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Old 04-10-2015, 10:47 AM   #1
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Propane seems to stop at below freezing

I have a propane system that operates a Suburban furnace and a 2 burner stove, all installed by SMB. Twice, since I have had the SMB (2012 Sprinter), once in the Yukon and once at Mammoth Cave NP, the propane furnace stopped igniting sometime in the night when the temperature went below freezing. Turning it off and then trying to restart it, the fan would go, the igniter would click a few times and it would blow cold air. Could not be ignited. I checked the stove and it would ignite and then the flame would disappear or be very low. This is annoying because the furnace is pleasant to have when it is below freezing and hot coffee made on the stove is a good thing on a cold morning.

The issue is not low propane supply since both times the tank has been more than 3/4 full. Generally speaking I am in below freezing temps infrequently - these were probably the two coldest nights spent out of months of camping the past 3 years. Later in the day, after it got warmer, both the stove and the furnace would operate normally.

I am wondering if the reason that the propane does not seem to flow is because valves or gas lines are somehow freezing up due to the cooling of expanding gas. I have seen this on some camping stoves where frost forms on the top of the gas cylinder and slows the flow. Or is there something else going on here. The two occurrences were at low elevations so that is not the problem. I searched the forum but did not find this addressed. I am wondering if others have had a similar problem or if this is something amiss in my propane setup?

Bill G.
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Old 04-10-2015, 10:58 AM   #2
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

My two cents (based on my exact experience with a Mr. Buddy propane portable heater only) is that the O2 sensor in the unit is sensing reduced oxygen at the altitude you are at, and with the windows closed during the night, the oxygen is further depleted causing the sensor to trip and turn the unit off as a safety feature. Contact the manufacturer and see if there is a high altitude kit for your unit.
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Old 04-10-2015, 12:27 PM   #3
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

I don't think there is a problem with your furnace or stove. The colder your tank is the harder it is to turn the liquid propane into a gas. I would guess when it is warmer outside you have never had a problem.

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Old 04-10-2015, 03:12 PM   #4
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

Propane boils at something like 30 deg below zero F so I don't think you should have a problem with the cold weather. It sounds to me like you might have a load of Butane rather than Propane. Butane boils at a much higher temp. Butane is used at higher temps to keep the pressure in the tank lower.

Check out:
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-dif ... butane.htm
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Old 04-10-2015, 06:36 PM   #5
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

I agree on propane itself not being a problem in cold weather. Where I grew up in northern Minnesota, everyone out in the country had "pigs" (500 gallon propane tanks) outside that fed the house. No problems in a typical 40-below-zero winter (and the regulator, etc. were outside on the tank, far from the house).

With camping stove canisters the butane ones don't work well in very cold weather, so although I don't know the exact specs, I know that butane is not as good for cold temps as propane.

That said, I wonder if the regulator could have an issue that is showing itself in colder temps. Would be a relatively minor "throw a part at it" fix to try a different one. This is just thinking out loud though, and I don't really know.
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Old 04-10-2015, 06:53 PM   #6
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

Perhaps there is water in the system someplace, possibly in the regulator, tank or some other fitting or line? Freezes when cold enough and causes a blockage?
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Old 04-10-2015, 08:04 PM   #7
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1der
Perhaps there is water in the system someplace, possibly in the regulator, tank or some other fitting or line? Freezes when cold enough and causes a blockage?

good point...perhaps residual moisture from never being purged properly?

https://www.fwwebb.com/gas/technical-re ... tainer.php

http://home.earthlink.net/~derekgore/rv ... /id45.html
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Old 04-11-2015, 01:05 AM   #8
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

Another thought: I think that if your batteries are low, the furnace fan may come on (and blow cold air) but the burner won't ignite -- because the fan is not at a high enough rpm. I think this is some sort of safety feature (burner not igniting if fan rpm not high enough). So, maybe check battery voltage? Just another idea.

(The flaw is I'm not sure how this would explain the stove burner not running properly.)
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Old 04-11-2015, 07:27 AM   #9
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

What about a loose or leaky fitting, check your connections, namely the one closest to the tank. Run your furnace for a bit and see if there's any cold spots at the fitting or in the line. It may be hard to detect when ambient temps are warmer.
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Old 04-11-2015, 08:37 AM   #10
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Re: Propane seems to stop at below freezing

I'm going to bet that the "Texas Summer Blend of Propane" is mostly Butane. Where and when did you get your Propane? Butane boils at around freezing.
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