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Old 02-15-2008, 05:34 AM   #1
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Question Furnace - propane smell

Once in a while when the furnace cycles on I can smell propane, the tank is full.

What can I check?
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Old 02-15-2008, 05:58 AM   #2
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The odorant is strong enough that I'll smell it outside near the tanks sometimes. But I'm assuming you're talking inside? Here's one thread to while away the time before you get a relevant response - http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...ace-14085.html
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Old 02-15-2008, 05:59 AM   #3
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Get out the soap solution and test all of the connections for the LP at the furnace. You also could have a defective (leaking) gas solenoid valve. Look for the bubbles when it's running.
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Old 02-16-2008, 12:04 AM   #4
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this unit must have cyled on/off 100 times in the past 2 days and I only smelled it 3 times.

I soaped up the fitting leading into it all good.

Where's the gas solenoid valve? It must be inside?
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Old 02-16-2008, 03:05 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LI Pets
this unit must have cyled on/off 100 times in the past 2 days and I only smelled it 3 times.

I soaped up the fitting leading into it all good.

Where's the gas solenoid valve? It must be inside?
To reach the gas valve, you must remove the furnace from it's housing.

The valve is at the rear end of the furnace.

Andy
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Old 03-09-2008, 12:12 PM   #6
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My propane smell

I've tried to track down the propane (actually, mercaptin, the odorant used in propane) smells too. I have noticed it a few times near the tanks—very, very slight, but could find no leaks. The stronger smell was on the side with 2 feet of snow piled up. The snow has finally melted!

Yesterday I found it around the furnace. We used the furnace last fall for a couple of weeks in all after we took delivery in October. It had no smell inside or out; the unit came with a propane detector and it never went off. Last time the furnace was used was the end of November. There's still no smell inside. I know I'm very sensitive to mercaptin because I'm always the first person to smell it.

The tank we had been using was low when we came home and the automatic valve has not switched over to the full tank. This says to me very little propane has escaped. I think there are aftermarket pressure gauges I can attach to the propane system to tell me what's in each tank, but I haven't researched that yet.

I checked the propane fittings with soapy water and found no leaks. The propane tubing comes into the furnace area from the right (rear) and there's a valve which I assume is the gas valve. It seems like the electronic igniter lights the gas directly at this valve. I'm getting used to the fact RV stuff doesn't look like things I'm used to. The compartment is so small I couldn't really figure out what was behind the valve. Looking at the Atwood materials, it appears the burner is next to this valve and immediately to the right and maybe inward of the impeller, though it doesn't look like anything I've ever seen.

The smell comes from a tube which seems to be an exhaust and is below the valve. Why it would come from that tube and not from the fittings is beyond me. It's possible the valve didn't close 100% because of a speck of dirt last year and the little bit of propane that escapes flows into the exhaust tube and then to the atmosphere at the exterior end of the tube.

From reading some threads it appears propane odors are fairly common and some people have learned to live with them as long as they are outside. That's not comforting.

Has anyone else had this particular experience? The furnace is an Atwood Hydro Flame 8500-IV series.

Now that I have tracked down the approximate source, I will run the furnace and see if that makes a difference when it's colder in the evening or early morning. I hope the "difference" isn't a big boom.

Gene
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Old 03-09-2008, 12:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LI Pets
Once in a while when the furnace cycles on I can smell propane, the tank is full.

What can I check?
Do you have a propane sensor alarm installed in the trailer? If not do it now, propane will go boom without warning. I know a Fire Chief who was blown up in his RV.
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Old 03-09-2008, 12:24 PM   #8
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Let me begin by saying that propane leaks must be taken very seriously, but it is possible that the odor is not a leak. Our furnace exhaust is just below a window. When that window is open, sometimes a little odorant smell comes into the trailer when the furnace cycles on. It appears to be a result of incomplete combustion at initial ignition of the flame in the furnace. Checking outside shows that the odor comes from the furnace exhaust. The odorant appears to be a little heavier than the propane in the tank because the odor level of the gas increases slightly when the tank is nearly empty, suggesting that there has been some settling by gravity of the odorant. At such times, the smell from the furnace exhaust is stronger.

