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Propane story


#1

I have been told that propane is heavier than air and so will sink to
the botom of a room. This made me think that it would not be a good
choice for a basement studio. Was I misled into believing an “old
welders” story? Marilyn


#2

Marilyn–

Your message has prompted me to do what I have been meaning to do
for awhile. I just ordered a propane detector. They are similar to
smoke alarms, and only a little more expensive.

You can Google “Propane Detector” to find detectors for sale online.
You don’t want pools of propane forming on the floor of your studio
(basement or otherwise). The idea is that the pool of propane could
flow across the floor to the water heater or furnace and explode.

If you think about it, however, you don’t want clouds of some other
flammable gas in your basement. They could be ignited by a spark, or
drift up into your living quarters. The best thing is to be sure,
very sure, that your equipment is in good shape and properly
connected. You can test for leaks with soapy water (or proprietary
solutions if you prefer).

–Whit


#3

Propane is heavier than air…it is ok for the basement studio as
long as the connections are tight and secure. It would be a good
idea on a daily basis to get to the lower level one or two feet and
smell the area. Or a good idea is to get a carbon monoxide detector
set it down on the floor. It will detect gas and set off the alarm.
Just check for leaks often…


#4

No old tale Marilyn. It is heavier than air. Think of all the boats
that blow up here in Florida! They use propane in the galley. When
they leak, the gas sinks into the bilge. The bilge pump starts up,
there is a spark followed by an explosion. Having said that, there
is no excuse for not having good air movement and exhaust in the shop
(or in the bilge either).

Cheers from Don in SOFL.


#5

There is a lot of disagreement on propane, but I use mine in a
basement studio with no problem. That said, in my state (SC) I’ve
been told I can’t keep the tank inside - so it gets stored outside
the door, comes in for use, the out it goes again. The acetylene on
the other hand is ok to keep inside… go figure.

Beth Wicker
bethwicker.com


#6

Propane will also find the nearest electrical outlet and …


#7
I have been told that propane is heavier than air and so will sink
to the botom of a room. 

No, that is correct. Propane is heavier than air and will accumulate
from leaks to form an explosive mixture. Acetylene is lighter than
air and is more likely to dissipate than become dangerous. Of course,
any fuel gas could become dangerous in the right mixture.

Fred


#8
I have been told that propane is heavier than air and so will sink
to the botom of a room. This made me think that it would not be a
good choice for a basement studio. Was I misled into believing an
"old welders" story? 

It’s a fact. Propane will even flow and collect in pools if the room
is still enough. That’s why many rental locations don’t allow grill
propane cylinders larger than 5-10 pounds to be on 2nd floor patios,
because you have to bring the tank through the interior to get it
there.

You have to look at your setup. If the room is well vented, or can be
well vented to the outdoors, as long as you aren’t storing the
propane in the basement, it’s safe in use, with any common sense
precautions.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL


#9

Hi Marilyn,

Nope, it sinks to the lowest point! Hot air balloonists have to
enforce NO SMOKING while they inflate the balloons and start the
burners because pools of propane can collect in small dips in the
ground and ignite if there is a handy spark! (Won’t that image stay
in your brain!)

Cheers,
Karen


#10
I have been told that propane is heavier than air and so will sink
to the botom of a room. This made me think that it would not be a
good choice for a basement studio. Was I misled into believing an
"old welders" story? Marilyn 

No you were not misled by the issue of propane being heavier than
air and settling to the lowest point. BUT any fuel gas that leaks
will be a potential fire and explosion hazard no matter what the
specific gravity of the gas. Your choice of fuel should be made based
on several issues but assuming a leak should not be one of them. No
matter what you have for fuel if you have a leak it is bad news so
you must always check the tank and hose connections for leaks when
ever you connect them and always make sure the fuel and oxygen if you
are using it is shut off when you leave the studio. This must become
second nature or you are asking for trouble. This propane scare story
is common but, you should see what an acetylene explosion looks like
or hydrogen or natural gas. They all are very dangerous.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#11

Everything will be just fine as long as the tank doesn’t leak. You
have to burn something and your choices are hydrogen, natural gas,
acetylene and by far the cheapest and easiest, propane. Not to
mention, it’s really clean. Hydrogen is great, but it’s hard to see
the flame and it’s expensive. Acetylene is really dirty and it’s
hard on your eyes. Natural gas is really good if you can get someone
to plumb it directly into your house, but sometimes, you get pressure
fluctuations in the line and it’s hard to solder with because the
flame going out and getting hotter and colder.

