What is Propane?
Propane is a hydrocarbon (C3H8), sometimes referred to as liquefied petroleum gas, LP-Gas, or LPG.
It is produced from both natural gas processing and crude oil refining. While propane is used
as a gas, 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. 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 dangerous in a confined space.
If stored and handled properly, propane is very safe. 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 your safety to have a thorough understanding of the
properties and characteristics of propane and the hazards and risks associated with its use.
Properties & Characteristics of Propane
• In its natural state, propane is an odorless and colorless gas.
• A chemical odorant is 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.
Know the Odor of Propane
In its natural state, propane is odorless and colorless. A chemical odorant has been added
to give a distinct smell to the propane. The purpose of the odorant is to help people detect
the presence of propane. It is important that everyone involved be able to distinguish the
smell of odorized propane. Under certain conditions, a person may be prevented from
smelling the odorant, i.e.:
• Cold, allergies, congestion or other similar medical conditions.
• Use of tobacco, alcohol and/or drugs.
• Decline in a person’s sense of smell.
• Olfactory fatigue from being exposed to the odorant for a period of time.
• Odor masking where strong odors can overpower the smell of the odorant.
• Leaking gas passing through soil may reduce the smell of the odorant.
• The odorant in the propane may not awaken a sleeping person.
If you Smell a Leak
• DO get everyone out of the home or facility and away from the site.
• DO NOT attempt to find the leak.
• DO NOT attempt to repair your equipment or light your pilot light.
• DO NOT turn on or off light switches.
• DO NOT use a telephone inside the home or facility or nearby area.
• DO NOT light matches anywhere inside the home or facility.
• DO attempt to shut off the valves at the tank
• DO call Propane Northwest and the fire department for help from a telephone away
from the home or facility.
Propane Gas Detectors
• Propane gas detectors are available as an extra measure to detect leaks.
• Gas detectors are only an aid and are not intended to reduce or eliminate proper
safety procedures when a person smells the odor of gas, even when the alarm on
the gas detector has not been activated.
• If is extremely important to follow manufacturer’s instructions when installing a detector.
• When selecting a gas detector, you should only choose detectors that are listed with the
Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Maintaining Your Propane System
The propane system at your home or business should be installed, maintained and repaired
only by qualified personnel. Call a qualified service technician to light or re-light pilot lights
on your appliances.
• DO NOT bleed gas lines into enclosed areas.
• DO NOT tamper with gas controls on your appliances.
• DO NOT use appliances that have been flooded or have become wet, since the controls
can be damaged or become rusty and malfunction, causing the safety feature built into
the controls to permit a dangerous leak of propane.
• DO have wet or flooded appliances and controls serviced immediately.
• DO NOT let your propane system run out of propane. If it happens, turn off the gas valve
on the tank or cylinder and call APP Propane.
• DO have your propane system and all appliances periodically checked by a qualified
service technician for proper operation and safety.
• Not maintaining all of your appliances in good repair can result in potentially fatal carbon
• Improperly vended appliances can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms of
carbon monoxide poisoning may include on or more of the following: eye irritation,
headaches, dizziness, sleepiness or excessive moisture buildup on the inside
• If you identify any of the above-noted symptoms, ventilate immediately (open windows
and doors) and call a qualified service technician for help. Never use camping
equipment or portable heaters that are not designed for recreational vehicles.
• Consider installing one or more carbon monoxide detectors inside of your home or
recreational vehicle, which may sound an alarm to warm you of the presence of carbon
Small Cylinder Safety
• Use only DOT-approved cylinders that are in good condition.
• Propane will expand and contract depending on the temperature.
• Cylinders should only be filled to 80% of capacity.
• Never use propane from a cylinder without a regulator.
• Do not use matches or lighter to check for leaks.
• Turn off the valves on the cylinder when not using.
• Never store a cylinder indoors or in an enclosed vehicle.
• When transporting a cylinder, make sure that it is secured and in the upright position,
so that the valves are in the vapor space.
• Never smoke or have open flames near propane cylinders.
• When filling cylinders attached to your vehicle, be sure that all sources of ignition are
shut off; this includes pilot lights and vehicle engines.