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Old 03-09-2006, 02:42 AM   #1
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Question LP Wierdness / Where to buy copper LP pipe and fittings?

Hello,

I have a peculiar situation and probably need help figuring out where to buy copper piping and the appropriate fittings.

Problem -There's a subtle leak in one of my copper pipes. The deal is, the leaking increases as the tanks get low --as the tank is almost empty it really begins to stink. With a full tank there is very little leaking or odor to speak of. Why? I could understand this happening with a flexible hose that is designed to let gas out under low pressure, but this is copper inside a protective PVC sleeve.

This leak appears to be at a 90 degree bend where the pipe travels through the floor: I'd have disconnect my furnace and probably peel back the PVC sleeve to find out what's going on.

Solution? -- I'd like to replace the entire 10 foot section and call it a day. Once I have to peel back the PVC, I'd rather not mess around. Can anyone tell me where to buy the stuff I have pictured in my attachment? Do I need some special tool to create a fitting.

Please!

No one seems to sell this stuff on-line --all my searches have been pretty futile. Any help would be greatly appreciated!! I've been enduring this problem way too long.

Thanks,

Nick

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http://www.project345.org/copper%20pipe.jpg
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Old 03-09-2006, 05:24 AM   #2
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Copper tubing no longer permitted for propane lines...

You did not post the year of your trailer, but from the picture it appears to be built before 1975...

Soft copper with flared fittings was used on propane and water lines for many early years in all brands of trailers....
It was discontinued. It is no longer acceptable or allowed; part of the reason is that the propane is believed to break down the copper, resulting in leaks & explosions.....
You may try to repair it yourself by getting a flaring tool and soft copper, but flaring copper tubing is an art......
I don't think you can find a licensed plumber to do the repair work because of the liability.....
From a safety standpoint, you should replace the propane system entirely.
This is one of the drawbacks in owning an older trailer...
If this is a leak you found, think of the other ones that you may have not found as well as the ones that will continue to develop....
You can install shut-off valves at each appliance and a propane leak detector as well as a smoke/carbon monoxide detector as part of your upgrade....

This is not what you most likely wanted to hear
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Old 03-09-2006, 06:10 AM   #3
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Quote:
It is no longer acceptable or allowed; part of the reason is that the propane is believed to break down the copper, resulting in leaks & explosions..
Jim, where in the heck did you get this information?????? They are still using copper for propane. I see new installations all the time. How does c3h8 break down cu????
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Old 03-09-2006, 06:29 AM   #4
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I would do a search for abcodelivers.com.....they are a welding supply Co. amongst alot of other things, maybe you'll be able to locate one near you or they can hook you up with the parts you need.
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Old 03-09-2006, 06:50 AM   #5
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They are still using copper in my neck of the woods . Any good RV service center should be able to help you out . If you are going to DIY you will need a double flare tool and practice using it. If it doesn't have valves at each appliance it would be a good time to do so .Good luck
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Old 03-09-2006, 07:00 AM   #6
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Nick,

How did you verify that the leak is where you indicated? Did you use a bubble solution to find the exact location? If not, I would suggest doing that. Be certain of where it is before you begin to cut and paste, as this might not be the only leak. The suggestion to replace the entire line was a good one! IMHO that is the way you should go (and what I would do if you called me).

As has been said above (very good advice) you need to make perfect double flares when you add your new line section to the old in order to assure a solid, leak-free fit.
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Old 03-09-2006, 07:09 AM   #7
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Nick,
I went to Lowe's and got the correct sized copper pipe. They make pipe benders but I was able to bend the copper line from my refrigerator line to my catalytic heater. I then used a flaring tool, also bought at Lowe's, to flare the ends after putting the flare nut on in the correct direction. I tightened both ends down and checked with soapy water for leaks. It worked for 4 years without problems.
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Old 03-09-2006, 03:17 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the advice. I called my local hardware store and they seem to have everything including a flare tool for $17. Hopefully, I'll be able to find gray RV style pvc tubes to sleeve the copper too. Am assuming the purpose of this was to provide extra protection.

