I found todays special edition digest about propane and
acetylene very informative. I am a professional engineer with 20
yrs of experience that includes design and operation of
facilities that process propane and other hydrocarbon gasses,
and I thought I would throw in my 2 cents worth by providing
some fact and some opinion…
MY OPINION - I would never consider bringing a 20 lb propane
storage tank or an acetylene B tank into my home. I believe that
it exposes me and my family to an unacceptable level of risk. A
leak of either one of these gases in a confined and
unventillated space such as a basement workshop can cause an
explosion large enough to seriously damage your house and injure
(kill) its occupants. I agree that it is possible to have these
gasses in your home for many years without an incident, but I
believe that the consequence of a leak and explosion is too high
for me to be willing to take the risk.
SOME FACTS TO HELP YOU MAKE YOUR OWN DECISION;
Propane, acetylene, butane, natural gas will all explode
violently if mixed with air in the correct proportions and
exposed to a spark or flame and even a hot glowing piece of
Propane and butane are heavier than air and will sink or pool
on the ground. Acetylene weighs about the same as air, and is
referred to as neutrally bouyant, but still behaves a bit like
propane and butane. Natural gas is lighter than air and will
Whether a gas pools or rises makes little difference in a
confined space such as a basement studio or a back bedroom. One
of these gases leaking in a room with little or no ventilation
is just about guaranteed to form an explosive mixture with air.
Once it finds an open flame it will explode.
All propane tanks are equipped with a pressure relief valve.
This is required by law to prevent a propane tank from over
pressuring and ripping open. When a propane tank is overfilled
(especially in cold weather) and brought inside into a heated
home, or left in the sunshine by a window, the liquid propane in
the tank expands and vapourizes and starts to pressure up the
tank. The relief valve pops open and lets some of the propane
out of the tank to lower the pressure inside the tank. This is
just fine if the tank is located outside as the tank
manufacturer intended, since the propane gas will disperse
harmlessly, but not so OK inside your home.
When transporting propane tanks in your car, ALWAYS transport
them upright and leave your trunk slightly open. Transporting or
storing a propane tank on its side could affect the ability of
the relief valve to work, and if the hot sun warms up the
propane in your trunk it can cause the propane tank to rip open.
Also, it is a good idea to leave your trunk open a bit just in
case the propane relieves out of an upright tank.
If you feel that you really must bring these gasses into your
home, you should consult the local fire department so that you
know if it is legal and also to get some professional advice on
how to safely handle the gas. You should also consult your
insurer, to make sure that they will cover you in the event of
And finally a bit more opinion. I do all of my soldering in the
garage, with the doors cracked open. I am a hobiest, and have so
far been content with smaller butane and propane torches. I am
planning to move up to a Prestolite acetylene torch. I will keep
my tank outside of my house in some sort of ventilated
enclosure, and always close the valves when I am done.
MILT FISCHBEIN P.Eng.