It may seem like an obvious question. But many RV and other owners do not know that much about propane. They just know that it is one of the cleaner fuels to use when having a barbecue or heating their water. But there is a dark side to this gas that needs to be understood.
While propane is supposed to be non-toxic, inhaling it can either cause dizziness or hypoxia. The latter can kill you as that means the gas deprived you of oxygen. When you have a leak in your propane system, you could die from it.
To learn more about the risks and dangers of propane, just continue to read our article. It may get a bit blunt but it has the information you want to know about so you can use propane safely. Propane, like other gases, is not something to fool with.
Two of the aspects of propane that make it so dangerous are that it is colorless and odorless. You may not even realize you are breathing it in until you start to feel some side effects.
A third aspect is that it is also tasteless. This means that you won’t know if you are inhaling this gas or not. The good news in all of this is that propane distributors or manufacturers, add a sulfur smell to the gas so you know what is happening around you.
It is possible that you may think you have some rotten eggs in your kitchen when you smell the sulfur. If that is the case or you do not notice the gas, here are some warning signs to help you identify there is a problem in your home.
- plants are dying- propane is a heavy gas and your plants may be affected first
- you are feeling ill- if you feel dizzy, nausea or starting to have headaches, then you know you have a problem
- that rotten egg smell- hard to differentiate between sulfur’s odor and eggs that have gone bad
- the wrong color flame- if everything is okay, the flame should be blue and have a yellow center. Any other color indicates a problem.
First the good news. The odds of you dying in a propane tank explosion is about 1 in 37 million. Those are the same odds you are given for dying in a plane crash. The bad news is that one time may be when you are present.
However, these events are very rare. It takes prolonged exposure to high heat temperatures before the propane in its tank will explode. Generally, these explosions are caused for the most part, by leaking gas that hits a flame or high heat sources.
This happens the most often when someone forgets to shut the gas off when they are barbecuing. Usually, the propane tank will explode when its pressure relief valve cannot expel the high pressure quickly enough.
When the pressure gets too high in the tank, it will explode. That is one reason you always keep an eye on your tank’s pressure relief valve. If it is broken or damaged in some way, it cannot release the gas and you are asking for trouble.
Keep in mind that the tank has to be exposed to flames or other high-heat sources for a very long time before it can explode.
The short answer is yes, it can. The types of sicknesses you can experience are as follows:
- Burning sensation
- General weakness
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in an abnormal manner and have propane tanks in your RV or trailer, then get outside to get some fresh air first. Then once you are feeling better, check for the source of the leak.
Generally, a leak can occur when the pilot light on your propane stove, water heater, etc., goes out while the gas is still flowing. Instead of running back inside to shut the tank off, it is best to call in the pros who handle this problem all the time.
They will have the necessary equipment to safely enter your home and turn the gas off. They will probably open a lot of windows to air your home out so you can get back inside soon.
When you are feeling those symptoms, you should go to a doctor or the hospital to get the right medical treatment. If your car is inside the garage, then get a friend to drive you as quickly as possible.
From a basic leak, the answer is no you cannot get carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is the result of burning a certain type of fuel. Those fuels can be wood, gas, propane, charcoal, and so on.
But you have to be burning those fuel sources to produce this gas. When you do burn these fuels, the carbon monoxide is like propane, odorless, tasteless, and colorless. You may not realize you are being poisoned until it is too late.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to propane gas poisoning, but not exactly the same:
- Dull headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
It is important that you either have a carbon monoxide detector in your RV or trailer or keep the windows open at night. This gas is notorious for harming people when they are sleeping.
When you cook with those fuels, make sure to have an exhaust fan on or at least a window or two open. You want good ventilation and that means checking your vents to make sure they are not plugged.
To be blunt and the worst thing that can happen is that you could die. It may take a while for that to happen but that is one of the dangers of leaking propane.
If you do not have an open flame anywhere, then you will not suffer from an explosion. But be careful as even a high heat source can trigger an explosion and you could get injured or be killed.
The best thing to happen to you, if you can call it that, is that you will get sick and experience some or one of the symptoms listed earlier in this article. You may also see your plants die or your pets get very sick or die as well.
Propane is a heavy gas and it goes low first so you will have some warning of a leak before it reaches you. There is no real way to sugar-coat this for you. A propane leak is dangerous even though it is non-toxic.
Replacing the air in your lungs means you will suffocate and that is never a good way to die. Just handle propane carefully and check your equipment for possible leaks and you should be fine.
Also, make sure the gas is turned off if you spot the pilot light has gone out.
The first thing to do is to shut the valve off. Stopping the leak means stopping the flow of gas to the leak’s location. You should do this when you see that the pilot light is out.
Then shut off all items that have an open flame as well as any hair dryers and other high heat sources. Next, open your windows to get proper ventilation in your RV or trailer.
After that, you can start your search for the leak. Using soapy water is the best way to spot the leak and that will require turning the main gas valve back on so the gas flows to the leak.
The leak may be in one of the valves so make sure to check those. If it is you will most likely need to change the valve for a new one. If the tank is leaking, then you won't be able to repair the tank and may need professional help to solve the problem.
The key is not to panic or to get bent out of shape simply because you have a propane leak. Keep a calm, cool head so you can handle the problem without causing a panic.
Propane leaks are serious business. You need to know what to do to handle them safely and quickly. If you panic then your family will panic and that could lead to some serious injuries that could have been avoided.
If the leak is beyond your skill set to handle, do not be afraid to call in the pros. They know how to handle leaks in the best possible manner and avoid explosions.
Just keep your propane equipment in good shape to avoid this issue.