It is not uncommon to hear stories about gas explosions during camping trips. These burns and explosions are usually caused by improper use and handling of portable gas appliances. Most of the time, an undetected gas leak is the main culprit. That being said, learning how to tell if your stove is leaking gas is of the utmost importance.
Nowadays, opting to use a portable stove instead of the usual campfire is very common during hiking and camping trips. Aside from prohibitions on building a fire, portable stoves are more popular mainly because they’re readily available and more convenient to use rather than building a fire. You can also see these types of gas appliances being used during cooking demos, in buffet restaurants, and more.
Although these portable stoves are very useful, they can also be very dangerous because of the fact that they contain flammable gas. Risks such as fire, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other injuries can be prevented with proper use and maintenance of gas appliances.
This article aims to share with you simple and easy ways you can do to know if your stove is leaking gas. In that way, you can ensure your safety as well as the safety of those around you.
How to Tell If Your Stove is Leaking Gas
If you own a kitchen stove or a portable gas stove, knowing how to detect potential gas leaks is a must in order to prevent unwanted accidents from happening to you and to your loved ones. Below are several ways to check for gas leaks:
- By Smell
By itself, natural gas liquids such as propane and butane, which are commonly used in portable stoves, are colorless and odorless. Due to the risk of gas leaks, a chemical called mercaptan is usually added to help consumers detect gas leaks thru smell.
Mercaptan smells like sulfur or rotten eggs. If your gas appliance gives off a strong smell similar to the ones mentioned above, then there is an increased possibility that your stove is leaking gas.
- By Sight
Another way to check for gas leaks is by looking for potential areas where a leak may occur. To do this, fill a spray bottle with soapy water (one part dishwashing liquid to three parts water) and spray the soapy mixture in the areas you want to check for leaks. Afterward, turn on the gas container, and check for bubbles on both ends of the hose attachment and along the hose.
Do this as quickly as you can and don’t leave the gas on for more than 10 seconds. If bubbles appear, then there is a leak in that area. Turn the regulator knob off and tighten the connections. Repeat this test until no bubbles appear.
Common areas to check for leaks are the connections between the gas source and the appliance itself. This includes the fittings connecting the stove and cylinder or gas bottle and hose attachments. Any connection in the gas line that is threaded should be checked for leaks.
- By Sound
Another tip on how to tell if your stove is leaking gas is by listening to it. When you turn on the regulator knob, and you hear a hissing or blowing sound, then there is a leak.
Safety Guidelines When Using Portable Stoves
Using a portable stove is similar to burning a campfire since they have one thing in common—fire. By following these simple stove safety guidelines, you will ensure not just your own safety but also the safety of the people around you.
- Read the manual
Instruction manuals are included for a reason. So, before operating your portable stove, read its manual first. It is highly advised that you follow the directions in the manual during set up to avoid improper handling or, worse, permanently damaging the portable stove. Hang on to the manual for reference. This is important if the stove will also be used by other people.
- Learn how to transport a propane cylinder
When transporting a propane cylinder, it should be placed in an upright position and stored in a well-ventilated area during travel. It should not be left in an enclosed space or at an area with high temperature as it can lead to the accumulation of flammable gas propane or unsafe pressure building inside the cylinder.
- Take care of your gas canister
Using the bubble test, you can also check the canister for escaping gas. Check for any light bubbles appearing around the areas you sprayed with soapy water. Make sure that you store your canister in a cool, dry location away from flame and additional heat. Do not shake or drop your gas canister as this could cause an explosion.
- Cook outside your tent
Some camping gears may be flame-retardant but not really fireproof. Additionally, there may be things that you keep inside your tent that could easily ignite once they come in contact with a burner. Accidents such as your stove tipping over are fairly common since space is limited.
- Ignition safety
If your portable stove is not equipped with electric ignition, then you would need to light the burner manually to produce flames. Before doing this, make sure that you place your stove on a stable and level surface. It should be away from flammable objects and a clear space above it with no overhangs or brush.
Use a long-stem lighter to light your stove. If you don’t have one, use a small stick or twig to light the stove. Avoid sticking your hand near the burner. Also, when using a stick or a twig, make sure that you put out the flame first before disposing of it properly.
- Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a serious risk to watch out for when using portable stoves. Since carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, it can build up pretty quickly without being detected.
When inhaled, CO is deadly to people. For this reason, portable stoves should be used outdoors. Although some models are approved to be used indoors, make sure that your area is well-ventilated before using one.
- Periodic checks and maintenance
Keep your portable stove in tip-top condition by cleaning it after every use. The burner is also an important part of your stove, so check for breaks or any rust as this can affect the performance of your stove. Before heading out, always check your cooking gear and stove in advance.
The risk of fire and accidents caused by gas leaks can be prevented when you know how to handle gas products and gas appliances properly. With regular maintenance, you will be able to see if your gear is still working properly or not. As a precaution, always bring with you some type of maintenance kit, just in case. With proper care, you can also increase the lifespan of your backpacking stove.