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  #1  
Old 02/11/08, 05:56 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Missouri
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propane tank keeps freezing

my stove is hook to a propane tank outside. it froze up 3 times today. we get the ice off of it by pouring room temp water on it. we wrapped the lines and the top in insulation and then plastic today. it just froze again. it's not the end of the world being without a stove, i have a woodstove and toaster oven. i'm just wondering what I can do temporarily till we can get a little house built around it. When we bought the tank, the guy at the hardware store said it wouldn't freeze.

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  #2  
Old 02/11/08, 06:15 PM
 
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I have little experience, but - I don't think you want a house around a propane tank, they need to be in the open to vent vapors (not often, but it only takes once....) to free air, not in an enclosed space!!!!!! I'd want to be real sure on that before enclosing it!

What size tank is this? As the propane changes from liquid to air, it creates cold. If you have a very small tank with a pretty big draw on it, the small surface area of the tank might be causing a rapid vaporizing and serious chilling of the tank valve.

Insulating the lines - is it the lines that are freezing???? Typically think it is only the valve on the tank, the lines don't give much trouble?

Others will know a lot more about propane, & will correct my babbling. But knowing the size tank you have & the load on it (what size stove, you running everything on hi?) will help figure it out some.

--->Paul

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  #3  
Old 02/11/08, 06:39 PM
 
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Where is it freezing? It it is the regulator you have water in it. There is a small hole in of the points of the reg. I hope you know what I am saying. That hole needs to be down so no water can get in it. If it is up then you will need to take the reg off bring it in and get it dried out. Then when you put it back on check it really good to make sure it isn't leaking, this is to be sure the diafram [sp] isn't broken. Hope this helps. Sam

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  #4  
Old 02/11/08, 07:11 PM
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Propane freezes at -310, so I think your problem is else where. Make sure the 2nd regulator is above the snow.

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  #5  
Old 02/11/08, 07:47 PM
 
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IThe regulator is your source or problem.

gave up on propane - after I spent/wasted about $8,000 on a high efficiency propane furnace and hot water tank. We absolutely cannot stop the regulators from freezing up here. We live directly on the sea coast and the regulators would freeze EVERY SINGLE TIME that there was moisture in any form - rain, snow, fog, blowing snow, etc. and the temperature was within a few degrees of freezing either direction (reminded me of the carburetor that used to ice up on my 1984 Ford pickup - did the same thing under the same conditions!!!). Every time we went away at Christmas, or for a day, the system would freeze up and so did the house and pipes. We would come home from work and the system had shut down yet again on many many days.

It became far more trouble (and liability) than it was worth. The regulators were replaced on such a regular basis by the propane company that they finally refused to replace them any longer. We switched propane suppliers and the same thing would happen with their regulators Every morning - freezing our a**es off in the house it was a trip outside to the regulator, squirt "Frost Buster" (an alcohol type product for car windshields) into the regulator to thaw it out and finally we would get the water and furnace started again.

We finally took a five gallon plastic pail, cut it up both sides so that it would slip over the propane line and the regulator, and that at least helped us some of the time - but not all of it.

I finally ran into a propane installer when I was teaching LPG one weekend at fire school and he told me that the problem would never be solved in this type of climate and in the specific location where I live. So - I have had an expensive propane furnace sitting doing nothing for about 1.5 decades. The only thing that has salvaged the situation at all was by installing an electric plenum heater into it which at least supplies us with backup heat.

The comment about covering the tank with a shed is valid - don't do it. Propane must have open air ventilation for disbursement when being filled and in case of any leakage - to cover it opens the possibility of one heck of an explosion if things go wrong.

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  #6  
Old 02/11/08, 08:19 PM
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when you use the propane it has to vaporize and it causes it to get cold and will cause ice. you are trying to draw more than it can produce causing it to freeze up, most the time when this happens is when your tank begins to get low. you may need to get another tank the same size and run them together or get a larger tank that holds more. its got nothing to do with the weather i have seen them ice over in the summer time when they get low.

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  #7  
Old 02/11/08, 09:00 PM
 
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We've had a propane stove ever since we moved here 8 years ago & it's never frozen, even with below zero temperatures. What are we doing right?

