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  #1  
Old 09/15/10, 10:47 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Western North Carolina
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Propane Tank,Line,Stove Questions (long)

We have an old Garland Propane Cook Stove. When the Propane Tank gets lower, we smell the gas more in the dining room/kitchen. It used to happen when the Propane Tank was at about 40% - 35%. The Propane Company explained that the "rotten egg smell" in the Gas gets stronger as the tank is depleted. The rotten-egg-smell gets stronger.

Lately, the smell has happened at 50% and we have to call the Company to come out and "top off the tank" - which of course means I have to spend money to keep a full tank.

This morning the Propane Company sent out a man to check the pressure on the whole line to see if there is a leak anywhere. He did find small leaks on the valve's at the tank, repaired those, but no leaks in the whole line inside the house.

But! He presented several more problems -

1. He said I have an "old" gas line, it is yellow and that Code now says I need to have a Licensed Electrician "ground" the gas line. He said the yellow type of line does not have enough rubber coating and can "blow up" in a lightening storm.

Common sense tells me I should have it grounded however, my question is: Should I pay the Propane Company to remove the old yellow line and put in a new "black line" which he explains has a thicker rubber coating and will not blow up from lightening like the yellow line might?

2. We have an old dead-end piece of gas line that used to be to the old hot-water heater. It dead-ends in a bedroom closet. For some reason, whoever took it out, did not remove the gas line. It is just capped off with a thick silver looking cap but the cap is shoved down in the sub-floor. Since it is in a closet, is it OK to just leave it there? He did check and did say it is not leaking.

3. Back to the cook stove question: The Gas Man said I can smell the gas since "wimmen have a better sense of smell" and men don't smell it but "wimmen" do. He said there is not any gas leaking in the house and he checked all the burners and ovens too.

Do all Propane cook stoves just stink? And, how would I know when to worry about it?

I think it smells so bad that we open the dining room window or a door every time we come in the house to let it air out for a while. At night we run the fan to the central air to "on" to keep the air moving. Right now, with windows open, we don't have to do that but when we close up the house, and come home, we have to open the door for a while.

4. Since the Propane Company told me the gas stinks more due to the "old rotten egg smell" in the bottom of the tank, I asked them if they can clean the tank out. They said they have NEVER cleaned out a tank and no one ever does that! I pointed out that if, as they are saying, the smell is worse due to a build up of the rotten egg smell, then it they cleaned out the tank, maybe it would not stink as bad?

They claim the only way to clean out a Propane Tank is for ME to run all the Gas out and then call them to fill it back up! I don't want to waste $400 worth of propane. And, if the rotten egg smell stays in the tank, that would not seem to get it out?

Any and all information and suggestions appreciated and thank you if you read this whole thing. Thank you.

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  #2  
Old 09/15/10, 11:27 AM
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Did the guy check the stove to see if it leaks? Ever tried airing out the house and shutting the valve to the stove? Come back in a few hours and see what the house smells like. That would tell you if the leak was in the stove or the line.

There is no smell from my propane stove.

Kathie

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  #3  
Old 09/15/10, 11:39 AM
 
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Location: north Alabama
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I suspect that if you suggest you will change companies, so that the tank will be removed and replaced, along with the propane in it, that some accommodation might be made for you.

In the meantime, I think you may be getting a brush off. Find an independent contractor and have him check for leaks. If you are getting that strong a smell, you may still have a leak or improperly adjusted flame. Culprits could be gas water heater, oven pilot, or wall heaters that use blue flame instead of ceramic.

Grounding. If you ground the tank, and ground the stove and appliances, the chances of the line "blowing up" are about 1 in 100000000000000000000000000000000000. First, the amount of gas (which is low pressure at that point) in the line is MINISCULE. Second, a spark would have to puncture the line, which would mean a direct strike on the house that somehow avoided all those nice electrical wires and decided to hit the propane line. Third, it wouldn't "explode" in any sense of the word. It would create a leak and the gas escaping would perhaps catch fire. A later explosion is possible, but unlikely given your sensitivity to the odorant. Among all this fearmongering and desire to spend your money, did he show you how to turn the gas off at the tank? That would prevent any subsequent explosion.

