Propane preparedness for gas grill owners

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Fri., Mar. 29, 2013
Propane gas tanks should be refilled for the spring and summer. Contributed.
Propane gas tanks should be refilled for the spring and summer grilling season.

If you are seasonal kind of person, you might have a few things you will typically do now that spring is here. I am the type of person who uses the gas grill all year long. But if you only make use of your gas grill during the nice weather, then now is the time to reacquaint yourself with your propane tank – which is actually called a “bottle.”

I will grill at almost any time of year and in any weather. Anyone who uses the gas grill that much should have a spare propane bottle. I do not. I always know when mine is empty by finding partially-cooked meat on the grill. This is an effective method, but inconvenient. The alternative method requires measuring how much fuel is left in the bottle. There are at least two ways to ascertain how much gas is left, and therefore approximately how much cooking time you have before running out.

Use a bathroom scale to weigh the bottle. It is best to weigh it when full at first, so you have a benchmark for your specific unit. The standard gas grill bottle should weigh about 37 to 39 pounds when full. The tare weight of the bottle itself (when it is empty) should be stamped on the collar. Look for the “TW” with a number alongside. TW18 means the empty bottle weighs 18 pounds. If the same bottle weighs 38 pounds right after filling, then you have 20 pounds of gas with which to cook.

To estimate how much cooking time you have, multiply the number of pounds in the bottle by 30 (minutes), then divide by 60 to yield the number of hours.

Without a scale, you can use a water test to estimate the remaining gas in the bottle. Fill a pint or quart jar, or a large measuring cup, with hot water. Slowly pour the water down the side of the tank and check the warmth of the water at different points along the stream. The water will remain warm toward the top, but will turn cold where there is propane in the tank.

Should you fill your bottle before the season starts? That depends on where you get it filled. Check to see wether your supplier charges by the amount of gas it needs or has a flat fee for refills, regardless of the amount of gas required.

Gas bottles, tanks and cylinders are certified for use when they are manufactured. The certification lasts for 12 years. After that they must be requalified. Each requalification adds another five years of use. Look for a date stamped on the bottle. If the date on the collar of your bottle says it was manufactured in October 2000, the propane supplier should refuse to refill it this year.

Care and maintenance is important. Keep your propane bottle in a place where it will not get dented or gouged. Also be sure it is not in a location that might accumulate water. Inspect your bottle to be sure the foot ring or neck ring (collar/handle) has not been bent or damaged, as this might render it unsuitable for filling and therefore unusable.

Never store the propane container inside your home or garage. And, of course, never locate it near other combustion sites or combustible materials. Also, keep your bottle or cylinder on a flat, sturdy base, out of damp grass, mud or puddles. It will rust, which may cause pitting, and that could eventually render it unusable. If yours does develop some rust, it is okay to clean it off with a wire brush and repaint the area. However, do not change the color. Use a light, heat-reflective paint.

If you are like me, why not make 2013 the year of the propane spare? Store it safely, and avoid grilling surprises.

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