Gas grill leaks happen more often than you think. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, there is an average of 10.000 gas grill fires every year, many from leaking propane.
A gas grill can make your cookout memorable for all the wrong reasons if you don’t realize that fire in the grill is a welcome sight, but fire anywhere else can do more damage than ruin your food.
If you notice a loss of grill function, a lowered propane gas level in your tank, or any other sign mentioned below, your grill might leak.
You Notice Your Grill Is Not Working Properly, but You Don’t Smell Gas
The problem may be that the loading facility did not use the correct level of mercaptan to odorize propane, or the receiving plant did not perform a “sniff test.” The easiest way to recognize a propane leak is by its smell. Because propane has no scent or color, an odorant compound called mercaptan, smelling sulfur-like or trash-like, is mixed in to alert people of leaks.
Before the grill catches fire or explodes, the only indication that there is a leak may come from the presence of this smell. If you don’t smell gas, the manufacturer may not have added the correct level of mercaptan to the propane. Mistakes in odorizing the gas can happen, and gas companies have been found liable for undetectable propane leaks.
You’re Using a New Tank and Notice a Lowered Level of Propane Gas but No Smell
Even when the loading facility did add the correct level of mercaptan to propane, certain conditions can cause this smell to fade. This problem is called odor fade, is common with new and old propane tanks, and is caused by mercaptan absorption or oxidation. To reduce this risk, companies must follow the proper procedure of filling propane tanks. This procedure consists of purging the propane tank and filing it to the maximum level.
The ethyl mercaptan can react with chemicals in the tank’s lining if they do not fill the tank to the right level. When this happens, odor fade occurs. The more the propane tanks are filled, the less likely the odorant will oxidize due to rust or be absorbed by the metal surface. Therefore, it’s best to keep the propane tanks in continuous use with frequent fillings.
Your Gas Grill Structure Might Not Be Sufficiently Vented
When you’re cooking with propane, you can cause dangerous situations if you do not vent your grill structure sufficiently. Gas grills using propane are known for the problem of escaped propane sinking and collecting in their lower cabinets. This issue of the unburned gas built up can lead to an explosion; especially when you turn on a gas valve without igniting the propane and then getting distracted and trying to re-light your grill later. Gas built-up can also happen when the propane tank releases some gas through the safety valve as the pressure inside the tank increases. The gas can build up over time in the cabinet underneath a grill and lead to a highly hazardous situation.
The Gas Tanks or Connectors and Hose Might Be Defective
Gas tanks can suffer from a defect in design or manufacturing. Also, any design or manufacturing fault in hoses and connectors can lead to a gas leak. These components should transport gas safely from the tank to the grill’s burners. Propane leaks can be dangerous, and it’s essential to inspect your grill. When examining them, check all connectors for any sign they have been compromised. You also need to check the entire line running from the propane tank valve to where the hose screws into the gas grill’s regulator.
The Gas Regulators Might Be Faulty
A propane regulator is attached to the shutoff valve on the propane tank. A defective regulator that does not regulate the gas flow to the grill can lead to an explosion. The terms “defective” and “explosion” may sound scary, but regulators are simply safety devices that help ensure your grill won’t malfunction while in use.
If you notice any declining function or lowered propane level in your tank, there is a chance it may leak. Remember to check for one or more of these five symptoms before using your grill again to avoid injury risk.
Sean M. Cleary is the founder and president of Miami’s The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary, a law firm specializing in defective product liability claims for those who have suffered severe injuries or losses due to a defective gas grill accident.