Small Cylinder Safety

Ohio Propane Gas Association has assembled the following list of answers to commonly asked questions about handling and storing small cylinder propane tanks, like those used on residential gas grills. If your question is not in the list or you are still unsure of the answer, please consult an industry professional.

Click a question below to expand its answer.

What should I do if I smell gas?
  • Immediately put out all smoking materials and other open flames.
  • If you are able to, safely turn off the cylinder valve. To close the valve, turn it to the right (clockwise).
  • Immediately leave the area and call 911 or your local fire department.
  • Before you restart the appliance, have a qualified service technician inspect your cylinder and appliance.
Some people may have difficulty smelling propane due to their age (older people may have a less sensitive sense of smell); a medical condition; or the effects of medication, alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Consider purchasing a propane gas detector as an additional measure of security.
Odor fade is an unintentional reduction in the concentration of the odor of propane, making it more difficult to smell. Although rare, this can be caused by the presence of air, water, or rust in the cylinder. New and reconditioned small cylinders that sit too long before being filled are prone to internal rust when moisture and air get inside.
How should I store small cylinders?
  • NEVER store or place a propane cylinder indoors or in an enclosed area such as a basement, garage, shed, or tent.
  • NEVER store or place a propane cylinder in an area of excessive heat (120 degrees or higher) or near a stove, fireplace, or other heat source. The heat builds up pressure inside the cylinder, which may cause the pressure relief valve to release propane. Flash fires or explosions can result from exposing cylinders to heat.
  • NEVER store or place a spare cylinder under or near a barbecue grill.
  • DO NOT smoke or have any ignition sources such as flames or spark-producing electrical tools in the area while handling or transporting cylinders.
How should I transport small cylinders?
  • ALWAYS transport and store a cylinder in a secure and upright position so it will not fall, shift, or roll.
  • ALWAYS close the cylinder valve and, if required, seal with a plug, even if the cylinder is empty. Ask your propane retailer if a plug is required.
  • NEVER keep a filled cylinder inside a hot vehicle or transport it inside a closed trunk.
  • ALWAYS place the cylinder in a well-ventilated area of the vehicle.
  • ALWAYS proceed directly to your destination and immediately remove the cylinder from your vehicle.
  • The law places limits on the number of cylinders and the amount of propane that can be transported in closed-bodied vehicles such as passenger cars and vans. Ask your propane retailer for more information on state and local codes that apply to you.
What should I do if I have a problem with my cylinders or outdoor appliances?
  • DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TRY TO MODIFY OR REPAIR VALVES, REGULATORS, OR OTHER CYLINDER OR APPLIANCE PARTS. Propane cylinders incorporate special components such as valves, connectors, and other parts to keep them safe for use with grills and other propane appliances. Damage to any component can cause a gas leak.
  • DON’T RISK IT! Call your propane retailer or a qualified service technician for assistance.
How to test for propane leaks?
It is important to inspect your cylinder and outdoor gas appliances for leaks. Do this before using them for the first time each season, as well as on a regular basis. This can be accomplished with a simple “bubble” test:
  • Apply leak detector solution or thick soapy water to the connection(s) between the cylinder valve and the regulator outlet.
  • Slowly open the cylinder valve and watch for bubbles.
  • If bubbles appear, close the cylinder valve, tighten the connection, and repeat the process. If bubbles still appear, call your propane retailer immediately.
What is an overfill prevention device (OPD)?
  • MAKE SURE YOUR CYLINDER IS EQUIPPED WITH AN OVERFILL PREVENTION DEVICE (OPD). An OPD is a safety feature that helps prevent small propane cylinders from being overfilled. An overfilled cylinder doesn’t have enough space left if the liquid expands when exposed to warmer temperatures. This can cause an increase in cylinder pressure and create potentially hazardous conditions.
  • Most cylinders with OPDs have special triangular handwheels with the letters “OPD” on them. In many states, cylinders without OPDs cannot be refilled. If you are uncertain as to whether your cylinder has an OPD valve on it, ask your propane retailer.
  • If your cylinder requires a new valve, visit your local propane dealer and ask the trained professionals there to install the new valve.  If your local propane retailer does not have the valve, they can be ordered from propane suppliers.  Contact the OPGA with any questions.
What should I do with my old or damage cylinders?
  • NEVER use a damaged cylinder or a cylinder that has been in a fire. All cylinders must be inspected before they are refilled. The law requires periodic inspection of cylinders, and it is against the law to refill out-of-date cylinders. The last inspection date is stamped on the cylinder.
How should I dispose of cylinders?
  • NEVER dispose of your propane cylinder by throwing it in the trash. Check to see if there are municipal programs for collection in your area, or contact your propane retailer for guidance on disposal of the cylinder.