About Propane Gas

Propane, sometimes known as liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, is a gas normally compressed and stored as a liquid. It is nontoxic, colorless, and virtually odorless; an identifying odor is added so it can be detected. Propane is commonly used for space and water heating, for cooking, and as fuel for engine applications such as forklifts, farm irrigation engines, fleet vehicles, and buses; however, its applications are rapidly growing due to new technology developments. When used as vehicle fuel, propane is known as propane autogas.

Propane Resources & Safety Tips

We’re happy to provide resources for homeowners and business owners in Illinois about the uses of propane, propane safety tips, and more. Explore this page to learn more about propane benefits and safety information.


Where Does Propane Come From?

Propane is primarily a byproduct of domestic natural gas processing, though some propane is produced from crude oil refinement. U.S. propane supplies are becoming increasingly abundant due in large part to increased supplies of natural gas.

  • As shale gas extraction has increased, the production of propane from crude oil refinement has dropped dramatically. In 2011, 69 percent of the total U.S. supply of propane came from natural gas liquids produced in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Strong growth in propane supply is expected to come from the Marcellus shale play in the northeastern U.S. Industry observers estimate the Marcellus shale alone can supply more than two billion gallons of propane per year.
  • Because of the drastic increase in U.S. sources of propane, the U.S. produces more than enough propane to meet current demand and became a net exporter of propane in 2011.

Can You Smell Propane?

Propane has a foul odor that has been compared to garbage, sewage, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal. Some people may have difficulty smelling propane. Causes may include:

  • Age (older people may have a less sensitive sense of smell)
  • The effects of medication
  • Medical conditions such as colds, allergies, or sinus congestion
  • Alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
  • Tobacco smoke, cooking odors, musty or damp smells, and other strong odors
  • The propane smell may not wake up someone who is sleeping. It may also be in an area of the building where it may not be detected, such as a basement, an attic, or a garage.

What Is Propane Odor Loss?

Odor loss is an unintended reduction in the concentration of the odor of propane, making it more difficult to smell. Situations that can cause odor loss include the presence of air, water, or rust in a propane tank or cylinder, or the passage of leaking propane through the soil.
Since there is a possibility of odor loss or problems with your sense of smell, you should respond immediately to even a faint odor of gas

Propane Gas Detectors

Under some circumstances, you might not smell a gas leak. Propane gas detectors are designed to sound an alarm if they sense propane, even if the odorant cannot be detected. It is recommended that you consider installing one or more gas detectors listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in your home. Detectors can provide an extra measure of safety.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding use. If a detector is sounding an alarm, treat it as an emergency and act immediately, even if you do not smell propane. Never ignore the smell of propane, even if no detector is sounding an alarm.

What To Do If You Smell Gas

    Immediately put out all smoking materials and any other open flames or sources of ignition. Do not operate lights, appliances, telephones, or cell phones. Flames from these sources can trigger an explosion or fire.
    Get everyone out of the building where you suspect a gas leak.
    If it is safe to do so, SHUT OFF THE GAS AT THE TANK. To close the valve, turn it to the right.
    Once you are safely away from the leak, call your propane provider right away. If you cannot reach your propane provider, please contact 911 or your local fire department.
    Even if you do not continue to smell propane, do not open or turn on the propane supply valve. Do not re-enter the building, vehicle or area. Let a qualified propane service technician and/or emergency personnel check for escaped propane.
    Before you attempt to use any of your propane appliances, your propane retailer must check your entire propane system to ensure that it is leak-free.

Carbon Monoxide & Your Safety

What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?
You cannot taste or smell carbon monoxide, but it is a very dangerous gas, produced when any fuel burns. High levels of carbon monoxide can come from appliances that are not operating correctly, or from a venting system or chimney that becomes blocked.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning
Headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. In extreme cases, CO can cause brain damage or death.

If You Suspect CO Is Present, Act Immediately!

  1. If you or a family member shows physical symptoms of CO poisoning, get everyone out of the building and call 911 or your local fire department.
  2. If it is safe to do so, open windows to allow entry of fresh air, and turn off any appliances you suspect may be releasing CO.
  3. If no one has symptoms, but you suspect that CO is present, call your propane retailer or a qualified service technician to check CO levels and your propane equipment.