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Old 09/15/10, 12:27 PM
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I can't remark about the propane tank having more odor as the tank depletes because I used 100# tanks that emptied every time I used them. However, since the concentration of "stench oil" is in the parts per million range, this doesn't sound reasonable. I would think that concentrations of stench oil would flash off proportionally along with the propane.

1. You are vague in the type of pipe you have. Normally yellow gas pipe is plastic and yellow all the way through, while metal gas pipe is normally black iron. Black iron is not coated unless it is a direct burial installation, in which case it is typically coated with light green protection at the factory, or wrapped with special black tape during installation. Where I had my homestead the yellow plastic pipe was not allowed, probably due to narrow-mindedness. They wanted to see black iron -- period.

The only other thing to consider is flex tubing, which connects the appliance to the gas pipe. That is normally corrugated stainless with poly coating. That type of connector pipe is contemporary and entirely appropriate for all gas installations.

As for grounding, you pretty much have to do what he says. A lot of people don't do it. You can do it yourself and have your county inspect it. I don't see how a propane vendor can argue with a government inspected installation. But if is yellow poly pipe grounding is a moot subject.

2. It sounds like your water heater line is capped with a galvanized pipe cap. It should be capped with a black iron pipe cap. It's not good practice to keep long runs of unused gas pipe in the system, but there is normally no requirement to remove it either.

3. My propane range didn't have an odor of stench oil, but then again I'm not a "wimmen". I assume that your range was setup for propane and not natural gas (the burner flames will be blue & clean if properly setup, and yellow & sooty if setup for natural gas).

4. Running the tank empty should remove any possible stench oil build up. Stench oil (normally some isomer of ethyl mercaptian) is pretty volatile stuff, and is only added in parts per million concentrations.

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  #5  
Old 09/15/10, 12:55 PM
Nimrod
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I am suprised, with your wimmen sense of smell, that you didn't smell the BS. It makes no sense to blame the smell on the tank. If you smell it inside the house then it's leaking inside the house, not outside where the tank is. The gas man "checked" but didn't find any leaks. How did he check? With a gas sniffer?

I would suggest that you take a coffee cup, fill it about 3/4 with water, and add a couple of teaspoons of dish detergent. Use an old tooth brush to apply the soapy water to the gas connections, the flex line attached to the stove, and the gas line. If it blows bubbles you have found the leak. Gently tighten the connection or replace the gas line or flex line as needed.

If you cann't find a leak then take an old tooth brush and clean the soot off the piolet lights. Blow out the piolet, brush it, and relight. Even when they are burning, the soot can cause an incomplete combustion and you will smell gas.

It is perfectly OK to have the unused line capped with a galvanised cap instead of a black one. Galvanised pipe is coated with zink to prevent rust, black pipe is painted. The reason you shouldnt use galvanised for gas is because the coating can flake off and plug the orifices on gas appliances. Your line goes nowhere so the flaking isn't a problem and the galvanised cap is less likely to rust.

Good Luck,
Curt

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Last edited by Nimrod; 09/15/10 at 01:04 PM. Reason: more info
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  #6  
Old 09/15/10, 01:06 PM
Nimrod
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I am suprised, with your wimmen sense of smell, that you didn't smell the BS. It makes no sense to blame the smell on the tank. If you smell it inside the house then it's leaking inside the house, not outside where the tank is. The gas man "checked" but didn't find any leaks. How did he check? With a gas sniffer?

I would suggest that you take a coffee cup, fill it about 3/4 with water, and add a couple of teaspoons of dish detergent. Use an old tooth brush to apply it to the gas connections, the flex line attached to the stove, and the gas line. If it blows bubbles you have found the leak. Gently tighten the connection or replace the gas line or flex line as needed.

If you cann't find a leak then take an old tooth brush and clean the soot off the piolet lights. Blow out the piolet, brush it, and relight. Even if they are burning, the soot can cause an incomplete combustion and you will smell gas.

Good Luck,
Curt

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  #7  
Old 09/15/10, 01:07 PM
 
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Location: NW OK
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Did he do a pressure check on the line to the house and how old is your regulator on the tank?

