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Bad propane

sallaberry
sallaberry Member Posts: 19
How many of you guys have had issues firing a boiler on propane? I was in a veisemann class and the instructor asked how much trouble we’ve had with propane. The class full of seasoned heating guys had no issues including me. Not three weeks later I was having issues. Figured it must be a fuel problem. I rigged a 5 gallon cylinder with an adjustable regulator and my manometer to verify my water column. It took two days to beat it into my Coustmer and the propane company they had 800 gallons of bad gas delivered. That was 12/18 this last November same problem didn’t see decals on the tanks so I asked the homeowners who was the gas company... Same company so I told them I would do the same thing prove it was bad gas not bad equipment. Go it to fire up first try with my small cylinder. They yanked the tanks set two new tanks filled them after I purged the bad gas had it up and running like a dream. So if your having ignition troubles I’d say go this route before replacing parts or trying to choke the unit down.
Intplm.

Comments

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,016
    Not doubting what you have proven but don't know how the gas can be bad, but then again I know zilch about manufacturing propane. Water, air contaminated??

    Was it just an ignition problem and was ok when running?

    I did have a problem years ago with natural gas.

    I had several large commercial burners 4, 5,6 million btu's in the same city that would constantly lock out in the cold weather.

    These were combination gas oil burners with gas pilots. We ran oil and then gas and they locked out on both fuels so we knew it was something on the burner common to both fuels and it was...........the gas pilot.

    We solved the problem by changing ignition transformers took the mfg supplied 6000v transformers off and put 8500 volt transformers on.....end of problem.


    In talking with the gas company they were adding propane to the natural gas to keep the pressure up in cold weather when they had a big demand.

    So to prove your point, Propane being heavier than air mixes differently with air and cold propane like cold oil is more difficult to ignite
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,544
    A while back I had a seriously bad time on a new wall hung LP, new everything. I spoke with an LP guy and he cited several possibilities. it took me 2 1/2 hours to light the unit.

    Never heard of a bad batch of LP though
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • realliveplumber
    realliveplumber Member Posts: 60
    I installed a Weil Mclain Ultra about 2 years ago , to replace an oil boiler.

    New propane tank was installed. The boiler would not fire. I had an odor of gas in the exhaust when the gas valve opened, although not the typical LP odor. It was different. After several hours of purging and double checking things, out of sheer desperation, I took the cylinder off of the bbq grille, and the boiler fired right up and ran.

    The propane company came and pumped alcohol into the tank, and blew off about 20 gallons of LP. They said there was water in the tank. The boiler fired right up after that and has been fine for 2 years.

    DZoro
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,966
    I've had the water in the tank problem, too. They hate to admit it… but one thing to remember about LP: the mix ratio between butane and propane will vary with the season and the supplier. This can also give problems, but usually more in colder weather, or when the tank is only just big enough for the demand.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • sallaberry
    sallaberry Member Posts: 19
    First one was a running problem the second was ignition.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,541
    @EBEBRATT-Ed, Th energy content of propane is about 3x that of methane per volume so adding it to the natural gas will make the mixture too rich if there is more than a small percentage (which would wreak havoc on all the careful combustion adjustments).
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,506
    This time of year with temperature change the lp needs to have some methanol added.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,330
    mattmia2 said:

    @EBEBRATT-Ed, Th energy content of propane is about 3x that of methane per volume so adding it to the natural gas will make the mixture too rich if there is more than a small percentage (which would wreak havoc on all the careful combustion adjustments).

    I had a similar conversation with an Xcel energy Vice President. He told me they add propane to natural gas when they have supply issues. I am sure it is a complicated process to keep the energy content correct
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,187
    Had a issue on a Navien Combi startup last week. Had an ignition issue. Once I got that changed, there was air in the propane. Must have not purged it correctly. Partially blocked the intake with a piece of cardboard overnight and it was fine the next day. Was the only way I could get it to even light.

    Flame was actually pulsing. It was a new tank and service line.
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,792
    > @mikeg2015 said:
    > Had a issue on a Navien Combi startup last week. Had an ignition issue. Once I got that changed, there was air in the propane. Must have not purged it correctly. Partially blocked the intake with a piece of cardboard overnight and it was fine the next day. Was the only way I could get it to even light.
    >
    > Flame was actually pulsing. It was a new tank and service line.
    >
    >

    I had the same flame pulsing issue with a Navien combi. Supply gas pressure (NG) dropped from 6" w.c to less than 1" after ignition. Turned out to be a couple of pieces of painters tape in the gas line near the meter. Still wondering how that happened....
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,541
    Someone probably put some tape over it to keep debris out before they installed the meter set and for some reason didn't remove the tape when they did. I don't want to think about how much work it took to find it.
    ratio
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,187
    > @SuperTech said:
    > > @mikeg2015 said:
    > > Had a issue on a Navien Combi startup last week. Had an ignition issue. Once I got that changed, there was air in the propane. Must have not purged it correctly. Partially blocked the intake with a piece of cardboard overnight and it was fine the next day. Was the only way I could get it to even light.
    > >
    > > Flame was actually pulsing. It was a new tank and service line.
    > >
    > >
    >
    > I had the same flame pulsing issue with a Navien combi. Supply gas pressure (NG) dropped from 6" w.c to less than 1" after ignition. Turned out to be a couple of pieces of painters tape in the gas line near the meter. Still wondering how that happened....

