THE SCIENCE OF PROPANE
Winters can get very cold here in southern New Jersey. For example, in Camden, NJ, the average low temperature in January is 23 degrees. And it can get much colder than that when the polar vortex pays us a visit as it has in recent winters.
It’s understandable that if you have an outdoor aboveground propane tank, you might wonder if extremely cold weather can damage or freeze the propane inside the tank.
To answer that question, we’re going to have a little science lesson.
The freezing point of propane is -44 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s highly unlikely to get that cold here, so there’s little need to worry about your propane freezing.
Your propane can be affected by extremely cold weather. Propane is a liquid and, like all liquids, it contracts when it gets cold. In very cold weather, the volume of the propane in your tank will shrink. That leads to a loss of pressure. If the pressure gets too low, the propane in your tank won’t reach your gas burner, and you then may have trouble running your propane appliances such as your furnace or boiler, water heater, fireplace or stove.
As we said before, this is not likely to occur in our area. But it still makes sense to know what to do the next time the polar vortex comes to town.
Tips to avoid low propane pressure problems
- Don’t let your propane tank levels get below 30 percent full. Check your gauge ahead of a cold snap, and if it’s close to 30 percent, contact Blue Flame to schedule a propane delivery. More propane in your tank will help positive pressure in the tank as well as prevent runouts.
- Clear snow off your propane tank as soon as possible after a snowfall to allow sunlight to keep your propane tank warmer.
- This may seem counterintuitive, but turn down your thermostat a just a little. Why? Because a lower temperature setting means your propane heating system will not operate as often. That allows the pressure in your propane tank to build.
Tips for cold weather and propane
- Make sure snow and ice are cleared from the regulators, vents, piping and valves on your propane tank. This prevents damage which could create a gas leak.
- Keep the area around the vents and flues clear of snow and ice so your propane appliances can vent safely and correctly.
- When clearing snow from your driveway and walkways, don’t forget your propane tank! Make sure there is always a safe and clear path to the tank so your Blue Flame delivery driver can access your tank and fill it even in heavy snow. Also plant a flag pole or stake tall enough to be seen over snow drifts so the driver can find it.
Winter is just about here! Do you have enough propane so your home stays warm, safe and comfortable when cold weather hits? Contact Blue Flame to learn more about our propane delivery services, including tank monitoring and automatic delivery!