Can I Slow Down the Smell of a Propane Heater?

The smell of propane is a crucial safety feature, as it allows users to detect any potential leaks. However, in some cases, the strong odor can be a nuisance, especially when using a propane heater. Fortunately, there are ways to slow down the smell of a propane heater without compromising safety.

Understanding the Propane Smell

Propane, a liquefied petroleum gas, is odorless in its natural state. To make it easier to detect leaks, an odorant called ethyl mercaptan is added to the gas. Ethyl mercaptan is a sulfur-containing compound that gives propane its distinctive rotten egg-like smell.

The concentration of ethyl mercaptan in propane is typically around 15-25 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of propane. This concentration is sufficient to make even small leaks easily detectable, as the human nose can detect the smell of propane at concentrations as low as 0.5 mg/L.

Adjusting the Propane Tank Pressure

can i slow down the smell of a propane heater

One of the most effective ways to slow down the smell of a propane heater is by adjusting the pressure of the propane tank. As the tank pressure decreases, the propane boils at a lower temperature, which reduces the rate of vaporization of the ethyl mercaptan.

The typical operating pressure for a propane tank is between 100 and 200 pounds per square inch (psi). As the tank empties, the pressure will gradually decrease, causing the propane to boil at a lower temperature and reducing the release of the odorant.

To slow down the smell, you can try the following steps:

  1. Check the Tank Pressure: Use a propane tank pressure gauge to measure the current pressure in the tank. Ideal pressure should be between 100-200 psi.
  2. Adjust the Regulator: If the pressure is too high, you can adjust the regulator on the tank to lower the pressure. Turn the regulator knob counterclockwise to decrease the pressure.
  3. Monitor the Pressure: Keep an eye on the tank pressure and adjust the regulator as needed to maintain a lower pressure and slower vaporization of the odorant.

It’s important to note that reducing the tank pressure too much can affect the performance of the propane heater, so it’s essential to find the right balance between reducing the smell and maintaining proper heater operation.

Addressing Ethyl Mercaptan Accumulation

Another factor that can contribute to the strong smell of propane is the accumulation of ethyl mercaptan at the base of the tank. Over time, this water-soluble odorant can settle at the bottom of the tank, leading to a more concentrated smell.

To address this issue, you can try the following:

  1. Rotate the Tank: Periodically rotate the propane tank to help distribute the ethyl mercaptan more evenly throughout the tank, reducing the concentration at the base.
  2. Use a Tank Agitator: Some propane tanks come equipped with a built-in agitator that can help circulate the contents and prevent the odorant from settling.
  3. Consider Tank Replacement: If the smell persists and you suspect the accumulation of ethyl mercaptan, it may be necessary to replace the propane tank to ensure a more even distribution of the odorant.

Addressing Propane Distillation in Heating Appliances

In some cases, the strong smell of propane may be due to the distillation of propane in residential heating appliances, such as furnaces or water heaters. This process can concentrate the contaminants, including the ethyl mercaptan, in the tank, leading to a more noticeable odor.

To address this issue, you can:

  1. Inspect the Heating Appliance: Ensure that the propane heater or other appliances are functioning correctly and not causing any distillation of the propane.
  2. Clean or Replace the Appliance: If the appliance is found to be the source of the problem, consider cleaning or replacing it to prevent further concentration of the odorant.
  3. Consult a Professional: If you are unsure about the cause of the persistent propane smell, it’s best to consult a qualified HVAC technician or propane service provider for further assistance.

Maintaining Safety

While adjusting the pressure or addressing the accumulation of ethyl mercaptan can help slow down the smell of a propane heater, it’s crucial to maintain safety at all times. Always ensure that there are no leaks in the propane system and that the heater is functioning properly.

If you suspect a leak or have any safety concerns, immediately turn off the heater, evacuate the area, and contact your propane supplier or a qualified technician for assistance.


Slowing down the smell of a propane heater can be achieved by adjusting the pressure of the propane tank, addressing the accumulation of ethyl mercaptan, and ensuring that the heating appliances are functioning correctly. However, it’s essential to prioritize safety and seek professional help if you have any concerns about the propane system or the heater’s operation.

By understanding the factors that contribute to the strong propane smell and taking the appropriate steps to address them, you can enjoy the convenience of a propane heater while minimizing the nuisance of the odor.

Reddit Discussion on Smelly Propane Wall Heater
JustAnswer Discussion on Persistent Propane Odor
HVAC-Talk Discussion on Propane Heater Fumes