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WHAT EXACTLY IS PROPANE ?

 

     Propane,  C3H8 ( CH3CH2CH3 ),  is a colourless straight-chain natural hydrocarbon that is usually found in a gaseous state under normal atmospheric temperature and pressure. It can be extracted from natural gas or refinery gas byproducts. With a boiling point of �42 F it can be easily liquefied under pressure for transportation or storage. It has a large variety of uses including cooking, heating, vehicular fuel gas, refrigerant and petrochemical feedstock.

 

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF PROPANE ?

 

     Gaseous propane is heavier than air with a specific gravity of 1.52 (the specific gravity of air is 1.0). The heating value of gaseous propane is 2500 btu per cubic foot at 11 � of water column pressure. The air gas ratio required for proper combustion is 25 cubic feet of air to one cubic foot of propane.  Flame temperature is 3650 F with a flame speed of  0. 95 feet per second. The limits of flammability are 2 % to 10 %

 

WHY DOES PROPANE SMELL ?

 

     To allow the presence of propane to be detected an odorant is added called mercaptan. Mercaptan is an extremely strong odorant so that very little must be added to the propane to give it that �rotten egg� smell.

 

 

WHAT IS THE COST TO OPERATE PROPANE APPLIANCES COMPARED TO APPLIANCES THAT USE ELECTRICITY ?

 

     Propane is often measured in BTU�s ( British Thermal Units ) and electricity is measured in KWH�s (kilowatt hours) If a comparison is to be made between propane and electricity we should first find a common between the two energy forms so we are comparing apples to apples.

     One gallon of propane has 91,500 BTU�s and one KWH of electricity has 3,413 BTU�s. Electricity is considered to be 100 % efficient therefore there are 3,413 useable BTU�s in each kilowatt hour of electricity. While the efficiency of propane appliances can reach 97 % let�s use 80 % as an efficiency rating in our example. When 80 % efficiency is used there are 73,200 BTU available in each gallon of propane.

     Thus one gallon of propane utilized in an appliance with 80% efficiency contains the same amount of useable energy as 21.45 kilowatt hours of electricity. Factor in the cost of propane and electricity in your area and you will have an idea of the cost comparison. For example if propane costs  $ 2.80/gallon in your area and electricity is 12 cents per KWH the cost to operate each appliance is very close at $ 2.80 for propane vs $ 2.57 for electricity. 

     However cost of operation is only one part of the equation. Environmental concerns and the overall system efficiency of the electricity producer should also be factored into the equation. One thing is for sure -- if you are in a area that is prone to power failures the warmth of a propane heater that does not require power to operate on a cold winter night may more than make up the small saving by an electric appliance.

    

WHAT  ARE VENT FREE APPLIANCES ?

 

     Vent free appliances are appliances such as wall mounted propane room heaters. They are generally not very large in physical size or heat output and have no flue (chimney) to direct combustion gases to outside the living space.

 

HOW SAFE ARE VENT FREE APPLIANCES ?

 

      Vent free appliances are safe when used as directed by the manufacturer and installed according to local gas codes. Only vent free appliances approved for installation indoors should be used inside a living area. An adequate source of make up air should be available to the area the vent free appliance is located in and all vent free appliances should be installed according to manufacturers instructions and local gas codes. Most manufacturers suggest a yearly maintenance and inspection to make sure the appliance is burning properly.

 

WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE ?

 

     Carbon monoxide ( CO ) is a colourless, odourless tasteless, non-irritating gas that is produced of incomplete combustion of fuels. It normally occurs when there is not enough oxygen mixed with the fuel causing incomplete combustion.

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING ?

 

     Low level CO poisoning can cause flu like symptoms which include headaches, burning eyes, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness and loss of consciousness. High levels of CO poisoning can result in brain damage and death. Pets, children, the elderly and people with heart or lung ailments may feel the effects of CO poisoning sooner.

     Danger signs include:

 

·        air feels stuffy

·        sharp penetrating odour or smell of gas when the furnace turns on

·        pilot lights on gas appliances continually go out

·        excessive moisture forming on windows or walls

·        your carbon monoxide detector alarm sounds

 

WHAT CAN CREATE CARBON MONOXIDE ?

 

·        improperly installed fuel burning appliances

·        a blocked chimney ( birds nest, snow, ice etc.)

·        cracked furnace heat exchanger

·        not enough make up air to a fuel burning appliance

·        use of appliances not approved for indoor use

·        lack of maintenance to an appliance

 

Don�t forget that any fuel burning appliance has the potential to create carbon monoxide. These include appliances fueled by propane, natural gas, oil or wood.

 

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT CARBON MONOXIDE ?

 

     �The Carbon Monoxide Awareness Committee recommends annual inspection and maintenance of all fuel burning appliances, venting systems and chimneys by a qualified service technician. Regularly maintained appliances that are properly ventilated should not produce hazardous levels of carbon monoxide.

