Can Propane Freeze In Cold Temperatures? (It Depends!)
Most homeowners worry about when choosing propane as a fuel source is how it will stack up against the cold winter months. We all know that heat is something that propane should be protected from, but can we say the same about the cold? Can propane freeze?
Yes, propane can freeze, but this is highly unlikely to happen. The freezing point of propane is -306 degrees Fahrenheit. No place on earth has ever gotten that cold, even Antarctica. There is no possible way for propane to freeze unless it’s done purposefully, in a lab.
Now, just because it’s improbable for propane to freeze doesn’t mean that the tank itself is out of harm’s way. There are still precautions you need to take, which we will cover in this article as well.
What Causes Propane to Freeze?
Being under pressure inside the cylinder, propane subsists in a liquid state. When in use, the liquid leaves the tank, reaches its boiling point of -44 degrees Fahrenheit and returns to a gaseous state. At this point, the propane gas is ready to be used by your heating systems and propane-fueled appliances.
In incredibly cold situations, where temperatures consistently remain below zero, it is possible for the propane to return to its liquid form. In this case, the propane cannot be used by any equipment that relies on propane gas. Such extreme temperatures can also cause significant pressure changes inside the propane tank as the propane is transported through the delivery system. This can result in ice and frost forming on the valves, regulators, and the tank itself.
However, most cases of “freezing” happen on pressure regulators, when the propane’s pressure decreases to a level that cannot be used by appliances and equipment. As the liquid propane transforms into its gaseous state and hits its boiling point, it ordinarily freezes the accessible humidity around the regulator.
This instance of freezing is not a cause for concern. Though, in rare circumstances, the propane can “freeze” and stay in a liquid state as it passes through the regulator. This typically occurs when a tank has been overfilled, not allowing sufficient space for the propane to “boil” and release vapor as the system requires fuel. It can also happen if the tank was not stored upright, which doesn’t allow the fuel to draw from the vapor space inside the tank.
Is It Common For Propane Tanks To Freeze?
The freezing of the propane generally takes place in the pressure regulators. The pressure regulator is where the propane’s pressure is reduced so that different appliances can use it. When the liquid is transitioning into a gas, the liquid’s humidity will then stick to and freeze around the regulator. This usually isn’t something you need to worry about.
However, very rarely, the propane might freeze and stay in its liquid form as it travels through the regulator. This phenomenon usually happens only if the container was overfilled. If there is too much propane in the tank, there is no room for the liquid to boil into a vapor. Additionally, if your portable cylinder isn’t in the correct position, it can also keep fuel from being drawn from inside the tank.
How to Keep Your Propane Tank from Freezing
Although rare, there are still a number of preventative measures you can take to keep your propane tank from freezing conditions. These include:
1. Keep the Tank Full
One of the best ways to keep your propane tank from freezing is to keep it full. Instead of exchanging your tank when it gets empty, refill your tank more often. Not only will you save money, you will save yourself from the inconvenience of dealing with a frozen propane cylinder.
Believe it or not, you can expect to spend $1.76 per gallon, on average, if you choose to refill your propane tank instead of exchanging it. Not to mention, not a single bit of propane will go to waste if you opt to fill it up before the tank gets completely empty.
2. Avoid Low Pressure
As the temperature drops, propane will contract inside the tank. This means that the colder the temperature outside, the slower the flow. This shift in the rate of pressure can cause the tank to “freeze up.” With the drop in temperature, the total volume of liquid propane in the tank also drops, along with the pressure. In circumstances even as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you may notice a significant change in your propane tank’s pressure.
With this in mind, there are several ways that you can avoid low pressure in your propane tank. For starters, keeping the tank as full as possible will prevent the tank from dropping in pressure.
- Keep the tank no less than 30% full at all times to sustain positive pressure.
- The warmer you keep your propane tank, the higher the pressure output. Try using a heated blanket to maintain proper tank warmth.
- When not in use, make sure that the propane tank’s gas valve is turned to the “off” position.
- Always store your tank in an upright position, never on its side or upside down.
- Shield the tank from freezing caused by the outdoor conditions, but always keep it in an outdoor, well-ventilated location.
3. Store the Tank Properly
While it may be tempting to store your propane tank in a location that is temperature-regulated, like a basement or garage, the possible risks aren’t not worth it. Instead, the ideal place for storing propane tanks is outside, in a dry, shaded area and on a flat, solid surface. Keep it away from snow, rain, and high humidity, as any sort of moisture can cause rusting which will deteriorate the tank and decrease its lifespan.
You should also avoid storing propane tanks at or even subjecting them to temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit and below -40 degrees Fahrenheit. With this in mind, never store tanks in direct sunlight and keep them free of snow and ice at all times.
4. Turn Down Your Home’s Thermostat
If possible, lower the heat in your home a couple degrees during the day. Not only does this help reduce utility costs, it will also put less strain on your propane tank and ensure that it lasts all winter long. It gives your heating system tiny little breaks in operation, allowing the tank some time to build the pressure back up to the ideal level.
