Keeping Propane Tanks Safe: Sun Exposure and Essential Storage Tips

Keeping Propane Tanks Safe: Sun Exposure and Essential Storage Tips

You’ve probably wondered as you prepare for your summer BBQ, “Can my propane tank be in the sun?” It’s a common question, and the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

In this article, we’ll delve into the science behind propane tanks and sun exposure. We’ll explore the potential risks, safety precautions, and best practices for storing your propane tanks. So, whether you’re a seasoned griller or just starting out, you’ll find this guide invaluable.

Stay tuned as we unravel the mystery of propane tanks and sun exposure, ensuring your summer cookouts are both fun and safe.

Key Takeaways

  • Propane tanks, typically made of steel, can withstand extreme external pressures, including the sun’s heat. However, prolonged sun exposure can increase the internal pressure of the tank, presenting potential safety risks.
  • The color of a propane tank affects heat absorption – darker colors absorb more heat, which can increase internal pressure more quickly.
  • Propane tanks can be exposed to the sun, but it’s essential to take appropriate safety precautions, such as shielding the tank from direct sunlight, placing it in a shaded area, and regularly checking the pressure gauge.
  • Sun-exposed propane tanks can present risks such as overpressure, compromised structural integrity, and increased surface temperature, which can cause thermal burns.
  • Effective safety and storage guidelines for propane tanks include: keeping them outdoors but not in enclosed areas; preventing exposure to heat sources; ensuring their secure fastening; regularly checking for corrosion; and not overfilling them to allow for propane expansion.
  • Alternatives to mitigate the risks of sun-exposed propane tanks include using underground storage, propane canisters, UV-protective covers, reflective insulation, and propane delivery services.
  • Legal guidelines concerning sun-exposed propane tanks exist and non-adherence to these rules can result in penalties. Regularly inspecting tanks, using protective covers or reflective insulations, and opting for underground storage or delivery services can help ensure compliance with these regulations.

Propane tanks should be stored outside, away from excessive heat or direct sunlight, which can increase internal pressure and pose safety risks (AmeriGas Propane Tank Storage Safety Tips). It is recommended to keep propane tanks in a shaded or covered area to maintain temperature stability and prevent exposure to conditions above 120°F (Cynch Propane Tank Storage).

The Science Behind Propane Tanks

To understand propane tanks’ sun exposure in America, let’s dive into the fascinating world of these crucial BBQ companions. Propane tanks, composed predominantly of steel, are designed to withstand extensive external pressures. This robust build aids in their resilience against the sun’s intense heat.

Consider propane—a liquefied petroleum gas, stored under pressure in tanks at schools and other locations. Significant temperature changes, such as extreme heat from prolonged sun exposure, can affect the pressure inside these tanks. For instance, if the sun’s heat increases the tank’s external temperature to around 120 °F (49 °C), it could cause the pressure within the tank to reach up to 200 psi (pound per square inch). Such high pressures can risk triggering the tank’s Pressure Relief Valve—a safety device designed to vent propane in case of excessive pressurization.

However, if the sun’s rays aren’t direct and the tank isn’t in an enclosed space like a paper mill, the chance of reaching this high pressure drops significantly. That’s due to the tank’s cylinder shape, which distributes heat uniformly across the surface, helping to disperse the sun’s energy much like a rock distributes the impact of snow.

It’s important to note, the color of the tank can also impact heat absorption. Dark-colored tanks absorb more heat than their lighter counterparts, potentially raising the interior pressure more quickly. You might recall from your school science lessons, dark colors absorb more sunlight because they reflect less light, creating a higher amount of absorbed energy.

But, there’s one more critical factor in this equation—the propane itself. While constantly exposed to a heat source, propane can expand, increasing the tank’s internal pressure. Given a constant exposure to heat sources, the expansion of propane can raise the tank’s internal pressure too.

So, in a nutshell, yes, a propane tank can be in the sun. However, it doesn’t mean it’s without risk. The sun’s heat, the color of the tank, and the propane’s ability to expand are all intricate elements that combine to assess the risk involved.

Can A Propane Tank Be In The Sun?

Can A Propane Tank Be In The Sun?

After understanding how sunlight affects propane tanks, you might be wondering if it’s safe to let your propane tank bask in the sun. The short answer is, yes, propane tanks can be in the sun. But, before you decide to leave your propane tank under the sunny sky, it’s critical to understand the caveats and precautions.

Sunlight does cause an increase in temperature, and as we’ve pointed out, extreme heat impacts the pressure inside the tanks. When exposed to direct sunlight, the heat absorbed by the steel tank can cause the propane inside to expand. If the internal pressure within the tank increases excessively, it can trigger the Pressure Relief Valve designed as a safety measure.

