question about propane

#1
Sally & I are getting things ready for our March trip (the one we had to cancel last year due to excessive rains) which will be running trails & dirt roads in Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas & come out in Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area Oklahoma.

Here's my question "we all" experienced propane pressure issues in winter\cold weather camping when temperatures start drop @ freezing or below. What do you all do to remedy this problem especially with 20lb bottles? I was going thru some of our gear that uses propane Proplex H2000 portable heater for our squaredrop trailer & the system wouldn't ignite.
 
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#2
It's all about the surface area of the liquid/vapor areas. Horizontal tanks do much better in cold weather than vertical tanks do. Larger vertical tanks - such as the 100 pounders used at residences - do better than smaller tanks do. If you have two 20 pounders, you can manifold them together so they both are feeding the same regulator simultaneously and that will double the surface area, making it far more likely to work than a single 20 pound tank.

Propane.jpg

The figures under the various cylinder sizes are BTUs per hour, and I've read than many heaters need a MINIMUM flow of 10,000 BTUs per hour or they simply won't work

BTW, we tend to use the terms "propane" and "LPG" interchangeably, but in fact, Liquid PETROLEUM Gas is usually a mixture of propane and butane.
Liquid propane will keep vaporizing down to -44 degrees, but liquid butane stops vaporizing at 32 degrees. In Mexico, LPG has a very high percentage of butane, and Canadian snowbirds who winter down there find that their furnaces won't work when they return to Canada with full tanks of Mexican LPG.
 
#4
When I was looking for a heating system years back for my RTT trailer I didn't want to haul another fuel source around that is why I didn't choose the diesel heater. The choice I made AT Overland Portable Heater self contained unit housed in a custom made aluminum box, the size of a small hand held tool box. The Proplex H2000 6483 BTU per hour & only draws 1.4 amps per hour, propane consumption is low.
Since then I kept the heater for my squaredrop, all my gear I have is runs off propane, 12v or AA batteries. The heating unit works great but below freezing weather that is the when the fuel source is the problem not the unit itself. Just looking for a remedy for this problem.
 
#5
It's all about the surface area of the liquid/vapor areas. Horizontal tanks do much better in cold weather than vertical tanks do. Larger vertical tanks - such as the 100 pounders used at residences - do better than smaller tanks do. If you have two 20 pounders, you can manifold them together so they both are feeding the same regulator simultaneously and that will double the surface area, making it far more likely to work than a single 20 pound tank.

View attachment 49537

The figures under the various cylinder sizes are BTUs per hour, and I've read than many heaters need a MINIMUM flow of 10,000 BTUs per hour or they simply won't work

BTW, we tend to use the terms "propane" and "LPG" interchangeably, but in fact, Liquid PETROLEUM Gas is usually a mixture of propane and butane.
Liquid propane will keep vaporizing down to -44 degrees, but liquid butane stops vaporizing at 32 degrees. In Mexico, LPG has a very high percentage of butane, and Canadian snowbirds who winter down there find that their furnaces won't work when they return to Canada with full tanks of Mexican LPG.
I read on line about what you posted, thanks

I guess you were referring to this https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/mr-heater-dual-tank-1016125?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2uTvxZCM3wIVxJ-zCh21aQuqEAQYAyABEgKVdvD_BwE&cm_mmc=Affiliates-_-Pepperjam-_-Generic-_-Offer&affiliate_id=21181&click_id=2986040805&utm_source=pepperjam&utm_medium=affiliate&clickId=2986040805
 
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#6
I'm interested in this as well. I have a truck camper and have been watching Venture4WD on youtube. He just installed a gasoline heater in his Jeep which is plumbed into his gas tank and exhausts through the Jeep exhaust. Although this wouldn't work in your trailer application it does solve hauling multiple fuels.
 
#7
Actually, the only ones I've seen were "redneck engineered" :) from: pipe cap - pipe nipple - tee - pipe nipple - tee - pipe nipple - tee -pipe nipple -pipe cap. This kit is neat, and I'm going to bookmark it for future reference! Thanks!
 

Dave

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#9
In my cold weather camping experiences - from hard cold living in a snow cave at the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, CA, in the mountains near Gunnison/Monarch Pass, CO, to the Midwest, Illinois, Wisconsin and up to the UP of Michigan, I learned a bit about heating and cooking fuels.

IMHO, propane just SUCKS at altitude. Period. There's a reason climbers etc use butane etc at higher altitudes. My IsoButane stoves usually work well when it's hard cold out or when I'm at altitude.

When it's deep cold and I'm not at altitude, my issue with propane was always the regulator. They freeze up and it's game over with that fuel source.

