Monday, March 25, 2013

Safety first! Propane appliance safety.

A subject not often thought about until it's too late is camping appliance safety. Something that you, my dear readers, will come to appreciate is the fact that Outdoor Dave and all of his friends take outdoor safety VERY seriously, and that includes the proper setup, use, and storage of your propane camp appliances!

Several years ago now, while camped by the river at Garner State Park in Texas, I had the unfortunate chance to witness a thankfully small flareup / blowout of a propane stove connection. Thankfully the stove was connected via a riser pipe / hose to a 20 pound take with a shutoff valve, and the owner had the presence of mind to shut off the gas NOW. By the time the gas was off, the damage was done, and fabrics / pot holders and the like had to be doused, and the kids in camp had a good scare. It could have been much, much worse, and it could have been prevented!

Most people read the owners guides / manuals for their camp gear once, maybe twice, then file it away and forget about many of the important details. In this case, the detail the stove owner forgot about was the procedure for checking newly established propane fittings and appliances for gas leaks before igniting!

To test your appliances for gas leaks you will need.

  1. Smallish spray bottle. A large bottle isn't needed, but you can certainly recycle an old Window cleaner bottle if you have one.
  2. Soap and water. I like to use liquid dish soap because it produces gobs of bubbles. Use just 6 or so drops of liquid soap in an 8 oz spray bottle, then fill with water.
Once your connections are made, and all possible ignition sources are verified eliminated, with the appliance valves closed, turn on the flow of gas from the tank about 1/4 turn, and spray the soapy water mixture to cover the joint where any 2 components like the tank and riser, riser and hose, hose and appliance, appliance valves etc... meet. Also spray down flexible parts that can wear and get pin holes like the hose, and any parts that move like valves, or hard lines with swivels etc... Specifics will vary depending on your appliance and supply configuration. You are looking for any bubbling. Bubbles indicate a leak that must be fixed prior to ignition. 

If you are using disposable bottles with no shut off valve, simply screw the bottle to the appliance with the appliance valve fully closed, and the rest of the procedure is exactly the same as it is for users of large remote bottles. 

Depending on your appliance, you may be able to get things sealed for example, an appliance / tank connection gasket made of cork and even some rubber ones can be made to seal by lightly moistening with vegetable oil. 

Now that you know how to be safe with your propane appliances outdoors, go, and find your own "road less traveled"!

-- Outdoor Dave...

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