SUMMER SAFETY: Why Gas Grill Precautions Are Important

Too often, safety advice comes heavy on what to do and light on why. Our theory: if you know why a piece of advice makes sense, you're more likely to follow it.

With that in mind, we've looked at some of the conventional wisdom associated with using gas-fired outdoor grills and questioned the experts about the reasoning behind it. Here's what we found out:

• THE RULE: Never allow LP (liquid propane) gas cylinders to remain in high-heat areas, such as a car trunk.

• THE REASON: Propane expands as its temperature rises. Severe heat could force some of the propane, which is highly flammable, out of the cylinder through the relief valve, where it is in danger of being ignited.

• THE RULE: Always keep your LP gas cylinder in an upright position.

• THE REASON: The top portion of the gas cylinder is left empty when the cylinder is recharged, allowing some room for expansion and a place for the liquid propane to change to a gas. If the cylinder is laid on its side and the valve is then opened, the liquid propane can rush out and instantly expand to many times its liquid volume, producing a dangerously heavy concentration of gas.

• THE RULE: Never store your gas cylinder or operate your grill in an enclosed area, such as a garage or breezeway.

• THE REASON: Propane is heavier than air, and any gas that escapes in an unventilated area can linger there, where the spark from a car exhaust, cigarette butt or other heat source could produce an explosion.

• THE RULE: Be sure that your grill's gas supply lines are clean and clear, especially at the Venturi tubes, where the gas is delivered to the burner.

• THE REASON: Small insects, especially spiders, can build webs or nests that obstruct the free flow of propane, allowing some gas to escape at the Venturi air shutter. It can then ignite, causing a flareback.

Gas-fired grills are convenient appliances that make cooking outdoors fun, easy and tasty. By following a few simple precautions, you can ensure that they're safe, too.