Recently, a customer called our service department about a temporary heater that wasn’t working. After our service tech arrived on site and inspected the unit, he informed the customer that there was nothing wrong with the heater. They were, understandably, confused. How could there be nothing wrong, if the heater was not working?
The service tech explained that the problem wasn’t with the heater. The problem was with the propane. Our customer thought the tech was passing the buck until they swapped a pair of heaters and propane tanks. True to the tech’s word, the “working” heater died, and the “problematic” unit began putting out heat again.
Proper maintenance will keep your heater humming along nicely. But, a heater is only as good as its fuel. To receive the performance- and cost-benefits that liquid-withdrawal heating systems provide, you must also maintain your propane!
Treat Propane Tanks with Methanol
When temperatures fall below 40°F (5°C) propane tanks must be treated with methanol. Unlike common household applications, a construction heater runs continuously. This rapid draw-down of propane produces a temperature change that often creates condensation inside the tank. The moisture, as it travels through fuel lines, can freeze and block the flow of fuel to the heater. Treating propane with the required amount of methanol (see below table) will eliminate moisture in the tank and ensure your heater keeps working all winter long.
|Methanol to be Added|
|Liquid Ounces||Liquid Pints||Pounds|
Source: Propane Education & Research Council
Some propane suppliers may claim that treating propane on site is unnecessary. After all, propane is treated at the facility when trucks are filled. The problem is that methanol, which is heavier than propane, settles on the bottom of a delivery truck’s tank. As a result, a rich propane-methanol mix will be delivered to the first few tanks on site, but the last few tanks may end up methanol-starved. The problem is compounded if tanks are filled in the same order on each visit. To ensure your liquid-withdrawal heater runs smoothly, insist that your propane supplier inject methanol in each tank to maintain the proper propane-methanol ratio.
For safety reasons, some states prohibit the transportation of methanol on propane trucks. No doubt, your supplier will not want to send two trucks every time they fill your tanks. If this becomes a hurdle, simply provide an area to store a supply of methanol on site.
This next consideration may seem trivial, but it’s not. When you set up your heaters, make sure your propane supplier connects the tanks correctly. Suppliers frequently work with propane tanks used in other applications. Out of habit, they may connect to the vapor-withdrawal valve on your tank. Liquid-withdrawal heaters cannot use vapor propane. A quick confirmation with your propane supplier can avoid heater downtime and costly construction delays.
Tip Your Tank
Another customer had a “problematic” heater with a different issue. The unit’s safety switch kept tripping. If the safety does not detect a flame, it will shut down the heater to prevent the release of unburned propane.
Propane tanks primarily used for vapor service can accumulate “heavy ends” of fuel, scale, and debris on the bottom of the tank. As the liquid-withdrawal valve draws fuel from the bottom of the tank, sludge and debris can get picked up in the fuel lines and clogged in the fuel filter. Fortunately, the solution is simple: Tip your tank. Prop up the end of the tank with the liquid-withdrawal valve by an inch to let the sediment settle on the other end of the tank, away from the valve.
That’s it, three simple steps to maintain your propane. Three simple steps to ensure your temporary heaters stay online and construction projects stay on track.
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