5 Reasons Why Storing a Propane Tank in Your Shed/Garage is a Dangerous Mistake

Are you unknowingly putting your family and property at risk by storing propane tanks in your shed or garage? What may seem like a convenient solution could be a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

I’ll reveal the reasons why improper propane storage can lead to devastating consequences and provide you with expert tips to keep your loved ones safe from harm.

Don’t become another tragic headline—read on to discover five reasons why improperly storing propane tanks is a recipe for disaster and learn how to protect your home from these hidden dangers.

1. Propane is Highly Flammable & Explosive

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One tiny spark can turn your storage space into a raging inferno faster than you can say “barbecue.”

Propane is a hydrocarbon gas that can ignite easily when mixed with air. It has a lower flammability limit of just 2.1% (ref), meaning it can start burning at a concentration of only 2.1% propane in the air.

Once ignited, propane can quickly lead to an explosion, causing severe damage to property and putting lives at risk.

The risk of propane ignition is especially high in enclosed spaces like sheds and garages, where even a small leak can create a dangerous concentration of gas. This is why it’s crucial to store propane tanks in a well-ventilated outdoor area, away from any potential ignition sources.

2. Propane Vapor is Heavier Than Air

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If it leaks, it sinks and collects at ground level, creating an invisible pool of potential destruction.

Unlike natural gas, which is lighter than air and rises when leaked, propane vapor is denser than air. This means that if a propane tank leaks, the gas will sink and accumulate at ground level, spreading horizontally. This creates an invisible “pool” of propane that can flow into low-lying areas, such as basements or crawl spaces.

The danger of this pooling effect is that it can create a large, flammable concentration of propane without any visible signs. If an ignition source is introduced, the entire pool of propane can ignite, leading to a massive explosion.

This is why it’s essential to store propane tanks on a flat, stable surface outdoors, where any leaking gas can safely dissipate into the open air.

3. Propane Expands With Temperature Changes

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A tank that’s safe in the winter can become a pressurized bomb in the summer heat.

Propane, like all gases, expands when heated. This means that a propane tank that is safe and stable in cool temperatures can become dangerously pressurized in hot weather. As the temperature rises, the pressure inside the tank increases, putting stress on the tank’s walls and valves.

If the pressure becomes too high, the tank can rupture or explode, releasing a massive amount of flammable gas into the surrounding area. This risk is particularly high for tanks stored in sheds or garages, which can become extremely hot during summer months.

To prevent this, always store propane tanks in a shaded area, protected from direct sunlight and extreme heat.

4. Sheds & Garages Often Lack Proper Ventilation

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If propane leaks in a confined space, it can quickly reach dangerous concentrations.

Proper ventilation is crucial when storing propane tanks, as it allows any leaking gas to safely dissipate into the open air. Unfortunately, many sheds and garages lack adequate ventilation, with few windows or vents to allow air circulation. This means that if a propane tank leaks inside one of these structures, the gas can quickly accumulate to dangerous levels.

In a confined space with poor ventilation, even a small propane leak can create a flammable concentration of gas in a matter of minutes. This gas can then be ignited by any nearby ignition source, such as a pilot light or electrical spark, leading to a devastating explosion.

To avoid this risk, always store propane tanks outdoors in a well-ventilated area, at least 10 feet away from any structure (ref).

5. Ignition Sources are Everywhere

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From pilot lights to power tools, your shed or garage is full of things that can set off a propane explosion.

Sheds and garages are often home to a wide variety of potential ignition sources, many of which can easily set off a propane explosion. These include things like water heaters, furnaces, and other appliances with pilot lights or electronic ignitions. Power tools, electrical outlets, and even static electricity can also create sparks that can ignite leaking propane.

The risk of ignition is particularly high in cluttered or poorly organized spaces, where flammable materials may be stored close to ignition sources. To minimize this risk, it’s important to keep your shed or garage clean and well-organized, with propane tanks stored far away from any potential ignition sources.

Regularly inspect your storage area for signs of leaks or damage, and address any issues promptly to prevent accidents.

Optimal Outdoor Storage for Propane Tanks

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Choosing the outdoors for storing propane tanks significantly enhances safety by allowing any leaked gas a chance to dissipate swiftly into the atmosphere. Such storage avoids the buildup of flammable gas concentrations, which can be dangerous in enclosed spaces like garages or sheds.

When situating your tanks outside, ensure they are placed in a location well-ventilated and isolated from any structural or flammable hazards.

  • Elevate tanks: Use sturdy, non-flammable platforms to keep tanks above ground moisture, preventing rust and degradation. Elevated tanks are easier to inspect for leaks or damage.
  • Ensure visibility: Store tanks in a visible area to facilitate monitoring and prompt detection of tampering or damage while adhering to safety guidelines for distance from structures and ignition sources.
  • Use safety signage: Mark propane storage areas with clear signage to warn others of hazards, provide safety instructions, and remind individuals to maintain a safe distance.
  • Consider weather: In regions prone to extreme weather, anchor tanks or construct wind barriers to prevent tipping or shifting. Regularly inspect and adjust setups to meet safety standards and adapt to changing weather conditions.
  • Optimize tank color: Choose light-colored tanks to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat, helping to maintain safer pressure levels. Consider painting tanks light colors if exposed to substantial sunlight.

By incorporating these additional guidelines, you can enhance the safety and efficiency of your propane storage, ensuring it remains a reliable and secure energy source for your needs.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.