What Is Propane?
Propane is a hydrocarbon (C3H8) and is sometimes referred to as liquefied petroleum gas, LP-gas, or LPG. Propane is produced from both natural gas processing and crude oil refining, in roughly equal amounts from each source. Nearly 97 percent of propane consumed in the United States is produced in North America. It is nontoxic, colorless, and virtually odorless. As with natural gas, an identifying odor is added so the gas can be readily detected.
Propane Is a Safe Fuel
The propane industry has developed numerous methods to ensure the safe transport and use of propane:
- Propane equipment and appliances are manufactured to rigorous safety standards.
- Propane has a narrow range of flammability when compared with other petroleum products. In order to ignite, the propane-air mix must contain from 2.2 to 9.6 percent propane vapor. If the mixture contains less than 2.2 percent gas, it is too lean to burn. If it contains more than 9.6 percent, it is too rich to burn.
- Propane won’t ignite when combined with air unless the source of ignition reaches at least 940 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, gasoline will ignite when the source of ignition reaches only 430 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If liquid propane leaks, it doesn’t puddle but instead vaporizes and dissipates into the air.
- Because it is released from a pressured container as a vapor, propane can’t be ingested like gasoline or alcohol fuels.
- Because propane is virtually odorless and colorless in its natural state, a commercial odorant is added so propane can be detected if it leaks from its container.
Q) Is propane safe for my family and me?
A) Yes. Propane is a very safe fuel. But as with any energy source, there are steps you should take to further ensure your safety:
- If you detect a gas leak, immediately evacuate everyone from the house and call your local propane provider or the fire department from a neighbor’s telephone.
- Learn what propane smells like. Propane retailers print scratch-and-sniff pamphlets to help your family recognize its distinctive odor.
- Know where gas lines are located, so you won’t damage them when digging or working in the yard.
- Change or clean furnace filters regularly as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Don’t store cleaning fluids, oil-soaked rags, gasoline, or other flammable liquids near a gas-burning appliance, where vapors could be ignited by the pilot light.
Q) How can I recognize a propane leak in my home?
A) 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. You can ask your propane retailer for a demonstration to help everyone in your home or building identify leaks.
Q) What should I do if there’s a problem with a propane appliance?
A) Never modify or repair a propane appliance’s valves, regulators, connectors, controls, or a propane tank’s cylinder or parts. Instead, immediately call your propane retailer or a qualified service technician. They can inspect, adjust, repair, or replace any part of your propane system. Remember, your propane system incorporates special components to keep them safe for use.
Q) Is propane really convenient to use and store?
A) Yes. Propane retailers deliver it right to your home. Propane tanks are environmentally friendly, require little maintenance, and can last up to 40 years. Propane’s portability in liquid form makes it a convenient fuel for grilling, camping, and other uses. Up to 56,000 miles of pipeline and more than 6,000 retail dealer locations make propane readily available throughout the United States.
Q) What assurance do I have that propane technicians are properly trained?
A) Propane is used safely by millions of Americans — and stored, handled, and transported by thousands of professionals — every day. That safety comes from a combination of stringent codes and regulations and our industry’s extensive training and safety awareness programs. In fact, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) operate the Certified Employee Training Program (CETP), through which propane technicians train and get certified in all aspects of delivering propane and installing and servicing propane appliances. We update our training programs frequently to ensure that employees are equipped with the most current procedures and information available.