For best results, consider investing in a smart thermostat. That way, you can conveniently change the temperature from your mobile device – while you’re home or even when you’ve stepped out.
5. Keep the Tank Warm
Depending on where you live, storing a propane tank outside might mean placing it in freezing conditions. Obviously, this is not ideal and can cause the tank to lose pressure. Fortunately, there are several solutions when storing your propane tanks outside even in the harshest conditions.
To prevent the propane tank from freezing and the pressure inside from dropping too low, always keep it free of snow, sleet, and ice. Clear off the valves, tanks, and regulators of any buildup immediately. This will keep the tank warm and well-pressurized, while also reducing the risk of rust, deterioration, and unwarranted wear and tear.
Another solution is to make sure of other propane tank heating systems. More specifically, look for a heating method that provides safe heat, like an insulated blanket or heated blanket depending on the required pressure. Ideally, you want a heating solution that delivers consistent warmth and full coverage. Keeping the liquid propane inside the tank at a warmer temperature than it is outside will increase the pressure output and save you all of the stress that comes with ow PSI.
Where Do I Store My Propane Tank?
You need to store your propane tank where there is an excellent amount of ventilation in an outdoor environment. Keeping your propane tank inside is not only extremely dangerous but can also cause significant damage to the tank and tank components.
Therefore, some places that you should refrain from storing your propane tank in include:
- Inside the house
The ideal place for you to put your propane tank is outside, in the shade. You don’t want it directly in the sun or anywhere that strong winds can reach it. If you have a wall that you can hide it behind, that’s a great idea as well so that it’s not hit by flying debris in the event of a storm.
And yes, you can store it outside even in the wintertime because the weather will not get cold enough to freeze the tank. However, keep it free of ice and snow as the tank itself can rust. Also, it’s best to keep it out of the rain. While you need to keep it outdoors, you can always build a little awning to protect it from the elements.
Ideal Temperatures For Propane Storage
Instead of worrying about cold temperatures, you should focus on protecting your propane from high temperatures. If your propane is exposed to significant amounts of heat, then this can cause the pressure inside of your tank to build and eventually make your tank explode, causing injury or death.
Some important points to remember when storing your propane tank include:
- Keep the tank outside, because inside, the temperature can increase dramatically.
- Do not store the tank directly in the sun.
- Temperatures should not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you find yourself in a predicament where the pressure inside of your tank has built up due to an unexpected heatwave or some other unavoidable circumstance, don’t worry! There is a safety valve that you can engage to help blow off the excess pressure, which in turn stabilizes your tank.
Storing Your Propane Tank In Winter
While it’s safe to keep your propane tank outdoors during winter, you still need to take the proper steps to protect your tank from the snow and ice. The propane itself won’t freeze, but this doesn’t mean that your tank won’t sustain any damage.
One crucial step you can take to protect your tank is to cover it with a large plastic tarp. The tarp will help discourage ice from building up and keep snow from piling onto your tank. This simple step can extend your tank’s lifespan.
Preparing Your Tank For Storage
If the propane tank you’re worried about is the one you use for your barbecue, and you want to keep your grill outside, then it’s okay to keep your propane connected. However, you will want to ensure that you turn the propane off.
Now, if you’re someone who brings your grill in during the winter, you will need to disconnect the propane tank, which should not be stored inside. Then, set your tank on the side of your house where it won’t be exposed to the weather.
It’s also essential that you place your propane tanks on a flat, level surface. Your tank should not be crooked or at risk of falling, as this can cause damage to the tank, valves, and hoses. If this is difficult to do, you can always get a milk crate to set your smaller propane tanks in. If you have larger tanks, perhaps you will want to build a platform to ensure a level surface for storage.
Do propane tanks have expiration dates?
Unlike other fuel sources, such as gasoline, diesel, and kerosene, that degrade over time, propane fuel does not expire. Its potency also does not decrease while it is in storage. The only thing you have to worry about when it comes to propane storage is ensuring that the health and integrity of the propane tank is maintained.
Why is there frost on my propane tank?
Oftentimes, propane tanks accumulate frost or ice as a result of the regulator feeding propane too fast or if the humidity levels are too high.
Is it dangerous when a propane tank freezes?
While it may seem alarming to have a frozen propane tank, it is not a dangerous situation. Though, it is inconvenient as it will leave you without propane until the tank thaws out.
What do you do if a propane tank is frozen?
The easiest solution when your propane tank freezes is to simply stop using that tank. As this often occurs when the vapor withdrawal rate for the appliance is greater than the liquid conversion rate, the tank needs enough time to absorb heat from the air until the ice is gone.In the meantime, in situations that require small cylinders, you can hook up a spare tank. Whereas, for applications with larger tanks, make sure to install a larger tank in order to accommodate the BTU demand of the appliance adequately.
Heather is a passionate writer who loves anything DIY. Growing up, she learned everything from home repairs to design, and wants to share her tips with you. When she's not writing, she's usually hiking or searching for her next DIY project.
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