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  #8  
Old 09/15/10, 01:13 PM
 
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A couple of things to add to what has already been posted.
Have a pressure test done on the line/s to the house. All valves at the appliances will have to be closed, the tank will have to disconnected from the discharge side of the regulator. Local code (OK) says the line has to hold 90 psi for 24 hrs. If you have the flex lines connecting the appliances to the shut-off valves, are they plastic covered? A better pressure test would be to disconnect the lines from the appliances and use a plug to close the line. By doing this, you would also test the system up to the appliance itself.

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  #9  
Old 09/15/10, 01:24 PM
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I have an Antique gas stove, I have a shut off at the floor on the pipe it'self. I shut this off every night and any time I leave the house. There have been times I've smelt gas, cause I's a wimmem too, and ain't gonna trust the old stove.

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  #10  
Old 09/15/10, 04:32 PM
 
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Location: north central Pennsylvania
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We have a 1920's 4 legged gas stove I use daily on our homestead in the kitchen and it is fueled with propane gas ..2 ...100# tanks outside. Yes..I do smell the "egg smell" when the first tank get almost empty and is ready to switch over to the new tank. The last few years I notice it more..the smell. ..and just presumed they either put more "smell" into the tanks or it's because I am a "wimman" and smell better...but being a nurse very many, many years I don't believe I actually have a sense of smell left..(LOL).. so..I think it is just normal. But wouldn't hurt to have someone check the lines again. I never shut the propane off to the stove..but like the idea of a safety value. My tanks are easy to get too to shut them off if I ever have too. Good Luck !!

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  #11  
Old 09/15/10, 05:54 PM
 
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Does your stove have pilot lights? If so clean them esp. the oven. I have a vent less wall heater on propane and it does give a very slight odor of propane when the tank is almost empty and the pilot needs cleaning. If you have pilot lights raise the top off the stove over the lights and see if it is sooty where the lights are. My motor home had no pilot lights and never did give a smell even when the tank was on empty. Good luck in finding the smell. Sam

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  #12  
Old 09/15/10, 06:28 PM
 
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The smell you are smelling is a chemical added to Natural Gas and Propane so that you can tell if they are leaking from somewhere (feed line, tank, etc.) Propane and NatG do NOT smell otherwise, so you could blow yourself up easily without knowing it if that additive was not put in there.

At this time, you are smelling something when using the propane, so the additive is doing its job, warning you something is wrong. Either check for leaks, etc. or have an independent service person come in and do it for you. Something is not right, as is, and even if its minor, needs to be addressed.

As to using anything other than cast iron pipe for gas, it varies by local restrictions. Where I live, use of plastic or flex tubing is illegal and you cannot get it turned on if you try to use it. It may be different where you are, but not sure I would take the word of the guy you had there already.

As for the line you have capped off, sounds like its a galvanized steel cap, which should be fine, as long as its indoors. (When I moved into this house, there was a flex line running to who knows what that was capped, but I took it out as it was easy to get to and could never see what it could have been hooked up to.)

Good luck!

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  #13  
Old 09/15/10, 06:43 PM
 
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On the "yellow" gas line: Gas company here just connected a pair of 500 gallon tanks (I own them) for me and they used 5/8" copper with a yellow plastic coating on it ( buried from tanks to house ).....same as they did for the 500gal underground I had them put in about 5 years ago.

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  #14  
Old 09/15/10, 07:13 PM
 
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When I use a travel trailer with portable tanks, it seems to me that the rotten egg smell increases when the tank is close to empty. I had assumed that the regulator was leaking when dealing with the lower pressure. It didn't occur to me that the concentration of the smell was increasing without an increase in leakage. So I'm no help.

I liked the suggestion to turn off the gas to the stove to see if that pinpoints a possible stove leak.

I wouldn't move or bend the ribbed, flexible gas pipe between the wall and the stove any more than necessary. It always seems like a weak point in the system to me. (And yes, you probably will have to move the stove out a little to close the shut off valve behind it.)