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  #8  
Old 02/11/08, 09:45 PM
 
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wow, thanks for all the great info. i have a lot to read and process. when i say the lines freeze, i mean i turn on the burner and it does light or it'll light and then dim and go out in a few seconds. so when we pour room temp water on it, that stops. we don't really know what is freezing. so we just wrapped up everything that was exposed and covered that with a trash bag to keep it from getting wet. there has been a good bit of precipitation lately. I'll have to read through all this and figure out the parts and try to understand what to do. That'll have to wait till morn, thank you!! I knew someone would know what was going on.

as far as the load, just a stove top and usually 2 burners on medium to low 2ce a day normally. not a big load I would think. Tank size, not sure, I'll have to ask. it's about shoulder high and 2 ft in diameter. (guessing)


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  #9  
Old 02/11/08, 09:56 PM
 
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Have the gas company come out and do a pressure test. take the bags off. they need to do a pressure test quick..... You can take the bags off and tap the reagulator with a hammer, note I said tap it to get you through the night, but a pressure test is what is needed to fix this.

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  #10  
Old 02/11/08, 10:52 PM
 
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It sounds like you have a 100lb tank and that is what we use. We run a wall heater and we have never had it freeze up. It has worked in 6 below temps and when raining around freezing, I was told to make sure the hole I was talking about had to be down or I would have a problem with it freezing up. Good luck getting it fixed. You didn't say where you are pouring the water to thaw it up. Sam

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  #11  
Old 02/11/08, 11:09 PM
 
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We have had propane for 26 years in NW North Dakota and never had it freeze up. We just had -25 actual temp with wind chill -50 and it didn't freeze. We have a 500 gallon tank and by law has to be set at 25 ft from the house. I can't remember how far the 1000 gallon was away fom the house. Hope you get an answer. Carolyn

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  #12  
Old 02/12/08, 12:36 AM
 
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I have lived in Minnesota all my life. On occasion we have had temps of -45 degrees without factoring in windchill. At those temps there is no gaseous phase in the propane tank large enough to do any good. The propane remains largely in the liquid state. Needless to say, at that point your propane appliances and furnaces do not work until it warms up to above -40. I'm glad it doesn't happen very often, but I have learned to keep alternative heating and cooking methods available ( read wood) just for this reason.

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  #13  
Old 02/12/08, 01:15 AM
 
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Have you checked the little hole to see that it is open & clear on the regulator? For all we know you wrapped it shut with the plastic & tape you put on it. Get all that junk off of there!

The water might be dripping to the bottom of the regulator & plugging the little vent hole with an ice drip.

Your 100 lb tank doesn't have a lot of surface area inside it. It has propane under pressure inside of it, enough pressure to keep the propane in a liquid form. The top of the tank is a vapor of propane. Most house appliances use this vapor in them. So thepipes going to your house are carrying a vapor, not a liquid.

As you draw off & use some vapor, more forms. The liquid propane gets a little less pressure as you use some vapor, and this lower pressure allows more liquid to convert into vapor.

Doing that takes some heat tho.

In cold weather or damp cool weather, this can cause ice to form around the regulator - which can plug up the little hole. That regulator can get very, very cold in the right conditions. Much colder than the temps around it are.

That little vent hole allows your regulator to work. The regulator is just a pressure switch - it needs to know what the outside air pressure is - if the little hole is closed up tight, it doesn't know how to regulate any more & might shut down.

In cold weather, or when a tank is very close to empty, it is harder for the liquid propane to turn into a vapor. The more surface area it has, the easier it is.

Your 100 lb tank only has a small round area of liquid propane exposed tot he top. That is why I asked how big the tank is, and how much you are using. Those big 500 gallon tanks that are on their side have a big area of liquid propane on top, so it is easy to get a lot of vapor to form in a hurry. Your tank is designed to be upright, and only supply so much vapored propane at a time.

But your burner should work ok with that size tank.

Either you are low on propane, or you have the little vent hole plugged with icewater or a wasp nest, or a combination of cold, damp weather is just right to cause the regulator to ice up and cool down too much to work.

Do not build an enclosure for the tank, and get the plastic & junk off of it that you put on. It is dangerous and not doing you any good.