Just be sure to buy good quality regulators such as Victor brand and
shut the tank off when you are done using it and everything should
be just fine.

Kevin
www.potterusa.com


#12
No, that is correct. Propane is heavier than air and will
accumulate from leaks to form an explosive mixture. Acetylene is
lighter than air and is more likely to dissipate than become
dangerous. Of course, any fuel gas could become dangerous in the
right mixture. 

Hey Mr Sias,

I didn’t know you were on this list, I own one of your books (most
excellent it is too) :slight_smile:

Regards Charles A.


#13

Hi Marilyn

You are correct, propane is heavier than air and will tend to sink,
acetylene is approximately the same density as air and natural gas
is lighter than air and will tend to rise. Even though the above is
technically correct, in a small studio, whether a gas is lighter
than air or heavier than air will likely not make much difference.
All torch gases will mix somewhat due to natural air currents in the
room and if the leak lasts long enough, will create an explosive
mixture and eventually find an ignition source ie a light switch or a
furnace pilot.

The key is to make sure that your fuel source never leaks, or if it
does to limit the amount of fuel that can leak.

The way to limit the amount of fuel that can possibly leak is to
limit the size of tank you use.

I have an oxy propane set up in my basement studio. I use a little
torch. My propane supply is a 1 pound disposable cylinder. I keep
one cylinder in the basement and store the unused ones in my garage,
so that at any given time, there is only one pound of ignitable fuel
in my studio. One pound of propane lasts me a very long time, but may
not work for you if your fuel requirements are larger.

Note also, that it in most cities it is illegal to keep a bbq sized
propane tank in your house due to the way the pressure relief valve
works on BBQ tanks.

Regards
Milt
Calgary Alberta Canada


#14
Propane will also find the nearest electrical outlet and........ 

Actually it needs a spark of some sort. Back in '85 a Midas Muffler
shop in South FL exploded killing 4 people. They determined it was
caused by a propane gas leak that filled the shop overnight and was
set off when the first employee turned on the lights.


#15

Nobody told me here in TN whether I “had” to keep it inside or out.
I just know that I don’t want in inside even though I have check
valves at every juncture. I have my tank outside, on a little concrete
slab and drilled a hole through my wall so I didn’t have to drag a
tank around with me.

Paf


#16

When working with materials that can be harmful in vapour form,
please make sure you ventilate well. That’s good for propane or any
of the toxic fumes that are given off by the metals and chemicals you
might be working with.


#17
Propane will also find the nearest electrical outlet and........ 

No it will not, there is no affinity for any fuel gas to “find the
nearest electrical outlet” Yes fuel gasses can be ignited by
electrical arcs but your outlets are not going to be producing an arc
unless you are plugging in or unplugging a item that is turned on.
The likely culprits for arc production are wall switches, relays and
motors. Any fuel gas that is present in sufficient amount will be
ignited by an electrical arc. Treat any fuel gas with the proper
respect and safe handling and there is no problem, ignore the safety
rules and you certainly can have a fire or explosion with any of
them.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#18

In the UK there are building regulations that stipulate the type of
ventilation required for burning fuels according to the energy
produced by the flame. Forced ventilation is required for a flame
source producing more than 7kW of energy and passive ventilation for
anything under that. This is to prevent oxygen depletion and
generation of carbon monoxide. All combustibles must be tken into
account so if you have gas heating or cooking then that must be added
to your torches, kilns etc to give a total consumption versus room
volume. I cant work in my house because I have a wood burning stove
and a gas cooker so any further combusive will be beyond the current
ventilation installed and I would have to have a forced air sytem
built. This then give you problems with your house insurance and that
then rubs off on the business insurance and so on.

Nick Royall


#19
You can test for leaks with soapy water (or proprietary solutions
if you prefer). 

I recently took a beginning welding class, and the instructor
recommended using the proprietary solutions to check for leaks,
since these days, many soaps are made in part from petroleum
products. Eventually, these elements can dry and accumulate on the
equipment enough to ignite if there’s a leak (and, if I recall
correctly, enough pressure from the leak). Either that, or read and
understand all the ingredients in the soap you’re using.

Just a thought,
Pamela


#20

Charles A:

Thank you for the complement. Feel free to contact me either on or
off-line if you have any specific questions about the book.

Regards,
Fred