Propane (also called LPG—liquefied
petroleum gas—or LP gas) is a widely used fuel. It
is transported and stored as a very cold liquid, and
can cause a “freeze burn” or frostbite if it
contacts the skin. The liquid propane is turned into
a gas inside a tank or a cylinder. In its natural
form, propane is colorless and odorless. To make
propane easier to detect in the event of a leak or
spill, manufacturers deliberately add a chemical
compound to give it a distinctive smell.
Propane is flammable when mixed with
air (oxygen) and can be ignited by many sources,
including open flames, smoking materials, electrical
sparks, and static electricity.
Propane vapors are heavier than air.
For this reason, they may accumulate in low-lying
areas such as basements, crawl spaces, and ditches,
or along floors. However, air currents can sometimes
carry propane vapors elsewhere within a building.
DOES PROPANE GET TO YOUR HOUSE?
It is important to become familiar
with the parts of your propane system so that you
can take quick and appropriate action in case of a
leak or other emergency. The illustration at left
shows a typical home propane system.
Propane is delivered to your home as
a very cold liquid and is pumped into a specially
designed storage tank (A). The liquid changes to gas
before it leaves the tank. Propane tanks are
typically painted white or silver to reflect heat
and prevent the pressure inside the tank from
getting too high.
If you have an underground tank, only
the cover (B) will be visible above ground.
The cover on top of the tank protects
several components from weather and physical damage,
The tank shut-off valve (C),
which you can close to stop the flow of propane
to your home in case of a leak or other
The regulator (D), which controls
the pressure of the propane gas coming out of
The safety relief valve (E),
which will pop open automatically if the
pressure inside the tank gets too high. The
valve will close again when the pressure returns
The tank gauge (F), which shows
the percentage of propane in the tank.
Propane flows from your tank to your
home through pipes (G), most of which run
You may also have a secondary
pressure regulator (H) on an outside wall of your
home to further adjust gas pressure.
A shut-off valve (I) in each pipe can
be closed to stop gas flow to an individual
An appliance connector (J) is the
final segment in the gas piping system. This
specially designed flexible tube—typically 2 or 3
feet long—carries gas from a pipe to the back of an
IS FLAMMABLE VAPOR IGNITION?
FLAMMABLE VAPORS ARE A SERIOUS
Vapors from flammable
products—such as gasoline, kerosene, paint
thinner, and solvents —can be ignited
accidentally by the pilot light of a propane
Flammable vapors are often
heavier than air and may travel along the ground
and collect in low or confined areas (such as a
basement or pit). Sometimes the vapors may
follow air currents in the building to higher
levels. Any source of ignition in these areas
(such as a pilot light, spark, heater element,
or electric motor) could cause an explosion or a
TO HELP REDUCE THE RISK OF
FLAMMABLE VAPOR IGNITION:
Store flammable liquids in
well-sealed containers outside.
Do not use gasoline, cleaning
fluids, oil-soaked rags, or other flammable
liquids inside a building where propane
appliances are located.
PROPANE VAPORS CAN BE DANGEROUS.
Propane vapor is also combustible and can ignite
explosively. Keep propane storage containers closed.
Never store propane cylinders in an enclosed area,
or near a heat or ignition source.
SHOULD I DO IF I SMELL GAS?
NO FLAMES OR SPARKS!
Immediately put out all smoking materials and
other open flames. Do not operate lights,
appliances, telephones, or cell phones. Flames
or sparks from these sources can trigger an
explosion or a fire.
LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY!
Get everyone out of the building or area where
you suspect gas is leaking.
SHUT OFF THE GAS.
Turn off the main gas supply valve on your
propane tank if it is safe to do so. To close
the valve, turn it to the right (clockwise).
REPORT THE LEAK.
From a neighbor’s home or other nearby building
away from the gas leak, call your propane
retailer right away. If you can’t reach your
propane retailer, call 911 or your local fire
DO NOT RETURN TO THE BUILDING
OR AREA until your
propane retailer, emergency responder, or
qualified service technician determines that it
is safe to do so.
GET YOUR SYSTEM CHECKED.
Before you attempt to use any of your propane
appliances, your propane retailer or a qualified
service technician must check your entire system
to ensure that it is leak-free.
TO RECOGNIZE THE SMELL OF PROPANE
Propane has a strong, unpleasant
smell like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead
animal. Propane manufacturers add the smell
deliberately to help alert customers to propane
leaks, which can create a safety hazard.
TAKE THE SNIFF TEST. Teach
everyone in your home or building what propane
smells like. You can use the blue circle on the page
opposite of the inside front cover. Or, ask your
propane retailer for a demonstration.
CAN YOU SMELL IT?
