Before you step out on your back patio, balcony, or your cottage deck to begin barbecuing, there are a few steps you must take to ensure that your propane or natural gas barbecue is in safe, good working order.
- Dirt and debris can build up inside the grill over the winter months. Carefully clean out any particles, dust, and cobwebs that may have built up over the winter. Newer barbecues have spider guards to prevent them from entering the burner and burner tubes, however if yours does not, use a pipe cleaner or wire to ensure that spider webs have not built up inside. Remove lava rocks and grates for a thorough cleaning with soap and warm water.
- Clean your burner ports to ensure they are free of dirt and rust.
- Make sure that the barbecue hose is in good condition, and is free of cracks. Propane or Natural Gas leaking from a cracked hose may send out a stream that if ignited can produce huge flames.
- Check to ensure that all connections are tight and that there are no leaks. Do not use a match/lighter to check for leaks. You can brush a mixture of soap and water onto the connections and hoses (a 50/50 mix) and any rising bubbles will indicate a leak. Repair your barbecue so that there are no more bubbles.
- Rusty, damaged propane tanks should be replaced by 10 years of age or less.
- If you have uncertainty about the condition of any barbecue part you should replace it with a new component. Parts are available at most hardware stores and building supply centres.
- Call a certified fuel appliance repair person if you do not feel comfortable completing safety checks yourself.
- When your barbecue is safe and ready to be used, begin by opening the lid. Always have the lid in the open position when lighting the grill.
- Next turn on the gas by opening the Natural Gas Valve or Propane Cylinder Valve. After this step has been completed, turn on the barbecue at the grill controls.
- Finally, light the barbecue by depressing the igniter button. If your barbecue does not have an igniter button, insert a long match or barbecue lighter into the side burner hole. Have the match lit before you turn on the grill controls.
If the burner does not ignite, keep the lid open, turn off the gas and wait five minutes before trying once again.
- First shut off your Natural Gas or Propane Cylinder valve so that any remaining gas in the hose line burns off.
- Turn off your burner controls so that no gas remains trapped within the hose.
- Allow your barbecue some significant “cooling off” time prior to covering it.
Propane is an economical and portable fuel that provides heat, cooks food, and generates light. It is used as a gas, but stored as a liquid in cylinders that can vary in size. The most common, the ‘backyard barbecue size’ is the 20-pound cylinder. When it is properly filled, 80% of the tank will contain liquid propane leaving the remaining 20% above the liquid to contain the propane vapour.
In Canada propane cylinders must be inspected and requalified, or replaced every 10 years. You can view the date that your cylinder was last qualified on the collar of the cylinder. It is also possible that a cylinder less than 10 years old may need replacing. A rusty and damaged cylinder could mean that you’re ready for a new one. When you make your purchase, make sure to turn your old cylinder in so that it can be purged and recycled or disposed of.
New propane cylinders must be purged to release all of the air and moisture within before it is filled with propane. In Canada, only a properly trained and certified attendant is permitted to fill a tank. An attendant is not permitted to fill an outdated cylinder, or fill any cylinder tank beyond 80% of its capacity.
- Make sure that you take your time while replacing your empty cylinder. Ensure that the special plug provided is threaded onto the outlet of the service valve when you disconnect the hose.
- Carry the empty cylinder in the upright position with the safety valve on top.
- Transport the empty upright cylinder on the floor of the passenger compartment in your vehicle for safety reasons. Secure it so that it cannot topple over while you are driving. Keep the windows open. (Note: Never leave a propane cylinder inside a parked vehicle with the windows sealed – as heat builds up, it could potentially cause an explosion). Refrain from smoking in your vehicle at this time.
- Secure the new cylinder in place on the BBQ before you reconnect it. After reconnecting it, check for leakage using the soap and water solution.
- Older style propane cylinders are required to be tightened with a wrench. Turning in a counter clockwise direction can tighten their left-hand threads. Newer style propane cylinder fittings do not require a wrench and tighten in a clockwise direction.
- If your barbecue connection has an “O” ring, make sure you check it for fractures and cracks every time you replace your cylinder.
- Never smoke while handling a propane cylinder.
- Do not store extra propane cylinders beneath your barbecue or inside any structure as excess heat could cause the cylinder to release over pressure and propane along with it.
You ARE NOT allowed to BBQ on your balcony if:
- It is prohibited by the bylaws of your condominium
- It is prohibited by the building owner or property manager of a rental property or apartment
You ARE allowed to BBQ on your balcony BUT ONLY IF:
- The balcony is open to the outside (no enclosure or walls are in place)
- The BBQ is kept clear of combustible material as listed on the BBQ’s rating plate or in the certified instructions
If you do not have a natural gas connection on your balcony and you use propane then you must follow additional rules:
- The propane cylinder is transported in a service elevator. When there are no service elevators, you may use the passenger elevator, but you must be alone
- The propane cylinder is kept on the balcony and connected to the BBQ at all times except when you are replacing it
- The propane cylinder relief valve is at least one (1) metre horizontally from any building opening below it, and three (3) metres from a building air intake.
Note: Toronto Fire Services does not regulate the use or transportation of propane cylinders and does not regulate or enforce the use of BBQ’s on condominium and/or apartment balcony’s. Check with the owner/corporation of your building first regarding BBQ’s on your balcony. For more information on regulations regarding propane use and transportation contact TSSA (Technical Standards and Safety Authority) at:
- Ensure that your charcoal briquette barbecue is well ventilated as poisonous gases like carbon monoxide are released from the briquettes.
- Do not use gasoline to prompt your charcoal briquettes to ignite quickly, instead use a proper charcoal lighting fluid. Allow the fluid to settle for a few minutes so that the explosive vapours have a chance to dissipate.
- Stand back from the grill a safe distance while lighting the briquettes. Make sure you did not spill any lighting fluid onto your clothing or the area around the actual grill. Prior to igniting the briquettes, ensure that the can of fluid has been placed at a safe distance from the BBQ.
- If the briquettes begin to die out, refrain from spraying the lighting fluid onto the hot coals, which could result in a very dangerous and explosive situation.
- When you are done grilling, make sure that your hot coals are fully extinguished before you dispose of them. Hot coals are very dangerous and can easily start a garbage can fire.
- Keep children and pets far away from a hot grill, and never leave them unsupervised in the area of an ignited barbecue.
- Never use wood, charcoal briquettes, barbecue starter fluid or gasoline in conjunction with your propane or natural gas barbecue. Doing so is likely to result in a highly flammable and volatile situation that may cause extensive damage to your property, personal injury or loss of life.
- Barbecue in an open outdoor space due to ventilation and safety reasons. Keep the barbecue at least 3 metres from windows and doors.
- Keep the barbecue away from wooden fences, wooden walls, combustible overhead roofs, and from trees with low branches.
- Don’t allow an accumulation of grease to occur by keeping your grill and burners clean – this will help to minimize the chances that you will have a serious grease fire.
- Never fight a grease fire with water – this will only cause the flames to flare up. Keep loose clothing away from a hot barbecue – roll up your sleeves or cook in a short sleeved shirt. If your clothing catches on fire, quickly Stop, Drop and Roll.
- Use long handled tongs and brushes while grilling that put an extra bit of distance between you and the flames.
- Wear oven mitts and a heavy apron to protect yourself from fire while grilling.
- If you do burn yourself, run the affected area under cool water for five minutes. If your burn is serious (charring, blistering) seek medical attention right away.
Select Information taken from Magazine ‘SummerSmart’ published by TSSA and the Fire Marshal’s Public Fire Safety Council.