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Dirty gas?

Precaud
Precaud Member Posts: 369
edited February 2020 in Gas Heating
Three mornings ago I noticed that the flames on my gas stove burners were different. They used to be all blue; it became small blue tongues with large orange-ish flame above. I lit the oven, and ditto. That evening, when the boiler fired up, I examined its flame color and it also had changed. What used to be nice blue tongues, with larger blue flames above and occasional whisps of yellow, had become small blue tongues with long dirty orange-color flame above. Adjustment of the air control made no significant change.

Is this "dirty gas"? I've never seen anything like this.
1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.

Comments

  • Natural gas or propane?
    Often wrong, never in doubt.
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    Sorry, nat gas.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • icy78
    icy78 Member Posts: 402
    What's your service pressure? It'll be around 7"- 11" usually.
    Rap on the outside regulator. If that fixes it you'll need a new one. If it doesnt, you still may need a new one.
    Check the vent on the regulator, no ice?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,941
    Could be water in the gas mains -- but the first thing I'd think of is low pressure on the mains, probably due to demand. Do you have working CO detectors? I hope?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,523
    there is a very lengthy discussion about the various causes of this somewhere, but this sounds like pressure or gas quality.

    if you turn on a second burner on the range does the other one get smaller?
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    edited February 2020
    @icy78 , I assume the regulator you speak of is by the meter? That's on the neighbor's property, I can check it tomorrow.

    @Jamie Hall , no CO detector here. Unlikely to be anything due to high demand, it's been quite mild here the last 3 days. I had the door open this afternoon for fresh air. I suppose water is a possibility, with old pipes in the ground...

    @mattmia2 , no change in flame size by opening a 2nd or 3rd one.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,002
    It could be the gas company is "shaving". Big demand in cold weather they jamb propane in with the natural gas to help keep the pressure up in the main.

    Call the gas utility and ask them
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,002
    Peak shaving systems let natural gas utilities minimize the impact of unpredictable fuel consumption needs in addition to unexpected supply constraints by augmenting natural gas fuel with synthetic natural gas (SNG), during times of high demand.

    Peak Shaving Systems - SNG | TransTech Energy
    www.transtechenergy.com/peak-shaving-systems
    PC7060
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    @EBEBRATT-Ed , I'll definitely call them tomorrow. I asked them a few weeks ago if they derated the gas for altitude (I had read that some nat gas companies in the Rockies did that). They assured me no, never.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    Is it just a coincidence that Feb. nat gas prices are the lowest they've been in decades?
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,523
    Er i guess low pressure wouldn't cause the flame to go down with more demand, it will just be sitting at the supply pressure that is below the appliance regulator pressure. There will be plenty of volume at lower pressure, the appliance regulator will be wide open supplying whatever is the system pressure.

    i'm sure the utility would come out and check the pressure at the meter regulator.

    You could make a manometer with a couple feet of tubing and some water as well.
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    OK, thanks. I'll call them manana and ask that they come out and inspect.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,792
    @Precaud No CO detectors?! Why not? It seems like you are well educated about your heating system from what I've read in your posts, but that doesn't mean that something might happen at some point.

    Please consider buying a couple of low level CO detectors. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want the peace of mind that having some sort of protection against CO poisoning brings.
    mattmia2ethicalpaul
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    So I just called to gas co, they are sending someone out within an hour. I described the orange flame. The rep asked, am I running a humidifier? I said yes. She said it's probably because of elevated moisture levels in the home. Catch-22, I said, I'm running the humidifier because it's so dry! And there is no humidifier in the basement where the boiler is. We had to agree to disagree.

    According to the meter, there is no gas leak (no meter movement with all appliances off).

    Anyway, they'll be here shortly. Gotta like the quick response.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    Well, everything checks out fine. Pressure is good, no leaks, flue CO levels on everything were very good (he said the boiler's was about the best he's seen - 15ppm). He says the change in flame color is due to the humidifier, especially the ultrasonic ones, which put an ultra-fine dust in the air from hard water. So I guess there's nothing to worry about.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,523
    This thread talks about humidifiers putting sodium in the air and turning flames yellow. It shouldn't affect the flame size.

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/161725/propane-stove-burner-flame-turned-orange-today-why/p1
    icy78Precaud
  • icy78
    icy78 Member Posts: 402
    Why would the smaller orange flame start suddenly? Surely you've run a humidifier prior to this.
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    edited February 2020
    Interesting. It appears to be the case that fine particles of whatever minerals are in the water are now being put in the air.

    Now that I think about it, so what happened on Saturday morning? That was the morning that I stopped using the vaporizer to humidify, and started using the ultrasonic one. The vaporizer was causing the inside of the windows to ice up bigtime; the ultrasonic one doesn't do that.

    Tradeoffs... I can either have iced-up windows, or orange-colored flames...

    On the good side, it's nice to know that the gas supply and flues are all in good shape, and the appliances are burning cleanly.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,178
    If the ultrasonic isn't icing the windows too, it isn't putting out as much moisture as the vaporizer.

    Any way to turn down the vaporizer? A plug-in timer (with an appropriate electrical rating!) set to turn it on for an hour & off for an hour will reduce the output by 50%. You can play with the on & off times to dial in the amount of moisture added.

    Precaud
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    edited February 2020
    Yeah, that's what I thought too. I have a timer that can control 1 on/off cycle every 24 hours. I'll just do it manually for now.

    After the gas guy left, I turned off the ultrasonic and turned on the vaporizer. Within 4 hours the gas stove flames were almost completely blue again.

    The ultrasonic is nice because its quiet, energy-efficient, and has a huge reservoir. But you gotta wonder if its good to be breathing that mineral dust.

    Once again, steam proves to be a good thing...
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,178
    If you fed it distilled water, I imagine it would be fine then, too.
    mattmia2
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    Yeah, but not going to happen...
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,523
    ro would probably do it too
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    mattmia2 said:

    ro would probably do it too

    huh? ro?
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,523
    reverse osmosis
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    Ah, ok. Same story, really. If I have to run out and buy bottles of it, it is probably not going to happen.

    Power consumption: vaporizer, 400W. Ultrasonic, 44W.

    Now 10 hours in, and the flame is totally blue again. Who woulda thunk...
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
    mattmia2
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,178
    Makes sense when you think about it. Vaporizor boils the water, what leaves is (more or less) pure water vapor. Ultrasonic is a mechanical process that discharges minuscule droplets of water, but the water never change phase & therefor carries any suspended minerals along for the ride.
  • Precaud
    Precaud Member Posts: 369
    Yes, I have to clean the minerals out of the vaporizer regularly. I just wonder, I've had this ultrasonic humidifier for 20+ years and never noticed its impact on flame color before now. I blame it on this website, which had made me hyper-aware of the heating process! B) (A good thing, btw...)
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
    mattmia2
  • Leonard
    Leonard Member Posts: 903
    edited February 2020
    Relative had low pressure when vent froze over. Heat loss and sun melted ice on roof a little, drips hit propane tank and splashed on regulator vent and froze over. Reg was under tank cover and air was below freezing, , maybe 20 degs. If was warm next day it might have melted off, without a trace.
    ------------------------------------------------

    Kiddie makes a CO detector with a PPM display, nice feature to see what your levels are, ~ $20. Might be model # KN-COPP-B-LPM or KN -COPP-3, not sure you have to googal them.