Back to the OP, the issue with ALL of these pressurized fuel sources (propane, butane, Isobutane etc) is that as the canister temperature drops below freezing, its internal pressure starts to diminish and eventually the burner sputters and goes out.

Why? In a standard MSR IsoButane canister, the primary culprit is the butane, which stops vaporizing at 31 degrees Fahrenheit (its boiling point). "IsoButane" continues vaporizing down to 11 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butane is the primary component in "IsoButane" fuel canisters (MSR, Snow Peak, Kovea etc), typically accounting for 70 to 80 percent of the fuel mixture; PROPANE makes up the remainder. Unlike butane, however, propane continues vaporizing even in very cold temps (down to minus-43 degrees Fahrenheit). This has some interesting implications for cold-weather performance.

Among these is the fact that the propane will burn off at a disproportionate rate in sub-freezing temperatures. As the remaining mixture shifts increasingly toward butane, less and less fuel vaporizes until eventually the canister pressure drops too low to continue feeding the stove. This means that a brand new fuel canister may work for a while in sub-freezing conditions, but can stop working long before the canister is empty.

There’s also another factor at play that affects a canister’s cold-weather performance, especially for PROPANE. The process of vaporization - the changing of physical state from liquid to gas - takes energy. In a fuel canister, that energy comes mostly from the warmth (latent heat) in the fuel mixture itself, which is why a fuel bottle or propane cylinder will become noticeably cooler while the stove is operating. In cold temperatures, this effect can drive the canister temperature down and stop the burner cold—even if the ambient temperature is above the fuel’s boiling point.
 
#11
Assuming the bottle isn't on the ground correct?
I keep my 20lb bottle inside a plastic milk crate in storage & transit. At camp I remove the 20lb bottle & flip the crate over (bottom facing up) & sit the bottle on the milk crate.
Whats funny is, no matter were I read on the internet teardrop, RV's, truck campers many have the same issues with propane in cold weather camping. When the temps are in the high 30's 38, to 39 degrees @ night my AT Overland Proplex Heater works perfect, temp's drop @ freezing or below, the system wont ingite & gives me a lock out code.
I thought about propane tank heating blanket for a 20lb bottle, & swine wave inverter, but the figures show the draw on my 125amp VMax Battery would be too much.
 
#12
I keep my 20lb bottle inside a plastic milk crate in storage & transit. At camp I remove the 20lb bottle & flip the crate over (bottom facing up) & sit the bottle on the milk crate.
Whats funny is, no matter were I read on the internet teardrop, RV's, truck campers many have the same issues with propane in cold weather camping. When the temps are in the high 30's 38, to 39 degrees @ night my AT Overland Proplex Heater works perfect, temp's drop @ freezing or below, the system wont ingite & gives me a lock out code.
I thought about propane tank heating blanket for a 20lb bottle, & swine wave inverter, but the figures show the draw on my 125amp VMax Battery would be too much.
IIRC the propex is a low pressure device. Even with bottle pressure dropping its only requiring 2" WC or so. Perhaps another regulator is worth a shot?
 
#13
I keep my propane inside my vehicle.. problem solved.. and no I'm not worried about blowing myself up or any of that other jazz. Lots of places that are real cold keep the propane tanks inside. That stink they put in it is going to alert you wayyy before there's an issue of too much propane in your area.
 
#14
IIRC the propex is a low pressure device. Even with bottle pressure dropping its only requiring 2" WC or so. Perhaps another regulator is worth a shot?
that one of the reason why I like the Proplex being a low pressure system, how efficient it is & how AT Overland made this particular unit portable.
 

Dave

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#15
I had a Propex in my FlipPac setup (HS2000). Propane tank and regulator were externally mounted. Never had this issue in cold weather where the Propex would not ignite. I’m thinking this a a regulator issue, or a sensor/electronic gremlin in the Propex controls (which is a very low probability in my experience with them).

I’d try a different regulator first and go from there.
 
#16
I think a filter should be mentioned too if you're having difficulty starting the Propex heater. Whatever impurities in side propane (read bittering agent) it causes it to gel up in the regulator at colder temperatures instead of evaporating.

1580333711329.png

One of these bad boys should help. I've had these issues in the Grand Canyon in November at 25°F weather, but one of these resolved the issue.
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But anyway, I'd also like to recommend against a one fuel policy. The best part about Diesel is you can get it anywhere.

I bought this model Diesel heater for $150

https://www.ebay.com/itm/All-in-1-8...-Parking-Heater-FOR-Trucks-RV-US/163949216640

And I have several others in different configurations. It beats the AT one that goes for nearly $2,000, and it won't quit on me when it's -12°F at night.

