Using gas is the most popular method of outdoor cooking, but while a propane barbecue has many advantages, the combination of a gas tank and a fire source make it dangerous. Barbecues are one of the causes of more than 3 million summer-time injuries every year, and propane barbecue safety is vital to avoiding a trip to the hospital. The basic rules of gas tank management are intended for gas used in the house, and while the advice is still good, there are certain problems with using an outdoor propane barbecue that are not covered by these rules.
Weather Affects Metal and Gas
The weather fluctuates What seems a nice day can turn into a downpour, and a few cold days can end in frost and snow before you realize. A heavy season of rain can cause the tank, and other attachments on the propane barbecue, to rust. Both hot and cold weather can affect gas tanks, as metal expands and contracts with fluctuations in heat. If the weather has been shifting between hot and cold very rapidly, a propane barbecue tank might become cracked or distorted: check the tank regularly for bulges or dents, corrosion, and leaks, and check the attachments for signs of cracks or holes. If these appear, it will be necessary to change the fuel supply before using the barbecue.
Weather can also affect the gas within the tank. A hot tank will cause the pressure inside to build up, which can cause an explosion. News reports about things exploding in the back seats of cars are common, and the same thing can occur with a gas tank in an outdoor propane barbecue set.
Taking Care of the Gas Tank
Propane barbecues are exposed to the elements, but there are things that can be done to prevent damage to the gas tank. The most important thing is to ensure that the tank is not exposed to direct sunlight or very high heat, over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep it cool by ensuring that it has shade at all times, and by keeping the propane BBQ out of the sun.
Invest in a barbecue cover, a polythene tent-like material which is draped over the entire BBQ, preventing rain from entering the grill or propane tank and connections. These can be bought at any hardware store, and are a good investment, as they not only protect the tank, but the rest of the grill at the same time. On the other hand, you can buy a smaller propane tank cover that fits over the tank and helps to minimize corrosion and rust.
In winter, an insulation sleeve can be added to the tank, which protects the tank from the extremes of cold. Before cold weather hits, it is also a good idea to release some of the liquid from full tanks, as this will expand in colder air.
Always check a propane barbecue that has not been used for some time; rust or corrosion can occur in a few weeks. Perform regular checks throughout the summer to ensure that the tank is still safe to use.