Help Reduce Your Risk of CO Poisoning

  • Install UL-listed CO detectors in your home. Test alarms once a month to make sure they are working order.
  • Have a qualified technician check your propane appliances and related venting systems annually.
  • Regularly check your appliance exhaust vents for blockage and have obstructions removed.
  • Never use a gas oven or range-top burners to provide space heating.
  • Never use a barbecue grill (propane or charcoal) indoors for cooking or heating.
  • Never use portable heaters indoors unless they are designed and approved for indoor use.
  • Additionally, portable generators must be operated OUTSIDE ONLY.

Signs of improper appliance operation that can generate high carbon monoxide levels:

  • Sooting, especially on appliances and vents
  • Unfamiliar or burning odor
  • Increased moisture inside of windows
  • Yellow flames

Lighting Pilot Lights

IF A PILOT LIGHT REPEATEDLY GOES OUT or is difficult to light, there may be a safety problem. DO NOT Try to fix the problem yourself.

YOU ARE TAKING THE RISK of starting a fire or an explosion if you attempt to light a pilot light yourself. IT IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that only a qualified professional light any pilot light that has gone out.

Appliance Maintenance

  • Read your manuals. Your manufacturer’s user manuals that come with your appliances are great resources. Refer to the manuals for proper operating and maintenance instructions.
  • Designed with a purpose. Only use propane appliances for the purpose for which they are designed. For example, never use an outdoor propane appliance indoors.
  • Leave it to the experts. Only a qualified professional has the training to install, inspect, service, maintain, and repair your appliances.
  • Not all appliances are convertible. Many gas appliances from box stores are equipped for either natural gas or propane, or both. For appliances that can be either, they may start with a default natural gas setting. They must first be converted to propane before they can be used. So read the label to ensure the appliance is designed to use LPG, which is another name for propane.
  • Inspection is key. Have your appliances inspected for safety every year.
  • Keep it capped. Any gas line not attached to an appliance should have the valve closed and the ends terminated with a threaded cap or plug. Leaks that occur from open gas lines are extremely dangerous due to the potential for a large volume of gas to be released over a short period of time.
  • Let them breathe. Make sure your propane appliances are well ventilated. Contact a qualified service technician if there are any signs of obstructions.
  • Make sure you see blue. When propane appliances operate properly, the propane flame burns blue. If you see yellow flames or a significant amount of soot on any appliance, the gas may not be burning completely. This can create carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, and deadly gas. Call a qualified service technician if these conditions occur.

FLAMMABLE VAPORS ARE A SAFETY HAZARD. A pilot light on your propane appliance can ignite vapors from gasoline, paint thinners, and other flammable liquids. Be sure to store and use flammable liquids outdoors or in an area of the building containing no propane appliances.

DO NOT RISK IT! If you cannot operate any part of your propane system, or if you think an appliance or other device is not working properly, call your propane retailer or a qualified professional for assistance.

Running Out of Gas

DO NOT RUN OUT OF GAS. SERIOUS SAFETY HAZARDS, INCLUDING FIRE OR EXPLOSION, CAN RESULT. If your propane tank runs out of gas, any pilot lights on your appliances will go out. This can be extremely dangerous.
A LEAK CHECK IS REQUIRED. Many states require the propane system to be checked for leaks before turning on the gas. Contact your propane retailer or a qualified professional to perform a leak check and turn on the gas.
Never turn the gas on at your propane tank. Contact your propane retailer or a qualified professional to check for leaks, turn on the gas, and re-light pilot lights on the appliances.

Monitor Your Gas Tank

Look at the gauge attached to the tank with the numbers from 5 to 95. Numbers indicate the percentage of gas remaining in the tank. If your tank gauge reads 25% or less, call your propane supplier for a refill. We recommend that you learn how to read your tank gauge and develop a habit of checking it on a regular basis, especially if you choose not to participate in your provider’s automatic delivery options.

How to Read Your Propane Gas Gauge

IF GAUGE READS # Gallons Remaining (150 Gal. Tank) # Gallons Remaining (200 Gal. Tank) # Gallons Remaining (250 Gal. Tank) # Gallons Remaining (500 Gal. Tank)
80% 120 160 200 400
70% 105 140 175 350
60% 90 120 150 300
50% 75 100 125 250
40% 60 80 100 200
30% 45 60 75 150
20% 30 40 50 100
10% 15 20 25 50