     If you are adding a new fuel burning appliance or making changes to your home�s ventilation system, please consult a qualified heating contractor to ensure that your home is safe from CO hazards.�  (from the CMAC pamphlet DANGER ! Carbon Monoxide )

     In addition to regular maintenance of fuel burning appliances installation of CO detectors in the living space is highly recommended. Always make sure the CO detector conforms to current standards and is installed according to manufacturers instructions. Multiple CO detectors are recommended.   

 

HOW IS PROPANE STORED ?

 

     Propane is usually stored in approved steel or aluminum containers known as tanks ( or cylinders ).  Smaller tanks are usually referred to by the amount of propane they hold in pounds. Larger tanks are usually measured in gallons. Most people would recognize the 20 pound propane storage tanks used on barbeques or recreational vehicles, however tanks can be manufactured to hold several hundred or even thousand gallons of liquid propane. Liquid propane will expand when heated so space must be left in the tank for expansion to occur. For this reason a tank is usually filled to only 80 % of its capacity.

     Propane tanks normally have a ten year life from the date of manufacture stamped into the tank. At the end of the ten year life the owner of the tank has the option of replacing the tank or having an approved company re-certify the tank.

 

WHAT SAFETY RULES SHOULD BE FOLLOWED WITH PROPANE TANKS ?

 

·        the tank should be free of excessive rust especially around the base

·        the tank should never be stored in a closed vehicle or indoors

·        never store the tank in a muddy or wet area where rust or oxidization could possibly weaken the metal

·        store the tank away from areas of high temperature

·        when repainting the tank stay away from using flat colours which absorb heat

·        only refill tanks specifically manufactured to be refilled

·        never try to refill disposable tanks

·        before refilling tanks check  the date code to be sure the tank is allowed to be legally refilled

·        regularly inspect the condition of the tank and the tank valve to make sure they are not leaking

·        tanks should have the markings �TC�, �CTC�, or �DOT� showing they have been manufactured to acceptable standards.

·        tanks should always be installed to the code specific to the tank use & manufactures spefications

 

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF  A REGULATOR ?

 

     The purpose of a regulator in a propane system is to maintain a constant downstream pressure regardless of changes in gas flow or changes in the upstream pressure. This means the pressure of the propane supplied to the appliance stays constant even if another appliance is fired or the pressure in the propane tank should vary due to temperature etc.

 

WHY ARE REGULATORS REQUIRED IN A PROPANE SYSTEM ?

 

     The pressure inside a propane storage tank at 70 F is about 122 PSI (pounds per square inch ). Generally most propane appliances such as domestic ranges, dryers, furnaces and hot water tanks require a supply pressure of less than ½ PSI. A regulator is needed to reduce the tank pressure to a pressure useable by the appliance. Propane systems using pressures less than ½ PSI are often referred to a low pressure systems.

     Some appliances such a roofing torches and camp stoves require pressures higher than ½ PSI and have regulators made specifically for the higher pressure application.  Often this type of appliance requires pressures over 1 PSI and up to 100 PSI. These systems are sometimes referred to as high pressure systems.

 

WHY CAN�T I USE A HIGH PRESSURE APPLIANCE INSIDE MY CABIN OR HOME ?

 

     Propane fired appliances are a convenient and compact source of heat for cooking or heating. The amount of heat that an appliance can give is related to the inlet pressure of propane supplied to the appliance. Within design limitations the higher the pressure the more propane the appliance can consume the more heat it can generate. While higher pressures can supply more fuel to an appliance, safety becomes a concern when pressures start to exceed ½ PSI in an inhabited structure. If the supply pressure in an inhabited structure such as your home were to exceed ½ PSI, even if your appliances were rated for the higher pressure, it would be extremely dangerous if a supply line were to break or somehow develop a leak. The higher the pressure the faster and greater would be the amount of fuel that could leak into the living area creating a greater hazard than if the pressure were lower than ½ PSI.

     For this reason most jurisdictions prohibit pressures greater than ½ PSI inside a structure.

 

WHO IS ALLOWED TO INSTALL PROPANE SYSTEMS AND APPLIANCES ?

 

     Most jurisdictions require the use of a government licensed gas fitter to install, maintain or modify any part of a propane system. You should consult with your local gas inspection department for detailed information on what is required in your area.

 

IS AN  UNLICENSED PERSON ALLOWED TO INSTALL PROPANE SYSTEMS AND  APPLIANCES ?

 

     Some jurisdictions do allow an individual to install a propane system as long it is for themselves and they are not making a business of it. You should consult with your local gas inspection department for detailed information on what is required in your area to install your own propane system or appliances.

 

ARE APPLIANCES CONVERTIBLE FROM ONE FUEL TYPE TO ANOTHER ?

 

     Yes � if the manufacturer has designed and had the appliance approved to be converted. Domestic ranges and dryers are  examples of convertible appliances as they often can be converted from natural gas to propane and vice versa. If the appliance is approved to be converted to other fuel types the manufacturers instructions should always be followed when performing the conversion. Conversion should be done by qualified personnel.

 

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3076 Barons Road, Nanaimo, B.C. Canada V9T-4B5 

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