4 Simple Steps to Stop A Propane Tank Freezing Up
Are you concerned about your propane tank freezing up? Not seizing up, but freezing up? Are you wondering if there are preventive measures you can take to keep such a dreadful thing from happening?
Okay, dreadful is a bit strong, but the answer is yes. Yes, there are several things you can do to prevent your propane tank from freezing up.
What’s even better are the steps are pretty simple. Simple and effective.
So, let’s dive in and take a look at exactly what you can do to ensure your propane tank remains in a normal operational state and avoid the consequences of a frozen tank in five easy steps.
Is a Frozen Tank Dangerous?
Let’s start with the dangers of a frozen propane tank. Yes, not the most fun way to start but it’s probably the most important thing that needs addressing.
If you rely on propane to heat your house, then a frozen tank that supplies that propane can be dangerous if you live somewhere that freezing to death is an actual possibility.
No, this isn’t an attempt to be funny or overdramatic.
A lot of people live in very cold places. Every year, some place is caught surprised by a cold blast that brought weather that’s worse than normal. What usually comes with such extreme weather are some people that are seriously hurt or, unfortunately, pass away because they couldn’t heat their home.
These types of situations strike the elderly or people with disabilities and live alone more than others. The story is much the same when it comes to hot weather and not being able to cool one’s home. Those who rely on their appliances the most are often the most disadvantaged when something fails.
So, yes, a frozen propane tank can be dangerous if it’s relied upon for necessities. Not necessarily grilling food or heating water, but keeping you alive by not freezing.
If you do rely on propane for heating your home then you need to ensure your tank is reliable and maintained. Brands of propane tank really don’t matter but a tank in good working order does. When it’s cold and you’re dealing with propane, you need to take steps to keep your tank from freezing, regardless of the manufacturer.
You should also consider a backup. Not only a backup tank but also a back up source of heating.
What kind of backup?
If you’ve got a wood burning fireplace, there’s your backup. If you’ve got a backup electric heating unit, there’s your backup. Even a small space heater would work.
But what if you lose power?
Well, same goes for all possible harmful weather conditions and power. Consider a backup generator. Of course, if you have a backup propane generator, you still need to keep it from freezing up, too.
1. Store Your Tank Somewhere Warm
This sounds like a simple solution and it is if you’re dealing with smaller propane tanks for a couple of appliances. Think about tanks you use for grills, fire pits, maybe a few other individual appliances. The kind you can load in your vehicle and take to get refilled or swapped out.
If you can load them in a vehicle and take your propane tanks somewhere to be refilled, you can just as easily disconnect them from your appliance and store them somewhere warm. Or at least some place warmer than leaving them outside in the cold.
Where might that be?
Garages, sheds, a carport, etc. Any place that provides shelter from cold rain and snow and some protection from blustery wind.
Oh, and don’t store them in the place where you sleep or generally live. So, don’t keep them in an interior closet or under the bed.
The main thing with storage is you’re eliminating as many of the concerns that come with cold weather. Maybe you can’t eliminate them all but a few is better than none.
Now, if you’re dealing with a big propane tank, like tanks designed for a bunch household appliances, a couple of large appliances, or even a whole house, then picking it up and driving it somewhere isn’t really an option. The smallest tends to be 120 gallons and tends to weigh over 400 lbs.
The largest come in at 1000 gallons.
Yeah, you’re not carrying these anywhere.
Fear not, though, there are steps you can still take to keep even the largest of propane tanks from freezing up.
2. Keep Your Tank Full of Gas and Pressure
If heat causes expansion, cold naturally causes contraction. The same is true for propane. In cold weather, propane will contract within the tank, leading to reduced volume.
How does this lead to freezing? Well, if there’s less propane volume, that means the flow of propane will be impacted. Slower moving gas through from the tank and through the attachments and lines can lead to freezing. At the very least, it may never reach your burners.
Why? Because propane is naturally cold (it boils at -44°F). So, cold gas moving slower than normal through cold valves and lines in the presence of cold moisture is a recipe for freezing.
To help counter this, keep your tank as full as possible. At a minimum, never let it drop below 30% full.
One, this prevents having to deal with the expense of filling empty tanks. Two, full tanks will help maintain pressure and flow.
This doesn’t mean the threat of freezing is completely eliminated. But it does mean you’ve taken care of a couple of the concerns that can lead to it.
3. Give Your Tank a Blanket
Hey, if your water heater can have a blanket, so can your propane tank. It functions exactly the same way by keeping your tank warm, your propane from getting too cold and thus helping maintain pressure, and also helps maintain efficiency.
Now when it comes to blankets, you can go with an insulated blanket or heating blanket. Which one should you go with? If you’re dealing with smaller tanks you can disconnect and move freely, an insulated blanket is probably enough.
However, if you have a bigger tank for more than one appliance or your whole house, you’re going to want something more permanent, like blanket with an electric heating system.
Either way, with a blanket you’re taking another step to reducing the concerns around a freezing propane tank.
4. Winter Upkeep
If you have to deal with a propane tank that must remain exposed to cold conditions, you need to constantly inspect your system. Don’t just put a blanket on the tank and walk away for the season.
Instead, besides a blanket, routinely make sure the tank and exposed accessories are clear of snow, slush, and ice.
If your propane tank isn’t in use, you may want to consider securing the shutoff valve every once and a while. If you’re using propane on a daily basis, don’t do this. However, if you’re only using propane “once and a while” or a few times a week then cycling this valve frequently will ensure it doesn’t freeze in one position.
The big thing is to prevent accumulation and ensure the parts that are supposed to move still move freely.
One of the many wonderful things about propane is how cold it has to be to freeze. Even if you live in the coldest of climates, propane will not freeze until it hits -306°F in its liquid form. If you’re somewhere that cold, propane is the least of your concerns.
This doesn’t mean freezing conditions aren’t a concern for you. Propane accessories can freeze and can affect their reliability and functionality. In other words, frozen propane accessories may lead to the total inability to use the propane you need.
If you rely on propane for most of your appliances or heating your home, this becomes a vital concern.
The good news is there are simple steps you can take to prevent your propane tank and accessories from freezing and thus keeping your propane appliances in good working order in the coldest of circumstances.