Propane Safety

What is Propane?

In its natural state, propane is an odorless and colorless gas that is widely used to fuel appliances for heating, cooking and other uses. While propane is used as a gas for fueling appliances, it is transported and stored as a liquid under high pressure in specially designed containers referred to either as tanks or cylinders. When liquid propane changes into a gas vapor, it expands in volume by about 270 times, meaning that propane is very economical to store and transport as a liquid rather than as a gas vapor. However, this characteristic also means that even a small leak of liquid propane can result in a much larger quantity of propane vapor, which can be especially dangerous in a confined space.

Similar to any other flammable gas or flammable liquid, propane is very safe when stored and handled properly. However, if propane is not properly and safely stored and handled, it can cause property damage, injuries, or even death. For this reason, it is important for the safety of the members of your household that they have a thorough understanding of the properties and characteristics of propane, and the hazards and risks associated with its use.

Properties and Characteristics of Propane

  • A chemical odorant has been added to propane to give it a distinct smell
  • Propane is stored as a liquid under pressure in tanks and cylinders
  • In most residential applications, propane is used as a vapor
  • If propane comes in contact with your skin, it can result in frost burns
  • Concentrations of propane may cause flash fires or explosions
  • Propane vapor is heavier than air, and it may collect initially at floor levels or in other low areas before it begins to dissipate; therefore, to check for the presence of propane, carefully smell all over a room, especially in low spots
  • Even a slight gas odor may signal a serious propane gas leak, and you should take immediate action if you smell gas or suspect a leak

Propane’s Odor

The purpose of the added odorant is to help us detect the presence of propane. It is important that members of the household are able to distinguish the smell of odorized propane.

A person may be unable to smell the odorant when:

  • They have a medical condition, cold, allergies or congestion.
  • They use tobacco, alcohol and/or drugs.
  • They have a declining sense of smell.
  • They have been exposed to the odorant for a period of time, causing olfactory fatigue.
  • There is odor masking where stronger odors are masking the odorant.
  • Leaking gas is passing through soil, which may reduce the smell of the odorant.
  • They are asleep and unable to smell the odorant as well as if they were awake.

If you smell a leak, please visit our Propane Emergencies page and follow the detailed steps.

Propane Detectors

  • Propane detectors are an added safety precaution to detect leaks. Propane detectors are simply an aid and are not intended to replace proper safety procedures when a person smells propane, even when the detector’s alarm has not yet been activated.
  • It is extremely important to follow manufacturers’ instructions when installing a detector.
  • Purchase a detector that is listed with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Energy Partners sells a detector that can detect propane, methane and carbon monoxide. Please call your local branch office for more information.