FullTiming-propane not happy with cold weather - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 11-22-2015, 01:08 PM   #1
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FullTiming-propane not happy with cold weather

Hi,

I am full timing for the next 2 months in Seattle. Living in the Escape was the easiest solution for staying to complete a job this winter and keeping my dog with me. I have had some interesting times so far, but have come across my first big challenge that I can't seem to puzzle out.

I have discovered that the last 3 nights when it has dipped below freezing and stayed that way until morning, that my furnace, hot water heater and stove do not want to work. Once morning comes and the temperature gets near freezing, I start getting low volume flow to the stove. Then after it gets a few degrees warmer, my hot water heater works and then eventually the furnace.

My dual tanks are full (just filled the empty one 2 days ago) and I am hooked up to city water and electricity. Any thoughts as to why my propane would slow it's flow with cold and then increase with the warmth?

Thanks for any help,

Kelly
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Old 11-22-2015, 02:12 PM   #2
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Propane problem

Propane boils at -44F so I don't think your issue is cold tanks. I had a house at Silver Star heated with propane from an outside uninsulated bullet tank and it worked just fine at minus 20 to heat the whole house.

I would suspect the regulator freezing up maybe water in the lines or a bad batch of propane that has been known to happen. Try pouring some hot water on the regulator and see if that makes it start working.
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Old 11-22-2015, 02:41 PM   #3
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I agree with Hugh, that it could likely be something to do with the regulator not working right when it cools, as propane should work just fine at those temps.

If you are only dipping below freezing, and it is warming up good during the day, you have no worries regarding things freezing up bad. Heck, those are the weather conditions for much of our camping.
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Old 11-22-2015, 02:58 PM   #4
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Assuming its not the regulator, can you wrap tanks in old blankets to insulate them?

0C happens to be the boiling point of butane which is often/always mixed into the LPG. High enough percentage would cause those problems too.
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Old 11-22-2015, 03:18 PM   #5
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Going below freezing can do major damage so you need to figure this out right away. Are you at a campground with a host? You can ask him or anyone to look at your propane regulator and connections to see if they see anything wrong. Would also e-mail and leave messages with ETI and tell them you are in below freezing temps. You need to get the forecast to see how far below you are going the next nights.
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Old 11-22-2015, 03:59 PM   #6
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Since you have power a short term solution would be to put a simple light bulb near the regulator. Doesn't take much, even a 40 watt bulb in a cheap reading lamp (to protect the bulb) from Walmart would do. I use light bulbs in various ways to provide a very small amount of targeted heat.

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Old 11-22-2015, 05:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughharden View Post
Propane boils at -44F so I don't think your issue is cold tanks.
I agree. While propane pressure in the tank falls with lower temperatures, there's still lots at just below freezing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hughharden View Post
I would suspect the regulator freezing up maybe water in the lines or a bad batch of propane that has been known to happen. Try pouring some hot water on the regulator and see if that makes it start working.
Again, I agree. There is often a bit of water in propane, and it can block the regulator by freezing. It happens at the regulator because where the propane pressure is reduced there is a chilling effect, so that's the cold point... which can be much colder than the surrounding air. Thick frost often forms on a regulator in conditions under which nothing else is getting frosty.

I have experienced this, and if I have AC power I use a hot air gun (industrial version of a hair dryer) to thaw - it's neater and perhaps faster than pouring hot water.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BCnomad View Post
Assuming its not the regulator, can you wrap tanks in old blankets to insulate them?
If there is a lack of propane pressure due to low temperature, this would just make the situation worse. Conversion of liquid propane to vapour in the tank absorbs heat, chilling the tank contents; insulating it would just prevent it from absorbing heat from the surrounding air. This is opposite from wrapping blankets around yourself: your body is a heat source, so insulation helps to keep the heat in (the propane tanks have no source of heat to keep in).

Quote:
Originally Posted by BCnomad View Post
0C happens to be the boiling point of butane which is often/always mixed into the LPG. High enough percentage would cause those problems too.
Good point - what is sold as "propane" is actually LPG, which means Liquified Petroleum Gas (not Liquid Propane Gas) and it is not pure propane. Butane content will reduce vapour pressure, but I hope even in relatively mild Seattle there isn't enough butane to be a problem.

Propane Butane Mix - Evaporation Pressure
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Old 11-22-2015, 05:26 PM   #8
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Depending on the propane mixture...The regulator will freeze if the line isn't being used often. This happens on our line to our generator.

To solve it..we loosely wrapped the regulator (vent clear). We also have put a five gallon bucket over it. Prior to that....If it freezes, we use a hair dryer.
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Old 11-22-2015, 05:33 PM   #9
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Kelly, have you ever used a soapy solution to test for leaks of propane? When at an RV place some time, you can also have them do a simple propane pressure test.

The folks above have indicated what your problem might be, however, with any propane problem, it might be good to assume a leak and act accordingly until the problem is found. You can test for leaks.
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Old 11-22-2015, 06:37 PM   #10
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I can't add much to solve Kelly's problem - but his description seems to indicate a regulator issue, and that in turn prompted me to purchase a spare regulator on EBay a few minutes ago.

If having a spare part in advance has the normal effect on the universe - I will never have a regulator failure...

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