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Use safety precautions at your next barbecue

Updated May 16, 2011

Summer is a great time for lighting up your backyard barbecue. Here are a few tips for keeping your family and party guests safe.

Two types of gas

It's important to know that there are two types of gas barbecues. Some run on natural gas, which is a vapor, and some run on propane, which starts as a pressurized liquid in a tank. The instructions with your barbecue should clearly state the type of fuel it uses.

Using the wrong type of gas is not only inefficient, it's potentially dangerous. The two types of barbecues are fitted with different valves to control gas flow. If you run a propane barbecue on natural gas, the barbecue will not heat up enough to cook your food. If, on the other hand, you use propane to run a natural gas barbecue, you will end up with too much heat -- a dangerous situation.

Safe set-up

When assembling any type of barbecue -- natural gas, propane or charcoal -- follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. If in doubt, take it back to the store or dealer, or call a qualified service technician. On all gas barbecues, make sure the burner ports are free of rust or dirt, and that the burner gas supply is clear of dust, dirt or cobwebs.

On propane barbecues, you can test the propane fittings that run from the tank to the barbecue by making a solution of one tablespoon of dish soap in a cup of water. With the barbecue connected to the propane cylinder, turn the barbecue valve off (never check for leaks with an open flame) and the propane tank cylinder valve on. Spray the soapy solution generously on the hose, connections and fittings. If bubbles appear, and they become larger or multiply, you have a leak. Turn off the propane valve and replace the hose and fittings or have them repaired by a qualified technician.

Check the parts

On many propane barbecues, it's important to check the rubber O-ring that fits on the hose that screws onto the propane cylinder. Check the O-ring every time you connect the hose and fitting to a propane cylinder, and replace it if it appears cracked, torn or misshapen.

Lighting your gas barbecue

Only use your barbecue outdoors. When lighting any gas barbecue, have your match or lighter already burning with the barbecue lid open before you turn on the barbecue gas control valve. Never move the barbecue after it has been lit. When you're finished, turn off both the barbecue gas control valve(s) and the propane cylinder or natural gas valve.

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