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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.
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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.
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:
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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)
Details are at GAS PRESSURES LP vs NATURAL GAS
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
see GAS METER CLEARANCE DISTANCES.
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.
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]
(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
NFPA 58: Liquified Petroleum Gas Code, (2014), NFPA
1 Batterymarch Park
Quincy, MA 02169-7471
+1 617 770-3000, or from Mexico toll free: 95-800-844-6058, Website: www.nfpa.org, Excerpt:
The code includes minimum requirements for safe handling during LP gas transfer, including operator qualifications, maximum filling quantity in containers, and pre-transfer inspections to ensure containers are fit for continued service. - http://catalog.nfpa.org/2014-NFPA-58-Liquefied-Petroleum-Gas-Code-
NPGA #412-94 "Installation of Underground LP-Gas Systems", National Propane Gas Association, 1600 Eisenhower Lane, Suite 100, Lisle IL 60532, Tel: 630-515-0600 (1994), Website: http://www.npga.org/, - retrieved 3 Feb 2015, original source: https://www.suburbanpropane.com/pdf/NPGA412-94.pdf
Excerpts & adaptations or paraphrasing from this source:
This bulletin provides guidelines for the installation and inspection of underground LP-Gas systems and outlines song of the unique problems and conditions inherent in these installations that are not encountered when dealing with aboveground systems. It is not intended to cover all facets of every application, but is meant to be of general assistance to personnel who install and inspect underground LP-Gas systems."
LPG tank Excavation & Setting Guidelines
Install the container and the rest of the system in accordance with accepted standards such as NFPA 58, and/or the authority having jurisdiction. Make sure tank is located in accordance with spacing requirements. See Figure 1 [in the original document] and NFPA 58.
The bottom of the excavation must be level and free of rock~ If rocks are present, a 6-inch bed of sand should be used. For completely buried tanks, the excavation must be dug to a proper depth to provide for the housing dome to extend far enough above ground level to prevent entrance of surface water (1 to 3 inches is common practice), allowing for grading away from the dome. See item 7. If conditions require it, suitable precautionary measures such as shoring should be taken to prevent cave-ins during excavation.
For mounded systems, the same general procedure shall be followed, except that the aboveground surface area of the tank must be covered with at least 1 foot of earth, sand, or other noncombustible, noncorrosive materials such as vermiculite or perlite.
In high ground water level areas, provisions shall be made to adequately secure the container to the ground, or to a concrete slab, to prevent flotation. Remember that a properly filled container can float because the density of LP-Gas is about half that of water. Local soil conditions may require other provisions to allow proper drainage from within housing dome.
The container should be set substantially level on a firm foundation (firm earth may be used) and surrounded by earth or sand firmly tamped in place. Backfill should be free from rocks or similar abrasives.
Where underground containers are installed in locations subject to vehicular movement, such as automobiles, trucks, tractors, etc., protection shall be provided ...
Above we provide additional installation specifications for above ground LP gas tanks and cylinders.
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.
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.
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 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!
Here are some LP gas safety recommendations and home inspection report examples:
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.
Or see PROPANE GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS
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My gas company is making me pay to move the tank because of the air conditioner. They put it there, not me - Stephen 6/2/11
Seems doubtful that the gas company installed the A/C unit. But even if that unit was installed previously and the LP tank has just now been recognized as a hazard, I'd be grateful that someone recognized and warned you about a safety hazard.
i would like to ask if there is a provision that requires a minimum distance of LP-gas pipe line away from any source of heat? - Randy 5/1/12
Randy, "any source of heat" is not well defined. So no, not at that level of definition. After all, an LP tank is installed outside exposed to heat from the sun. But you can read some LP gas tank location and piping routing safety specifications at GAS PIPING DEFECTS as well as in the article above.
My lp tanks outside my mobile home are just a foot away from where my dryer vents outside at. I just bought this home and it was already like that. Is it safe? I have electric dryer. - Robin 1/10/2013
The heat of a clothes dryer won't be a risk to an LP gas tank; but if the dryer is blowing lots of lint around I'd double check that the LP gas regulator vent is not exposed to lint-clogging from blowing debris - that would be, in my view, unsafe.
(Apr 17, 2014) Bert said:
If the printer on a propane gas delivery truck is faulty and prints out dates that are regularly 10 days in advance of the actual delivery date what is the likelihood that the delivered amount of gas is also faulty?
What a fascinating question. I can't assume a darn thing about the gas being delivered but I don't blame you for being concerned. The accidental foul-up of a printer wouldn't concern me provided the company responded and fixed the problem promptly. But if this were an ongoing situation I could not but wonder if the company is not doing something funny financially that I don't understand. Financial cheating is ... well, lying and cheating and probably illegal. Do people who cheat on their taxes or in billing also cheat on product delivery - well that's just an opinion, but hey, I'm just askin'
You might want to report this problem to your state regulators - surely your state has an agency that regulates the metering of fuel delivery truck meters just as they do at the gas pump.\
Keep us posted. If something egregious arises it might be appropriate to let the sun shine (in publishing) on the company.
(July 28, 2014) Peter Stoneham said:
My local petrol station (in Auckland, New Zealand) wont fill my LPG bottle when the petrol tanker is at the station filling the stations tanks. They do, however, allow people to fill their cars as normal with petrol and in closer proximity. Why is filling an LPG bottle deemed a health and safety issue around petrol tankers?
Interesting question, Peter. I'll research the answer a bit now (and post findings here) and will research it further when I'm in Christchurch later this year.
Follow-up from Christchurch NZ about LPG regulations
The New Zealand LPGA has a document you'll want to obtain online or from the
LPG Association of New Zealand Inc
PO Box 1776
New Zealand Association of New Zealand Inc
Code of Practice
In-situ Filling of LPG Cylinders
Hazardous atmosphere zones must be delineated
and identified in accordance with AS/NZS
60079.10.1:2009. Examples of setting hazardous atmo
sphere zones about cylinders taken
from Annex ZA 22.214.171.124 and 17 of AS/NZS
60079.10:2009 are shown in Appendix 1.
(Sept 26, 2014) Dee said:
There are 3 underground lpg tanks in our housing estate. There is a brick wall immediately next to the tanks (seperating them from a green area) Is it safe for children to play next to this wall?
Are there any risks for a house which is 10ft from the tanks?
If there are LPG leaks everyone is potentially at risk as are nearby buildings.
If the tanks, piping, regulators, and related LPG equipment are properly installed and maintained and operated then the risks of this fuel are within accepted guidelines of the various authorities we cite. No one can, by e-text alone, make an assessment about the actual risks at your site. If you have reason to be concerned, after evacuating everyone to a safe distance, from a safe location call your emergency services, 911, or if you don't have an immediate emergency concern check with your local building and fire departments and ask for a safety inspection.
Take a look at the regulations for LP Tank siting and the LPG Propane Awareness article we link-to from Massachusetts in the U.S. for a detailed reply.
(Oct 24, 2014) Chip Griswold III said:
I just bought a home with a propane fireplace. A coper pipe goes out through the exterior wall; there is no tank the prior owner apparently removed it. Where that pipe comes out is about 4 or 5 feet from the HVAC unit. The best place for me to put the tank would be ten or twelve feet on the other side of the HVAC units, but to do this, I would need to have the copper pipe line extended along the house within a couple feet of the HVAC unit, is that allowable. Short story is putting the tank ample distance away is not a problem, but will the line going to the tank be one?
Not if it is piped, installed, protected as per LPG codes we cite in this article. Keep in mind that you will add to the safety of your installation by complying with local codes and regulations including the required building permit and inspections.
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