Propane is a useful source of energy. It can be used for cooking
food 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.
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.
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:
- using lighting and ignition sources such as pocket lamps, matches, candles, etc.
- flipping any electrical switch
- using a cell phone inside the premises
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
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.
- not have a cylinder that is more than 10 years old filled up
- not have a cylinder filled up to more than 80% of its capacity since that liquid propane increases in volume when the temperature rises.
- 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, e.g., camping stove canisters, may be stored indoors (up to three cylinders).
- place the cylinders in a vertical position, and make sure they are protected against impacts.
- 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! If your cylinder is more than 10 years old but is not empty yet, you may use it until it is. However, the cylinder has to be in the same condition as the last time it was filled. Once the cylinder is empty, you cannot fill it up again and you will have to buy a new one, which will be good for the next 10 years.
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.
- to follow the additional conditions for transporting dangerous materials in Québec, wich are, among others:
- 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.
A few propane properties
Safe use and general knowledge of its properties help minimize its potential dangers.
- 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.
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.