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Propane Regulator Facts




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  Propane regulator facts, propane facts, propane 101, high pressure and low pressure, types of propane regulators, and a word about propane tanks...


  Pressure in a propane tank, large or small, can range between 100 and 200 psi. This propane pressure must be reduced and regulated for use in a home, motor home, camper, or an outdoor gas appliance. Typically, a residential application will require a low pressure regulator which reduces the gas pressure to 6 ounces (10.5 inches water column).   This low pressure regulator will be located on or near the main tank supplying gas to the home, motor home, or camperOutdoor gas appliances may access low pressure propane gas through a gas convenience outlet located somewhere after the low pressure regulator or from a separate, portable tank like the kind you see at Home Depot or Lowes.  Portable tanks also require propane pressure regulation.  Sometimes a low pressure regulator is built directly into the gas appliance and sometimes one must be installed on the portable tank itself.  Check with your gas appliance manufacturer to see what propane pressure the appliance requires at the inlet on the gas appliance.

  Some outdoor gas appliances, such as high heat cast iron burners, require the use of a high pressure regulator because they need more volume of gas than a low pressure regulator will deliver. A high pressure regulator will regulate the output pressure from 1 psi to as high as 60 psi. There are a number of different high pressure regulators available. Some high pressure regulators are "preset". That is, the propane pressure is fixed at, for example, 10 psi or 20 psi. Further attenuation of the gas delivered to the appliance may be done by use of an inline ball valve or needle control valve located either on the hose or built into the appliance. The other common type of high pressure regulator is an "adjustable" high pressure regulator.  Adjustable high pressure regulators are available in 0-20 psi, 0-30 psi, and 0-60 psi versions and have an output pressure adjustment control built directly into the regulator. Depending on the number of btu/hr that the gas appliance(s) require, one chooses the adjustable propane gas regulator which gives the required number of btu/hr. Choose the propane regulator that is the closest match. There is no advantage of having a propane regulator with a lot more btu/hr than you actually need. As you increase the btu/hr output of a propane regulator, the degree of control that the internal propane regulator valve has over the gas output decreases; i.e., turning the valve an 1/8" in a 0-60 psi adjustable propane regulator has a lot more effect than turning the valve an 1/8" in a 0-20 psi adjustable propane regulator.

  Folks frequently ask: "How long will my portable tank of propane last?"  This is easy to figure out if you know the number of pounds of gas that is in your full tank and the btu/hr demand of your burner or other gas appliance. One pound of liquid gas in your tank has 21,591 btu/hr fuel value. The most common tank is a 20 pound tank (also sometimes referred to as a 5 gallon tank). This is the kind of portable tank you would find at a Home Depot, Lowes, etc. If you have a low pressure burner, for example, that is rated at 40,000 btu/hr maximum output then you can run that burner at full blast for 10.8 hours: (20#  x 21,591btu/# = 431,820 btu is the gas in a 20# tank, 431,820 btu 40,000 btu/hr  = 10.8 hrs) . On the other hand if you have a high heat, high pressure burner that is rated at 160,000 btu/hr maximum output you can run that burner at full blast for only 2.7 hours. In practice, it is unusual for anyone to run a burner at full throttle for that long so you will probably not empty the tank this quickly. The point is that if you want to develop the heat in an uninterrupted manner you have to plan for adequate propane tank reserves. Experienced chefs keep a spare propane tank around.  These figures are theoretical. According to a major 20 pound propane tank producer, Blue Rhino, their 20 pound propane tank will only contain about 4.1 gallons of liquid propane which weighs just 17 pounds.  The empty propane tank weighs about 20 pounds so if you add the 17 pounds of gas you have a full propane tank weighing around 37 pounds.  Folks also ask:  "What is the pressure inside my portable tank?"   According to the publication NFPA58, a tank with 20 pounds of gas at 70F would have a pressure of 145 psi, at 90F would have 180 psi, at 105F would have 235 psi, and at 130F would have 315 psi. 