The color of your propane tank also influences its heat absorption. Darker colors absorb more heat, making your tank hotter faster. So, if your tank is of a darker hue, it’s at a higher risk of increasing internal pressure.

While it’s true your propane tank can sit in the sun, appropriate precautions are essential. It’s advisable to either shield the tank from direct sunlight or place it in a shaded area. Limiting sunlight exposure minimizes temperature increases and mitigates risks.

A reliable way to keep your propane tank safe in the sun is by regularly checking the pressure gauge. Informed about the tank’s internal pressure, you can effectively avoid hazardous situations. In addition, it’s beneficial to understand that common-type residential propane tanks are designed to handle temperature fluctuations and maintain safety.

So, while propane tanks can be in the sun, you’re advised to manage their exposure carefully. If your tank stays under the sun, regular checks and sensible precautions ensure both safety and efficiency in using your propane tank.

The Safety Risks of Sun-Exposed Propane Tanks

The Safety Risks of Sun-Exposed Propane Tanks

You might wonder, what harm can come from a bit of sunshine? Far from being an innocuous event, sunlight strikes propane tanks with an intensity that impacts their safety. Sun exposure poses two principal risks: overpressure and compromised structural integrity.

Overpressure occurs when sun rays raise the temperature inside the tank. The propane then expands, raising the internal pressure. Pressure Relief Valve (PRV) serves as a safety mechanism to mitigate the risk of overpressure. It releases propane when the pressure exceeds the safe level, as per the National Fire Protection Association. Yet, regular operation of your PRV indicates a safety concern—you’re facing a risk of a propane leak.

Imagine a tank made of steel, a metal that conducts heat well. The sun’s rays on a steel surface can potentially reduce the structural integrity of your tank over time. Continuous exposure to sunlight causes degradation of the propane tank’s exterior, weakening its structural integrity. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers warns against corrosion due to long-term sun exposure.

Moreover, sun-exposed propane tanks pose a more immediate danger: they become hot to touch. The risk here is thermal burns—according to the Burns Journal, touching a surface above 111 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius) can cause a first-degree burn. Considering that, it’s crucial to keep propane tanks shaded or cool.

Remembering a few tips can help mitigate these risks. Rotate and shift the position of your propane tank occasionally to expose all sides equally to the sun. Regularly inspect the tank for signs of corrosion or damage. Lastly, consider investing in a propane tank cover, as suggested by the Propane Education & Research Council, to shield the tank from direct sunlight.

In essence, a little knowledge about the risks of sun exposure to propane tanks can go a long way in ensuring safety and efficiency for your BBQ experiences. It’s about being aware of the potential dangers, being proactive in prevention, and understanding that even the sun can pose risks to the otherwise sturdy propane tanks.

Tips for Safe Propane Tank Storage

While you already know the dangers of exposing a propane tank to sunlight, it’s also essential to follow recommended storage guidelines. Proper storage doesn’t only mitigate potential risks – it also aids in extending the tank’s lifespan. Here are a few guidelines for safe propane tank storage:

  1. Identify Adequate Storage Locations: Propane tanks can reside safely in outdoor spaces. However, it’s crucial to keep them out of enclosed areas like garages, sheds, or basements. Outdoor locations provide adequate ventilations preventing accumulation of leaking gases, reducing the risk of an explosion.
  2. Avoid Heat Sources: Position your propane tank away from any potential heat sources. Keeping tanks away from open flames, stoves, and operating machinery that emit heat minimizes potential hazards from heat-induced pressure build-up.
  3. Secure the Tank: Secure your propane tank against sudden movements. Fastening your tank firmly reduces the risk of accidental tip-overs which can potentially damage the pressure relief valve, resulting in leakages.
  4. Check for Corrosion: Regularly inspect tanks for signs of corrosion, particularly if they’re stored outside. Corrosion can weaken the tank’s structure, leading to possible leakages. If corrosion is evident, consider replacing the tank.
  5. Store Tanks Upright: Ensure that propane tanks are stored upright at all times. An upright position aligns the pressure relief valve correctly, functioning effectively if pressure levels rise due to heat.
  6. Don’t Overfill Tanks: Overfilled propane tanks leave no room for the propane to expand, leading to dangerous pressure buildups. Fill propane tanks only to 80% capacity to allow propane room to expand if temperatures rise.

Alternatives to Sun-exposed Propane Tanks

Alternatives to Sun-exposed Propane Tanks

Shielding your propane tanks from direct sunlight isn’t the only effective safety strategy. Other alternatives provide additional protections to help mitigate the risks associated with sunlight exposure.