It may be hard for some people to
smell propane for the following reasons:
They have a cold, allergies,
sinus congestion, or another medical condition.
Their sense of smell is reduced
due to use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.
Tobacco smoke, cooking odors, and
other strong odors can mask the smell of
As people age, their sense of
smell can become less sensitive.
If the smell of propane is
present in the air over a period of time, “odor
fatigue” can occur. The nose “gets tired,” and a
person no longer smells the propane odor.
The propane smell may not be
strong enough to wake up someone who is
The propane smell may be in a
location (basement or attic) where it is not
detected by people in other areas of the
A phenomenon called “odor loss”
can occur—an unintended reduction in the
concentration of the odor of propane (as
explained on page 8).
IS ODOR LOSS?
ODOR LOSS ALSO CAN DIMINISH
Odor Loss. On rare occasions, propane
can lose its odor. Several things can cause this
Air, water, or rust in a propane
tank or cylinder can reduce propane odor
If the propane is leaking
underground, its passage through soil may reduce
the smell of propane.
The propane odor may stick to the
inside surfaces of gas piping and distribution
systems and possibly other materials.
Since there is a possibility of
odor loss or problems with your sense of smell, you
should respond immediately to even a faint odor of
IF YOU ARE CONCERNED that you
or others in your home may have difficulty smelling
propane, consider buying one or more propane gas
ABOUT PROPANE GAS DETECTORS
CONSIDER INSTALLING GAS DETECTORS.
Under some circumstances, you may
not smell a propane leak. Propane gas detectors
are designed to sound an alarm if they sense the
presence of propane. Their operation does not
depend on the concentration of odorant in the
air, just the propane concentration at the
We recommend that you consider
installing one or more propane gas detectors.
This is important if you or others in your home
have difficulty smelling propane, or if
appliances are in little-used areas in your home
where the smell of propane might not be
detected. Detectors can provide an additional
measure of security.
DETECTOR QUALITY IS IMPORTANT. Be sure the
units you buy are listed by Underwriters
Laboratories (UL). To be sure propane gas detectors
operate properly, install and maintain them as the
TRUST YOUR NOSE. Never ignore
the smell of propane, even if no detector is
sounding an alarm to signal the presence of propane.
However, if a detector is sounding an alarm, treat
it as an emergency and act immediately, even if you
do not smell the propane.
CHECK YOUR PROPANE SYSTEM.
Even if you install gas detectors, have a qualified
service technician inspect your propane system and
propane appliances periodically.
ABOUT CARBON MONOXIDE (CO)
IS CARBON MONOXIDE? Carbon
monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless,
and toxic gas. Smoking a cigarette; idling a
gasoline engine; and burning fuel oil, wood,
kerosene, natural gas, and propane all produce CO.
High levels of CO can be produced when fuels are
WHERE DO HIGH LEVELS OF CO COME
FROM? High levels of CO can be generated by
appliances that are defective or improperly
installed or maintained. CO can also enter a home if
an appliance venting system or chimney becomes
blocked (for example, by a bird’s nest).
CO CAN BE DEADLY! High levels
of CO can make you dizzy, give you headaches, or
cause flu-like symptoms (see the list below). In
extreme cases, high levels of or extended exposure
to CO can result in brain damage or death. Young
children; the elderly; people with heart disease;
and those under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or
medication are particularly susceptible to CO
CO poisoning include:
• Headache •
Dizziness • Shortness of breath • Nausea
CO DETECTORS CAN IMPROVE SAFETY.
CO detectors are designed to sound an alarm when
they sense excessive levels of CO in the air. We
recommend that you consider installing a CO detector
listed by UL on each level of your home. Be sure to
follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding
installation, location, and maintenance. These
devices can provide an extra measure of safety.
IF YOU SUSPECT CO IS
PRESENT, ACT IMMEDIATELY!
If you or a family member shows
physical symptoms of CO poisoning, get everyone
out of the building and call 911 or your local
If it is safe to do so, open
windows to allow entry of fresh air, and turn
off any appliances you suspect may be releasing
If no one has physical symptoms
of CO poisoning, but you suspect that CO is
present, call your propane retailer or a
qualified service technician to check CO levels
and your propane equipment.
TO HELP REDUCE THE RISK OF CO
Have a qualified service
technician check your propane appliances and
venting systems annually, preferably before the
heating season begins.
Install UL-listed CO detectors on
every level of your home.
Never use a gas oven or range-top
burners to provide space heating.
Never use portable heaters
indoors, unless they are designed and approved
for indoor use.
Never use a barbecue grill
(propane or charcoal) indoors for cooking or
Regularly check your appliance
exhaust vents for blockage.