Again, I don't know that much about propane, but this is close to the basics.

Please be careful.

http://www.propane101.com/regulatordetails.htm

--->Paul

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  #14  
Old 02/12/08, 08:11 AM
 
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well it was too cold to get out there last night and mess with it. this morning after getting all my chores done, i'm almost 30 min late for work. so hopefully i can get out there and look at this thing this afternoon. when i poured water on it to get it going again, i poured up at the top. There is no gas company person that could come out. we take the tank in and get it filled. thank you thank you!

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  #15  
Old 02/12/08, 08:19 AM
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It could be water in the lines next time you have the tank filled ask them to put some dryer in it,"Dryer" is simply alcohol that helps absorb the water and then is moved on along thru the system in a small enough molecule to pass thru the system

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  #16  
Old 02/12/08, 08:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fantasymaker
It could be water in the lines next time you have the tank filled ask them to put some dryer in it,"Dryer" is simply alcohol that helps absorb the water and then is moved on along thru the system in a small enough molecule to pass thru the system
Just checked with my DF who is an old time propane distributer and attended extensive classes about propane at University of Missouri School of Mining.. He says that most likely there is a little water in the tank or high pressure line to the regulator. By a little water he said just 1 drop will do it. If the tank had been left empty and the valve open it could very easily have condensed water inside the tank and this will be a problem until it is taken care of. As FM stated you need to add a "Dryer" to the tank. When the tank is empty it can be poured in, but if it is pressurized, it will have to be pumped in.
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  #17  
Old 02/12/08, 10:50 AM
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GoodMorning Adron!! Are you ok down the hill? We're alright. My daughter cld last night, they had no utilities. Her, husband, & 3 children all bundled up in the king size bed. didn't get much sleep. Utilities came back on this a.m. Robert is doing pretty good. He's not gotten to go to the dr yet so we haven't seen his foot. Will be going tomorrow, Wed. if weather cooperates. You two take care, holler if you need anything from Bolivar tomorrow. Hugs, Dayna.

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  #18  
Old 02/12/08, 11:56 AM
 
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OK, read through everything again and I think I've got a game plan. get all the stuff off the tank and check to see if I can find a hole on the regulator. I don't know what the regulator is, but i'm assuming it's going to be obvious when i go look at it. I really appreciate so much all this info guys.

on a sad note, house right down the street burned down last night. i saw it today, just horrible. poor things were probably just trying to stay warm. it was a big 100+ years old house, very pretty but probably very drafty. I hope they are somewhere warm today.

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  #19  
Old 02/12/08, 12:52 PM
 
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pulled all of the wrapping off, there is still some insulation frozen to the side, but it's not touching anything important. I don't see a little hole anywhere. Here are pictures, sorry they are fuzzy. Is there something else i should take a picture of that would help? based on the frost line, looks like the tank is 3/4 full.



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Old 02/12/08, 01:17 PM
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Good luck with that tank.
It's pretty small, and if you have any load on it it will freeze up.
I've frozen up 50 pounders of freon on a summer day.
Our BBQ tank will not put out enough when it's just barely below freezing.
I don't think it's any problem with wetness or regulators, just the tank itself.

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  #21  
Old 02/12/08, 01:37 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sammyd
Good luck with that tank.
It's pretty small, and if you have any load on it it will freeze up.
I've frozen up 50 pounders of freon on a summer day.
Our BBQ tank will not put out enough when it's just barely below freezing.
I don't think it's any problem with wetness or regulators, just the tank itself.
we've had this setup for several months now and it just started doing this this last week though when it got really cold.
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  #22  
Old 02/12/08, 01:53 PM
 
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Is that reg off a gas grill? I use the same size tank on out heater and never had a problem. If possible go to a store that deals with propane things and tell them what you have and what you are using and ask to see the reg they recommend. That does not look anything like my reg. Other than that the only thing it can think of is water in the system. Good luck getting it fixed. Sam

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  #23  
Old 02/12/08, 01:56 PM
 
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the only place i can go is the place where we bought the tank and whatever is attached to it. Although at this point with the storm coming in I'm not going anywhere. Otherwise it'll be over a week before I could get to a city for someone else to look at it.