Consider Underground Storage. Unlike above-ground tanks, underground tanks aren’t vulnerable to sunlight. With the right burial depth, at about 30 inches, these tanks maintain cool and consistent temperatures. However, installation requires planning, as space, soil type and environmental regulations impact the feasibility.

The use of Propane Canisters comes on par with safety as well. Smaller than propane tanks, canisters typically hold 1 pound of propane. Their compact size allows easy indoor storage, minimizing sunlight exposure. Though, they’re not practical for high-consumption applications, like heating homes or powering large BBQs.

Purchasing UV-Protective Covers denotes significant need as these covers block UV rays, reducing heat absorption. Such covers often include vents to prevent condensation build-up, a factor that could lead to corrosion if unchecked.

Reflective Insulation also does wonders in this regard. Like UV-protective covers, this insulation deflects sunlight, reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the tank. As an additional benefit, it’s flexible and easy to install, fitting tanks of various sizes.

Lastly, opting for Propane Delivery Services, you get an upper hand. Many propane companies offer delivery services, ensuring tanks stay filled without needing regular outdoor storage.

These alternatives provide an extra layer of protection, reinforcing the mantra that it’s always better to be safe than sorry. They assist in maintaining the integrity of your propane tanks, safeguarding against the potential threats posed by sunlight and elevating the overall safety profile of your propane storage.

The Legal Perspective on Sun-Exposed Propane Tanks

Diving into the legal standpoint, propane tank exposure to the sun falls under certain regulations. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) provides explicit guidelines. Section 58 of the NFPA 58 Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code, for instance, addresses safe exposure conditions for propane tanks. This bulletin stipulates that tanks must resist temperatures up to 120°F.

This legal threshold sets your pace when preparing for barbecues or storing propane tanks. Your tanks must adhere to this limit, as exceeding it could result in overpressure. This danger, in turn, results in potential fines.

Keep in mind, regular tank inspections are crucial. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), for example, governs qualifications for inspectors. Inspectors utilize methods such as pressure testing and visual checks to ensure tank safety. Any violations identified during these inspections can lead to stringent penalties.

Compliance with local zoning ordinances and community guidelines plays a key role. Some communities enforce ordinances requiring above-ground propane tank owners to use sunshading devices. Others may restrict the hours for propane tank exposure to the sun.

To comply with these legal aspects, consider using UV protective covers, reflective insulation, or storing your tanks underground. Propane delivery services can also monitor and service tanks, ensuring they meet legal requirements. Above all, consistently checking and maintaining your tanks is of paramount importance.

The legalities surrounding sun-exposed propane tanks underline the importance of safe storage and handling. They reinforce the fact that tank integrity matters, both for your safety and the safety of others. Abiding by these regulations helps avoid costly penalties and ensures a safe, enjoyable grilling experience.


So, you’ve learned that propane tanks can indeed be in the sun, but it’s not without its risks. Overpressure and structural compromise are real threats, and it’s crucial to take measures like shading or cooling your tanks. Safety doesn’t stop there, though. You’ve got to ensure that your storage practices are up to par, with proper ventilation, security, and checks for corrosion.

Remember, it’s not just about personal safety but also about legal compliance. Keep in mind the guidelines set by NFPA and PHMSA, and don’t forget your local zoning ordinances. Consider using UV protective covers, reflective insulation, or even underground storage to meet these requirements.

Don’t hesitate to lean on propane delivery services for help. After all, prioritizing safety and maintaining tank integrity will not only keep you penalty-free but also enhance your grilling experiences. Stay safe and grill on!

What happens to propane tanks in sunlight?

Direct sunlight can have adverse effects on propane tanks. It can cause overpressure, compromised structural integrity of the tanks, lead to the risk of thermal burns, and result in propane expansion.

How should propane tanks be stored safely?

Propane tanks should be stored in a well-ventilated area, away from heat sources. They should be secured and regularly checked for corrosion. It’s crucial to store them upright and avoid overfilling.

Are there regulations related to sun-exposed propane tanks?

Yes, organizations like the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have set regulations to ensure safe conditions for propane tanks. Compliance with local zoning ordinances and community guidelines are also important.

What are the recommendations to prevent sun exposure on propane tanks?

To prevent sun exposure on propane tanks, using UV protective covers, reflective insulation, or opting for underground storage is recommended. Propane delivery services can also assist in monitoring and servicing tanks for necessary legal compliance.

Why is it important to ensure safety during propane storage?

Securing safety during propane storage helps avoid penalties, maintain the tanks’ integrity, and enhance overall safety during grilling experiences. It also prevents any untoward incidents related to overpressure or tank breaches that could be harmful.