Home heating safety
For many Consumers Oil Company customers and employees who live in rural areas, propane is an economical and clean-burning fuel, ideal for heating homes in colder winter months and running household appliances.
But, as with any source of fuel, safety needs to come first when it comes to propane.
Here’s how you can stay warm and safe this winter.
Know the smell
Propane used in your home has a strong, unpleasant smell that is often compared to rotten eggs. “Propane is naturally odorless, so an odorant is added to help alert customers to propane leaks,” says Scott Pearson, director of risk and asset development for CHS Propane.
Be sure everyone in your home knows what propane smells like, and be sure to ask your propane dealer for a demonstration of the smell.
See the sidebar about what to do if you smell a leak.
Don’t run on empty
Having a low or empty propane tank puts your home and family at risk. Scott recommends never letting your tank run below 20 percent. “When the tank is running low, things like air and moisture can get into the tank and cause a number of problems, including causing pilot lights to go out.”
Be sure to ask your service provider about any automatic delivery services to ensure your tank doesn’t run low.
Rely on trained professionals
If appliances that use propane, such as your water heater or furnace, need repair, don’t fix it yourself, says Scott. “Relying on a trained and qualified repair professional is important so that the propane continues to be safely brought into the home.”
And every fall, be sure to have your tank serviced by qualified service technicians to check for optimum use and safety.
Carbon Monoxide is produced when any fuel burns and it has no taste or smell. Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and nausea.
Scott recommends installing a UL-approved dual carbon monoxide and gas detector in your home. “Because lot of factors, such as tobacco use or having a cold, can affect your ability to smell propane, CHS recommends installing one or more gas detectors in your home, especially near appliances that use propane, as a second safety precaution.”
But, Scott urges, gas detectors do not reduce or eliminate the need to take proper safety precautions if you smell the odor of gas. “If you smell gas, leave the area and follow proper safety procedures,” he says. “Even if the gas detector alarm does not go off.”
Smell a leak? Here's what to do?The Propane Education & Research Council provides the following advice if you smell a leak.
Do• 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. Close the valve by turning it to the right.
• Report the leak. From a nearby building away from the gas leak, call your propane dealer right away. If you can’t reach your propane dealer, call 911 or your local fire department.
• 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 make sure that it is leak-free.
• Create flames or sparks. Immediately put out all smoking materials and other open flames. Do not operate lights, appliances, telephones, or cell phones.
• Return to the building or area. Remain away from the area until your propane retailer, emergency responder, or qualified service technician determines it is safe to return.
Running out of gas
Don’t run out of gas. Serious safety hazards, including fire or explosion, can result.
If an appliance or valve or a gas line is left open, a leak could occur when the system is recharged with propane.
If you propane tank runs out of gas, any pilot lights on you appliances will go out. This can be extremely dangerous.
A leak check is required. In many states a propane retailer or a qualified service technician must perform a leak check of you propane system before turning on the gas.