained, and in compliance with all local laws.
5. Danger of Explosion
There’s a common misconception that propane tanks are explosive. Maybe you’ve seen an action movie where someone shoots a bullet at a propane tank and the whole thing explodes. Or perhaps the very idea of a pressurized tank full of a flammable substance seems scary and explodable.
But this is, for the most part, a myth. Propane tanks are specifically designed with safety in mind, and explosions are rare.
Even if someone shot your propane tank, it might not even rupture, and if it did, it would leak rather than explode.
Propane explosions are typically caused, not by the tank itself exploding, but by a gas leak in an enclosed space igniting somehow. That’s why the best way to prevent propane explosions is to keep your system serviced and watch out for leaks.
In the rare case that a propane tank does explode, its cause can be chalked up to extreme abnormal circumstances, such as someone foolishly cutting into their propane tank with power tools. Propane tanks can also explode during a fire, but propane tanks are so sturdy that they sometimes even survive fires intact.
Of course, if your tank is subjected to any extreme circumstance like a fire or a stray bullet, it should be examined by your service provider and probably replaced.
Also, safety regulations are there for a reason, and it’s vital to get your tank installed by a reputable installer who will comply with all safety guidelines.
Finally, to be on the safe side, keep your small, portable tanks away from extreme heat. Don’t place your tanks in places that can heat up, like the trunk of a car. Store them out of direct sunlight and keep them away from open flames.
Ultimately, unless your propane tank is exposed to extreme heat or fire, it won’t explode.
6. Danger of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Propane, like other fuels, produces carbon monoxide (CO) when it is burned. If your appliance is not combusting correctly or if there isn’t enough oxygen in the room, burning propane or other fuels can produce excess amounts of CO, which builds up in your bloodstream and could kill you.
Dangerous levels of CO can happen if your appliances are improperly installed, improperly maintained, defective, or if venting systems are blocked. The first line of precaution against CO poisoning is to make sure all your appliances are safe and working correctly.
You should also install CO detectors inside your home or business.
It’s also important to recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning so that you can be prepared if the worst happens. Seek fresh air immediately if you experience
Shortness of breath
7. Regulation Difficulty
When the electricity is down but all your appliances are humming along just fine thanks to your backup generator, propane can make you feel like the most prepared person in the world.
On the other hand, when you wake up cold in the middle of the night because you didn’t realize you were running low on propane, you can feel like the least prepared person in the world.
For decades, propane users have been frustrated by the hassle and headache of keeping track of their propane levels. For smaller tanks that don’t have gauges, you pretty much have to weigh them to know how much propane you have left.
Larger tanks have a gauge on them so you can know when to call your supplier for a refill. However, it can be a hassle to trek out to your tank whenever you want to know how much propane you have left.
Thankfully, modern technology offers a much better operating system. You can buy a wireless propane tank monitor which will send propane tank levels directly to your phone!
It has never been easier to keep on top of your propane tank refills.
Of course, you’ll still need to take the initiative to keep track of your levels and schedule refills. But when the electricity goes out and everyone else is in a panic, you’ll be all set with plenty of fuel for all your needs.
PRO TIP: Fill your tank before winter sets in. There may be propane shortages through the winter, particularly in cold climates.
8. Using Too Much Propane
People who switch to propane, particularly when they use propane to heat their home, sometimes worry that they’re using too much.
How can you know if you’re using appropriate amounts of propane?
First, keep in mind that propane use fluctuates depending on the circumstances. For instance, if you’re heating your house with propane, you’ll use a lot more of it in the winter than in the summer. But if you’re worried that you’re using too much propane, here are some things you can do.
Talk to your propane provider and ask how your propane usage compares to other people with similar-sized homes.
Make sure your home is adequately insulated.
Get your propane tank system serviced and check for leaks.
Consider replacing your furnace or other appliances. An older furnace may not be as efficient as a newer one.
Consider buying a thermal camera to see where heat leaks out of your home.
Check with your electric company to see if they do home audits to see where your heat is leaking out.
9. Lack of Space For a Tank
The bigger the propane tank, the further it’s required to be from your home or other buildings.
It also can’t be too close to the property line. This can make it challenging to find space in your yard for a propane tank.
You’ll also need enough space for a truck to maneuver onto your property to install the tank.
An underground tank will make your yard feel more spacious than an above-ground tank will, but an underground tank has its own set of issues. You’ll have to think about other cables and systems that may already be buried in your yard, such as electrical wires or a septic tank.
Frankly, some people simply do not have the space.
However, sometimes it’s difficult to assess for yourself whether you have the space or not. It’s best to contact a propane tank installer who knows the local ordinances and how much space their truck will need to maneuver.
They will also help you figure out what size of tank you need, which in turn will determine how much space you need.
10. Unsightly Tanks
Maybe you like the idea of propane, and you have the space, but you just can’t stand the thought of some big ugly tanks in your yard. What are you going to do about it?
Well, you have multiple options.
The most aesthetically pleasing way to own a propane tank is to get an underground tank, which will keep everything neatly hidden away.
If you have an above-ground tank, you’ll just have to do your best. You need energy, and there is no way to 100% disguise that fact while still keeping safety precautions.
Still, there are things you can do, including
Growing a flower bed around your tank
Planting shrubs to disguise your tank
Getting a propane tank cover
Painting your tank
However, please talk to your propane tank servicer before attempting any of these concealment strategies. You’ll need to comply with all local laws and ensure that your tank can still be easily and effectively serviced.
11. Disposing of Old Tanks
If your tank is old, rusted, or defective in some way, you’ll want to replace it. However, disposing of an old tank can be complicated. You can’t just toss it in the trash since some residual propane will be left in the tank.
Depending on the size of your tank, you may not even be able to move it yourself.
Your options for disposing of an old tank are:
Calling your propane provider and asking if they’ll dispose of it for you
Contacting a hazardous waste disposal site and asking if they’ll take it
Talking to your local public works department about recycling your tank
For small tanks, your local hardware store may take them
For large tanks, if you wish to replace them, ask your propane tank dealer if they will dispose of your old tank before installing the new one
With the right precautions and proper maintenance, your propane tank will last you years and will be an excellent solution to your energy needs.
And if you run into any issues, we would be more than happy to help you out.
Here at Affordable Tanks, we offer a variety of propane tanks for sale, including:
Unsure about what size or configuration is right for you? We would love to assess your situation and help you figure it out! Contact us today for a free estimate.
We service many locations in Southeast PA and would love to provide you with the best prices and customer service in the area.
Call us at 717-548-3926!