I will investigate the source of this mysterious variable pressure leak further, but not until I have it pulled out and replaced with a new pipe.

BTW, My motorhome is an 1988 classic 345.


Thanks very much,

I'll update with progress.

Nick
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Old 03-09-2006, 04:05 PM   #9
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propane trivia:

the reason you smell more when the tank is near empty is because the odorant that they add to propane is heavier than the propane itself, and therefore, sinks to the bottom of the tank. as the level of gas in the tank lowers, the oderant concentration increases. Its more noticeable in larger tanks, and particularly in tanks that are stationary. I haven't noticed it on my trailer tanks...typically, they get re-mixed while bouncing down the road. But my wife, who has a nose like a bloodhound, can tell when the 100lb propane tank we have at home needs re-filling, even though the system has no leaks. apparently, it doesn't burn completely. Its detectable through normal use of the gas stove.
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Old 03-09-2006, 04:31 PM   #10
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Read the link listed....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pick
Jim, where in the heck did you get this information?????? They are still using copper for propane. I see new installations all the time. How does c3h8 break down cu????
Read the link below if you want to attempt to repair this yourself....

@ http://www.knology.net/~tcwilliams/LPG.htm

What the author of this thread has posted is a SYMPTOM of a larger PROBLEM. People often think they can do the work of skilled professionals and find out the hard way that they can't. Having actually worked on & replaced propane piping systems in more than one vintage trailer, I speak from experience. I cannot make a "double flared" fitting and I doubt the guy in the hardware department can either.... (or can he advise correctly & safely to someone who has never done it before).... if he could, he would be a professional plumber making a lot more money and not working in the hardware department. My PERSONAL experience has shown me deteriorated soft copper plumbing lines which have corroded on the inside & physical damage to the outside of the copper lines from vibration, debris, and normal wear & tear. Copper has a life expectancy, just like everything else. Having talked to more than ONE licensed plumber, I can say my EXPERIENCE shows that no licensed & experienced plumber will repair a soft copper line on a vintage trailer because of the LIABILITY.
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Old 03-09-2006, 06:38 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Jarzabek
Read the link below if you want to attempt to repair this yourself....

@ http://www.knology.net/~tcwilliams/LPG.htm
Jim, you have misinterpreted the information presented at that link. The site talks about a problem with the odorant which was apparently solved long ago as I have yet to run across anyone complaining about the situation described.

Nowhere in the link is anyone urged to replace all their gas copper plumbing.

BTW, that is a link from my web site. The bulk of my original gas plumbing is still in place.

Tom
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Old 03-09-2006, 07:08 PM   #12
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It is very important to use the correct copper - water line copper (sold in most hardward stores) is not acceptable for gas use - I believe the correct copper is sch K - need to check me on that though....Ken J.
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Old 03-09-2006, 07:43 PM   #13
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Tom....

"In the old days, everyone used copper tubing for gas service as neither natural nor LP gas attacks it. But there was a period where the odorant added to let one know there was a leak did. The odorant would react & form some type of scale inside the line which would break off & clog pilot jets. At one point, the gas industry apparently sold a tin-lined copper pipe to combat this problem. I say “apparently” because I have never personally seen the stuff in spite of looking for it. But it appears the industry reformulated the odorant because I have yet to hear of anyone have problems with copper line used for gas service."

And....

"I’m told that Code now requires double-flare fittings at all joints. I have my own thoughts on the necessity of this particular requirement. But the Code is there to protect the general public"

From your site.....

Your site came up in a google search I did earlier today that I had never viewed before. My own opinion was formed thru personal experience years ago....

I used your site as an example of how one might go about repairing the leak themselves...

It is your opinion; and I do not believe you are a plumber by trade.

I am not a plumber by trade, but I have ran new propane sytems on two different trailers of two different manufacturers that had corrosion inside the factory soft copper. Corrosion on the inside & pitting on the outside from "road rash".

No one here knows the age of this trailer, how much propane was delivered thru the original propane supply lines, what year(s) the propane was delivered in, how many miles of (bumpy, gravel, paved) road this trailer traveled.

