how to prepare your propane tank for winter

Propane is a type of gas that can fuel your entire home throughout the year. If your house runs on propane, you might be concerned with how well it performs when it’s cold outside. Even though propane gas doesn’t freeze on an average Virginia winter day, the tank can lose pressure and have trouble powering your house. With the proper propane tank care, however, you can keep your heating appliances safe in the winter, when you need them the most.

Does Cold Weather Affect Propane Tanks?

Propane tank pressure is more important than temperature. Propane can freeze, but only at temperatures that aren’t common in your local area. A propane tank cold temperature limit is -44 degrees Fahrenheit — at that point, propane turns from a gas to a liquid. Propane can only heat your home when it’s in a gaseous state, not when it’s a liquid.

Your storage tank keeps propane in its gaseous form under high pressure. Even though propane is unlikely to freeze, the tank may lose pressure and make it more challenging for propane to power your appliances. Ice and snow can also cause a gas leak by damaging the tank’s regulators, vents, and piping.

How Can You Protect Your Propane Tank in the Winter?

Before it starts getting cold outside, a propane tank should be able to provide heat throughout the winter efficiently. Follow these propane tank safety tips to help prevent damage and emergency repairs:

  • Refill your supply of propane: At least once a week in the fall, check the meter on your tank before the temperature starts to drop. Even if there’s half a tank full of propane one day, it could be gone by the time winter comes around. Once you notice the level dropping a little below halfway, call your local propane supplier to refill your tank so that your home has enough fuel to last you through the winter. You wouldn’t want to have to request an emergency refill in the middle of a snowstorm.
  • Make an annual maintenance appointment: Be sure to also schedule an inspection to ensure the tank’s components are in excellent condition. If you only use propane for heat, you may not have used the tank for several months during the summer. A technician can inspect all the parts of your tank and repair minor problems to prevent emergencies.
  • Keep your tank visible in the snow: In case of a massive snowstorm, you should make sure you know the exact location of your tank outside. Consider driving a stick, pole or flag into your lawn near the tank so you and the technician can find and refill it in the middle of winter.
  • Clear the pathway to the tank: Besides making your propane tank easy to see, you should also make sure it’s accessible for the technician. Clear the way from the curb to your tank by cutting back shrubbery and bushes and putting trash cans in another area.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel during a storm: You need enough propane gas to keep your home warm if you’re expecting a major winter storm, so if possible, get your tank topped off before the storm hits. Harsh weather can make it difficult for a propane technician to reach your property. 
  • Keep your propane tank outside: Your outdoor propane tank releases harmful carbon monoxide that can affect your home’s indoor air quality, so you should never bring it inside — even if it’s cold and you’re worried about it freezing.
  • Upgrade to a programmable thermostat: This updated device can help you control the temperature when you’re home or away. Lowering the heat a few degrees throughout the day can help you save money on energy costs. It also puts less wear on your propane tank, so it can last through the cold winter. Consider investing in a smart thermostat to change the temperature from your mobile device.
  • Limit the amount of hot water you use: Hot water can take up plenty of gas from your propane supply, so you’ll probably need a refill more often if you use it. Try to limit the amount of hot water you and your family use throughout the day by taking shorter showers and limiting your use of washing appliances.
  • Wear multiple layers: Instead of keeping the temperature high, you can encourage your family to wear layers in the house. Wrapping yourself in blankets and wearing socks may allow you to set the thermostat at a lower temperature. As a result, you won’t need a refill as often, and you can put less pressure on your propane tank.
  • Call your propane supplier if the gas leaks: Propane gas can be flammable and dangerous to inhale. You’d know if gas was leaking because of the smell of rotten eggs or the sound of hissing near your tank. If you think that your propane tank has a gas leak, turn off the main gas supply, put out all fires, get out of the house and call your propane supplier once you’re at a safe location. After the service technician has examined your property and made the necessary repairs, they’ll tell you when it’s safe to go back inside.
  • Set up a gas detector: This device has an alarm that alerts everyone in the house to leave the area and call your propane technician immediately if there’s a leak. You can get one at your local home improvement store. 
  • Clear the debris from your propane appliance vents: The propane tank needs adequate ventilation to get the carbon monoxide out of your house. After not using it all summer, debris from animals or nearby trees could have accumulated in your vents. Check the ventilation system to ensure the air can flow freely. If you notice obstructions in the vents, call in a professional to have the system inspected and cleaned. 
  • Clear snow and ice off the tank: Winter accumulation can cool down your tank and block it from the sunlight. Remove snow and ice on top of your propane tank’s various components to prevent damage that could cause a gas leak.
  • Avoid trying to heat your propane tank: If your tank is cold, avoid trying to heat it yourself. Using an open flame or an electrical device with extreme heat can damage propane tanks. If the storage unit doesn’t have enough pressure to heat your house, call a technician to inspect and repair it.

contact us for all your propane needs

Contact Us for All Your Propane Needs

Foster Fuels is a propane supplier with several locations in Virginia and North Carolina. We believe in the value of eco-friendly, cost-effective propane gas to power your whole home. For more information about our products and services, you can contact us online or call 434-376-2322.