SIGNS OF IMPROPER APPLIANCE
OPERATION THAT CAN GENERATE HIGH CO LEVELS:
Sooting, especially on appliances
Unfamiliar or burning odor
Increased moisture inside of
HAPPENS IF I RUN OUT OF GAS?
DON’T RUN OUT OF GAS.
serious safety hazards, including fire or explosion,
If an appliance valve or a gas
line is left open when the propane supply runs
out, a leak could occur when the system is
recharged with propane.
Air and moisture could get into
an empty or depleted storage tank, which can
cause rust build-up inside the tank. Rust can
decrease the concentration of the odor of
propane, making it harder to smell.
If your propane tank runs out of
gas, any pilot lights on your appliances will go
out. This can be extremely dangerous if not
A LEAK CHECK IS REQUIRED.
In many states, a propane retailer or a
qualified service technician must perform a leak
check of your propane system before turning on
SET UP REGULAR DELIVERY.
Establish a regular delivery schedule with your
propane retailer. Also, periodically check the
fuel gauge on your propane tank. If the fuel
level drops below 20%, call your propane
I DO IF MY PILOT LIGHT GOES OUT?
IT IS STRONGLY
RECOMMENDED THAT A QUALIFIED SERVICE TECHNICIAN
LIGHT ANY PILOT LIGHT THAT HAS GONE OUT.
WHAT IS A PILOT LIGHT?
Many propane appliances may have a pilot light—a
small, constantly burning flame inside the
appliance. (Appliances without a pilot light often
have electronic ignition instead.) If your appliance
has a pilot light, it is an important safety
feature. The pilot light ignites the main burner
WHEN A PILOT LIGHT GOES OUT. A
pilot light that repeatedly goes out—or is very
difficult to light—may be signaling that there is a
problem with the appliance or with your propane
system. If this occurs, do not try to fix the
problem yourself. Contact a qualified service
technician to evaluate the appliance. Accidents and
serious injuries can occur when customers attempt to
fix a pilot light problem on their own.
IF YOU LIGHT A
PILOT LIGHT YOURSELF, you are taking the risk of
STARTING a fire or AN explosion. Many serious
injuries occur when people attempt to light pilot
lights. Proceed with great caution and follow these
Carefully follow all of the
manufacturer’s instructions and warnings concerning
If the appliance is in a basement or
closed room, thoroughly ventilate the area before
lighting the pilot.
smoke or have any source of ignition (such as
flames or spark-producing materials) in the area
before lighting the pilot.
Be especially alert for the smell
of propane. Sniff at floor level before lighting
IF YOU SMELL GAS, DO NOT LIGHT
THE PILOT LIGHT.
allow any extra or unnecessary people
(especially children) to remain in the room or
area of the building where you are lighting a
try to light pilot lights in any area where
other odors may make it difficult for you to
detect the smell of a propane leak.
light the pilot if a musty or damp smell
persists. These conditions can mask the smell of
apply force or use tools on the pilot light or
its control. This could cause damage that leads
to gas leakage. Use only your hands to operate
knobs, switches, or buttons.
attempt to let air out of gas lines by opening a
valve or fitting inside a building or enclosed
space. You may release gas and not be able to
apply oil to a sticky knob or button on a gas
control valve. Oil can cause the control valve
mechanism to stick and malfunction.
CAN I MAINTAIN MY APPLIANCES?
MAINTENANCE IS IMPORTANT.
All appliances using propane must be properly
maintained in order to operate safely, properly,
LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS.
Only a qualified service technician has the
proper training to install, service, maintain,
and repair your appliances. Make sure you have a
qualified service technician install and service
ANNUAL INSPECTION IS
IMPORTANT. Contact a
qualified service technician to perform an
BE SURE YOUR APPLIANCES CAN
Regularly check the vents of your appliances to
be sure that flue gases can flow easily to the
outdoors. Insects, birds, and small animals
sometimes build nests in vent pipes. Other
obstructions such as snow or ice may also occur.
If you see evidence of this, call a qualified
service technician. Also, clear the area around
your appliance to be sure plenty of air can
reach the burner for proper combustion.
store combustible materials near appliances.
WATCH FOR YELLOW FLAMES OR
SOOT BUILD-UP. When
appliances are operating properly, propane burns
with a blue flame. If you see yellow flames, or
notice significant amounts of soot on any
equipment, the gas may not be burning
completely. This can create carbon monoxide, a
colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas. Contact
a qualified service technician if any of the
above conditions occur.
WHAT IS AN
PROPERLY INSTALL AND MAINTAIN
CONNECTORS. The final
section of the system that brings gas to your
appliances is the appliance connector (see
illustration on page 24). It is important that
all appliance connectors are properly inspected,
installed, and maintained by a qualified service
HOW CAN I
MAINTAIN MY APPLIANCE CONNECTORS?
