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Do it Yourself

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Food Truck Propane Leaks

After yesterday’s tragic propane explosion in a Philadelphia food truck we felt the need to provide food truck owners the ability to check for food truck propane leaks themselves.

In many food truck businesses, propane is the fuel of choice for the powering of their kitchen equipment. Although propane companies have specialized equipment designed for checking for leaks and their severity, food truck owners and their staff members can and should check for leaks.

Propane Cylinder Dimensions

The dimensions presented below are approximate measurements of common size propane cylinders found in service today. The measurements are not exact so contact your propane company or container manufacturer for precise cylinder dimensions.

20#
30#
40#
100#
Capacity (gallons)
Weight (empty)
Weight (full)
Overall Height
Diameter
BTU Capacity
4.7 gal
18 lbs
38 lbs
18 inches
12.5 inches
430,270
7.1 gal
24 lbs
54 lbs
24 inches
12.5 inches
649,980
9.4 gal
29 lbs
70 lbs
29 inches
12.5 inches
860,542
23.6 gal
68 lbs
170 lbs
48 inches
14.5 inches
2,160,509

 

Checking For Food Truck Propane Leaks

The process for finding food truck propane leaks is quite simple because the supplies and ingredients are found in almost every home and consist of just soap and water. Using a solution such as this is safe and will not harm your food truck’s propane tank or plumbing connections. It’s been heard of that people use a match or lighter to check for leaks and nothing could be more unsafe. Soap and water will safely identify and give an indication of the size of the leak.

Homemade propane leak detector solution can be placed in a spray bottle or other container. Liquid dishwashing soap will produce the most bubbles when mixed with water and is what’s most commonly used. If a spray bottle is used, adjust the tip of the sprayer so that a sharp stream is produced by squeezing the bottle’s trigger.

Don’t use a broad misting as this won’t adequately cover the connection or seal that’s being checked for leaks. The sharp stream will provide enough of the soapy mixture to produce bubbles if there is in fact a leak as well as reaching into any recessed connections that are not easily reached.

Using a sponge or dish rag to dispense the solution will adequately indicate any propane leaks as well. These leaks are common on older tanks and installations so do not be alarmed if you find a leak.

If You Find Propane Leak

As a general rule, small bubbles indicate a small leak while large bubbles indicate a larger leak. Tightening the screws on the face gauge will probably stop any leak around the face gauge. However, trying to fix the leak yourself may do more harm than good. This is especially true on older tanks where the screws may be easily sheared off if over-tightened.

The best thing to do is call your propane supplier and let them know that you’ve found a leak and they’ll make arrangements to take care of it. Again, small leaks are not cause for alarm. It’s not all that much and leaks of this size are easily fixed by tightening a fitting or connection. Until the leak is corrected we suggest you shut down any of the kitchen equipment it fuels.

Propane is a very safe fuel. But as with any energy source, there are steps you should take to further ensure your safety:

  • Learn what propane smells like. Propane retailers have scratch-and-sniff pamphlets to help your staff members recognize its distinctive odor.
  • Know where gas lines are located, so you won’t damage them when shifting or moving kitchen equipment within your food truck.
  • Don’t store cleaning fluids, oil-soaked rags, gasoline, or other flammable liquids near a gas-burning appliance where vapors could be ignited by the pilot light. Propane is a very safe fuel. Propane’s unique molecular properties make it much safer and cleaner than related petroleum-based energy sources.

If you’d like to learn more about propane safety please follow this link to propanesafety.com

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