Having a propane tank installed near your home is a great way to ensure a reliable source of fuel no matter where your home is. A large outdoor tank allows for a constant source of fuel without the need to constantly swap smaller tanks. Still, propane must be treated with care like any other type of fuel, and it's important to know how to maintain your tank, how to look for potential issues, and what to do in case of an emergency.
Familiarize Yourself With Its Components
On the surface, a propane system is relatively simple. Propane gas comes from your tank through a shutoff valve near the lid and through a first-stage regulator. This regulator is responsible for lowering the PSI from your tank, which is typically very high, into something appropriate for your house's needs. You may also have a second-stage regulator just before the gas line enters your house, though this isn't always the case. From there, the gas supply runs through piping in your house to wherever a supply of gas is needed. You'll also typically have gauges to inform you of pressure and gas levels in your tanks and hoses.
You don't need to know exactly how they work, but familiarizing yourself with what they are and what they do will help you take better care of your system by helping you spot problems early. This can also help you with basic maintenance, like checking to make sure all components are in good shape and working properly, and can also make sure you know how to shut off your gas supply if necessary.
Protect Your Tank
Outdoor tanks, especially ones that sit above ground, will last longer if they're protected at least somewhat from the elements and from pests. Tanks shouldn't be completely enclosed as some air flow is necessary, but you can protect your tank from direct sunlight, rain, snow, and pests. One method is to install a canvas tent over top the tank, and another method is to install a chain-link fence around the tank to restrict access. The harsher your average weather conditions, the greater your protection should be. A company like All American Plumbing & Heating that installs tanks can recommend a cover.
You can also protect your gas supply from rodents by replacing your hoses with a strong material like stainless steel that can't be chewed through, or by using repellents near your tank.
Finally, you can help your tank system last longer by never letting it run out of gas. Letting a tank get completely empty can cause leaks or allow oxygen inside the tank, which can then cause rust.
Inspect Your System Often
Part of maintenance is giving a cursory check of your system every so often to make sure all its components are working properly and are undamaged. Beyond inspecting all the hoses and parts from your tank leading to your house, there are a few warning signs to look out for.
First, look for signs of rust. An outdoor tank is bound to get some outside rust eventually, but it shouldn't be severe. It should also be taken care of quickly, as rust can lead to more extensive corrosion, which can weaken the tank wall.
Second, look for an increase in bugs swarming near your tank. The smell of the gas can attract some insects, so if you see plenty of insects around your tank, this could indicate a gas leak and is worth investigating.
Third, look for any dents. Many small dents aren't a major issue, but larger dents present the same problem as rust, which is weakening of the tank wall. When in doubt, shut off your supply of gas and ask for a professional opinion.