Grill propane tanks should be used standing upright. If you use one of these propane tanks on their sides, you run the risk of feeding the regulator with liquid instead of vapor, creating possible combustion and fire.
In other words, using a propane tank on its side can be incredibly dangerous and should be avoided, though there are some instances when it is safe.
The exact reason you shouldn’t use a grill propane tank on its side requires quite a bit of explanation. To learn how to properly use a grill propane tank and why you shouldn’t use it on its side, keep reading. We go over a few safety concerns with using propane tanks on their sides, as well as a few real life applications when its okay to use one on its side in everyday life.
Why You Shouldn’t Use A Vertical Propane Tank On Its Side
Generally speaking, the reason why you shouldn’t use a grill propane tank on its side is that this position puts the tank at risk of feeding liquid through the regulator instead of gas. In a worst-case scenario, this could lead to combustion and an unforeseen fire.
Grill propane tanks run on the propane vapor, not the liquid. For the vapor to be used, it must be placed above the liquid. Vapor is lighter than liquid, meaning liquid naturally falls below the vapor. Whenever a full propane tank is placed on its side, the liquid will be at the exit point, not gas, forcing liquid through the regulator.
For these reasons, you should generally not use a grill propane tank on its side, unless the propane tank was specifically designed to sit in a horizontal position.
If you need to have your grill’s propane tank on its side, we recommend using a horizontal design propane tank like this one. It’s specifically made to be put on it’s side, has a overflow protection valve, and a handle for easy transportation.
However, there are instances when it is generally safe to do so. For example, propane tanks that are well below half-full can safely be used on their side. That’s because there is not enough liquid to reach the regulator in the first place, allowing the vapor to reach the regulator instead.
Although it is technically safe to use a propane tank on its side during this instance, it is still generally advised to refrain from doing so. It is very difficult to know exactly how much liquid is in the tank, potentially putting yourself at risk in the process. It’s better to be safe than sorry, which is why you should put the tank upright.
How a Grill Propane Tank Works
Why it is so dangerous for the liquid to go through the regulator is largely due to how grill propane tanks work. Whenever you open the tank’s valve, the pressure drops, and the liquid is exposed to the outside temperature. Because propane has such a low boiling point, the outside temperature causes it to boil and vaporize, thus creating the gas.
This gas or vapor is an energy source that is capable of powering your appliances and your grill. Whenever you turn up your grill’s heat, the tank’s pressure decreases, which creates more vapor and energy for the grill and allows you to turn the heat up.
However, if the liquid goes through the regulator, the energy is too much, causing an explosion and fire. In other words, the liquid is not a safe energy form due to its low boiling point. The vapor can safely be used to energize the grill, which is why the propane tank should be placed upright, not sideways.
Design of the Propane Tank
At this point in our investigation, you may be wondering why some devices can use propane tanks sideways. Forklifts, for example, often come with propane tanks that are placed horizontally, not vertically. Given that these devices use propane tanks in this way, you may wonder why it is so bad to do so with your grill.
Simply put, the propane tanks that are placed sideways are specifically designed for this placement. As a result, the regulator is placed in a different spot. They often will have an additional feature, such as a vaporizer, to ensure that liquid does not make it through the regulator.
The propane tank on your grill is not designed to be placed horizontally. So, the regulator is placed at the top, and it does not include additional features, such as a vaporizer. This specific design makes it unsafe to use the propane tank on its side.
Best Ways to Use a Grill Propane Tank
Propane grilling is actually more dangerous than grilling on coals. Because of how potentially dangerous propane grills can be, it is important to use them safely. Here is some propane grill do’s and don’ts to help you use your grill propane tank safely.
Propane Grill Do’s
As you should have already gathered from the first part of this article, always use the propane tank vertically. Using it vertically places it in such a position so that the liquid cannot go through the regulator.
When storing the propane tanks, make sure that they are stored upright as well for the same reason. Additionally, place them away from any potential sources of ignition, including matches, lighters, and any heat.
Use propane grills outside in a well-ventilated area. Gas grills can be very dangerous if they are too close to flammable items. More so, you can inhale their gases, which is also dangerous if the area you are grilling in is not well-ventilated.
Finally, follow all manufacturer’s instructions and safety tips. These instructions will be specifically designed for your grill, ensuring that you follow the best safety practices for the model you are using.
Propane Grill Don’ts
Knowing propane grilling don’ts is just as important as knowing propane grilling dues. Most importantly, don’t place the propane tank horizontally. Doing so risks the liquid going through the regulator. Even when it is closed, the liquid can permeate into the surrounding area, causing an issue down the line.
Don’t place the tank in a potentially hot environment either. This especially includes the inside of a vehicle. Vehicles are closed and potential hotboxes that can be incredibly dangerous for propane tanks. Beyond vehicles, don’t place them next to any sources of heat or potentially flammable objects.
Also, be very careful when using the propane grill. Most importantly, do not use a propane grill inside unless it is specifically designed for inside use. Do not use any flammable items or smoke around the propane grill either.
Lastly, don’t let children tamper with the grill or tank. Since these parts are sensitive and so dangerous, only allow adults who are educated on the contraption to mess with it.
Generally speaking, it is most safe to use a propane tank vertically, unless it’s specifically designed to be on its side, since it prevents liquid from going through the regulator.
However, you can use one of these tanks horizontally if it is less than half full. You can also use tanks that are specifically designed to be placed horizontally on its side. Most propane tanks for grilling, though, are not designed in this way.
Because of this fact, we strongly recommend avoiding placing a propane tank horizontally, even when the grill is not in use. Using the grill propane tank vertically is the best way to ensure a safe grilling experience, free from combustions and dangerous fires.