Advice for new LP gas log installation

pluskeyFebruary 4, 2007

I need some advice concerning installation of LP gas fire logs.

Quite frankly, I feel like I'm getting a run around from my local LP gas suppliers.

Here is what we want to accomplish:

We have a fireplace which is in good condition. We have it checked and cleaned by a chimney sweep regularly. We are tired of the trouble, smell, and mess of burning wood or the wax fire logs you get at the grocery. We want to have LP gas fire logs installed for the convenience, the aesthetics, and as a backup heat source in case the power goes out. We are all electric with a heat pump and have NO natural gas service available in our area.

So, first I contacted a LP supplier who told me to get a plumber to install the needed pipes.

I contacted the plumber, who talked to me for some time about my wishes. I really like this guy because he listened to what I want to achieve and didn't try to redesign my whole house. He advised that for my needs, periodic evening fires and maybe some supplemental heat but NOT primary heat source, having a couple of 40-50lb (RV size) gas tanks installed, instead of the huge fill on site type proposed by the LP suppliers, would make more sense. After running the gas consumption numbers, and figuring out how we would most likely use the fireplace, that made both economic and practical sense. We would use up one tank, swap it with the second tank and get an exchange delivered.

Now, after talking more with the plumber, he said that the Plumbing Inspector told him that a double regulator would be needed, and that would make the use of swappable tanks (RV class) not possible.

So, I have many conflicting stories, and need some advice on what to believe. I'm not even sure what questions to ask and who I should ask to find out what is real, and what I need to do.

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The Building Code, the plumbing Inspector and your home owners policy will always 'hedge' on the Safest approach.

Contact the Permit/Building Inspector in your county/township for the correct information. Generally putting in gas/propane/LP tanks a small tank by itself can put put in with one regualtor providing that it is a fixed permanent unit. (NOT SWAPPABLE). This protects you because some tanks don't have the newer OPD valves on them so you only get 80% of the gas the tank can hold on a fill up now because that is what the law permits.
If the tank were swappable or a higher capacity tank the licensed plumber is correct in saying you will need a double regulator. Meaning a hi pressure and a low pressure line going to the tank . Most bigger tanks 250 + and up have this feature. Along with pressure relief valves, Freeze Protection and other safety features.

With that being said; if your plumber is licensed as a plumber and gasfitter and he intends to keep his credentials and licensure you should do as he instructs. He is ONLY looking out for your best interest. Don't fall into the trap of being penny-wise but POUND FOOLISH.

LP gas has 3 times the thermal energy of Natural gas per cu unit; it is nothing to play with....

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 6:46PM
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Lp dealers generally do not deal with 30-40# tanks as residential equipment so I'd hang that one up. Most will have either 100# cylinders or 200# cylinders that will do fine for you. Two tanks manifolded together do have to have a means to disconnect one tank with the other still running but this can be accomplished in a few different ways, so no big deal there. Lots of the time you'll find that plumbers are excellent fuel pipers( sometimes the best) but because of trade differences have limited knowledge of the tank codes, whereas lp dealers are sometimes slack of piping work but excellent with tank codes, sounds funny but often it's true. If an Lp dealer has recommended that you get the piping somewhere else I would, I would not trust a business that would not perform the duties of their own trade.

I'd recommend one 100# cylinder if available or one 200# cylinder, filled on site.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 7:32AM
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Another thing to consider:

Propane in a tank is liquid that has to boil to become a gas, which takes quite a lot of heat to do. Gas logs use quite a bit of fuel, which means a fairly heavy demand for heat to boil the propane.

The only source of heat is the ambient air surrounding the propane tank. If you live in a cold climate and have a small tank, the propane will boil, cooling the liquid propane, which will then need to absorb heat from the surrounding air. A small tank may have too little surface area to absorb enough heat, and you will see the size of your flame dwindle away, and it might even go out.

That kind of problem will be minimized with a larger tank.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2007 at 4:25AM
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Aside from the issues about what propane technology is right for you, I would urge you to consider getting a direct vent insert. We just had one installed for the same reasons: we're tired of fussing with logs and want a back up heat source when there's a power outage. The only fireplace log system that will give you a genuine heat source is the direct vent system, because it is a sealed system that vents fumes directly to the outside and, through a separate vent, draws fresh air from the outside to feed the combustion, so you don't deplete your indoor air of oxygen. These systems are more expensive than the usual gas logs that are promoted by gas companies and other dealers, but are much safer and efficient.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2007 at 8:53AM
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Another thing you might want to check into are the regulations regarding the damper in your area. For gas logs we are required to have the damper removed or bolted open which here in the north-east is just out of the question. I don't believe it is required for "non-vented" gas logs, however you could open the damper only when it was in use and not have an "open window" all winter long. Just something to consider.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 2:32PM
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