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  #15  
Old 09/15/10, 07:41 PM
 
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when I was a kid we had propane in 100 # tanks til 1960 and like "" Helena "" said when the tanks were almost empty there was a little smell , that was how we knew the tank was low ,,.. but in 78 I moved here and at the time propane was the gas used by all the homes around me ,,, I bought my 500 gal
tank in 80 , natural gas come through around 97 , but I looked at all the fees and kept propane ,, I still have the same tank and have yet to smell the egg odor from this tank .. and I have run so low that I was on just the pressure in the tank .. but I will say when I had the propane co tank ,, I had to clean the igniter on my dryer about every 2 weeks ,, when I bought my own tank ( not from that company ) and never got gas from that company again , I never had to clean the igniter after that .. so there is different gas with other company's . I sounds like they put a lot of the odor in there gas .. have you talked to others that get gas from them ??? do they smell it to ? The "wimman" thing is a bunch of crap .. or all "wimman" would be smelling it just like you do ......

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  #16  
Old 09/15/10, 09:25 PM
 
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Location: Colorado
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I have an old tank, and a number of years ago I decided I need a wet leg on the tank, and I went and filled a tank for my cutting torch, with the wet leg,
the tank hose there was a grease type slime all over the regulator, I was told this was the ordant that had been added to the propane and after a good number of years it will collect in the bottom of the tank, it does not seem to affect the furnace or the stove as of yet in the house, but normally we keep our tank above 50%,

now most propane tanks use the vapor so this accumulation really never leaves the tank under normal use, it may be stronger as the tank is used up

the reason I got it was do to the fact I was pulling liquid off the bottom of the tank, in the wet leg,

now I do not know if there is a easily cleaning procedure or not,
I am reasonable sure one would have to run the tank empty, but as to what to use and the procedure to clean up the tank I do not know.

and in my experience at times, one can some what smell when it is used, and you many not have a leak, first it is a oily or greasy residue, that may just be on the burner parts or it may be in the air, (I would think that the burning of it would destroy its order), but I have smelled it after use, and am reasonable confident there was no leaks, (I have soaped all fittings and also use a electronic tester for hydrocarbons to test for leaks).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

a drip leg in the line by the appliance valve may be of some help, (a drip leg is a short pipe that is tee-ed in the line with a pipe cap on it to act as a trap for any foreign or materials other than gas to collect in),

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Last edited by farminghandyman; 09/15/10 at 09:42 PM.
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  #17  
Old 09/16/10, 05:58 AM
 
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By continually topping off the tank before it gets low you are concentrating the amount of odorant in the tank. Use up a full tank and I bet the next tank won't stink.

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  #18  
Old 09/16/10, 08:53 AM
 
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Check for leaks. I bought new iron pipe and fittings and one of the fittings had a casting flaw pin hole that couldn't really be seen, but it was definitely leaking. It was also fine for initially pressure testing but started leaking a couple months later.

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  #19  
Old 09/16/10, 09:01 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nimrod View Post
If you cann't find a leak then take an old tooth brush and clean the soot off the piolet lights. Blow out the piolet, brush it, and relight. Even if they are burning, the soot can cause an incomplete combustion and you will smell gas.

Good Luck,
Curt
That's my bet...
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Old 09/16/10, 04:03 PM
 
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Location: Western North Carolina
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Thank you everyone - especially the Wimmen! Now that I have read all the replies, I bet there is a gas leak in the old line way up under the stove. The stove has not been moved out, probably since it was set there over 25 years ago! The stove is a huge old Restaurant Garland stove. We have taken the top off and stuck a coat hanger behind it to clean but we have not tried to pull it out. The line and shut off is far FAR back behind the stove. I cannot reach it. The Gas man said he could reach it but only by lying on the floor and sticking half himself under the Stove......it was a funny sight......

They did a Pressure test on the whole line and said there were not any leaks. But, I think there is a leak some place since, even tho I am a Wimmen, I still think it smells too much.

We have cleaned all the pilot lights and the oven pilots too. We cleaned the whole thing, we just did not try to pull it out since the line looks like it will pull loose.

I need to ask them to come back out and come at a time when I have 4 or 5 men around to haul that stove out of the corner. Then, the Gas men can replace the old line and that might be the trouble.

Thanks Everyone!

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