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nookandcranny

Propane heating

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I'm inspecting a home tomorrow that has propane heat. Since this is not typical of my area, I'm looking for some pointers. Other than checking to see if the furnace has a sticker on it saying it's been converted to propane, anything else I should check for? Type of piping?

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Handle it like you would a natural gas serviced home and check with your local area muni for specifics on the actual installation of the propane equipment, ie; tank. For example, does it need to be a certain distance from the home? Is the service line from the tank to the home protected? Is there a regulator valve installed? Here, check this link out and enjoy;)

http://www.propane101.com/lpgasserviceline.htm

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hey Julie,

Rob gave you some good advice. I would caution you to not assume it is a converted furnace/water heater etc. Natural gas and propane are quite different. Different combustion, working pressures, etc.

Read and apply general gas principles and you will be ok.

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Thanks guys :)

I also searched "propane" in the archives and learned a bit as well. A local propane company's # is now in my phone and I'll give them a ring tomorrow to see what piping is acceptable here.

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Although not related to your question, it's also good to recommend they have a propane gas detector/alarm installed in the lowest level/basement IMHO. With propane being heavier than air, you could have a large amount accumulate and go boom long before anyone would smell it in the living area if they get a leak.

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Also remember, propane is heavier than natural gas and should not be used in an appliance where the floor level is below grade. If there is a leak, the gas will fill the lower level like water until it reaches a flame then danger of explosion exists.

Propane tanks less than 100 gallons can be next to a house.

Propane tanks 100 to 500 gallons must be 15 feet or more from home

Propane tanks of 1000 gallons or more must be 30 feet from the home

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Also remember, propane is heavier than natural gas and should not be used in an appliance where the floor level is below grade. If there is a leak, the gas will fill the lower level like water until it reaches a flame then danger of explosion exists.

Propane tanks less than 100 gallons can be next to a house.

Propane tanks 100 to 500 gallons must be 15 feet or more from home

Propane tanks of 1000 gallons or more must be 30 feet from the home

I'm remembering all of those homes in my home town in upstate New York where folks had propane-fired water heaters located below grade in basements. We had one. I can't remember ever hearing about anyone's house blowing up due to propane pooling in the basement.

Got a code citation for that restriction?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I'm remembering all of those homes in my home town in upstate New York where folks had propane-fired water heaters located below grade in basements. We had one. I can't remember ever hearing about anyone's house blowing up due to propane pooling in the basement.

Got a code citation for that restriction?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Hi Mike, not exactly a code citation number. But attached here are 2 pages out of Code Check Complete, pages 152 and 153. On page 152 in the second paragraph it begins to go into detail on this and is completed on page 153.

Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif Code Check p152.jpg

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Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif Code Check p153.jpg

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There might be an explanation in the first paragraph. It mentions an auto shutoff that detects a loss in pressure. Maybe the water heaters we had in those days were equipped with some kind of device like that. I wouldn't know, I was a kid and wasn't really interested in such things. My workshop was in the basement next to that water heater. I had a table stacked with old bicycles and parts and antique typewriters that I used to fix up.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Also remember, propane is heavier than natural gas and should not be used in an appliance where the floor level is below grade. If there is a leak, the gas will fill the lower level like water until it reaches a flame then danger of explosion exists.
There is no national code requirement prohibiting LP appliance installations below grade. The drain thingy in the diagram is nonsense.

LP could only pool "like water" in a completely sealed chamber that lacked any air movement (it isn't gasoline vapor). A LP leak is the same as a NG leak, above grade or below grade. With the correct amount of oxygen present it can ignite.

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Quite often there will be two regulators or more on a residential propane system. If the line from the tank is 3/4", usually copper tubing, they will run that at high pressure. Then another regulator near the appliance reduces the pressure to what's needed for the device.

The high pressure section will be more prone to leaking, I would imagine. That is, a leak would be more severe. I got rid of the propane furnace that was in this house when I bought it. There were junctions, splices and tees all over the place, scary.

I used propane in various camping trailers and was always pretty casual about it, until my wife almost blew herself thru the wall, lighting the oven one night. But she got it lit in time to bake me something, so no harm done. [:)]

Mike, what would cause all the keys on the left side of this old Corona typewriter to stop working? My son and his girlfriend bought it at a garage sale. I haven't seen it up close.

Click to Enlarge
tn_201162213254_corona.jpg

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Also remember, propane is heavier than natural gas and should not be used in an appliance where the floor level is below grade. If there is a leak, the gas will fill the lower level like water until it reaches a flame then danger of explosion exists.
There is no national code requirement prohibiting LP appliance installations below grade. The drain thingy in the diagram is nonsense.

LP could only pool "like water" in a completely sealed chamber that lacked any air movement (it isn't gasoline vapor). A LP leak is the same as a NG leak, above grade or below grade. With the correct amount of oxygen present it can ignite.

LP might not pool like water but, then again, it might. It's 1-1/2 times more dense than air so it can stratify pretty easily.

While I think it's a poor idea to put LP appliances in basements, I must admit that my house, which I built, has a propane furnace in the basement. It also has a propane detector at floor level, which operates a solenoid at the gas entrance.

If I found a propane appliance in a basement, I'd recommend installing a similar system.

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Mike, what would cause all the keys on the left side of this old Corona typewriter to stop working? My son and his girlfriend bought it at a garage sale. I haven't seen it up close.

Click to Enlarge
tn_201162213254_corona.jpg

47.67 KB

Well, it's been about 47 years since I tore one apart, but most of the time it's just dirt or broken springs. I used to completely disassemble them, take fine steel wool and polish them back up, sand and repaint the dinged up areas and reassemble and adjust them and it was pretty rare that I couldn't get them working again. The old Coronas are (at least were) pretty plentiful and once you have one or two for spare parts those parts can go a long way.

