Testing propane lines for leaks

Temperatures this morning in southern Minnesota were in the low 50’s, meaning furnaces were operating in swine nursery rooms with newly weaned pigs or in wean-finish sites with small pigs. Many producers have begun thinking about being sure furnaces in all production facilities are operational before they head to the fields in coming weeks to begin fall harvest.

How many producers routinely have their propane lines high pressure checked for leaks beginning at the propane tank? Many gas suppliers offer this service free of charge since propane leaks are a safety hazard. The most common locations for leaks are where gas lines pass through exterior walls and become subject to thermal expansion/contraction on the exterior while the relatively constant interior temperature means little expansion/contraction. Another common point of leakage is any union fitting. Leaks can also occur at any point where damage to gas line (often copper) occurs such as nicks from a lawn mower, kinks from bending the line to fit a new furnace, etc.

Ideally testing for leaks should be done annually, preferably in mid-late summer so there is time for repairs without having to turn off critical heaters in cold weather. I know of several producers who plan on these tests every 2 years. I would not wait longer than 2 years between tests as it could be costing you money in terms of lost propane and you’ve got enough other items to worry about that this safety risk should be avoided (especially if the testing is free).

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