  One of the common complaints I hear is: "My propane regulator is icing up and the propane output is dropping".  A single stage, high pressure regulator will expand the volume of the gas from a liquid state to a gas just before the point that the gas hose is attached to the propane regulator output. That change of state from liquid to gas requires a considerable amount of heat. The heat comes from the metal that surrounds the gas in that area. If the demand for the propane is very high, the metal gets noticeably colder and colder because it can't draw heat from the surrounding area fast enough.  If the demand for gas is very high and there happens to be a high moisture content within the propane stored in the tank, the water vapor can condense and freeze up internally within the regulator (a cold metal enclosure) thereby block the flow of the propane to the supply hose.  What can you do?  Well, you can complain to your retail gas supplier.  Ask them to purchase the gas from the gas wholesaler that will inject some methyl alcohol into the propane...methyl alcohol acts as an antifreeze. Wholesale propane gas suppliers often do this in the winter months in colder climates.  If that is not feasible then occasionally pour some warm water over the propane regulator. Also try to keep the propane tank and gas regulator in a warm place. The colder the propane tank and gas regulator are, the more prone the gas regulator is to experience a freeze up. Lastly, keep a spare propane tank and be prepared to make a switch whenever you sense a decrease in the flow of the propane. Then allow the cold propane tank and regulator to warm up. The problem will be more pronounced with a less than half-full or near-empty propane tank, and occurs more frequently in a smaller propane tank than a larger propane tank.  Experienced caterers always use as large of a propane tank as they can and keep a spare tank nearby.

  Folks also ask: "What is a btu?"   A btu, or British Thermal Unit, is the amount of energy required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.  A gallon of liquid propane contains 91,502 btu's.  A pound of liquid propane contains 21,591 btu's.

   Another often asked question is "I have a low pressure regulator but it does not seem to supply enough gas for my appliance."  Unfortunately, many of the preset low pressure regulators available in the marketplace use 1/4"ID hose and some are attached to a propane regulator with a 1/4" NPT (normal pipe thread) outlet on the propane regulator.  There is a limit to the volume of gas that can be delivered through this small ID hose at a fixed low propane pressure of 6 ounces .  What can you do?  Use a low pressure regulator with a 3/8"ID gas outlet and a gas hose of 3/8"ID.  The amount of propane that can be delivered to the appliance is increased by a factor of 2.26 so the chances of starving your appliance for propane are greatly diminished. sells only 3/8" NPT outlet low pressure gas regulators and 3/8"ID low pressure hoses for this very reason.  Our grey hose carries UL , CSA, and American Gas Association approvals and is designed to supply up to about 100,000 btu/hr of propane gas.

   Why does my grill have little or no flame?  According to the Coleman company there are at least three possible reasons.  First is that the propane tank might have been improperly filled.  All tanks must be purged of air before being filled with gas.  This purging requires filling with a small amount of gas and then emptying. Propane is heavier than air and will force the air out of the tank during the emptying. Filling with gas then can proceed.  If the tank is not purged then the air is the first gas to exit the tank and the grill will either have no flame or a very low flame for possibly over an hour until the air does fully exit the tank.  A second cause might be the automatic activation of a surge protection device within the propane regulator. If, for example, you turn on the tank valve before you fully turn off each of the burner knobs on the grill the surge protector will likely sense a leak and activate.  The fuel flow will be very low.  The remedy is to turn everything off, disconnect the tank, and reconnect everything before starting over.  A third possible cause might be  that the tank was overfilled.  All propane tanks are now fitted with Overfill Protection Devices (OPD) which is designed to be activated by a float valve.  The OPD feature prevents overfilling of the tank by shutting off the valve.  A 20% empty space is necessary to prevent the tank from venting large amounts of propane when the ambient temperature rises.  This OPD can also be inadvertently activated by tilting a very full tank during moving.

     One gallon of water weighs 8.33 pounds.  It takes one btu to raise each pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit or 8.33 btu's to raise one gallon of water one degree Fahrenheit.  Knowing that, it is straightforward to calculate the number of btu's required to raise a known number of gallons of water to boiling...assuming 100% thermal transfer of the heat from the flame and assuming you know the starting temperature of the water.  This becomes useful in determining approximately how long your tank of gas will last.

     Volume to volume propane delivers more btu/hr than natural gas.  For example, at 60 F a flow of 1 cubic foot/hr of natural gas will deliver 1030 btu/hr but 1 cubic foot/hr of propane will deliver 2488 btu/hr...about 2.5 times more heat.

  More propane 101 ...some useful propane facts:  a 20# LPG tank theoretically contains 4.72 gallons but in practice many only contain 4.1 gallons since gas cylinders are not supposed to be filled more than 80% full.    One psi equals 27.7 inches of water column.  We provide these propane regulator facts, propane facts, propane 101 , to help take the mystery out of choosing the right high pressure regulator or low pressure regulator.




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