Propane for Dummies: Frequently Asked Questions

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If you’re like me, you probably didn’t care about the chemistry behind propane in the past – you just wanted to grill some burgers. But that may have changed when your tank started freezing up and sucking your wallet dry. Ouch.

Got some propane tank questions? Having a basic understanding of how propane works, and how to take care of it, will keep that money in your pocket – right where it belongs.

What is Propane? 

Here are some quick, at-a-glance facts about propane.

  • The 1990 Clean Air Act deemed propane to be a clean-burning fuel.
  • Propane is a natural gas. 
  • It is colorless, odorless, and non-toxic. It looks like water when in liquid form.
  • It is an economical source of energy.
  • Propane is a part of the hydrocarbon gas family with gases like butane and methane.
  • Propane is also referred to as LP or LPG (short for Liquified Petroleum Gas).
  • This gas is bottled in cylinders or stored in tanks 
  • When bottled, propane is in its liquid form inside the cylinder or tank.
  • At -44 degrees Fahrenheit, propane reaches its boiling point, turning the liquid to a vapor.
  •  Propane is highly produced in America.

Common Uses for Propane

Propane is a popular gas in America because it is environmentally friendly. It’s also a convenient, affordable choice because it’s abundant in North America. Because it’s easily portable, propane is the obvious choice to power operations in homes and businesses alike.

Here are some of the most common uses for propane.

Home Propane Tank Uses:

  • BBQ Grill
  • Mosquito Catchers
  • Water Heaters
  • Home Heating Appliances
  • Fireplaces
  • Air Conditioners
  • Ovens and Stoves
  • Pool Heaters (if you’re lucky enough to have a pool in your backyard!)

Business Propane Tank Uses:

  • Powering Forklifts and Other Work Vehicles
  • Space Heating – Particularly for Construction Uses Such as Drywalling 
  • Ground Heating for Brick-laying
  • Certain Commercial Mowers
  • Agricultural Heating including Crop Drying and Weed Control
  • Fueling Transportation Fleets

Are Propane Tanks Safe to Use?

The simple answer is yes! However, as with most things, propane tanks require proper handling to ensure your safety. When you exercise caution, propane is one of the safest sources of energy available. Understanding the nature of propane and the necessary safety precautions will help you feel comfortable using it. 

Like your ex, propane is so cold, it acts hot. Since propane functions at temperatures much lower than most natural environments, it can cause freeze burns on your skin if it makes sustained contact. Always wear protective clothing, including thick gloves, when touching your cylinder and the release valve. Also, it is a smart idea to use protective eyewear. These tanks hold quite a bit of pressure – protect your eyes.

Another tip: Never, and I mean never, put your flammable tank near open flames. Kaboom.

Is It Safe to Paint My Propane Tank?

Ever looked at your propane tank and wished it wasn’t such an eyesore? Because tanks have to be stored outside, some homeowners want them to blend in more naturally to the surrounding landscape. But wait! Before you head to your local hardware store, there are a few important facts you need to know about painting propane tanks

Fact #1: Due to regulations by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), only certain colors are allowed. The general rule is that the tank must be a light, reflective color. Commonly-accepted colors include silver, white, light gray, and beige.

Fact #2: Only certain paints may be used on your propane tank. The paint must be specifically designed for metal surfaces and include a rust inhibitor. 

In the end, if you choose to paint your propane tank, do your research first to make sure it’s safe and complies with national guidelines.

If There Is a Weird Smell While Using My Propane, What Should I Do?

If you are using your propane and smell something ripe (and it’s not your dog or your toddler’s diaper) you may have a tank leak. This may have a rotten egg or skunk smell. While propane is naturally odorless, manufacturers protect users by adding this (not so appealing) odor to alert you of danger. 

If you smell it, here’s what you do: 

  1. Quickly turn off the supply valve on your tank – if it seems safe to do so.
  2. Get everyone away from the tank. Leave home if possible.
  3. Contact gas professionals for help.
  4. Call the police if gas professionals are unavailable.
  5. Grab lunch from your favorite nearby restaurant and check out the latest Marvel movie while things get cleared up! 

Can Propane Freeze In Cold Weather?

Again, the short answer is yes. But it would have to be pretty stinkin’ cold (-306.4 degrees Fahrenheit) to actually freeze. When your propane tank stops working, and it looks like it’s frozen solid, you’re actually dealing with propane that can no longer vaporize. When temperatures reach below -44 degrees Fahrenheit, the propane will not “boil.” In its liquid state, the propane within the tank becomes completely useless – and incredibly frustrating. 

The cold temperature will also greatly decrease the pressure within the tank (and without pressure, the tank cannot produce a vapor.) Simply put, the colder the weather, the more dense and liquified propane becomes. 

So you may be wondering, “How can I use my propane during the freezing winter months?”

 

How Can I Heat My Propane Tank During the Winter? 

When it comes to safely heating your propane tank throughout the winter months, there is only one good answer: Powerblanket’s propane tank heaters. 

Here at Powerblanket, we specialize in all gas delivery systems, even that 20-pound cylinder sitting in your backyard. No matter how many pounds or gallons your tank holds, we have a heating option that will provide a uniform barrier of heat across the entire tank’s surface. No more cold patches. No more unnecessary refills due to reduced supply come spring.

Our propane tank heaters are industrial-grade electric blankets. At Powerblanket, we are dedicated to creating safe and efficient heating options for our customers. Because of this, each of our carefully-made blankets are safety certified by UL, CSA, and CE. They ensure safe propane delivery every time.

Our heating blankets are very low-maintenance – just set it and forget it. Whether you are using our tank heaters for residential or business use, this heating options allows you to focus your time and energy on other things than constantly checking your tank’s temperature. These easy-to-install blankets will easily increase the temperature, pressure, and overall efficiency of your tank all year long. 

