Getting to the Basics: Remodeling Projects

Why Propane Needs To Be Kept Warm And How To Effectively Use Propane Heaters

by Jill Jenkins

Gases, as far as most elements are concerned, tend to be a little more temperamental or volatile if they are not harnessed and/or stored properly. Propane is one of those types of gases. Even if you are not in construction or plumbing, but you have a propane tank, you will want to keep it reasonably warm (without the use of fire!). Here are some reasons why it needs to be kept warm and how to effectively use a blanket-style propane heater.

Pressure in Propane Tanks Drops Sharply When the Tanks Are Too Cold

If you remember anything from your lessons in the forms of matter, the molecules of gases speed up when heated. They create more energy, and the gas molecules begin to move rapidly and look for an exit. When there is no exit, the pressure builds until the container holding the gas explodes.

Now, when the container is cold and getting colder, the molecules of the gas slow down. Because the molecules slow down, less pressure exists, and the gas is not "motivated" to escape. That can create some major problems in efficiency when the gas is used for construction applications. When propane experiences a sharp and extreme drop in temperature, the molecules are almost arrested, making it impossible to use the propane for anything at all, and the gas cannot be effectively extracted from its container.

When the Gas Is Too Cold, The Tanks Can Frost up and Freeze Up

When the temperature of propane drops below -44 degrees, the tank it is in begins to freeze as well. The first signs of a problem will be that the propane hardly moves out of the release valve and the tank begins to get dewy. Then the tank starts to frost over. Finally, the tank itself will be far too cold to touch, much less maneuver into warmer surroundings. It is important to get the tanks into warmer air as soon as possible.

Blanket-Style Propane Heaters and How to Effectively Use Them

Blanket-style propane heaters are tank heaters that wrap all the way around the tanks and keep them at a constant temperature, preferably above -44 degrees where the propane's molecules will keep moving. The warmer the tank, the warmer the gas and the more motivated the molecules will be to keep moving and provide the right amount of gas pressure when you need it.

To effectively use these heaters:

  • Wrap them all the way around the body of each tank and make sure the ends of each blanket heater touch.
  • Secure them firmly in place and do not allow the heaters to slide up and down or around the propane tanks.
  • Once you turn the blanket heaters on, check them daily. They should have accompanying temperature gauges that will allow you to verify the temperatures of each tank.
  • Do not allow the temperatures of the blanket heaters or the tanks to fluctuate excessively or drastically, as this can affect the propane inside.

Maintenance on the blanket heaters is minimal, but it should still be completed to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the future.