Tips to keep your family safe and warm
Winters with heavy snowfall can be magnificent, but they can also be challenging for homeowners. Accumulated snow and ice have the potential to damage many aspects of your home and property, including exterior components of your propane system.
“Propane is one of the safest and most reliable sources of energy in winter,” said Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of the Propane Education Research Council (PERC). “It keeps your home warm and allows you to cook and have hot water. A propane generator ensures that you have reliable power in any weather.”
While you can’t predict the first snowstorm or hazardous weather conditions, you can put your family in the best position for safety and warmth by planning ahead.
- Get to know your propane system. If you are not familiar with your propane system, take a few minutes to review it. Identify core components, including the tank, regulators, meter, piping and supply valves, as well as any appliance vents. Be sure you know where your main gas supply valve is located in case you need to close it in the event of an emergency; in many cases, it may be located on your propane tank.
- Mark your tank and regulator. Use a brightly colored stake or flag taller than the maximum anticipated snow depth as a marker to enable emergency and propane service personnel to locate your tank. Also mark your secondary pressure regulator or meter, which is usually near the side of your home. Check local ordinances about marking tanks and regulators and follow any rules applicable to your area.
- Have an adequate supply of propane. Roads leading to your home might not be accessible for delivery, particularly after a snowstorm. Establish a regular delivery schedule with your propane retailer or call to schedule a delivery when the percentage gauge reads 30% to give the retailer enough time to make a delivery and ensure you have an adequate supply of propane.
- Talk to your contractors. If you use a snow removal service, make sure the service knows the location of all propane equipment on the property. Instruct them to keep their equipment clear of all parts of your propane system, especially tanks, regulators and gas meters. If they shovel snow off your roof, instruct them to never shovel snow onto any part of the propane system and not to block any appliance air intakes or exhaust vents. It may be helpful to designate an area to pile snow safely away from any equipment.
- Keep snow and ice from accumulating on propane equipment. Snow or ice accumulation can potentially cause parts of your propane system to crack or break, resulting in a gas leak. Gently brush away snow or ice that has accumulated around the tank, meter, regulator and any other piping by hand or using a broom. If you must use a shovel, use extreme caution. If you notice any snow or ice buildup that cannot be removed easily, contact your propane retailer. Do not attempt to remove snow or ice by kicking or hitting equipment.
- Be alert to snow buildup. Frequently check areas where snow or ice collect on your roof, structures or nearby trees and clear it if you believe it might fall on any part of your propane system. Heavy accumulations of snow or ice falling on tanks, regulators, meters, piping or valves may cause damage that could result in a gas leak. In high snowfall areas, drifting snow and ice sliding off roofs may require additional regulator and vent protection. If you think this may be an issue, contact your propane supplier for guidance on the protection of these components.
- Keep vents clear. Appliance air intake and exhaust vents and chimney flues must always be clear of snow or ice. Some homes may have direct vents, which are close to the ground. Improper venting can cause carbon monoxide buildup in your home, which could lead to serious illness or even death.
- Clear driveways and pathways to propane tanks. Remember that a propane delivery truck needs at least a 10-foot-wide path to be able to deliver fuel to your home. Keep the tank area and a path to the tank free of snow. When plowing, snow-blowing or shoveling, do not push or pile snow around your tank, meter, regulator or piping.
Stay Alert for Safety
As you look for ways to keep your family warm and comfortable, it’s important to keep safety at the top of your list. These tips from PERC can help keep you and your family safe during cold weather.
- Never use a gas oven or range to heat your home.
- Never use portable gas-powered heaters indoors unless they’re designed and approved for indoor use.
- Never use an outdoor barbecue grill indoors for cooking or heating, and never use a generator in a garage or other enclosed area.
- Keep chimneys, flues, and appliance air intake and exhaust vents free of snow, ice and other debris.
- Consider installing a UL-listed carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.
If you smell gas:
1. Immediately put out all smoking materials and other open flames. Do not operate lights, appliances, telephones or cell phones. Flames or sparks from these sources can trigger an explosion or fire.
2. Get everyone out of the building or area where you suspect gas is leaking.
3. Turn off the main gas supply valve on your propane tank if it is safe to do so. To close the valve, turn it to the right (clockwise).
4. From a neighbor’s home or other nearby building away from the gas leak, call your propane retailer. If you can’t reach your propane retailer, call 911 or your local fire department.
5. Do not return to the building or area until your propane retailer or emergency personnel determine it is safe to do so.
6. Before you attempt to resume the use of your propane appliances, have your propane retailer or a qualified service technician check your system to ensure it is leak-free.
For more safety tips and information, visit Propane.com.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Propane Education Research Council, Family Features