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Old 09-17-2019, 12:48 AM   #1
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Default Propane System Failure In snow?

We were camping at a site that was above 6000 feet. The air temperature was about 45F, there was some snow on the ground, so I assume the ground temperature was much colder.

Our propane system failed. VERY low pressure, guttering stove flame, generator wouldn't run. Heating system wouldn't start.

Since then, we have camped above 6000 feet without issue, we have camped in 38F weather without trouble.

Our propane tank is low to the ground, inches away from what must have been a cold, cold, ground.

We've had the regulator replaced by the mfg, but if they used a crappy one to start with, that might still be the issue. The problem did remain after the replacement.

Is there any debugging I can do short of paying someone 4-figures to drop my tank and check for water?
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Old 09-17-2019, 02:52 AM   #2
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Just run propane through it. I would expect the water, if there, to evaporate into the propane and leave. I’ve run my furnace with outside temps of 12F. With inside temps of 55F the propane tank doesn’t get anywhere near that but I didn’t put a heat gun on it to see.

The generator (gasoline) sure didn’t want to start at those temps. Automatic choke troubles.

It could be you got some butane which freezes at 32 F.

I wouldn’t do anything unless it persists. Just an opinion.
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Old 09-17-2019, 06:07 PM   #3
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It could be you got some butane which freezes at 32 F.
My propane vendor promises me there's no butane in my propane, and they are a fairly large, commercial supplier, but there's some concern there, for sure...

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I wouldn’t do anything unless it persists. Just an opinion.
It's happened twice, and since we use the RV as a hunting "camp", it is something we need to solve.

I'm thinking about installing an extend-a-stay and trying to run the rig off a 20lb tank as an experiment... I really don't want to drop the tank on a guess.
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Old 09-18-2019, 01:15 AM   #4
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I am not clear about something: does it work in these situations and then stop working or does it fail to work when you first fire it up? When you say "guttering flame", what exactly does that mean?
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Old 09-18-2019, 04:41 AM   #5
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does it work in these situations and then stop working or does it fail to work when you first fire it up?
The stove burns strong for a few seconds, then dies. if we turn it off for a few minutes it starts strong, then dies. it's almost like the flow rate into the system is too slow.


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When you say "guttering flame", what exactly does that mean?
spitting, popping, quickly fluttering, dying, coming back, then dying again... like a torch at the end of its useful life.
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Old 09-18-2019, 05:08 AM   #6
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A few years ago, I had replaced parts of my LPG system due to yellow, gooey, greasy contamination. The contamination came from just one fill.

I also agree with above comments that water contamination could cause problems as well. Being in your position I would start a total clean job.
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Old 09-18-2019, 06:52 AM   #7
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Yes, this is an inherent problem I was using a 20-gallon barbecue grill-sized tank, located outside in below-freezing conditions, to feed a propane heater. If the heater is designed to run off the little tanks, it may need the higher pressure supplied by a BBQ tank, and so is even more sensitive to the pressure drop from the cold. Plus a bigger tank takes longer to cool down, either from the environment or during use.

The lower the temperature of the tank, the lower the gas pressure (PSI); it doesn't need to get down to -44 for the pressure to be inadequate to run your appliance. As mentioned, you could make a little shelter with a light bulb inside to keep the tank cozy, or buy a dedicated tank heater blanket.
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Old 09-18-2019, 07:53 AM   #8
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Need to start dealing with facts. Need to know the actual temperature of the tank when the problems occur. An infrared heat gun would work.
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Old 09-18-2019, 02:40 PM   #9
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BigFatGuy, try this the next time it happens. Tap [I]gently[I] on the regulator with something like the handle of a medium sized screw driver. Seven or eight taps with the valve turned OFF. Slowly open the valve fully. Tap again a few times.

This has worked for me more than once on different setups in cool or colder weather. It may not work in your case, but is a free try. Don't beat it, just tap it! I handle the screwdriver by the blade end and use it as a small hammer.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:42 AM   #10
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Quote:
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Yes, this is an inherent problem I was using a 20-gallon barbecue grill-sized tank, located outside in below-freezing conditions, to feed a propane heater. If the heater is designed to run off the little tanks, it may need the higher pressure supplied by a BBQ tank, and so is even more sensitive to the pressure drop from the cold. Plus a bigger tank takes longer to cool down, either from the environment or during use.

The lower the temperature of the tank, the lower the gas pressure (PSI); it doesn't need to get down to -44 for the pressure to be inadequate to run your appliance. As mentioned, you could make a little shelter with a light bulb inside to keep the tank cozy, or buy a dedicated tank heater blanket.

Welcome to the forum Allen Arin!
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:01 PM   #11
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When we first got our Roadtrek I had a similar problem. But to out in the cold. It turned out that I had opened the valve too fast. Sonce that I have been very careful to open the valve slowly so as not to have the emergency shut off activate. The symptoms were the same though: at first they would light and after a couple of seconds it would go out.
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:10 PM   #12
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I own a hunting camp in the Adirondacks. The temperature there regularly gets to -10 or colder. We have had our regulators freeze up. Just for a diagnostic, try pouring some hot water gently over your regulator and see if that takes care of your problem. If it does get a good regulator.
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Old 09-22-2019, 07:03 PM   #13
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There almost certainly _is_ butane in your propane. Butane is added to lower the vapor pressure in warm weather. The mix you buy varies seasonally and by location, with more butane in the summer and hotter climates.

As you consume gas the mix in your tank distills. The vapor is always richer in propane. The liquid becomes richer in butane. Over time it is possible to develop a high concentration of butane in your tank if you don't draw it way down before refilling it. If you intend to use your rig in cold weather in the winter you should run the tank down as empty as possible in the fall to clear out as much butane as possible.
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