Can My Propane Really Freeze?

We all feel fortunate to live in North Carolina, but sometimes we feel extra fortunate, especially after following the reports of the brutal cold that affected our friends in the Midwest during the last week in January.

Chicago’s temperature fell to minus 27 degrees (without the wind chill factor!), there were fears about a natural gas shortage in Michigan and the U.S. Postal Service suspended mail delivery in parts of 10 states because of the dangerous cold.

All of this cold weather news did bring back a few memories of the colder-than-normal temperatures we experienced last winter. It was during that time when some people began expressing concerns to their propane provider about the chance of their fuel supply freezing up on them.

This is something you should not worry about because propane’s freezing point is -44˚. It’s highly unlikely that temperatures in the Tar Heel State will ever fall that low. Although for trivia buffs, we must note that the coldest temperature ever recorded in North Carolina happened in Burnsville, which experienced a bone-chilling -34˚ day in January 1985.

Actually, the main concern during bitter cold winters is a loss of pressure in your tank. Like all liquids, propane contracts in the cold. When it does, the volume of liquid propane in your tank shrinks, resulting in a loss of pressure. If the pressure gets too low, propane won’t be able to reach your gas burner

To avoid low pressure problems when winter gets extra cold, follow these tips

* Don’t let your propane tank level fall below 30%. Having enough propane in your tank will help positive pressure inside the tank (and prevent runouts)
* Clear snow off your tank as soon as you can. This allows sunlight to add some much needed warmth to your tank
* Slightly turn down the thermostat. This may seem strange but decreasing the temperature in your house somewhat will lessen the time your propane heating system operates, permitting the pressure in the tank to build.

Tips for when it snows

  • Clear snow and ice from propane tank regulators, vents, piping and valves to prevent damage that could cause a gas leak.
  • Remove snow and ice from vents and flues to allow your appliances to vent properly.
  • Place a flag, pole, or stake next to your tank that is tall enough to be seen over snowfall and drifts; this will help you (and the propane delivery driver) find the tank in heavy snow.

Please reach out to your propane company if you have any questions or concerns.