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Propane Safety

IF YOU SMELL PROPANE IN YOUR AREA CALL 911
 

The information accessible here is provided to assist SLPOA members in improving the safety of their propane installations for their families, homes and property. Propane is a safe and economical energy source when used in a safe manner. Because Serene Lakes is located above 5000 ft and experiences very high snowfall amounts, the Placer County regulations for propane installation require stronger than normal connection equipment. Your propane vendor is aware of the regulations and you should consult with them about installing and maintaining the correct equipment. They are also required by law to inspect your installation at least once a year. If you have questions or need help with any propane issues please contact the SLPOA Fire Safety Committee through the SLPOA administrative assistant at AdminAssistant@slpoa.com.

 
Fortunately there is a large amount of information available concerning the safe use of propane in Serene Lakes. Please consult the following links to learn more about how you can be propane safe.
 
For an historical perspective on the need for safe propane installations you should view this link
For the status of propane installations as of October 2015 view this link
 
Compliant Propane Installations
 
Propane installations in the Serene Lakes area are subjected to extreme weather conditions during the winter. High snowfall compounded by cycles of warm and cold air mean that the snow shifts constantly putting stress on the connections between the propane tanks and homes. To withstand these extreme conditions, stronger and more durable equipment in required. A typical installation is shown in this figure.



Propane Tanks 
 
Currently in Serene Lakes the Place County Ordinances for installations above 5000 ft apply to above ground tanks. There are two types of connection systems that are considered compliant at present.
 
Flexible Riser
 
The "Flex" riser is a shielded flexible hose that connects the tank to the underground line that comes to the house. The advantage of this type of connector is the flexibility that allows it to move with shifting snow and will not snap like rigid pipe. All of the vendors have this system available for installation on tanks at Serene Lakes. The only restriction for this type of connector is that is only available at a maximum length of 6 feet. For tanks that are elevated above 4 ft, this system will not work. THE FLEXIBLE RISER  IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AS THE CONNECTOR OF CHOICE BY THE PROPANE COMMITTEE IF YOUR SYSTEM DOES NOT REQUIRE A CONNECTOR LONGER THAN 6 FEET. 
 
 
 
Schedule 80 Rigid Pipe Riser
 
The tank can also be connected with rigid pipe as long as the pipe that is used is the thicker and stronger type know as Schedule 80. This stronger pipe will better withstand the increased stress from heavy snow loads. CAUTION - THE INSTALLATION OF A RIGID PIPE RISER REQUIRES A SPECIFIC CONFIGURATION THAT MUST BE DONE BY YOUR VENDOR. ONLY YOUR VENDOR CAN INSURE THAT YOUR SYSTEM IS CORRECTLY INSTALLED WITH SCHEDULE 80 PIPE AND PROPER FITTINGS.
 
A cautionary note on rigid pipe connections. It is impossible to tell whether a system is using schedule 80 piping or the weaker schedule 40 piping that is not permitted. If you are unsure about your connection it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you request an inspection of your piping from your vendor. You can also contact the SLPOA Fire Committee and/or Truckee fire for help with determining whether your system is compliant and safe.

Secondary Regulators

Propane installations at Serene Lakes use two regulator systems to bring the propane into a cabin. The first stage regulator is on the tank and regulates a constant pressure out of the tank. The secondary regulator is attached to the cabin and reduces the pressure of the gas into the cabin at a working pressure for appliances. Keeping the tank clear during the winter insures that the first stage regulator functions normally. It is also critical that THE SECONDARY REGULATOR BE KEPT CLEAR AND PROTECTED FROM SNOW AND ICE BUILD UP.

The location of the secondary regulator is crucial to safe operation. Because the secondary regulator is attached to a cabin, a leak at the regulator can fill a cabin with propane that can result in an explosion and/or fire in the cabin. Placer county code requires that the secondary regulator be located so that is protected from shedding snow and ice and specifies that they be located at the gable end of a cabin. The code also specifies that the regulator be protected with a cover if it is exposed to snow and ice. Installation at many cabins in Serene Lakes comply with the code by locating the regulator under decks and stairways to protect them. Unfortunately, there are many cabins that have secondary regulators located in non-compliant locations on the shedding sides of cabins and are exposed to heavy snow build up. While in many cases these regulators have covers, the covers are not extensive enough nor strong enough to protect the regulator from the huge snow loads. In 2011 several of the over 40 propane leaks were due to broken pipes at the secondary regulators. In 2017 there was a tragic explosion of a cabin that appears to have been caused by a broken inlet pipe from the secondary regulator.

   

IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THAT ALL CABIN OWNERS MAKE SURE THAT THEIR SECONDARY REGULATORS ARE KEPT CLEAR AND ADEQUATELY PROTECTED FROM SNOW AND ICE.


For cabin owners that have secondary regulators located under decks and stairways it should be relatively easy to keep the regulators clear of snow build up. For cabins with regulators located in areas of snow build up, heavy duty covers (see photos) should be installed to protect the regulators and plumbing into the cabin. Considering the proven danger that a poorly located secondary regulator poses, cabin owners with such installation should consider moving the regulators to improve their safety. Contact your propane vendor for more information about moving your regulator.