No doubt you’ve heard. Your propane tank gauge should never fall below 20%. But do you know why? Because you rely on propane as a fuel source for your home or business. It doesn’t matter if you use it to heat your whole house or building, or to power a few appliances like generators, fireplaces, stoves, ovens, or heaters. You need to make sure your supply is always there, that your equipment is operating efficiently, and that both are happening safely. And that means making sure that your propane tank gauge doesn’t fall below 20%.
Many propane users worry less about running low because they use a supplier that provides them with automatic propane delivery. Still others have the added layer of protection of a remote propane tank monitor. But if you don’t know why these are so important, or if you are someone who prefers to check the tank yourself and call when you want a delivery, then you need to understand the risks associated with tanks running lower than 20% full.
How Propane Works
Propane is delivered as a pressurized liquid and pumped into a thick-walled storage tank. The liquefied petroleum changes to a gaseous form before it leaves the tank through a series of underground pipes to your boiler, furnace or appliances.
Propane is naturally non-toxic, colorless and odorless. To make propane easier to detect in the event of a leak or spill, an odor compound is added. Propane is highly flammable when mixed with oxygen. If leaked gas vapor reaches an ignition source in your home, such as smoking materials, electrical sparks, or unshielded flames, then a fire or explosion could occur.
Understanding Propane Tank Levels
Propane tanks are heat sensitive. Too much heat forms high pressure inside the tank. Above ground, tanks are painted white or silver to reflect heat. In cold weather or when the tank is almost empty, the gasses do not expand enough to fill the space within the tank. This results in low pressure.
In addition to having no heat, or your appliances not running efficiently or at all, there are serious safety hazards to running out of gas.
- When the gas runs out, valves or gas lines are left open making it possible that refills will leak out.
- An empty or near empty propane tank is a breeding ground for air and moisture to enter. This causes rust to build up, permanently weakening the tank.
- The rust also masks the odor from propane. As your propane level gets low, it is designed to emit a small propane smell which is similar to rotten eggs. This smell alerts the owner that it’s time for a refill or that there may be a leak.
Why 20% and What Do I Do If the Gauge Falls Below That?
20% is the magic number because there is still enough fuel in the tank to heat your home or run appliances for a few days. In addition, that level of propane, as long as it is only for a short period, won’t significantly jeopardize the integrity of the tank.
If your propane tank gauge is at or below 20%, knowing what to do in advance makes all the difference.
- Call your propane delivery company. Request a delivery as soon as they can get you on their route.
- Reduce your usage. While you likely have a few days of propane left, depending on the tank size, turning down the thermostat a few degrees and limiting your propane burning activities goes a long way toward extending your supply.
- The goal is not to let your pilot lights go out. If your propane tank gauge does dip below 10%, your technician is required to do a safety check which could result in an additional charge.
- If you run out, close all propane valves. This will protect against leaks when the tank is refilled. And call your delivery company immediately. According to federal code requirements set by the National Fire Protection Association, a qualified technician must perform a leak test and restart your system. So not only will you have to bear the cost of more fuel, but you’ll have the expense of a service call as well.
The Bottom Line – Trust Levco
Keep an eye on your propane gauge. Know the parts of your propane system and keep your furnace and appliances in good working order. And always plan on delivery when the gauge at 20% or a little higher. Better yet, set up automatic propane delivery with an experienced and reliable company like Levco.
Levco is a leader in helping customers understand and adhere to industry standards for the safe LP-Gas storage, handling, transportation, and use of propane. Give us a call at (203) 533-8249 or contact us today!
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