No need to pack away the grill for the winter. Burgers all winter! We’ve got your grilling needs covered.

Ready to heat your propane tank during the cold season? Look no further. Give our dedicated team of heating experts a call today with your questions at 801.506.4203.

Still have questions? For more information on your propane tank, download the free E-book for homeowners and businesses!


Product Spotlight: Gas Cylinder Heaters

Do you store gas in cylinders? If so, then you know how the cold can affect them, even during this mild winter. In order to keep your storage from being compromised by a drop in temperature, you need a solution that can both insulate and heat. This is where Powerblanket® Gas Cylinder Heaters come into play.

 

Pressure and Depletion

Let’s face it, this is one of the mildest winters North America has seen in a very long time, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t getting cold enough to affect equipment and resources left out in the dropping temperatures, even though they aren’t dropping as low as usual. As far as gas storage goes, if you’re storing it in gas cylinders, you’re likely keeping it outside, and if it’s outside, it’s going to lose pressure—causing depletion and problems with extraction.

When you store pressurized gas in cold temperatures, or any temperature below ideal, then the pressure in your tank is going to be far less than efficient. This is simply due to the molecules of gas moving closer together, just like in your car’s tires. And of course, as the molecules move closer together, the pressure drastically drops. This means when it comes time for extracting the gas from your tank or cylinder, you’re going to run into troubles; it’s going to seem like there isn’t as much gas in there.

 

Powerblanket® Gas Cylinder Heaters

Powerblanket® Gas Cylinder Heaters solve this problem by adding a protective barrier that both insulates and heats your tank or cylinder to the ideal temperature needed for optimal pressure maintenance. Powerblanket offers a range of gas cylinder heaters equipped for maintaining temperatures of propane, butane, nitrogen, oxygen, and other compressed gases. Powerblanket® Gas Cylinder Heaters offer uniform heat distribution across the entire cylinder. This revolutionary heating solution reduces costs by optimizing container temperatures and increasing cylinder efficiency.

What’s more, the Powerblanket® product line is designed for any heating job. Every product is built using a rugged vinyl shell that is safe to use in temperatures as low as -20° F. So in other words, Powerblanket products can keep your equipment protected well below freezing.

 

Standout Features

  • Increases performance and efficiency of gas cylinders
  • Provides even heat distribution
  • Saves money by optimizing gas and material usage
  • Safety certified by UL/CSA/CE
  • Eliminates unnecessary cylinder refills in cold weather

 

 


Welding Preheating

Welding Preheating

Prepping pipes and other surfaces for welding can be a real challenge since metal surfaces often need to be hot before you begin. If the metal isn’t hot enough before you start welding, it will affect the cooling rate. If a weld cools too quickly, the metal could go into shock and cause fabrication hydrogen cracking. There are many metal preheating methods. Some of these include: furnace heating, torching, electrical strip heaters, induction heating, and radiation heating, and welding preheat blankets.

Why Preheat Metal?

When you preheat and post-heat the metal, it allows for better hydrogen diffusion; up to 1000 times more diffusion at 250 °F (121 °C) than at room temperature (68 °F, 20 °C). Cracking risks reduce as more hydrogen diffuses after the weld is complete.

man in helmet welding pipes

Types of Heat Transfer

There are 3 main types of heat transfer: convection, radiation, and conduction. All 3 methods are useful in different applications. Let’s take a closer look.

Convection

Convection transfers heat around a space by the movement of molecules. For example, the rolling circular motion within a pot of boiling water is convection heating.

Radiation

Radiation is the transfer of heat through electromagnetic radiation. Radiant heating is what you can feel in the air when you sit around a campfire.

Conduction

Conduction transfers heat through direct surface contact. This is the most efficient heat transfer method to use when preheating a wide variety of metal surfaces for welding. Radiant heat will waste time and energy heating the air around the metal instead of the metal itself. Direct contact will ensure even, consistent heat over the surface of your welding materials.

Let’s compare 2 different welding preheating methods. Induction heating using radiation and heating blankets using conduction.

Induction Heating vs. Heating Blankets

Induction heating involves coiling a conductive metal object around the surface or container that needs to be heated. Electromagnetic currents then circulate and heat the object they surround. Once these metal coils are in place, they are not easy to remove and re-install. Induction heating is well suited for objects needing continual applied heat in a fixed, controlled location. Induction is commonly used in factories, where long strips of piping are continuously fed through the center of inductive heating coils.

However, for field work welding and on site repairs, induction is not a practical solution, especially in colder weather. Welding in a dynamic environment requires more portable and flexible preheating options. High temperature heating blankets are flexible enough to conform to and heat any metal in need of welding. They also use conductive heating that evenly distributes across the entire metal surface.

Powerblanket diagram on heat transfer in heating blankets

Welding preheat blankets are easily installed, removed, stored, and placed in another welding location.

Powerblanket Welding Preheating Solutions

High Temperature Heating Blankets

Powerblanket specializes in innovative heating solutions that fit a wide variety of surface shapes, and can be used in a myriad of locations. Our portable heating blankets come in every shape and size to accommodate any welding job.

Powerblanket diagram showing even heat distribution in our heating blankets blankets

Thick insulation and efficient heating spreading technology drive heat downward into your welding surface, eliminating hot and cold spots.

At Powerblanket, we also provide heating blankets that are certified to be used within hazardous locations. Safely preheat metals in C1D2 locations, so you can weld wherever needed.

Gas Cylinder Heaters

Our gas cylinder heaters and propane tank heaters are the perfect fit for tank welding jobs. With a large selection of sizes available, Powerblanket can fit and preheat any sized tank, even when welding in the coldest of conditions.

Contact us to find the perfect preheating solution for your welding needs at 866.945.4203 or [email protected]