Utilities like electricity and gas are often impacted when disaster strikes.  I have been directly impacted by power outages of several days in a row.  So far, I have been lucky and my gas service has not been interrupted.  However, my stove has electric ignition, rather than pilot lights.  In my previous home, I was not so lucky: My stove was electric.

When the power goes out, propane can be your friend.  With a little bit of planning ahead, you can use propane cylinders to cook with, to see with, and to heat with.  Many of us already use propane for cooking on occasion, since that’s what gas grills use as fuel.  What you might not know is that there are other things that you can attach to a propane cylinder to light or heat an area, and you can even find propane-fueled electric generators if you look for them!

Propane cylinders come in all sizes, from the 1-pound cylinders that go on camp stoves and lanterns  to the 20-pound ones that are usually seen on gas grills, on up to the 100-pound cylinder that can be found at places like Lowes and Wal-mart.

There are also propane “trees” of different sorts and extension hoses available so that you can connect multiple devices to a single propane bottle.  Just make sure that everything is stable and won’t get knocked over accidentally.

Propane safety

  • Do NOT use them if there is the smell of natural gas, or if there has been a gas leak announced in your area. 
  • Propane has a chemical added to it in order to give it an odor.  It can be described as “skunk-like” or sulfurous.  If you smell something like this, immediately extinguish any flame sources like candles, lanterns that are not battery powered, and all smoking materials.
  • Make sure that any propane devices are not in contact with anything that can burst into flame.
  • Do not use a propane cylinder that is dented, damaged, or rusted.  
  • If you use a refillable cylinder (not all of them are), have it inspected every couple of years, and only take it to a reputable propane dealer or exchange station.
  • Do not store propane cylinders in enclosed areas
  • Do not store propane cylinders in areas that can get above 120 F.  This includes closed cars, near fireplaces, and near stoves.
  • Do not transport cylinders in the trunk of a car.
  • Only use propane devices where they are designed for.  Don’t use “outdoor” heaters inside.
  • Only use propane devices in well-ventilated areas.  They produce carbon monoxide, which is a colorless, odorless gas that can kill you.

Safety information adapted from Suburban Propane website