Can Propane Freeze in My Outdoor Tank?

Thermometer in snow

If you rely on propane to keep your home warm during the coldest of cold New York winters, you already know how well propane does its job. But during the long extreme cold wave we experienced last winter, some people began expressing concerns about the chance of their propane supply freezing up on them.

This is something you should not worry about because propane’s freezing point is -44˚. It’s highly unlikely that temperatures in the Empire State will fall that low. Although for trivia buffs, we must note that the coldest temperature ever recorded in New York State happened in Old Forge, which experienced a bone-chilling -52˚ day in February, 1979.

Actually, the main concern during extremely cold winters is a loss of pressure in your tank. Like all liquids, propane contracts in the cold. When it does, the volume of liquid propane in your tank shrinks, resulting in a loss of pressure. If the pressure gets too low, propane won’t be able to reach your gas burner.

To avoid low pressure problems during cold weather extremes, follow these tips

  • Don’t let your propane tank level fall below 30%. Having enough propane in your tank will help positive pressure inside the tank (and prevent runouts).
  • Clear snow off your tank as soon as you can. This allows sunlight to add some much needed warmth to your tank.
  • Turn down the thermostat in your home. Decreasing the temperature in your house somewhat will lessen the time your propane heating system operates, permitting the pressure in the tank to build.

Other tips

  • Clear snow and ice from propane tank regulators, vents, piping and valves to prevent damage that could cause a gas leak.
  • Remove snow and ice from vents and flues to allow your appliances to vent properly.
  • Place a flag, pole, or stake next to your tank that is tall enough to be seen over snowfall and drifts; this will help you (and the propane delivery driver) find the tank in heavy snow.

Please reach out to your propane company if you have any questions or concerns.