Photograph of residential LP or liquid petroleum gas tanks outdoorsPropane - LP Gas Tank Installation, Location, Piping, Filling, & Inspection

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LP or Propane Gas Tank Installation, inspection, controls, repairs:

Here we provide descriptions and photographs of unsafe gas piping, indications of unsafe or improperly operating gas appliances, gas meters, and other gas installation defects are provided. The photo above shows two 24-gallon LP gas tanks installed outdoors on a wobbly unstable base.

This document also provides free sample draft home inspection report language for reporting defects in oil and gas piping at residential properties. Do not copy contents from InspectApedia to other websites.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

LP Gas Tank Observations & Gas Tank Safety Recommendations for Home Inspectors & Home Owners

LP Gas tank above groundGeneral safety warning: improper installation and even improper inspection and testing methods involving natural or "LP" gas can involve dangerous conditions and risk fire or explosion.

If you smell gas you should leave the building immediately and should do so without doing anything that could create a spark such as operating a light switch or telephone.

From a safe location, call your gas company's emergency line and/or your fire department.

Article Series Contents

Immediate LP or natural gas safety hazards: if there is evidence of an LP or natural gas leak at a building, gas odors, for example, you should:

Photograph of bottled gas regulator connections

LP gas tanks [liquid petroleum gas tanks] are normally placed only outdoors, above ground or (if the tank is designed for it), buried below ground.

Where LP tank regulators can be exposed to the weather, especially in northern climates exposed to freezing weather, they should be protected from water and frost to prevent potentially dangerous damage to the LP gas pressure regulator, shown as the gray disk behind the right-most tank in this photograph of LP gas tanks in the Hudson Valley of New York.

LP gas tank regulators are discussed at Gas Regulators for Tanks .

How Does the LP Gas Company Fill the LP Gas Tank at a Building?

LP gas tank being filled by Bottini Fuel, Poughkeepsie NY (C) Daniel FriedmanAt left our LP gas tank is being filled by an automatic delivery schedule. Photo courtesy of the author & Bottini Fuels, Poughkeepsie, NY.[9]

There are several ways your LP gas company will know when to make a delivery.

If your building uses piped-in natural gas, fuel delivery is continuous through the piping system and of course you won't have an LP gas tank at your property.

Watch out: if you have run out of LP gas entirely your fuel delivery driver may refuse to re-fill the tank unless provision can be made to assure that pilot lights in the building are also re-lit and that the building is safe from risk of a gas leak.

LP gas tank being filled by Bottini Fuel, Poughkeepsie NY (C) Daniel Friedman

The fuel delivery driver will (or should) refuse to deliver LP gas if he is aware of unsafe conditions such as a leak or nearby open flames.

And since the LP gas delivery truck driver has to pull a heavy gas hose and nozzle from the truck to your LP tank, you don't want to run out of fuel in the dead of winter with deep snow-cover and no path cleared to the LP gas tank.

LP gas delivery meter on the fuel truck (C) Daniel Friedman 2013

The LP gas delivery driver will print a receipt that documents the date, time, and quantity of LP fuel delivered to the building.

To protect customers from a dishonest LP gas delivery driver, the fuel meter will not print a receipt if the LP gas delivery truck has moved at all from the time of start of LP gas pumping. Our driver explained that otherwise, "in the old days" of older LP gas meters, a dishonest driver could drop off LP gas at multiple properties, billing just the last customer for fuel.

Is the LP Gas Tank Supposed to be Filled to the Very Top of the Tank or to 100% on the Gas Gauge?


LP Gas tank fill-volume is typically to 80-85% of capacity, leaving vapor space in the tank. The LP gas company does not fill the tank to its very top as that would not leave sufficient room for expansion of the liquid fuel as temperatures increase from the temperature of the liquid propane at the time of delivery. This is an important safety detail: your gas company is not short-changing you.

NOTES: Liquid propane has a comparatively high coefficient of expansion (> 50 psig per °F - O'Brien (2010) REALLY? NIST in discussing the coefficienty of expansion of propane cites that for propane, at temperatures from about 85K to 650K the pressure will range from 1kPa to 4521 kPa as a function of temperature and pressure.

