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Tool Talk Discussion Forum

Propane furnace in COLD weather

Author  [Modern View]
SW3

01-21-2013 17:03:59
75.238.240.97



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My problem is that it is COLD outside! Northern Minnesota, the low tonight is -21 deg F. My propane furnace does not light very well when it drops below -10 deg F. The first two burners will light briefly, but the flame sensor is on the farthest burner and if it does not light right away it shuts off the gas. I have to use a torch and hold it on the flame sensor to light the furnace.
I have a 500 gallon propane tank, 60% full. The tank is 120 feet from the house, and the line runs uphill to the house. Copper line, 1/2 inch size. I realize that propane vaporizes at -44 deg F. What are my options to solve this problem? I would rather not have to cover the tank with a quilt or heat it. My propane company suggested moving the tank closer to the house, but I would rather not. Would running a bigger line help? Maybe 3/4" instead? Any ideas appreciated.

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showcrop

01-27-2013 05:28:34
75.67.231.80



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
Simple you have a regulator problem, one or both, But it interferes with your furnace only when it gets unusually cold.



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Dusty MI

01-27-2013 06:51:04
76.250.62.134



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to showcrop, 01-27-2013 05:28:34  
Not always but most of the time the regulator belongs to the Propane Company/suppler. So you might want to call them.



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propanedude

01-25-2013 06:51:11
12.23.120.97



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
you probably have a 10psi regulator on the tank. they make a 5psi high pressure regulator to go at the tank. this is recomended for temps that get down to 20below or less. make sure regulators are newer than 1996.



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jeffcat

01-26-2013 18:56:29
68.44.189.237



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to propanedude, 01-25-2013 06:51:11  
LOOK OUT there guy. Natural gas runs from 4.5 to 10 inches water colum MAX. Propain runs a whole lot higher at the 14 to 16 water columb area. The tryed and true folded manometer can let you adjust it and they are real easy to make if you can borrow one for a day. All they are is a folded plastic tube with gradations about 1/2 inch apart. You add the marks on the two sides of the tube and that is how you get your "inch' of water. Used them for years in the field when I worked on resteraunt equipment. You may want to have your furnace guy check this out cause you could have a regulator that is going bad. The little coil spring to adjust it gets weak or the diaphram gets stiff. You don't want to mess with mother nature or propane. jeffcat

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RusselAZ

01-23-2013 19:14:24
24.121.165.26



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
You need to two stage the regulator. Have a 10 lb pressure at the tank feeding the line and the normal low pressure one at the house. 1/2 inch line for that distance is no good.



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hd6gtom

01-23-2013 09:13:08
63.153.207.14



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
I have seen bugs get into the vents on the regulators, causing them to not work. Do not try to poke something up there to clean it out. Call the experts.



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tomtirediron

01-22-2013 17:09:35
208.123.10.208



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
As others have mentioned, Have local gas company test and replace regulators as necessary. There are 1000s of LP customers out there in -25F temps that aren't having problems that are brought about by a cold tank. My Dad's seen one occurance in the last 40 years where a tank was too cold to vaporize. Winter of 76 had some days at -43F where burning a couple wads of newspaper under a 500 gallon tank would help it along for several hours. Other then that never seen a cold issue that wasn't a regulator.

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jeffcat

01-22-2013 10:41:03
66.19.241.73



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
The light bulb in the box sounds good cause the regulator will freeze up. Other times it will not freeze solid but will be slow. How about a water line heat tape? Run it along the line going into the house and the regulator. Natural gas will not do this garbage but LP can be a real pain in the patoote.



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David G

01-22-2013 09:36:25
192.55.60.90



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
My tank is buried.



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spacecadet9

01-22-2013 09:16:10
74.206.44.206



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
I had a friend that lived in northern Wisconsin. To get the propane to vaporize during sub zero weather he would build a small wood fire next to the propane tank. He said that was standard practice up there. He was on the fire department and never commented about propane tanks blowing up, but did speak of houses burning down from wood burner chimney fires.

I'm not recommending his procedure, just repeating his technique.

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mkirsch

01-22-2013 07:07:57
64.80.110.75



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
They aren't "pressurizing" your tank. They are filling it.



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Russ from MN

01-22-2013 07:01:18
68.235.89.10



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
Maybe put a magnetic heater on the bottom of the tank and then wrap it up with a tarp. Some people use propane successfully down to -35F.
Large construction heaters use liquid withdraw tanks and a vaporizer just like mobile equipment.



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charlie M

01-22-2013 06:40:50
74.41.94.226



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
Propane will freeze up if its too cold or be too cold to vaporize. In my yonger days of working in a feed mill if the corn drier, which was propane got too cold it would freeze up. It didn't help that the line was in front of huge fans.