It used to be a lot of fun dinking around with those things; maybe it would make a nice hobby in my old age now that typewriters are basically a thing of the past.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Also remember, propane is heavier than natural gas and should not be used in an appliance where the floor level is below grade. If there is a leak, the gas will fill the lower level like water until it reaches a flame then danger of explosion exists.
There is no national code requirement prohibiting LP appliance installations below grade. The drain thingy in the diagram is nonsense.

LP could only pool "like water" in a completely sealed chamber that lacked any air movement (it isn't gasoline vapor). A LP leak is the same as a NG leak, above grade or below grade. With the correct amount of oxygen present it can ignite.

I've never heard of any prohibition of propane appliances below grade either (must admit I haven't researched it much as it's not common for propane here), but have seen them installed in basements (on homes with basements of course). Again why I recommend the detector/alarm.

However, with all due respect, propane is about 1 1/2 times the weight of air and the gas WILL pool in a basement in a leak there, and will actually flow down hill (as will any gas heavier than air) when leaking outside, and depending on grading, can actually seep into the basement from an outside leak.

Natural gas is lighter than air and rises, often alerting occupants of an inside leak when they smell the mercaptan additive. Propane will sit in a basement unless something is blowing around and churning it up. The concentration with air only affects when it can ignite, not it's vapor density (temperature will though).

Gasoline vapors are definitely heavy and will pool as well, and worry me a lot more, but propane does have that risk. Worst house explosion I've ever seen was from gasoline vapors when someone thought they'd torch a house, not taking the vapor buildup as they were pouring it through it into account (I think he learned his lesson). [:-dunce]

For the record I'm not a chemical expert, but I am a full time firefighter/hazmat tech in addition to owning my business, and base a lot of my recommendations on personal experiences.

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Very interesting discussion.

We see approx 1,000 or more propane furnaces, water heaters, etc per year and most are in basements. None have shut downs. Never seen alarm sensor shut down./

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In my rural area of service, propane furnaces and water heaters are the norm--not the exception. To see any detectors/alarms is rare. In recreational marine installations, propane tank lockers are sealed environments with overboard-drains to allow gas leakage to safely "flow" outside the boat rather than to the bilge.

........Greg

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Very interesting discussion.

We see approx 1,000 or more propane furnaces, water heaters, etc per year and most are in basements. None have shut downs. Never seen alarm sensor shut down./

I just make a general recommendation for the alarm similar to also recommending carbon monoxide alarms, letting them know the safety risk and the simple added safety that they can gain.

We have very little propane here in my general inspection area, so I only occasionaly deal with it, but never had anyone not understand the potential risks and the simple ways to deal with it.

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Anyone have any statistics to back up the claim that an LP appliance is more dangerous than NG appliance when in a basement? Does the "personal experiences" include any incident of pooling LP in a basement was the cause of a catastrophe?

I just Googled to try to find any statistics. I didn't find any. The third search result was this:

https://www.inspectorsjournal.com/forum ... ic_id=7953

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I wouldn't hesitate to recommend an alarm. We are required by our SOPs to point out far sillier stuff.

My camper has a smoke detector and CO detector that run on AA batteries and a propane detector that is wired into the inverter. Seems to me the manufacturer is far more concerned about propane leaks.

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There was a similar explosion in Cheektowaga or Depew (suburbs of Buffalo) in the 90s. Two people died and the adjacent houses were destroyed.

I couldn't find a link to the story, but that neighborhood is closer to Julie than it is to me. I'm sure she'll remember it.

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Cleveland

Marc

Nothing pointed at you Marc, I just quoted your post since you had a link to Cleveland.

Do a search of how many homes that have been destroyed by natural gas explosions in Cleveland. Hell, even East Ohio Gas Company had an explosion that killed 131 people - EOG Explosion

I agree with Tom on the alarm though - it can only help (especially since we had a detailed discussion regarding caulking around a toilet).

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Originally posted by Marc

(especially since we had a detailed discussion regarding caulking around a toilet).

ahahahahahahahahahahaha . . .

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Anyone have any statistics to back up the claim that an LP appliance is more dangerous than NG appliance when in a basement? Does the "personal experiences" include any incident of pooling LP in a basement was the cause of a catastrophe?

I just Googled to try to find any statistics. I didn't find any. The third search result was this:

https://www.inspectorsjournal.com/forum ... ic_id=7953

I don't believe propane appliances are any more dangerous than natural gas at all and never said they were. I'm referring to the propane gas service and it's physical properties that it is much heavier than air, and an alarm is a simple and cost effective way to gain extra safety in the event of a leak.

I handle many, many natural gas related runs because that is what we have in 99.9% (give or take) of the homes in my City, but have experienced propane buildup in basements from gas grills malfunctioning up against a house a time or two, though that is rare.

I simply said propane IS heavier than air and will pool in a basement in the event of a leak in a propane serviced home. Makes no difference to me if anyone else makes the safety recommendations, but I still will.

I have seen far too many fatalities and damage done in "Code Compliant" homes, buildings, and autos.

Code compliant to me does not mean there aren't still things that can be safer.

I also always flag any homes that don't have smoke detectors under 10 years old or in the locations listed in current standards to be replaced and brought up to current standards including hard wiring and battery backup(if not already done), since all detector manufacturers recommend replacement at 10 years. It's not a requirement to update the homes, but I'd sure rather people know about it and know the fact that it beeps doesn't mean it works properly in a fire, or that just because there's one in a hallway or on each level doesn't mean they will have adequate warning. It's up to them to accept or dismiss my recommendations, and I want them to make an educated decision.

Each to their own.

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