The same source offers this additional data: Density (Liquid) as a function of Temperature and Pressure Temperature from 85.525 K to 369.89 K
Pressure from 1 kPa to 1000000 kPa - NIST (2014))

Overpressure in the LP tank can cause direct venting of combustible gas to the atmosphere, liquid fuel in the distribution lines, abnormally high and thus unsafe pressures at the appliance, or even a ruptured tank. . - Ramirez et als. (retrieved 2014)


How & Where to Install Above Ground Liquid Petroleum Gas Tanks - LP or Bottled Gas Tanks: Clearance Distances

Specifications for Installing & Inspecting Above-ground LP Gas Storage Tanks - gas cylinders not filled on site

These LP Gas tank location clearances for above-ground LP gas tanks are given as measured from the tank's relief valve in any direction away from any potential source of ignition (of a gas leak) or where leaking gas could be drawn into a building window or other vent opening. If your fuel is piped-in natural gas rather than from an onsite storage tank of LP gas, you will want to

Sample gas tank inspection report language: Safety: Install secure and level support for the LP gas tank at ... - if a tank tips over and breaks gas line it could be dangerous. This is an inexpensive item. This item should be handled promptly on establishing gas service for the house, preferably before tanks are filled.

Also see Installation specifications for Buried LP gas tanks.

Specifications for Installing & Inspecting Above-ground LP Gas Storage Tanks - gas cylinders that are to be filled on site: Clearance Distances

Below is a common LP gas tank cleareance distance skectch example used by most authoirities, cited from NFPA 58 in its Appendix I.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Above ground LP gas tank clearance distance specifications - example: check with your local LP gas company and building department for safe clearances for your installation.

Reader Question: proper backfill for a buried propane tank

(Sept 15, 2014) Hal said:
I am confused as to the proper backfill for a 1000 gallon propane tank, one supplier uses sand, another limestone. which one is recommended?



The concern with *any* backfill on tanks or piping is to avoid sharp rocks or objects that, through settlement, might perforate or damage the equipment. I'm not sure what sort of limestone nor what size gravel that contractor uses, but sand sounds safer to me.

See the following references for code and specificastions for installing underground propane or LPG Tanks

Installation Specifications for Below-ground LP Gas Storage Tank: Clearance Distances

Above we provide additional installation specifications for above ground LP gas tanks and cylinders.

Specifications for Finding, Inspecting, Installing Buried LP Gas Tanks

How to Find a Buried LP Gas Tank

Access cover for buried LP gas tank

Finding a buried LP gas tank should not be difficult at a property, since the top of the tank has to be accessible for filling and inspection.

Photograph of the fill valve and regulator and tank gauge for a buried LP Gas tankLook for the access cover, usually white steel on older LP gas cylinders or black plastic covering an access well on new buried LP gas tanks, as we mention next.

At some new properties you may first have to see and recognize the plastic access well and cover such as the buried LP gas tank cover shown in these photographs.


When the buried LP gas tank access cover is opened, the buried LP gas tank fill valve and regulator are plainly visible as should be a gauge indicating the remaining amount of LP gas in the tank.



How to Find & Read the LP Gas Tank Gauge Guide

The LP tank gauge is installed at a fitting either on the tank top itself or on a combination fitting at the tank top where the gas valves and connections are also installed.

LP Gas tank gaugeThis Liquid Petroleum Gas Tank Gauge - LP tank gauge or bottled gas tank gauge shows us that it is intended for installation on a 200 Lb. LP gas cylinder, and that the tank is at about 40% full.

LP Gas tanks are normally filled before the tank is totally empty. The liquid petroleum gas delivery truck driver can assure that no contaminants have leaked into the tank if it is still under pressure. LP tanks are usually not filled to 100% of tank capacity, since doing so would risk sending liquefied LP gas out of the gas tank and into the regulator where it could cause damage or be unsafe.

The curved graph at the upper end of the LP gas gauge dial shows the effects of temperature on the LP gas stored in the tank and thus on the effective remaining amount of fuel in the tank.

Some smaller LP gas cylinders may lack a gauge. When a gas cylinder has no percentage-full gauge and we want to know if the tank is empty or nearly so, we gently rock the tank (be careful not to cause a gas leak).

If the tank is heavy and hard to move it's probably nearly full. A bit of experience with pushing slightly on the tank just before and just after it has been filled by your LP gas delivery company can make it easy to have a general idea of the level of fuel in the tank.

Be sure that LP gas cylinders are not so loose or poorly supported that they can tip over - risking injury or even a gas leak and explosion!

LP Gas Tank Home Safety Tips & Inspection Report Language Examples

Here are some LP gas safety recommendations and home inspection report examples:

LP Gas Cylinder that is Incompletely Buried

Propane Gas Tank Safety Recommendations: The liquid propane gas tank at ... is partially buried - this may not be a recommended building practice; accelerated rust may lead to failure of the container. Please review this question with the gas supply company.

Propane Gas Tank Safety Recommendations:Be sure that the safety relief valve and controls atop the LP gas tanks outside are protected from icing (for example from exposure to rain or gutter overflow). Iced controls can prevent proper operation of safety devices.


Continue reading at GAS PIPING DEFECTS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

If your fuel supply is from piped-in natural gas fed through a meter then you should refer to GAS METER CLEARANCE DISTANCES for meter & piping clearance distances and installation specifications.


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