If you are using propane in your home, you’ll need to ensure you are protected with a propane detector. A common question can be, will a carbon monoxide detector detect a propane leak?
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors do not detect propane leaks. Carbon monoxide detectors work by setting off an alarm when they detect even the slightest levels of carbon monoxide in the air, notifying a family before the carbon monoxide levels become deadly. Many carbon monoxide detectors are not made to detect propane levels.
Will a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect a Propane Leak?
There are detectors specifically made to detect carbon monoxide, natural gas, and propane levels, providing protection against all three, and sounding an alarm when detected.
Make sure the detector that you choose indeed is designed to detect carbon monoxide, natural gas, and propane gas. If uncertain, it’s a safe assumption that you will need separate detectors for each.
Many of these three-in-one detectors have a battery backup and must be plugged into an electrical outlet.
How Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work
Carbon monoxide detectors work by detecting carbon monoxide. These CO detectors are very sensitive and work optimally when they have been properly placed in locations that will detect carbon monoxide. These detectors must be at head level or lower for best carbon monoxide detection.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Any time you burn fuel using a lantern, a grill, a fireplace, a gas range, or a furnace, gases are created that include carbon monoxide (CO). CO may accumulate inside and become toxic when inhaled by humans and animals.
The CDC states that everyone is susceptible to CO poisoning. CO infection is more likely to occur in young children, the elderly, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing issues. More than 20,000 people visit the emergency department each year, more than 20,000 people are hospitalized, and more than 4,000 people die from unintentional CO poisoning that is not related to fires.
What Is Propane?
Propane, sometimes referred to as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is a gas that is typically compressed and kept in liquid form. It is nearly odorless, harmless, and colorless. A noticeable odor is added to make it detectable in case of a propane leak.
Propane is frequently used for the following:
- Space and water heating
- Fuel for forklifts
- Farm irrigation engines
- Fleet vehicles
According to The Propane and Education Research Council, applications are expanding quickly as a result of new technological breakthroughs. Propane is referred to as propane autogas when it is utilized as a car fuel.
Does Propane Have a Smell?
Propane gas is odorless and cannot be detected by our sense of smell. Businesses that produce propane add mercaptan, a safe chemical, to give it its signature “rotten egg” scent.
This does not mean, however, that all propane has a smell. Propane in some states that runs through pipelines is odorless, so it’s crucial that all homes have a propane detector.
Elderly people or individuals using certain prescription drugs might not be able to detect propane as effectively as others. Also, rust from an older propane tank may eliminate the artificial odor that was added by the manufacturer.
Propane Gas Leak Detectors
Propane gas leak detectors can be purchased at most home improvement and hardware stores, or even on Amazon to detect propane levels in a home. Make sure that when choosing a propane gas leak detector, you choose one that plugs into the wall with a battery backup for added security.
Where to Put Propane Gas Detector
Propane gas detectors should be placed close to any appliances that use the fuel, such as your range in the kitchen, your fireplace, your furnace, or your water heater in the basement. Additionally, you need to install propane detectors outside of all sleeping quarters and in any rooms where you use space heaters. The goal is to detect the propane levels in all areas of your home.
How to Detect a Propane Leak
Before using this method to detect a propane leak, ensure that you have a good amount of fresh air ventilation so as not to become sick or overcome by the propane gas. Open windows and doors if indoors.
First, locate where the regulator outlet and the cylinder valve connect. Use very soapy water or a special leak detector solution on the connection area and slowly release the cylinder valve.
If you have a leak at the connection point, you will see bubbles form around that area. And if you hear the sound of propane escaping, that’s another sign you have a propane leak.
What to Do If You Suspect a Propane Leak
If you suspect that you have a propane leak because you smell it or you hear the sound of propane escaping, take the following steps to ensure the safety of yourself and your family.
Step 1: Beware of Potential Fire or Explosion
Gas leaks are nothing to mess with, and extra precautions are necessary to prevent the potential risk of a gas leak triggering a fire or explosion from propane.
If you suspect a gas leak, turn off all open flames. DO NOT use your phone. DO NOT turn on your home appliances. DO NOT flip a light switch on. If you need to use your cell phone, get out and as far away from the gas leak area as possible.
- TURN OFF all open flames.
- DO NOT use your cell phone.
- DO NOT turn on your home appliances.
- DO NOT flip a light switch on.
IMPORTANT: Following the above steps is crucial, as the tiniest spark could cause an explosion.
Step 2: Turn Off Gas Supply Valve on Tank
Your next focus should be, if possible, shutting off the main gas valve at the propane gas tank. Then proceed to a secure spot right away and reach out to your propane provider.
Step 3: Evacuate the Home Immediately
If it’s easy and quick to do so, open windows to ventilate the home as you’re exiting. The added airflow will lessen the likelihood of explosions or fire by assisting some of the trapped gas to escape from your home. Remember, leave immediately and quickly.
The longer you are exposed to propane gases, the more breathing may become difficult to even impossible.
Step 4: Call Your Propane Company or 911
Notify your propane supplier of the propane leak as soon as you’ve evacuated the home. Also important to note is that your local fire department is able to respond to a reported propane leak around the clock, so if you need immediate assistance, call 911 as well as your propane supplier.
Step 5: Do Not Go Back Near the Propane Leak
Do not go back into the home until the gas leak has stopped and it’s safe to do so. Avoid the temptation to return inside the house to get anything.
Step 6: Schedule Inspection of Propane Tank
You will need to have your propane supplier check your propane tank prior to using your gas appliances again to ensure your safety. It’s advised to arrange periodic propane gas tank checks to keep you and your family safe.
- Home Guides
- Crystal Flash
- Brinks Home
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The Propane and Education Research Council
Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.