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Using propane

Propane is a useful source of energy. It can be used for cooking and refrigeratingfood when camping or at the summer cottage. At home, it is mostly used for barbecue cooking, but also for patio warmers and outdoor decorative fireplaces. Propane is both convenient and safe when observing certain safety rules.

Basic safety rules for using propane

Do not jeopardize your safety and the safety of those around you. Follow the instructions for using propane.

  • Keep propane cylinders outside.
  • Place propane cylinders on a solid base to prevent them from falling.
  • Never leave an appliance unsupervised when in use.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Ensure the place where the appliance is located is adequately ventilated and effective evacuation of combustion products. Gazebos and other confined spaces with more than 2 enclosed vertical panels that have a roof do not provide adequate ventilation.
  • Make sure the flame created by propane is a pure blue. If the flame remains yellow or bright, a burner may need to be adjusted or cleaned. In such cases, have your appliance checked by someone qualified in gas installations.
  • Never obstruct the air entry and exit of combustion products for vented appliances. Furthermore, the exits of combustion products must always be directed outside, to the open air.
  • Use appliances as intended.
  • Do not try to repair or make changes to your appliances.
  • Shut down the gas supply of your outdoor apparatus after each use.  
By clicking on the video, you will change the context of this page.

Legend: Video presentation of basic safety rules by Gaston Lepage. Transcript of the video: The Propane in Complete Safety [Fr].

Are you concerned about the quality of a propane installation? Immediately call upon a propane retailer, a contractor specialized in propane installations or any holder of a certificate of qualification with regard to gas installations, as issued by Emploi-Québec.

Is your appliance approved? To ensure your appliance is approved, check whether it bears the seal of one of the organizations listed on the page The certification organizations and seals.

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A smell of gas?

When a propane-fired appliance or installation emits an odour of rotten eggs or boiled cabbage, this can be a sign of a gas leak.

You should then avoid:

  • Smoking
  • Using lighting and ignition sources such as pocket lamps, matches, candles, etc.
  • Flipping any electrical switch
  • Using a cell phone inside the premises

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Experiencing nausea, dizziness, itchy eyes, headaches and vomiting?

If you notice these symptoms, they can be signs of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning caused by poor propane combustion.

You should immediately:

  • Exit the premises where the appliance is installed
  • Call the fire department of your region or dial 911
  • Shut down the gas supply to the appliance if possible
  • See to adequately ventilate the premises if possible

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Filling up, storing and transporting cylinders

There are other safety measures to follow for filling up, storing and transporting propane cylinders.

For filling up, make sure to:

  • Have the cylinders filled up by someone who holds a certificate of qualification in the field. When your cylinder needs be filled up, check whether the attendant performing the task holds a valid certificate issued by Emploi-Québec.
  • Given that liquid propane increases in volume when the temperature rises, a cylinder should not be filled to more than 80% of its capacity.
  • Do not transfer propane from one cylinder to another. Using adapters to transfer propane from a 20 lb cylinder to a non-reusable 1 lb cylinder that is a specification TC 39M (e.g. the one used for a camping stove) is illegal. It is forbidden since it may pose fire, explosion and burn risks.

For the storage of propane cylinders, you should:

  • Store your cylinder outdoors year-round, and never inside a building. Only single-fill cylinders with a 1-pound capacity of propane or butane may be stored indoors (up to three cylinders).
  • Place the cylinders in a vertical position, and make sure they are protected against impacts.
  • Do not expose cylinders to sunlight, as pressure inside the cylinders builds up considerably when ambient temperature rises. For the same reason, avoid any exposure to temperatures above 50°C, to an open flame, or to any other source of ignition.
  • Return defective cylinders or ones that have been in use for more than 10 years to the propane distributor or to your city's eco-centre. Do not eliminate it with household waste; even if it feels empty, it could still contain enough fuel to cause an explosion!

For transportation, make sure:

  • The propane cylinders are maintained in an upright position so that the gaseous propane remains constantly in contact with the safety valve to minimize the risks in case of a leak.
  • The cylinder's valve is closed properly. It is mandatory that the outlet of the supply valve from refillable cylinders of 45 lbs. or less be fitted with a weather cap or a dust cap, as applicable. It is also highly recommended to use weather caps on cylinders of greater capacity.
  • There are, among others, additional conditions for transporting dangerous materials in Québec:
    • It is forbidden for an on-road vehicle carrying more than two (2) propane cylinders to circulate inside any tunnel where a road sign forbids it.
    • Only cylinders having a water capacity of 46 litres or less (which corresponds to propane cylinders of 40 lbs. and less) may be transported inside such tunnels.
    • Before a recreational vehicle carrying propane boards a ferryboat, the driver must notify the ship’s captain or his representative.

It is forbidden to transport or store propane cylinders aboard a private vehicle, unless the space to receive the cylinder is vented to the outside. To this purpose, a window or the trunk, depending on where the cylinder is placed, must be left at least partially opened. Make sure the cylinder does not tip off, either by using a holder or by securing it with a strap. Close the supply valve of the propane cylinder of a recreational vehicle when travelling, even when the cylinder is located on the outside of the vehicle. 

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A few propane properties

Safe use and general knowledge of its properties help minimize its potential dangers.

Propane gas:

  • is heavier than air
  • requires a large volume of air for its combustion
  • is flammable when its concentration in the air is between 2.4% and 9.5%
  • is not toxic in and of itself, but a poor combustion (not enough combustion air or plugged burner ports, for instance) may result in the production of carbon monoxide (CO), a gas which is toxic and can be deadly.

Propane is colourless and odourless, but in a concern for safety, an odorizing agent that smells like rotten eggs or boiled cabbage is added to it to help detect leaks.

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Preventative maintenance

To make the most out of their propane appliances, users should have them checked once a year. In all cases, service of any fire-propane appliance or installation must be entrusted to a contractor specialized in propane or to the holder of a certificate of qualification relating to gas installations.

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