If the poster had a background in the plumbing skills needed (more importantly if he was familar with the necessary skills required) he would not be asking for help....

Flaring copper tubing is an skill; double flaring is an art....

A propane supply line is not the place to start.

Again, I speak from personal experience. If you note errors in my postings, they are on the side of caution...
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Old 03-09-2006, 08:58 PM   #14
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double flares

I agree.

Making a necessary double flare requires several things:

A high quality tool
The correct copper line for the intended use
LOTS OF PRACTICE
a very sensitive gas leak detector (read expensive)

It can be learned, as I have done so. I am not a licensed plumber, but a certified Master RV Tech must posess many of the same skills. I trained for an entire day making flares and double flares, then tested each to see what worked properly. After a hundred or so, you either get good at it or you get over it . If one does not have the patience, time or desire to attack this, then I agree that a professional should be hired to do the job. You can usually find such a person in the propane trades, as in a company that installs propane tanks and lines for homes and restaurants. They have the materials, tools and skills to do the job......not to mention the insurance and the required state licenses.

Safety is the most important thing!
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Old 03-09-2006, 11:01 PM   #15
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Copper line repairs and/or replacement

Gentlemen, I believe that we can all agree on one thing if nothing else. The trailer/mh owner has every right to do as he/she pleases as to the quality of repair or replacement that they choose to do or feel comfortable with on their trailer or motorhome! With that said the issue here is Safety FIRST! It goes without saying that old piping on old coaches/motorhomes is a safety issue and should never be taken lightly. If it were me, I would opt to change all the old copper out for new. As was previously stated...you never can know the amount of propane, the usage llevel of appliances, nor the road miles that are on the old piping. I also will say that replacing this piping should be best done by a professional. I'm sure that there are propane dealers that will take on the replacement of these line and connect all appliances for a fee and will stand behind their workmanship. Then too, you can always have an Airstream Dealer or other RV dealer do the work. Either way it screams to be done right by someone who knows how to deal with propane systems. Shelling out the dough to get it done the right way may not be fun but neither are funerals. So save a life or two and spend the money to have the job done right and save your piece of mind. mho... Ed
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Old 03-10-2006, 07:53 AM   #16
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Interesting points made by all, great posts! Even though I am the son of a plumber, and have flared lots of copper, I have never seen a "double flair". Anyone have a picture of one?
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Old 03-10-2006, 08:02 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pick
Interesting points made by all, great posts! Even though I am the son of a plumber, and have flared lots of copper, I have never seen a "double flair". Anyone have a picture of one?
This recent thread talks about that subject: http://www.airforums.com/forum...ngs-20300.html?
Post #20 has a good drawing of how it is done,
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Old 03-10-2006, 08:41 AM   #18
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This thread reminds me of time I worked at large chemical plant. We had hundreds of miles of piping and tubing of all types and a large crew of skilled pipefitters. Someone in safety decided that we did not have anyone qualified to make up supply hoses for propane powered fork lifts and that hoses had to be made by "certified" people at propane dealer. I know for a fact that whoever happened to be handy truck driver, janitor or whatever actually made up the hoses
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Old 03-10-2006, 10:41 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pick
Interesting points made by all, great posts! Even though I am the son of a plumber, and have flared lots of copper, I have never seen a "double flair". Anyone have a picture of one?
The tool that makes a double flare is not the same as the tool that makes a single flare . I seriously doubt that you can buy a double flare tool at a regular hardware store for 17 bucks . A plumbing supply or good auto supply should have one , break lines also use a double flare .
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Old 03-11-2006, 04:43 PM   #20
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Thanks for all the thoughts on this. I'm still researching what to do for a final solution. In the meanwhile, I disconnected the leaking pipe and have it capped with 3/8" flare cap --my odors are gone and now I'll have a bit more time (I just can't use my propane heater in the main cabin for a while). I'll surely replace the whole thing.

Interesting fact about the odorant in propane --makes sense. Very glad to have that problem eliminated.

Will update more when I proceed with the repair,

thanks,

Nick
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