As long as you accept that you're getting no support, it'll arrive in 3-5 weeks (Despite it saying it's shipping from the USA), and you might need some time to figure out any specific intricacies around the operation of the unit, the rest is basically trouble free for the rest of its life. Amazingly enough, there's actually some amazing community support for this heater on facebook groups.
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Another note. I've had no trouble using a Mr Heater Little Buddy (3,800 BTU with the 5lbs tank sitting in the snow) in our Ice Shelter at -12°F around Mammoth (so around 7,000 feet) all night. The regulator is built into the heater, so only gas comes out the top of the heater, any liquids, gels, and solids, stay in the tank.

Last question, are you recirculating the heat for the propex heater? I've seen a lot of people on Expedition Portal not use the return and getting sh** performance from their propex. I mean it's a hot air furnace, I don't get why people insist on using their heaters to heat cold air.
 
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Dave

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#17
Last question, are you recirculating the heat for the propex heater? I've seen a lot of people on Expedition Portal not use the return and getting sh** performance from their propex. I mean it's a hot air furnace, I don't get why people insist on using their heaters to heat cold air.
Good point
 
#18
when I was using it for my RTT trailer (my 1st trailer) no, because AT Overland stated it could be used either way, return hose or draw from outside. My current trailer ? I do & recently installed a return air port so the air can be recycled thru the heating system. Herbie brought that to my attention on another post. I haven't had a chance to use the heating system with the current trailer yet.

When I disconnected (quick disconnect) the propane line from the heating unit while the gas is on, I was getting gas coming from the line\hose, so it seems it's getting gas. When I connected the propane line to the unit I can hear it trying to ingite by the clicking sound. 1st I was thinking air in the line, but after 5 different times trying the system will lock up which I had to go thru the procedure clearing the code that was flashing on the thermostat.
 
#19
when I was using it for my RTT trailer (my 1st trailer) no, because AT Overland stated it could be used either way, return hose or draw from outside. My current trailer ? I do & recently installed a return air port so the air can be recycled thru the heating system. Herbie brought that to my attention on another post. I haven't had a chance to use the heating system with the current trailer yet.

When I disconnected (quick disconnect) the propane line from the heating unit while the gas is on, I was getting gas coming from the line\hose, so it seems it's getting gas. When I connected the propane line to the unit I can hear it trying to ingite by the clicking sound. 1st I was thinking air in the line, but after 5 different times trying the system will lock up which I had to go thru the procedure clearing the code that was flashing on the thermostat.
Yeah, I really dislike it when AT or similar vendors suggest that as an option.

It's like water heaters, single pass you only can pass so much heat to a given medium. If the air is already warmed, the logic to heat external air over recirculating is mind boggling. It is a literal waste of hot air (and gas).
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Another thing to look for is to make sure that your piping to the heater is always on a downward slope from the heater to the fuel tank. Having loops, kinks, or dips give rise to the risk that something not gaseous may attempt to pass through the regulator.

Notes regarding living comfortably in the cold.

  • I use a Sojoy 12v Electric blanket underneath me. It uses about 40-70 watts(depending on settings) an hour which is just fine for my Group 31 Odyssey. 31M-PC2150ST
  • My preferred sleeping bag is a Big Agnes Elk Park -20°F Bag, there's no bottom so it's less bulky. The mattress pad below me always helps
  • I put near 212°F water in my Fashy water bottle (or douche bag), though at 7,000 ft, water boils at 198°F
  • I usually line whatever I'm sleeping on top of with a sheet or two of reflectix. It's cheap bubble wrap with mylar on both sides and its radiant barrier performance is fantastic. Covering the inside of your trailer and/or windows always reduces that heating requirements of any given weather
  • I usually sleep in sweats, T-Shirt and maybe a hoodie
  • I use my heater in the morning or the evening before sleeping so I usually use very little gas on my trips
  • Zippo also sells these hand warmers that use naphtha (lighter fluid), it's not exactly odorless, but it's definitely nice to have on super super cold days.
 
#20
Oh, one other item. OPDs can be finicky. The Overfill Prevention Device serves to protect the tank from filling past 80%, it accomplishes this with a float that's tied to a valve. It's known to restrict outward flow. This is why propane vendors always suggest opening the valve 360 degrees (a single turn), lighting your device, and then opening it all the way. Similar to add-on overflow/overpressure prevention devices that stop the flow of gas in an unrestricted flow situations (like when the line to your propane device is ripped off), the OPD valve will flip or get jiggered and give you really crap performance.

This was especially true with the first generation devices. They've gotten better over the past couple decades, but yeah, this is a possible situation especially if your tank is full and you just got to camp after your OPD float bouncing around the inside of your tank or if you're on an incline.
 
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