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Stephen Newell

01-22-2013 05:08:13
66.53.81.20



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
What I've always understood about propane is that it is a liquid and it comes to a boiling point at normal air temperature and the vapors of it flow to a persons house. When the temperature outside gets very low the liquid looses the means of coming to a boiling point so it doesn't produce vapors as well so you don't get vaporized gas at the house as well. The only real solution is to raise the temperature of the tank or insulate it from getting so cold.

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buickanddeere

01-22-2013 05:53:53
184.151.61.51



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to Stephen Newell, 01-22-2013 05:08:13  
Insulate the tank so it doesn't get so cold ? The problem could be that the tank is already too cold . the tank and liquid LP needs to absorb heat to vaporize and maintain usable pressure. Odds are the problem is not the tank but maybe a regulator and likely the rarely used furnace. Time to get off the wallet and call a LP expert repair person before blowing the house up.



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Greenday

01-22-2013 04:54:40
204.185.166.101



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
You have a regulator on the supply line trying to freeze up or fail. Replace yuor regulators and it will fix uor prob.



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BobHnwOh

01-22-2013 02:48:25
50.126.32.83



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
Clean the shields around the nozzles,there is a gap about 1/16 wide that the flame travels from nozzle to nozzle,rust will build up in the gap and not allow the flame to go thru,BTDT!You can make the gap a little wider to help also.



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Dalet

01-21-2013 18:52:52
184.94.141.146



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
I had issues last night too. They told me to throw some boiling water on the regulators and it should make it through until daylight hits the tank. I am ready for the games tonight, but it's only going to be about -16 here! :(



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old

01-21-2013 19:48:38
209.86.226.54



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to Dalet, 01-21-2013 18:52:52  
Do not know how well this would work but it might but also not sure how safe. I simple light bulb the old incandescent type and a box so as to hold in the heat over the regulator. That would keep it warm enough to work but yet not be able to freeze up which water will do.



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Tom-NoCenTX

01-21-2013 18:17:34
70.196.12.88



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
like the man below said. I have 2 regulators, one at the tank, and a second one at the outside wall of the house. Tom



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Frank A

01-21-2013 17:32:08
206.246.4.50



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
Do you have a two stage system?( A high pressure regulator at the tank and low pressure at the house) 1/2 inch copper should carry over 300,000 BTUs at 120 feet with high pressure. If it's the tank pressure that is to low you may cover the tank with black plastic so it would absorb some more heat during the day.



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Bob Bancroft

01-21-2013 17:08:01
97.73.64.152



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 17:03:59  
Do you know what your regulated pressure is from the tank to the house, and then what it is in the house?



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SW3

01-21-2013 19:38:06
75.235.220.157



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to Bob Bancroft, 01-21-2013 17:08:01  
It has a regulator on the tank, and then one at the house. I do not know what the pressures are. I did ask that the propane company (Cenex) come out and hook the truck up to the tank to pressurize it. I have watched them do this before and listened as the tank equalizes with the truck pressure. This usually takes care of my problems. It may be that I just don't use enough propane since it is my off-peak heat, so they only come out to fill it every other year. Maybe the pressure in the tank gets too low?Thanks

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buickanddeere

01-22-2013 09:09:51
184.151.61.51



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 19:38:06  
What ????



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Indiana Ken

01-22-2013 07:08:22
66.249.232.131



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 19:38:06  
Quoting Removed, click Modern View to see

Propane begins to boil at minus 43.7 degrees F, at that temperature the pressure in your tank will measure zero psi. At minus 20 degrees F the tank pressure will be approximately 10.3 psi and at minus 30 degrees F 5.3 psi. Conversely at 100 degrees F the tank pressure will measure approximately 175.3 psi. The tank pressure is proportional to temperature - the gas company cannot pressurize your tank.

Typically propane furnaces will specify a gas pressure requirement at the furnace manifold. My furnace requires 10" H20 (inches of water). Since 10"H20 is equal to approximately 0.361 psi there should be sufficient pressure in your tank even at minus 30 degrees. There are likely three pressure regulators in your system, a high pressure at the tank, low pressure at the house and finally the manifold pressure on the furnace.
I would suggest the regulators be checked and adjusted as required and also have the furnace checked/cleaned as others have posted.
Good luck

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da.bees

01-21-2013 20:53:43
72.181.183.240



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 Re: Propane furnace in COLD weather in reply to SW3, 01-21-2013 19:38:06  
Quoting Removed, click Modern View to see

There are a multitude of possiable reasons for what you describe but one of them "is not" because the tank needs to be "pressurized". The pressure does drop as tempature drops but there is nothing other than warming the tank you can do about it. We could give you every possiability and you probably wouldn't be any closer to resolving it.

Call your supplier and tell them what is going on and ask that they have a technician come check your system. Otherwise you will mess with it ubtil spring thaw.

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