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Old 11-03-2009, 04:54 PM   #1
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Pipe Heating Wire for Propane Tank

I came into a delima on a recent fly fishing trip with very cold temperatures. My Propane bottles got so cold some of the liquid froze inside and I could hear it slush around. It caused the propane to flow to near nothing, thus having no heat, or cooking. I had my Propane Generator with me, but there was not enough pressure in the frozen tanks to power it.

So, my thought.... Insulated Pipe Heater Coil Wires. They work on resistance and offer no spark, so if I wrap them around each tank, I hope to rid this issue. They also come with a thermostatic shut off so the tank shouldn't over heat. If I'm on shore power, no worries, plug in and go.... dry camp I will have to fire up the generator before the tanks are too cold and watch them a bit.

Anyone tried this, does it work, or is just a bad idea all around? I need a good sollution as we camp Year Round, even up on the ski hill.
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Old 11-03-2009, 05:01 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyz View Post
I came into a delima on a recent fly fishing trip with very cold temperatures. My Propane bottles got so cold some of the liquid froze inside and I could hear it slush around. It caused the propane to flow to near nothing, thus having no heat, or cooking. I had my Propane Generator with me, but there was not enough pressure in the frozen tanks to power it.

So, my thought.... Insulated Pipe Heater Coil Wires. They work on resistance and offer no spark, so if I wrap them around each tank, I hope to rid this issue. They also come with a thermostatic shut off so the tank shouldn't over heat. If I'm on shore power, no worries, plug in and go.... dry camp I will have to fire up the generator before the tanks are too cold and watch them a bit.

Anyone tried this, does it work, or is just a bad idea all around? I need a good sollution as we camp Year Round, even up on the ski hill.
Something doesn't sound right as propane should not "slush up". Sounds like you may have something else going on. Obviously people use above ground propane tanks in all regions of the country to heat their houses and cook with without problems at temperatures below zero. I would talk to a propane company about it. Could be some residual moisture in the tanks. There is a procedure for purging the tanks and drying them that I have heard of. I have camped at temps below zero out on elk hunts and skiing and never had this happen.
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Old 11-03-2009, 07:31 PM   #3
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x2 on having it checked out
HOWever

if the 20 or 30# bottles are FULL
there may not be enough room for it expand to a gas correctly as you need the propane because its so cold, but it would need to be very COLD.

the LP powered genny (6500 watt)on my last fiver had a HUGE appetite for LP
and it would actually cause ice to build up on the bottle and regulator as it was being used because of the large volume required to run
and if the bottles were FULL it would every now and again shut down to low idle then off as the liquid was being sucked up vice gas.
try opening both bottles when you run the genny to help relieve some of the demand by 1/2 for each bottle
i have poured hot water on the bottles a few times in the extreme cold when we lost a/c power.

you could wrap them in a thick blanket to help
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Old 11-03-2009, 08:38 PM   #4
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x2 on having it checked out
HOWever

if the 20 or 30# bottles are FULL
there may not be enough room for it expand to a gas correctly as you need the propane because its so cold, but it would need to be very COLD.

the LP powered genny (6500 watt)on my last fiver had a HUGE appetite for LP
and it would actually cause ice to build up on the bottle and regulator as it was being used because of the large volume required to run
and if the bottles were FULL it would every now and again shut down to low idle then off as the liquid was being sucked up vice gas.
try opening both bottles when you run the genny to help relieve some of the demand by 1/2 for each bottle
i have poured hot water on the bottles a few times in the extreme cold when we lost a/c power.

you could wrap them in a thick blanket to help
Powerboatr makes good points here and I have had the same problems but on my beer brewing cart where the high output burner for the brew kettle drew so much propane that it would freeze up the regulator. I would have to pour warm water over it to get it to run again.

Also be aware that propane looses a lot of BTUs in cold weather so if it's really cold out your generator may still not run as well as it would in the summer.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:58 PM   #5
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3X on having it checked out.




Not to high-jack the thread, but this is interesting.
Recognizing Hazardous Propane Cylinders


WOW !!! These ain't cheap.
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:03 AM   #6
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Yea way too much.

I make wine in 6 gallon batches in the basement. (yummy) but in the winter the basement can get cold enough so that the fermentation can fail early. The wine makers have a "belly band" heater with a built in thermostat to keep the little yeasties happy.

http://www.buy.com/retail/product.as...ingid=53974174

30 bucks
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:26 AM   #7
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We have propane at our house and he have no problems in the winter, even when its 15 degrees below zero. I have have problems before on my rv with the regulator not working properly in freezing temperatures (easy replacement). There is also an internal safety device in the tanks that will make sound when you shake the tanks, which may sound like there is slush or ice inside the tank.
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Old 11-04-2009, 08:37 AM   #8
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I guess I'll 5x having it checked. Propane stops vaporizing at -44ļF. It doesn't freeze like water so you should not hear it slushing.

As the ambient temp gets colder the vaporization slows and if you build a frost layer on the cylinder it makes it even worse. Your idea of using heat tape is good for keeping heat at the cylinder and keeping the rate of vaporization up.
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Old 11-04-2009, 01:44 PM   #9
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Thanks! All great info. I will be doing some diagnostic on things before our Thanksgiving camping trip. Love them deep fried turkies at the coast!
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Old 11-04-2009, 03:00 PM   #10
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Like Bama Rambler stated, propane stops vaporizing at -44 F degrees. That is the boiling point of propane, just like 212 F degees is the boiling point of water. Propane freezes @ -190 F degrees.....don't think I will be camping when that happens.

But, when any gas decompresses, it gets colder than it is at pressure. That is Boyle's law, as pressure builds on a gas, it will get warmer....and visa versa.....that is what makes our RV fridges cool with heat. So a big flow from a propane tank should not freeze, but the water vapor around it might freeze.....maybe leading to the problem that NWJeeper had with regulator.....it was probably the water in the some of the workings of the regulator that froze up, but not the actual propane.

Hope you don't mind, but I thought I would post a couple of photos of a fire school that I went to years ago. The 1st picture is a team going in on a propane tank fire, so that the leader can turn the valve off to stop the flow. (for safety reasons, the propane was actually worked by a remote valve some distance away). The 2nd photo is a picture of ice on the top of the tank, even after all of that heat. I thought that was just amazing, that the tank could get so cold that ice would form with all of that fire. The ice is from the water used.....not propane.

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Don't be fooled into thinking that ain't the same time period, since it was dark during the fire........with all of the light coming from the fire, the camera shutter speed stepped up a couple of notches.

Here is another interesting photo (at least to me )showing the characteristic of propane being heavier than air. Even though the pressure of the propane sends the flames straight up, either a little propane escaped from the column before iginiting, or the water cooled the little cloud enough to put it out, before it reignited while dropping from the fire column. This stuff can get dangerous.


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