Whether you have a gas stove or gas grill, you want to ensure that you have the safest cooking experience possible. Gas safety is of paramount importance, but common questions remain, such as: Should you open a propane tank valve all the way or just part of the way?
You should open a propane tank valve all the way when you use it. Conversely, a valve should be completely closed when you’re done with it. Propane tanks valves have a special seal that only engages when you open it completely, ensuring a complete safe experience.
In this article, I’ll be covering the proper ways to open a propane tank valve, types of valves, and relevant propane tank safety info.
Should You Open a Propane Tank Valve All the Way?
Opening the propane tank valve all the way can seem counterintuitive in some situations: If there’s an emergency, isn’t it faster to just have it opened a couple of turns or halfway? As it turns out, no.
You should always open a propane tank valve all the way. Most propane tanks have a seal at the back of the valve that only engages when the valve is open all the way. If the valve is only open a little bit or halfway, this seal does not engage, and the tank might leak at the valve.
Of course, you don’t want a gas leak at the valve, so it’s best to simply open the tank valve all the way when it’s in use and to close it completely when not in use. This ensures that the tank is as sealed as possible when it’s being used and not being used.
Types of Propane Tanks
Propane tanks have evolved over the years, and the most notable change has been the way valves have been continuously improved. These improvements include ease of use as well as safety features that make propane safer.
POL valves are the oldest type of valve fitting and are considered archaic because the threads are on the inside of the connector; this means you need a wrench to tighten and loosen the connection. POL valves are relatively rare these days, as they’re more prone to leaks, and POL tanks need a plug in them for storage or transportation to not leak.
Also known as a quick-close valve, ACME valves are slightly bigger than a POL valve and much safer. This is because an ACME valve has a built-in safety device that keeps propane from leaving the tank unless it is firmly attached to another device. This safety device means these tanks don’t need a plug in the connection to be transported.
OPD valves are easily recognized by their triangle-shaped 3-lobed valve and are considered the safest type of propane tank valve; OPD stands for Overfill Prevention Device, which is a safety feature that prevents the tank from being overfilled past its capacity. These are the type of valves installed on most newly manufactured propane tanks.
Propane Tank Safety Guidelines
Propane tanks are very useful for cooking and other various appliances and are generally considered safe. Short of physical cracking or puncturing, tanks are very durable and have a long lifespan before they need to be replaced. However, there are certain safety regulations that you should always follow in order to ensure maximum safety.
Always Keep the Valve Closed
When not in use, a propane tank valve should be kept in a closed position. When closing it, firmly turn the valve until it won’t close anymore. To clear excess gas out of the line, keep any burners or devices running while you first close the valve, then turn off burners or devices when they turn off.
If you turn off the propane tank at the valve, this minimizes the chance of a leak at the regulator or through any damage to the hose. Keeping a propane valve closed when not in use is the best way to guarantee you don’t have excess leakage that can cause a safety hazard or waste propane.
Keep the Tank Upright
Propane is heavier than air, so it will naturally settle to the bottom of the propane cylinder. Keeping a propane tank upright at all times minimizes the chance of leakage at a damaged regulator.
Conversely, if a propane tank lies on its side, propane can leak from the slightest bit of damage to the regulator or hose. There’s not really any reason why you’d want to keep a propane tank on its side, but it’s important you know that not doing so is vital for safety as well.
Store the Tank Outdoors
If stored indoors, any leakage from the propane tank will linger in the air. Without proper ventilation, propane can accumulate in the air and ignite – if the amount of propane in the air is between 2.2% gas/air and 9.6% gas/air, it can ignite!
Keeping a propane tank outdoors guarantees adequate ventilation will disperse propane vapors in the event of a leak. In simpler terms, propane can’t build up and ignite when a tank is kept outdoors. It’s just a good idea in all situations to keep propane tanks outdoors.
If you use propane for indoor cooking, consider having a hole cut in your wall for the hose to go through, and put the tank on the outdoor side of the hole. It might be annoying to go outside and turn the propane on/off every time you cook, but it’s worth the peace of mind.
Keep the Tank Away From Sunlight
Let’s just get this out there: Direct sunlight can’t and won’t cause a propane tank to explode. However, sunlight will heat up a tank and cause the pressure inside the tank to build. In an already enclosed tank, increased pressure is a very bad thing.
On portable tanks that have valves with safety relief features, the tank can vent propane into the air when such a pressure buildup occurs, and the propane can be ignited in the air. Some places can have very harsh summer days with high temperatures, and it’s simply best to store a tank in perpetual shade.
For ideas on how to store your tank in the shade, we wrote about that here.
Inspect the Hose and Regulator Regularly
A propane tank can leak even if you’re a very careful person. The slightest bit of damage to a regulator or hose can let propane into the air, where you can smell it. (Propane has a distinct sulfur smell similar to rotten eggs.) If you smell a leak, it’s imperative you immediately check your regulator and hose for a leak.
To check your regulator and hose for a leak, follow these steps:
- Liberally apply a leak detector or soapy water to the outside of the regulator and hose. Pay close attention to the outlets on the regulator, where leaks tend to occur first.
- Open the propane valve and look for bubbles – bubbles mean a gas leak.
- If you see bubbles, immediately close the valve.
- Replace the hose and/or regulator depending on where you saw bubbles.
Propane tanks are a convenient way to power grills, stoves, and other appliances. Contrary to some beliefs, propane tank valves should always be completely opened when in use and closed when not in use.