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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2003 * December 2, 2003 * Inefficent Propane Burning < Previous Next >

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Harley Berger (24.3.179.174)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 08:35 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I posted in another message about a problem I was having with my propane burner. Seems that about 45 minutes into my boil, my burner slows down considerably and the tank has a thin layer of ice covering it.

I use one 20lb. tank flowing through a 15psi regulator. My plumbing is constructed of 1/2 copper tubing that goes to 3 high pressure (170,000 BTU) burners. I use ball valves to regulate the flow to each burner. Usually I only have one burner going at a time.

I've checked and double checked all of my soldering and I don't see any leaks. I've also checked the hose to the tank and no leaks there either.

The only way I can keep a rolling boil going is if I have my burner valve and tank valve wide open at all times.

How can I keep my propane pressure from dropping in cold weather?
 

danno (207.225.86.219)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 08:57 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I've only experienced this once (it doesn't get that cold often enough in Portland). Pouring some hot water over the regulator will prevent it from icing up.

You could also switch to a more efficient burner that will get more flame tips to the kettle. That way, you'd use less propane.
 

Harley Berger (24.3.179.174)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 09:15 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Should I pour the hot water on the regulator or on the tank itself? It's not the regulator that's icing up, it's the tank.

How about submerging the tank in a warm water bath? Is that safe?
 

Jake Virnig (130.76.32.20)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 09:25 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I have seen this happen lots on the Propane tanks that I use for firing a kiln. As the gas expands rapidly it cools and the ice starts to form. The ice then lowers the temperature of the tank and the pressure drops. As soon as we see the pressure start to drop we spray the tanks down with a hose. A warm water bath would work to keep the tanks from icing up. Hope this helps.

Jake
 

Harley Berger (24.3.179.174)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 09:44 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Being that it's now getting down into the 30's here in PA, I don't think spraying the tank with a hose would be much help. It would probably only serve to make it ice up even more.

Before I use the warm water bath, I'd like to be sure that the ice forming on the tank isn't sort of an indicator to turn the tank off. I'd hate to jeopardize my safety by masking the problem in the first place.
 

Jake Virnig (130.76.32.20)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 10:30 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

It's not a safety concern. If you started seeing it on the regulator that might be a problem, but on the tank it's just a matter of the temperature of the tank and the dew point of the air. It wouldn't be a bad idea to switch to a more efficient burner as mentioned above, since the high burn rate is what is causing the rapid expansion of the gas and the cooling of the tank. It'll probably save you money in the future in wasted propane.

Jake
 

Harley Berger (24.3.179.174)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 10:41 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I just bought two new burners when I built my 2 tier system. I bought these from Barbour International to match the burner I already had from my Cajun Cooker.

Where can I find "more efficient" burners?
 

danno (207.225.86.219)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 11:14 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The icing problem I had was icing on the regulator so I poured the hot water onto the regulator and that fixed the problem. Now, the regulator is above the tank so maybe the hot water warmed the tank up. I could see where the propane was geeting cold enough that it would supply the same pressure. On the other hand, my propane tank regularly gets about a 1/8" layer of ice around the tank near the liquid level when I'm brewing in the garage during the winter (lot's of condensation from the kettle boil). Only once have I had the ice on the regulator but there was much more ice on the tank that time also. I'm going to be wishy-washy and say that the hot water could go either place.

How about buying one of theose fermenter heating belts to wrap around the propane tank. They're designed to maintain a temp of like 70°F. The older it is, the more electricity they draw.

On the burners; I wasn't sure if you were using a jet burners or the typical cajun burners. Sounds like you're fine there. You should ask yourself if you need to run the flame that high to get a good boil. At high flame settings, the flame will wrap around the side of the kettle which is just wasting propane. I know that once my wort is boiling, I don't really need much of a flame to keep it boiling strongly.
 

Harley Berger (24.3.179.174)
Posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - 11:29 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Yes, it seems my tank collects ice around the liquid level of the tank.

I'm using the typical cajun burners, not the jet burners. My flame doesn't wrap around the sides of the burner. For me, I have to keep it on full blast to keep my wort boiling. I'm usually boiling 6-6.5 gallons. I really don't think I could keep a 10gal. batch boiling with this problem.
 

Kent Fletcher (206.170.107.30)
Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2003 - 01:16 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Immersing the tank in a bucket of hot water is fine. This is done all the time by roofers torching asphalt. It's also done with refrigerant tanks in HVAC work to raise the pressure when charging a system. Propane acts in exactly the same manner as refrigerants: When youi open the valve the pressure in the tank starts to drop, so the liquid boils, absorbing heat from the tank metal and air. This happens with any liquified gas. When I worked at a hospital, the large O2 supply tank would get inches of ice.

You can use household hot water, 110-120 F. is fine. For a long boil in a really cold ambient you might have to replace the water in the bucket a couple of times.
 

Walt Fischer (24.221.196.114)
Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2003 - 02:25 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Harley... how far are the burners from the bottom of the pot?
I had this happen with my duel burner setup on my pilot brew sesson with the 55's...
I would just switch propane tanks till it happened again... bout every 45 mins, like you mentioned..

Not sure if there is a "cure" other then either using less propane, switching tanks, or warming up the tank when it starts dropping pressure...

Walt
 

RedNicK (67.164.175.54)
Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2003 - 03:47 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Is your tank Up right or laying on it's side?
 

Harley Berger (24.3.179.174)
Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2003 - 04:00 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Walt - My burner is about 6-8" from the bottom of my sanke.

Rednick - My tank is upright.
 

Walt Fischer (24.221.196.114)
Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2003 - 04:50 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

welp... thats both the right answers..
I say give it the hot water treatement when it starts slowing down :)
That or flip back n forth between tanks..

Walt
 

Bill Moore (68.18.88.47)
Posted on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 12:49 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

A water bath is all you need. Propane when it converts from liquid to gas is endothermic. It absorbs heat from the surrounding area (the outside of the tank) and cools down. Sort of like the effect of sweat evaporating. If the ambient temp is low the propane container can't get enough heat out of the air and it stops evaporating. The frost on the surface is the telltale sign that you're going to stop getting normal gas output. All you need is a source of heat, the water bath will do that for you.
 

Adam W (128.125.6.113)
Posted on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 01:14 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

You could also get a bigger propane tank, this would minimize the endothermic effect somewhat.
 

OverTheHill (24.6.101.6)
Posted on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 12:55 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

It is a simple vapor pressure problem, lowering the temperature of the liquid lowers the vapor pressure thus the gas flow. Warming the tank will solve this problem.

Getting a bigger tank would delay the problem, larger volume of liquid to cool, but using a 20 gallon tank, you are already over the fire code limits for liquified flammable gas unless you have fire sprinklers.
 

Brandon Dachel (216.177.117.110)
Posted on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 01:36 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Our friend PV=nRT provides clarity in such matters.
 

Harley Berger (24.3.179.174)
Posted on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 03:19 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

20lb. tank, not 20gal.
 

Tom Gardner (198.81.26.39)
Posted on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 03:59 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Or you can use it to keep a few beers cold while brewing. I'm sure you remember the jet-powered beer cooler. If not, check it out at http://www.asciimation.co.nz/beer/

Carry on, Tom
 

Streb (68.166.205.82)
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003 - 05:11 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tom, that has to be the craziest way to chill a beer that I've ever seen. I like it!!!

Cheers,
Rob

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