Propane gas is a fossil fuel derived from natural gas and petroleum deposits. It is a very dependable fuel source for heating and cooking and is widely used in “off-grid” areas as an alternative to natural gas and electricity. Propane can be used in one of two ways. Entire homes can be fueled with propane, or it can be stored away for use as an emergency fuel.
Whole home use
With propane, there is no direct line from your gas company to your home. The propane tank and the lines delivering the fuel are onsite and belong to the homeowner, not the city. The propane supplier fills the tank at the homeowner's request. If your home was not built with this infrastructure in place, there are big costs to switching over, including the cost of furnaces and appliances.
As emergency fuel storage
Propane is one of the very best options for emergency fuel storage. It is clean and safe, and it stores very well and for long periods of time, making this the most preferred method of fuel within the prepping community. This is the use we will highlight here.
Equipment Using Propane
Patio grills and camping grills & stoves
Propane fueled backyard grills are extremely popular. There are many smaller portable grills on the market as well that utilize propane as their source of fuel. If you don't have an outdoor grill, investing in a smaller portable version can be a smart investment for emergency cooking.
Note: When using propane to cook indoors you can ONLY use a natural gas stove that has been adapted for propane and have proper ventilation. Without this proper alteration, propane must not be used to cook inside.
A propane-fueled generator is an efficient temporary backup for when the electricity goes out. Only run a generator outside.
These are safe IF the heater has an automatic shut-off switch that monitors the oxygen level. If the oxygen dips too low, the automatic shutoff turns the heater off automatically.
How much do I need?
- A small canister will last a couple of days if cooking intermittent meals. Using one burner at lower settings you may get 4 or 5 days of use.
- 1 month supply (3 meals a day): 2 standard BBQ grill tanks, about 35-40 pounds.
- A 5-gallon container will last most people anywhere up to 100 hours of cooking.
Home Delivery for large amounts
- Widely available
- Works reliably, burns clean and is safe.
- Smaller equipment that uses propane are convenient, small, portable, and easy to use
- Stores well in different size containers from 1 to 1,000 lbs
- Is a toxic gas and gives off carbon monoxide when burning.
- Is explosive and must be handled with extreme care.
- Is a heavier fuel and not suited for all emergency scenarios.
Outdoor barbecue grills can be used for cooking during emergencies, but to conserve your propane in emergencies, avoid using large grills and use a smaller camping stove instead. As you use it, buy more, rotating through your supply.
- DO NOT use this fuel inside. ONLY appliances, such as a natural gas stove that has been adapted for propane use should be used.
- Be careful of your local laws because some locations only let you store so many containers of propane at any given time.
Propane stores indefinitely but due to its explosive nature, there are legal limits to the amount of storage allowed. Check with your local fire department for restrictions in your area.
- Never store propane inside your home, in an attached garage or storage compartment
- Store propane outside and several feet away from your house
- Use only high-quality tanks, valves, and gaskets that are verified to be in good condition
- Make sure your container has proper seals to avoid evaporation, leakage, or explosion
- Store out of direct sunlight
- Store in a cool, dry area, free from moisture
- Store in a well-ventilated area such as a storage shed or unattached garage or under an over-hang
- Store on a flat surface like a concrete slab
- Store the propane container upright
- Don’t store the container next to anything flammable or that may have a risk of sparks
- Do not smoke anywhere near your stored propane
- The shelf life is virtually indefinite if the tanks do not leak, or the valves do not become damaged.
- Though propane has no known degradation, most containers have “use-by” dates. The containers must be recertified 12 years from that date and every 10 years after that.
- Tanks and valves used to store and contain the propane are at risk of rust and corrosion. Keep an eye on the condition of your container(s) to extend the life of your propane. While virtually all tanks will suffer from some degree of leakage, high-quality tanks, and valves will reduce leakage.