Propane is an odorless, colorless gas that’s extracted during natural gas processing or is a by-product of oil refinement. Though it’s gas, it’s typically compressed to a liquid form and stored in tanks.
Those tanks can then be delivered to different households, where the gas is often used for heating, cooking, or fueling vehicles. Thanks to its energy efficiency, eco-friendliness, and ease of transportation, more and more people are choosing propane over gasoline or natural gas. If you’re one of them, you should know a few things about propane tanks, the noises they make, and their safe use.
Different Types of Propane Tank Noises and What They Mean
A properly working propane tank doesn’t make any noises — aside from the short hissing sound when you initially turn it on, it should be entirely silent. If you do start hearing noises, don’t dismiss them as unimportant or temporary. They might indicate an issue that could only grow worse if left unchecked.
With most propane tanks, you’ll encounter four common types of noises. Each of these signifies a different problem, so it’s good to be able to tell them apart and recognize what they mean. Read on about each type, and you’ll have no trouble identifying the issue.
If there’s a knocking sound coming from within your propane tank, it could indicate that the air and liquid propane aren’t mixed evenly. There’s an easy way to check whether that’s the case or not. All you have to do is inspect the color of the flames.
If the measures of air and propane are correct, the flame will be blue with a yellow tip. However, if the flame is white or yellow, it could mean there is a problem with the mixture. In that case, it’s best to call a professional to adjust the gas and liquid levels, as well as your tank’s airflow.
A professional might advise you to try and solve the problem on your own by letting off some extra gas using the relief valve. But if the knocking sound persists, they’ll need to look into it themselves.
Typically, a knocking sound coming from the tank isn’t too urgent of a problem, nor is it too dangerous. Still, it’s best to address it as soon as possible for your own comfort and to avoid any other issues down the line.
Gurgling and Humming Sounds
If you hear gurgling or humming sounds after turning on your propane tank, it may be overfilled. In that case, the excess liquid puts pressure on the regulator and reduces the tank’s outflow. Check your pilot lights and flames — if the lights are discolored and the flames weak, you’re likely dealing with overfilling. Low heat could be another indicator of this issue, so pay close attention to that as well.
The solution to this problem is draining the propane tank of excess liquid. However, that’s not a task you should attempt to do on your own unless you have experience with it. It’s always safer to call your supplier or another professional to take care of it.
There are other causes of humming you should be aware of, though. Sometimes, a pocket of air may be trapped inside the hose, causing the noise. At other times, the regulation valve could be the source of vibrations. Either way, checking the flames and pilot lights should reveal the true culprit.
When you first open your propane tank, you’re sure to hear a few seconds of hissing sounds. They happen due to the initial gas rush and are nothing to worry about — in fact, they are pretty standard. However, if the hissing continues past that initial opening or comes back at a later stage, you might be dealing with a leak.
Propane tanks tend to be safer and less prone to punctures than tanks with methanol, ethanol, and gasoline. Still, faulty bleeder and relief valves can lead to leaks which can be serious safety hazards. Luckily, it should be fairly easy to identify the leak — manufacturers add a strong smell of rotten eggs to the propane mixture precisely for this reason.
If you suspect there is a leak, turn off your tank immediately and call a professional. Don’t attempt to fix it on your own, and don’t inhale too much of the gas. Also, avoid using heating and electrical devices around the tank. In fact, it’s wiser to leave the premises along with your family members until an expert comes to resolve the issue.
This video shows how to check for leaks:
Squealing is one of the less common sounds that might come from your propane tank to indicate there is an issue. In this case, a faulty regulator is a likely culprit, and a replacement is usually necessary.
But while squealing isn’t typically an indicator of a serious safety concern, it’s still better to call a professional to check your canister. After all, you can never be careful enough when it comes to propane.
Is Propane Dangerous?
When handled correctly and not inhaled in large amounts, propane should cause you no trouble at all. Out of all the available fuel options, it’s considered to be among the safer ones. However, mishandling it can lead to leaks and spills, which are an emergency that should be dealt with immediately. After all, propane is highly flammable, and as such, it can easily cause fires and explosions when exposed to heat.
But the fire isn’t the only potential consequence of propane mishandling. Excessive propane inhalation in areas with insufficient oxygen is also very harmful. Symptoms frequently start with rapid breathing and elevated heart rate and end with nausea, vomiting, convulsions, coma, and even death. That’s why it’s advisable to quickly leave the premises the moment you smell propane and suspect there is a leak.
How to Ensure Your Propane Tank Remains Silent and in Good Condition
Here are a few tips and safety precautions you should take with your propane tank if you want to keep it silent and in good condition for many years.
Don’t Store It in Direct Sunlight
To keep both your household and your tank safe, you should consider storing propane outside. But if you decide to do that, remember to put it in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight. That way, it will stay at a safe temperature — under 120°F — and it won’t be at risk of overheating. And that, in turn, lowers the chance of propane-induced fire or explosion.
Don’t Store It Near Your Living Area
If you choose to store your propane tank indoors, make sure you place it somewhere away from your living area. In fact, putting it anywhere too close to your home is potentially risky.
Instead, look for a detached shed or a garage. A space like that will provide good coverage for the tank and simultaneously protect it from extreme heat and cold. In addition, the tank will receive good ventilation, which is crucial for flammable gasses.
Keep the Tank Away From Combustible Materials and Electrical Tools
As mentioned before, propane is highly flammable, so keeping it around combustible materials and electrical tools is risky. If there are no leaks, accidents are unlikely to happen, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
Keep the Tank on the Ground
Whether you store the propane tank outdoors or indoors, make sure that it stays on the ground. That way, you lower the risk of it falling over and getting damaged in the process. For the same reason, you shouldn’t keep it upside down or on the side, and don’t place it on uneven ground. In fact, if you suspect there’s even a slight chance of the tank toppling over, it’s best to find a more secure spot for it.
Keep the Tank Out of Extreme Cold
Extreme cold won’t be much of a problem for propane itself — stored inside the tank; it’s well-protected and unlikely to freeze. However, the cold could affect the tank and its functions, causing it to deteriorate and perhaps even malfunction.
So, if possible, keep the tank out of the extreme cold by covering it up or placing it inside a shed or garage. Also, make sure it’s full to avoid low pressure and freezing, which occur more frequently when there’s not enough gas in the tank.
Although it may not signify anything too dangerous, your propane tank making noise is always cause for concern. It’s certainly not something you should ignore and hope it goes away on its own, especially if you hear a hissing sound followed by an unpleasant smell.
Still, unless you’re experienced, you shouldn’t attempt to fix the problem on your own. Even if you believe you know what the issue is, it’s always safer to get an expert to look into it. They’re sure to solve it quickly, efficiently, and without putting anyone in danger.