What is a Propane Detector and Why is it Important to Have it?

Before looking at propane detectors, we should first look at propane and find out a little more about the gas.

So, what is propane gas?

Propane gas is heavier than natural gas. You will often find that it is used outside for cooking on gas grills and barbeques. It is also frequently used in motor homes and RV’s for the heating and cooling systems.

In its natural form propane is a dense gas that has no colour or smell so it is difficult to detect with human sense of smell. Typically, the propane gas which is used in homes and RV’s is treated with a chemical to give it a faint smell which a human can normally detect.

Because propane gas is dense it will not rise, but creep along the ground in a leak. Most other common gases rise into the air. Leaks in valves or lines increase the risk of death because the gas escapes and can fill an area without being detected. This causes a great fire risk as well as a health hazard.

There are some situations where the added chemical may still not make the gas detectable. If there is any contact with air, water or rust you may not smell the gas. This is why a propane detector is very important in a home or RV.

What is a propane detector?

This is a device that measures and senses the presence of propane gas. It sounds an alarm when a certain level is reached in an enclosed area. If you have any piece of equipment which uses propane gas, you should install a propane detector as well.

Although leaking propane gas which has been warmed from appliances such as ovens will rise at first, it will soon sink back to the ground as it cools, making it almost impossible to detect because it is outside the human range of smell.

Because of this any propane detector must be installed close to the floor if it is to give an alarm. This is where the gas will accumulate. A propane detector is similar to a smoke alarm. It only warns you if there is gas present in the area.

Sometimes the detectors can be fooled when other gases are in the air. If you have used aerosols such as hairspray you may find that the chemicals released into the air trigger the alarm.

Options for propane detectors

Detectors come with several options.

Remote sensors

These are great for houses with basements and appliances which are down there. The alarm will sound on other floors, even though the appliance is situated below.


The alarm may be a siren or a flashing light. It can also be a combination of siren and flashing lights to warm of a leak.

Portable units

You can make use of a portable detector in situations where the propane appliance needs to be moved around.

Detector maintenance

  • Every propane detector needs to be maintained in order to work properly. Most detectors are battery operated and need these batteries replaced at regular intervals. They should be checked often to ensure that the batteries have not leaked.
  • Some detectors come with a back-up feature which gives a warming when the battery is low and due to be replaced.
  • The detector may come with in internal power supply which will also act as a back-up for the main battery.

Propane tank maintenance

If you make use of propane tanks in either your home or RV, you should also be aware of maintaining them.

  • Regular checks should be made for rust, holes and potential leaks. If water has found a way to come in contact with the gar, the chemical which gives the odour will be destroyed and the gas odourless again, posing a danger to all. Be sure to check at the base of the appliance for rust and small holes.
  • A low flame or low pressure is another warning that things may not be right. The appliance should be checked out by a registered technician right away.
  • Lines should be checked frequently to ensure that they are not worn away and leaking.
  • Every propane appliance should come with a shut off valve which can be used in the event of a leak. Make sure that the valve is in good working order.


When buying a propane detector, you should always look for one which comes with a manufacturer’s warranty. Depending on the price of the detector this can range from one year to five years. In the even that the detector malfunctions in any way the manufacturer should provide a free replacement.

To install a detector

Every detector will come with a set of instructions to show where to install it. Make sure that you follow the instructions about the distance from a propane appliance.

Make sure that you use a new battery when you install the detector, don’t be tempted to use an old one in case it does not work effectively.

The instructions will also give you a recommended height off the ground to place the detector. It is important that this is done correctly otherwise the gas may be undetected below the detector.

To sum up

Propane detectors are not very expensive so there is no reason why every propane appliance does not have a detector right next to it.

Considering just how dangerous the gas is, and how easy it is to go undetected it makes sense to have a detector next to your appliance. It is also a good idea to keep both the detector and the unit in good working order to stop leaks and to let you know if a leak has occurred.

The average detector will set you back less than $20 which is a small price to pay for peace of mind and the safety of your family.

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