With the substantial amount of snow accumulation we've experienced across the Upper Valley and Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee regions, it is important to keep in mind some snow hazards specific to your home propane heating system.
According to Irving Energy, "two of the biggest risks for your propane heating system related to snowfall and drifting snow are propane or oil leaks as a result of damaged fittings and carbon monoxide poisoning due to blocked vents."
Hopefully, the most severe winter weather here in New England is through, but we all know the snow hangs around for a long time and can cause damage even after the storm has passed.
So, here are some steps you can take to help ensure your safety before and after heavy snowfalls and icy conditions:
Before a Snowstorm:
- Mark the location of your storage tank, vent, and/or fill pipe so that it can be easily located.
- Ensure you know how and where to shut off the outdoor propane or oil supply and any indoor appliances in the event that a problem occurs. Especially if you recently moved into a new residence, put this on your New Homeowner To-Do List...we know you have one.
- Be sure to clear the snow from your house number so that emergency services will be able to find your home in the case of an emergency. Your house number should be easily visible on the road for emergency responders.
After Each Snowfall or Icy Conditions:
- Carefully clear heavy snow and ice from regulators, regulator vents, piping, tubing and valves. Failure to do so can cause damage that could result in an oil or gas leak. Appliance vents, chimneys and flues must also be kept clear of snow and ice so appliances can vent properly. Again, be very careful when doing so to avoid damage to system components. Finally, carefully clear snow and ice off the top of tanks, gauges, fittings, and lines. Using a broom to do so will help avoid damaging the tank or system components.
- Watch for heavy icicles or large amounts of snow falling from the roof or eaves that can be very damaging to a tank and system components. Safely remove these hazards from above and around your tank, fill pipes, regulator, piping, tubing and valves, being careful not to damage your system.
- Inspect your equipment frequently. If you notice your tank has shifted position, gas or oil lines are bent, broken or damaged, or you see something else unusual about your system or appliance, turn off the main gas or oil supply valve on your propane tank, if it is safe to do so. Then call your propane supplier.
Throughout the Winter Season:
- Test your Carbon Monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly, and change the batteries, if needed.
- Be on the lookout for any signs of gas or oil leaks in and around your home. Although gas leaks can occur any time of year, severe winter weather conditions can make your system equipment and appliances more prone to leaks. So even if you are taking the proper precautions stated above, you should still be cognizant of the smell or indication of a leak.
If you smell propane or suspect a propane leak in your home, follow these safety procedures (provided by Irving Energy):
- No Flames or Sparks
- Immediately put out all smoking materials and pre-existing open flames
- Do not turn on any lights or appliances
- Do not use telephones or cell phones
- Leave the Area Immediately
- Get everyone out of the building or area where you suspect gas is leaking
- Shut Off the Gas
- Turn off the main gas supply valve on your tank, if it is safe to do so
- Close the valve by turning it clockwise (to the right)
- Report the Leak
- Once safely away from the area, call 911 or your local fire department
- Then call your propane supplier
- Do Not Return to the Building or Area
- Wait until the fire department or qualified service technician determines the area is safe
- Get Your System Checked
- Your propane supplier should inspect your entire propane system to ensure it is leak free before using any heating source or appliance
Propane is an efficient and versatile fuel that is safe when properly used. By being mindful of the hazards and taking these precautions, you can ensure your safety when using propane heating in your home.
Some of the above information was adapted from Irving Energy's Winter Safety article.