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Thread: LP tank safe to use upside down?

  1. #1
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    LP tank safe to use upside down?

    While I was at school a couple weeks ago, I was talking to my buddy about how I try to work on my car in the garage in the winter and run this propane pod heater I have, but the tank keeps freezing up after 10 min of use. I try putting the tank close to the heater hoping that it helps thaw it out. No luck. The only thing that works is if i shake it vigorously for a minute, but even then it freezes up and cuts out after 2 minutes. Who wants to shake the thing up every 5 minutes to keep using it?

    I run the heater off the small tanks. Not sure but I think they are 20lbs? ...The ones you use in your grill. My friend told me no problem just flip the tank upside down and run it and it won't freeze up. I said "are you SURE about that? Is that even safe?" I asked him about 3 times and he reassured me.

    I have NO idea how the internals or chemical reactions of an LP tank work as to why it freezes so fast when being used, which means I also have no idea if it's safe to burn with the tank upside down. Anyone out there know? Thanks in advance. Don't want to blow myself up!

  2. #2
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    Found this on the HF Web site as an instruction for a "like" product:

    Always operate the Heater with the propane tank in its vertical upright position, on a noncombustible surface. While in operation, do not tilt or lean the propane tank on its side. Never turn the tank upside down, not even when it seems empty, as this may cause clogging of valves and components which could lead to dangerous flare-ups or fire.



  3. #3
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    I got this from the Penn Valley Gas website, that gives a similar reason with more detail. www.pennvalleygas.com/build.htm

    "All propane tanks must be used and stored in the upright position. Tanks that are laid down or turned upside down will result in an unsafe situation by providing high gas pressure to the burner, which could lead to a liquid gas leak. Liquid propane expands 270 times its volume when exposed to air, and when propane vapor is exposed to a source of ignition, including the space heater being used, it could result in a fire or explosion. Make certain that all personnel handling or operating propane tanks and equipment are familiar with the smell of propane."

  4. #4
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    Actually, it may be more complicated than the quote I stated above, but still not a good idea. See this discussion on www.potters.org/subject27909.htm/ . Apparantly it is/was a hot topic with potters.

  5. #5
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    I agree with Chuck your tank is too small. I'd NEVER run it upside down, you have GREAT instincts Wes

    I know that several of the guys that run small forges do put there smaller tanks of propane in a bucket of water, cold water, not warm, certainly NOT hot.

    This acts as a heat sink to draw the super cold away from the tank, letting the tank run longer before it freezes up, but you have to use caution with this too.

    >> Here << is a good article on the subject.

    The short answer is like Chuck said, "get a bigger tank"
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
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  6. #6
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    Hi Westley

    I am with all these guys. Dont run it upside down. When I was a youngster around 14 I used to fill these tanks. When you turn it upside down the propane which is actually liquid petrolium gas is in liquid form and will pour out the jet. These tanks are never filled to their capacity leaving room when the tank is upright for the liquid gas to turn to a vapor before it gets to the tank valve. When it comes out the valve it is usually throttled back in pressure by a jet or a regulator.
    One other thing is the tanks do not last forever. For safety reasons there should be an expiry date on your tank. Check it and if it is passed this date dispose of the tank. As for the heater have it checked on another tank and size the tank to suite the heater.

    Really glad you sought to confirm what your buddy told you before you did anything foolish. You will go a long way in life with that approach.

    Best of luck.
    cheers

  7. #7
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    I agree with the "get a bigger tank" group, but, I also found that I had better success moving my tanks outside and just running a longer hose....and I felt safer because the tanks were outside.

    Doug

  8. #8
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    I teach welding in a high school and adult setting. Like acetylene cylinders, there is a liquid form in the bottom of these tanks/cylinders. The rule of thumb for acetylene cylinders that have been laid on their side for transport (home from where they were purchased/filled) a half an hour is strongly suggested to insure the contents have settled. Liquid acetylene is HUNDREDS times more volatile than the gas form. Good job on asking, don't mess with this. The little girl in your picture is watching all you do and you want to be around to walk her down the aisle.
    Jon

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Shively View Post
    I teach welding in a high school and adult setting. Like acetylene cylinders, there is a liquid form in the bottom of these tanks/cylinders. The rule of thumb for acetylene cylinders that have been laid on their side for transport (home from where they were purchased/filled) a half an hour is strongly suggested to insure the contents have settled. Liquid acetylene is HUNDREDS times more volatile than the gas form.

    If you want to get technical about it, its really not liquid acetylene, it is acetylene dissolved in acetone

    From the MSHA website

    Chemical Composition: An acetylene molecule is composed of two carbon atoms and two hydrogen atoms. The two carbon atoms are held together by what is known as a triple carbon bond. This bond is useful in that it stores substantial energy that can be released as heat during combustion. However, the triple carbon bond is unstable, making acetylene gas very sensitive to conditions such as excess pressure, excess temperature, static electricity, or mechanical shock.

    Storage: Because of acetylene's unstable nature, it must be stored under special conditions. This is accomplished by dissolving the acetylene in liquid acetone. The liquid acetone is then stored in the acetylene cylinder, which in turn, is filled with a porous (sponge-like) cementitious material.
    Yes I know I'm splitting hairs.
    Of course unless your brazing, why would you even use acetylene. I do all my burning with propane much cheaper in the long run.

    I will probably get boo hissed for this, but if you don't have a bigger bottle, make a bank of bottles out of two three twenty pounders. If you use three cylinders you are only taking a third of the work out of each bottle, which will prevent your icing up problem. Back in my scrapping days we used banks of 9 100# bottles to cut scrap with.

    I had a 40 pound bottle I ran upside down once, of course it was a forklift bottle that was setup for liquid, to get it expel gas instead of liquid I had to turn it upside down. Of course once it was empty I switched the liquid valve out for a gas valve.
    Throw Apples out the Windows, but make sure not to hit the Penguin.

    If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it canít be done.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Keeble View Post
    Hi Westley
    One other thing is the tanks do not last forever. For safety reasons there should be an expiry date on your tank. Check it and if it is passed this date dispose of the tank.
    Best of luck.
    Actually thats an inspection date not an expiration date. Have you local gas company re inspect it. I've got bottles down there that I have been inspected 4 or 5 times.

    I also have some that only made inspection twice before they where junk. Thats why I only buy bottles at the weld shop, the ones you get from stores seem to be lower quality. My 100# bottle I bought to run the stove in the house cost me $230 filled last fall.
    Throw Apples out the Windows, but make sure not to hit the Penguin.

    If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it canít be done.

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