    I’ve sort of done that once but worse. The plastic plug on the White Rogers gas valves on Rheem furnaces are black. Probably the dumbest color possible. I’m a dark basement when you are in a hurry, it’s easy to not see that sits still in there when you try and thread a pipe in there Doh!!! I caught it just fate I had already shoved the plug in there. Had to replace the valve. (Warrantied it... stupid choice of colors.). Most aftermarket valves have a blue or red plug.
    SuperTech
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,792
    @mikeg2015 that's awesome. I thought I have seen or made just about every boneheaded mistake possible.
    That makes for a good story to tell new guys about, it's good to know why the plugs are red or blue.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,016
    @mattmia2

    They add propane to natural all the time when it's cold out.

    In fact there's a name for it. It's called "shaving" ask around.

    Maybe @Tim McElwain will respond
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,541
    Do they also add some inert gas with the propane to keep the energy content equal?
  • service1
    service1 Member Posts: 5
    I have a knight that was installed this February that has recently started having problems. It is a replacement for an old valiant cast iron so it is an old lp tank but some new gas line. But worked fine this long (space heat and DHW) but now is lockout ignition failure all over the board. Works fine and then 5 lockouts in a row.   Gas pressures are good. Combustion analysis is good. Tech support had me replace the gas valve (twice). One gas valve we couldn’t get to light at all. Second one had to “ trick” more but couldn’t get it to adjust to low fire without “fluttering” and tons of CO. That tech said bad LP and suggested portable tank. I ended up putting original gas valve back on and it ran perfectly. Combustion analysis was good on low fire and hi fire. CO was 0 ppm at low and 30ppm at hi. 
    Lockout again yesterday. Reset and found no fire. Gas valve got power. Slight gas pressure drop (11” to 10” wc) so it’s getting gas. I can’t hear spark (I’m mostly deaf). Pulled spark and gapped it more from 3/16 to 5/16. Reinstalled and it fired with no hesitation. Turned off gas, it refired immediately when I turned gas back on. Pulled FR and spark to kill it. It post-purged and relit perfect. Customer texted that it had to be reset five times yesterday afternoon but not in lockout thru the whole night and I know it had to run last night. It was cold enough. 
    Customer did tell me that just before this started the lp company had topped off their tank (they are on auto fill) and they had started to notice the boiler rumbling and then the noise go away. Their tank was at 60% Thursday and lp company refilled Friday and I was back out there Saturday seeing lockout ignition failure. Really seems to add up to bad gas deliveries but is there something else I might be missing or haven’t explained good enough 
    I appreciate your help
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,765
    Could they be overfilling the tank causing high pressure leading to regulator problems?

    The percentage gauge on tanks could be fairly shaky.
  • service1
    service1 Member Posts: 5
    JUGHNE said:
    Could they be overfilling the tank causing high pressure leading to regulator problems? The percentage gauge on tanks could be fairly shaky.

    Static and dynamic pressure at the boiler has been good even when I have seen it miss on ignition and go into lockout. It was at 60% when I spent most of the day changing parts and dealing with tech support. The next day the lp company topped it off and tank is at 80% and still having lockout issues 
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 607
    Here's a scary story about water in a natural gas line to a High School west of Pittsburgh, Pa. It happened in a very wealthy neighborhood. It seems that a student on a Friday afternoon decided to cause havoc with the school so he took a piece of flex tubing and connected it between the bunsen burner gas supply and a sink supply that had a barbed outlet (very old school). As that last student left the room he turned on the cold sink water supply and the bunsen burner gas tap. The students were discharged from the school and the building was locked up for the weekend. The water flowed into the gas supply and ran 24/7. I received an emergency night call Saturday night for no heat at that school.When I got to the school I discovered that the gas lines in the school were filled with water. The head of maintenance called the gas company and later the police, fire company, etc. That water supply had completely filled the school's 6" Main gas line including the old style gas meters, an and was also filling the main gas line to other nearby customers. A search of the school found the hose that the student left as a "prank" to see what would happen. It was a long night.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,016
    @retiredguy
    that sucks
  • service1
    service1 Member Posts: 5
    so out of desperation I took a 100 lb lp bottle down that was stashed in the corner of my shop for the last 6 years. Hooked up the regs, verified static and dynamic pressure and boiler ran great for 2 days. No lockouts, no noises. Down to last 12” of bottle, concerned about heating that night, the customer was ready to switch lp companies and the new company offered filling the 100lb bottle on site and deliver the new 500 gallon tank the next day. That night (1am about 35F was the low) the boiler lockout on ignition occurs again. I verified gas pressures. All good. Restarts just fine. Combustion analysis is right on target thru the whole range, low to high. Called new lp company to see if they used the same supply chain for lp. Answer is that they don’t. I don’t have any more old propane stashed to prove it wasn’t a fluke. Is there anyway to do a layman test to prove the lp is substandard and affecting low fire light off?
     Thank you