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  #24  
Old 02/12/08, 02:06 PM
 
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did you try S & D petroleum in cincy? that's were we get ours. don't know if that was were you went or not.

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  #25  
Old 02/12/08, 02:15 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kwagner21
did you try S & D petroleum in cincy? that's were we get ours. don't know if that was were you went or not.
oops edit: no that's not where we go, i just called them. i guess he gets it from true value. i went in there already today and they were no help.
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  #26  
Old 02/12/08, 02:18 PM
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You should never need to wrap the tank in anything!!
Actually you should never wrap a propane tank.

You have to have either one, dual regulator or 2 regulators. One has to be on the tank, high pressure....the other has to be on the line, outside, close to the house and that one is a low pressure regulator.
Without proper regulators, problems will happen.

Now, a small leak of propane, perhaps to small to smell, will cause freezing!
If its a tiny leak, you may not see the frost and freezing all the time, depending on air circulation.
Usually if you have a leak on the tank/regulator, the first thing to do is look for the frost!
Have you done the soap bottle spay test?
Use liquid soap mixed with water to search for pin leaks.

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  #27  
Old 02/12/08, 02:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RiverPines
You should never need to wrap the tank in anything!!
Actually you should never wrap a propane tank.

You have to have either one, dual regulator or 2 regulators. One has to be on the tank, high pressure....the other has to be on the line, outside, close to the house and that one is a low pressure regulator.
Without proper regulators, problems will happen.

Now, a small leak of propane, perhaps to small to smell, will cause freezing!
If its a tiny leak, you may not see the frost and freezing all the time, depending on air circulation.
Usually if you have a leak on the tank/regulator, the first thing to do is look for the frost!
Have you done the soap bottle spay test?
Use liquid soap mixed with water to search for pin leaks.
if it warms up tomorrow I'll do this again. i know we sprayed it to test for leaks when we first put it in. I didn't see a regulator coming into the house, but I didn't know to look for a 2nd one so may not have noticed it. Thank goodness for the wood stove!
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  #28  
Old 02/12/08, 03:24 PM
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Your tank is to small. You need a bigger tank or a way to keep it warm. When propane turns from liquid to vapour, it need heat to do so. Insulating your tank will only aggravate the situation. Either switch to a bigger tank or wrap the tank with an electric heating pad and hope it doesn't overheat and blow up on you.

Pete

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  #29  
Old 02/12/08, 04:04 PM
 
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I have run a 20lb tank on our wall heater many many time and have a 100lb tank like the one there. I also have 1 reg at the tank and I have never had it freeze up even when it was -4 degrees and it was running wide open. I still don't know where it is freezing. Is it at the valve, reg, or the line coming in? Where do you pour the water to thaw it up? Has the tank been left open while you took it to fill and when you take it to fill make sure the reg is cover so as not to get water in it. When I take ours off the tank to have the tank filled it goes on a 20lb as soon as I unhook it. It is good that you have a wood stove to cook on and don't have to depend on this setup for heat. Again good luck. Sam

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  #30  
Old 02/12/08, 04:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L.A.
Propane freezes at -310, so I think your problem is else where.
It's not freezing, it's just getting cold enough that it stops flowing. As you can see, propane has no vapor pressure at all at -44 F (while the left chart scale is labeled in psi, it's actually psig).



But outside temperature is only half the story. There is a severe cooling effect from the evaporation of propane. High draw can cool a propane tank down to the point where there is no propane available in short order.

As has already been pointed out, a larger tank will have more heat capacity, and possibly help you make it through the night. That can be expensive though.

There's no point in warming the lines or regulator, since those are both vapor phase anyway. You need to warm the liquid in the tank. Place the heat tracing tape near the bottom of the tank to keep the liquid warm. Doing that will keep the propane flowing, but be careful not to leave it on when the outside temperature gets warm or you may overpressure your tank.

Failing that, you may need to reduce your propane draw on cold nights. A small (perhaps 10,000 btu/hour) unvented kerosene space heater may augment your indoor heat enough on cold nights to keep your propane draw under control, avoiding flow stoppage.
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