Storing Propane Tanks: Safety Skills for Grills

Holiday Storage and Seasonal

Award-winning barbecue pitmaster Malcom Reed has a dozen different types of grills, smokers and barbecues at his Tennessee home. With decades of outdoor cooking experience under his belt, he knows a thing or two about storing propane tanks to keep his grill in tiptop shape between exciting barbecue contests and typical weeknight dinners with his wife.

“In Memphis, you’re born into barbecue,” said Reed, who shares tips and recipes on HowtoBBQRight.com. “I enjoy cooking outside, it doesn’t matter if it’s gas or charcoal. Barbecue is a family thing, and it’s something to be proud of.”

Grilling can be a joy but it’s not a hobby to be taken lightly. Between 2003 and 2007, 135 people were injured and $48 million worth of property damage was caused by incidents involving propane gas, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

If you’re ready to bring the heat responsibly and learn some guidelines for storing propane tanks, keep reading for tips from top barbecue enthusiasts and propane professionals.

Replace Weathered Propane Tanks Before Storage and Use

Make sure to examine propane tanks often for any signs of damage and weathering, especially before storage. This will help prevent any leaks or incidents before your next backyard barbecue.

“Rust can reduce the thickness and structural strength of the cylinder wall, and severe rust can lead to failure,” said Gregg Walker of the Propane Education & Research Council. “Only use propane cylinders that have been inspected by a qualified professional.”

Reed takes care to safely transport his tanks for a refill and inspection.

“I disconnect them and make sure the valves are closed,” he said. “The propane guys are good where we go and tell us when we need to replace them.”

Store Propane Tanks in an Outdoor Area

Barbecue enthusiasts should always use and store propane tanks outdoors, in shady areas away from structures to avoid problems.

“Never store them indoors or in an enclosed area such as a basement, a garage, a shed, or a tent,” said Walker. “And never store a propane cylinder in a hot area, typically where temperatures exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For instance, don’t store extra propane cylinders near a grill.”

This is because propane is a heavy gas that can leak and contaminate your home with toxic fumes if the tank becomes compromised.

“In the unlikely event of an accidental release of propane from a cylinder stored near a building, propane could enter the building through doors, windows, or vents, creating a dangerous situation,” Walker added.

It’s a precaution that Virginia barbecue enthusiast Joe Haynes takes very seriously at his home, whether he’s cooking “slow and low” on his charcoal barbecue or grilling “hot and fast” on his propane grill. He stores his propane tanks away from his home, wooden deck and each other.

“The tank always stays in a well-ventilated area in the far corner of my concrete patio,” said Haynes, author of Virginia Barbecue: A History. “Multiple propane tanks shouldn’t be stored close together. If there is an accident and one of the tanks ignites or explodes, it can also ignite other tanks near it. So, it’s best to keep them separated by a safe distance.”

Make Sure Propane Tanks Stay Upright in Storage

All propane tanks are fitted with relief valves to keep them from blowing in the event of excessive pressure. To avoid setting off the mechanism that controls this valve, propane tanks should always be stored upright.

“I use a platform that prevents tanks from falling over,” said Haynes.

For a quick storage solution, both of our experts recommend using milk crates to store propane tanks, as they fit around the typical-size tank perfectly.

And don’t keep your propane for too long, because that means you aren’t enjoying the greatness that is grilling!

“Barbecue and grilling are a lot of fun until somebody gets hurt,” said Haynes. “If you follow these safety precautions, you can greatly increase your chances of sticking to the fun part of it.”

Photo courtesy of Malcom Reed, How to BBQ Right.

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