Several years ago we had a leak at the crimped connection of one of the flexible hoses from the tank to the regulator. This was a hose that came with the trailer (new). The leak was not obvious and did not show up with soapy water unless the hose was wiggled back and forth.
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Old 03-09-2008, 02:31 PM   #9
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- you can do an "absolute" leak type test with a manometer hooked up to a stove valve fitting. If you have absolutely no leaks you will see no drop in manometer water level. Of course, the gas must be TURNED OFF!!! before performing the test.

-be VERY AFRAID of propane!
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Old 03-09-2008, 05:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene
I've tried to track down the propane (actually, mercaptin, the odorant used in propane) smells too.............. ';snip'

Gene
Actually, propane has no inherent smell. It is the addition of the ethyl mercaptan, which is an odorant that we all can recognize (hopefully) that produces that distinctive smell.
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Old 03-09-2008, 05:37 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by lewster
Actually, propane has no inherent smell. It is the addition of the ethyl mercaptan, which is an odorant that we all can recognize (hopefully) that produces that distinctive smell.
Just as a point of interest, neither does natural gas. I worked near the plant that manufactured the odor which is used. At the time I ran a plumbing shop for the Navy, when the wind blew from the manufacturing plants direction we spent the entire day chasing false gas leaks.
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Old 03-10-2008, 01:58 PM   #12
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Since I haven't used the furnace for 3+ months, and the propane detector inside has never gone off, none of the possibilities above apply—except that my propane tank is very low and thus the mercaptin may be stronger as Tim suggests. But the gas comes from the top of the tank, so that would indicate mercaptin is lighter than propane. And since I haven't used any propane since the end of November, if I have a very slight leak I would be drawing from 25' of propane line before whatever is in the tank got to the furnace.

After my last post, Barb and I were talking about propane leaks. She said she smelled mercaptin all over the campgrounds we've stayed at. I never noticed—maybe her nose is more sensitive than mine.

So I start wondering if we're towing bombs around. I've never heard of campground propane explosions. There are a fair number of RV fires, but aren't most of them electrical?

Gene
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:35 AM   #13
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My remark about the odorant being heavier relates to the propane (plus odorant) in the liquid state. Your propane bottle contains liquified propane (plus odorant) and gaseous propane (plus odorant) above the liquid. In the liquid portion of what is in the tank, I am suggesting that slight gravity separation is possible producing a slight concentration of odorant at the bottom of the tank. When the tank is nearly empty, this slightly concentrated liquid evaporates to become the gas you use for your trailer. The gas phase above the liquid in a nearly empty tank will then also contain a slightly greater concentration of odorant. The increased concentration of odorant need not be much because the stuff has a really potent smell.
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Old 03-11-2008, 02:07 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by CrawfordGene
Since I haven't used the furnace for 3+ months, and the propane detector inside has never gone off, none of the possibilities above apply—except that my propane tank is very low and thus the mercaptin may be stronger as Tim suggests. But the gas comes from the top of the tank, so that would indicate mercaptin is lighter than propane. And since I haven't used any propane since the end of November, if I have a very slight leak I would be drawing from 25' of propane line before whatever is in the tank got to the furnace.

After my last post, Barb and I were talking about propane leaks. She said she smelled mercaptin all over the campgrounds we've stayed at. I never noticed—maybe her nose is more sensitive than mine.

So I start wondering if we're towing bombs around. I've never heard of campground propane explosions. There are a fair number of RV fires, but aren't most of them electrical?

Gene
I know of 2 propane explosions one in an RV Truck Camper a Fire Chief and one in house trailer double wide. I know of one Acetylene explosion in a storage shed, worker entered turned on light switch boom. Boat explosions also happen, thanks goodness they are rare.

Maybe not so rare.
Propane Explosions Kill or Injure Thousands Each Year.

Google Propane Explosion, I had to quit reading sites.
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