It’s a good thing propane never goes bad, because RVs use propane for everything! From your fridge to your stovetop, heater and outdoor fire pit, propane is essential for RV living! But, what do you do with it when you aren’t camping? Does propane go bad while it is being stored? Do I need to worry about my propane tanks when I’m not using them? We answer all these questions and more so you can confidently park your RV and not worry about propane mishaps.
Is There a Shelf Life on Propane?
Unlike gasoline and diesel, propane does not degrade while in storage. It can last decades. While propane does eventually degrade over time, this process takes thousands of years (did cavemen have propane?) and does not impact the quality or usefulness of propane for fuel purposes. This means that there is no shelf life on propane.
Because it doesn’t go bad like other fuels, propane an ideal fuel for generator use. In fact, during our 2.5 years as fulltime RVers, we exclusively ran our generator on propane while we were camping without hookups. It’s a lot quieter too!
When propane does go bad, it is usually due to improper storage.
Do RV Propane Tanks Expire?
Federal law states that RV propane tanks expire 12 years from the date of manufacture. After 12 years they need to be tested and recertified or replaced. This is an important safety rule to not skip. If your tanks have not been recertified after 12 years, you will not be able to get them refilled.
This does not mean that propane in the tanks becomes unsafe after 12 years. In fact, there is no shelf life on the propane in the tank and it does not go bad in a way that would make it unsafe for use!
However, old tanks may leak or release too much pressure while being used if they are older than 12 years. This can be quite dangerous and costly.
How to Recertify an RV propane tank
After 12 years, the propane tank needs to be re-tested and recertified. The easiest way is to take your RV or propane tanks in to a local dealer such as AmeriGas or Ferrell Gas where they will inspect it and put a recertification sticker on your tank with the recertification date. You will need an up-to-date sticker to get your tank refilled. They will not refill a tank that has expired for safety reasons.
For your peace of mind, you can also purchase a propane sniffer gauge online for around $25-$30. This is an inexpensive way to test the propane tank yourself every year and make sure there are not leaks, just to be safe!
Can propane tanks explode?
Propane is an explosive gas but a propane tank explosion is very rare. In fact, it is very difficult for a propane tank to explode. Propane explosions are usually due to a leak in an enclosed space and something that sparks or ignites the gas, the actual tank is usually never involved. This is why a propane sniffer gauge is helpful, to avoid leaks and explosions. Propane tanks also come with safety valves to ensure there isn’t excess pressure in the tank. If you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to store your RV propane tank then there is no risk of explosion.
Storing your propane in a hot climate should not make your propane tank explode, but if your propane tank is exposed to extremely high heat, such as a fire, there is risk of the expanding gas rupturing your safety relief valve and causing an explosion. Storing your propane tank out of direct sunlight is best to avoid excess pressure in the tank.
Can propane freeze?
No, propane cannot freeze (at least, not at any temperature recorded on earth.) Propane freezes at a temperature of -306 degrees Fahrenheit! However, at -44 degrees Fahrenheit propane will actually turn to a liquid state! Propane is only usable in the gaseous state, so maybe don’t camp in Wisconsin in January?
Also, snow and ice can damage a tank’s regulators, safety valves and hoses which is why having a cover over your RV propane tank is important. If you live in a climate with extreme low temperatures, removing the tanks and storing in a ventilated garage or shed could be helpful.
Regular freezing temperatures are not a problem for propane or your RV propane tanks.
How to store propane safely
When you are not using your RV, make sure your propane tanks are turned off. Typically your tanks are built in to your RV, whether in a storage area on a motorhome or on the tongue of a travel trailer. Always keep your propane tanks covered to avoid direct sun, rain, snow and the elements. You should never store your RV propane tank inside the living space of an RV or home.
In addition to risking an explosion if there is a leak in the tanks, keeping the tanks indoors can lead to moisture build up which will corrode your propane tank.
If you do not have a great propane storage place in or on your RV, then store your RV propane tanks in a ventilated garage or outside shed.
Propane does not go bad, has no shelf life and is safe to store, use and refill. With proper care to store propane tanks they can easily last for 12 years or longer and give you and your family years and years of happy camping!