HAVE CONNECTORS CHECKED WHEN
MOVING OR REPLACING APPLIANCES.
Connectors can wear out from too much moving,
bending, or corrosion. Connectors should be
checked by a qualified service technician
whenever the appliance is replaced or moved from
USE ONLY APPROVED APPLIANCE
CONNECTORS. Make sure
that all connectors and gas piping/tubing that
bring propane to your appliances are installed
by a qualified service technician and approved
by the American National Standards Institute
HAVE OLDER APPLIANCE
Over time, some types of appliance connectors
can crack or break, resulting in a serious gas
leak and the possibility of fire or explosion.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
has warned that certain types of older
connectors are extremely dangerous. If you have
an appliance that is more than 20 years old,
have a qualified service technician inspect the
connectors to be sure they are safe and meet
current safety-code requirements.
DO NOT MOVE AN APPLIANCE
YOURSELF to check the
connector; this might damage the connector and
create a leak.
I DO IF I MOVE OR GET A NEW APPLIANCE?
TREAT CONNECTORS WITH CARE.
When an appliance is moved, be careful not to
damage the appliance connector (the flexible
tubing that brings gas to the unit). Older
connectors can crack if flexed or twisted, which
can lead to a gas leak.
IS THE APPLIANCE DESIGNED TO
USE PROPANE? Be sure
that any new or used appliance being installed
is designed for use with propane. Natural gas
appliances SHOULD NOT be used with
propane unless a qualified service technician
has made required adjustments to the appliance.
HAVE THE APPLIANCE CHECKED OUT
BEFORE YOU USE IT. Be
sure that the appliance is properly installed
and that all controls and valves operate
correctly. Contact a qualified service
technician for assistance.
CAP OR PLUG UNATTACHED GAS
LINES. If you move a
gas appliance and disconnect it from a gas line,
be sure to contact your propane retailer or a
qualified service technician to close, cap, or
plug the open gas line. Any connectors or gas
line not connected to an appliance can leak gas,
or can be damaged if water accumulates inside
it. The valve on any unattached gas line must be
closed, and the open end must be sealed by
installing a threaded cap or plug.
HOW CAN I
KEEP MY HOME SAFE WHEN I AM AWAY FOR AN EXTENDED
KEEP YOUR HOME SAFE WHEN YOU’RE
AWAY. If you’re leaving
your home for an extended period, consider closing
all propane supply valves. This includes the main
gas supply valve on the propane tank as well as gas
supply valves located near individual appliances.
WHEN YOU RETURN to your home
after an extended absence, contact your propane
retailer or a qualified service technician to
conduct a leak check before the propane is turned on
and to re-light the pilot lights.
I DO IF I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY PROPANE APPLIANCES
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES
try to modify or repair valves, regulators,
connectors, controls, or other appliance and
cylinder/tank parts. Doing so creates the risk
of a gas leak.
CALL AN EXPERT.
If you are unable to operate any part of your
propane system, or if you think an appliance or
other device is not operating properly, call
your propane retailer or a qualified service
technician. They can inspect, adjust, repair, or
replace any part of your propane system.
YOUR PROPANE SYSTEM IS
DESIGNED FOR SAFETY.
Propane cylinders, tanks, and appliances
incorporate special components (such as valves,
connectors, controls, burners, and pilot lights)
to keep them safe for use. Damaging these
components can cause gas leaks.
HOW CAN I
USE A SPACE HEATER SAFELY?
USE THE RIGHT KIND OF HEATER.
Some propane space heaters are designed only for
use outdoors. Others are designed only for use
indoors. Check your owner’s manual or contact a
qualified service technician to be sure you are
using the right kind of heater.
DO NOT USE AN OUTDOOR HEATER
INDOORS. High levels
of CO can be generated from heaters that are not
designed for indoor use. High levels of CO can
make you dizzy, give you headaches, or cause
flu-like symptoms. In extreme cases, extended
exposure to CO can result in brain damage or
READ YOUR SPACE HEATER MANUAL.
The appliance manufacturer’s manual that came
with your space heater tells how to set up and
operate it safely. Read the entire manual and
carefully follow all directions.
to Safeguard Propane Use:
Check® is an inspection program developed by the
National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) and the
Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), and
funded by PERC that provides guidelines to
technicians on how to perform two different types of
residential safety inspections:
“Gas System Check” which must be completed on
the gas delivery system, including the
containers, regulators, and appurtenances; and
“Gas Appliance System Check” which includes all
of the items of a “Gas Systems Check” as well as
on all propane-burning appliances. GAS Check®
also educates homeowners on the safe use of
propane and the maintenance of propane