Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

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Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby Glenlivet » Wed May 07, 2014 12:22 am

We've seen the warnings on propane stoves, "Not to be used as a room heater", and we know about venting and about co accretion and low O2 levels, but I tried an experiment. I have a 5x10 ramp door cargo conversion as a toy hauler and I use a Honeywell BW four gas detector at night as a precaution with my Wave 3 catalytic heater.

But I thought I'd see just what would happen if I operated propane appliances for a short time with the vents closed. I turned on the gas detector and lit both burners of the Camp Chef propane stove. The BW of course started by indicating normal ambient near sea level O2 of 20.9%. The gas detector's alarm is set by default to activate on low O2, at 19.5%. I stayed inside to get the readings though I stood near the door, ready to throw it open if I felt at all unusual.
Within just 15 minutes the inner trailer air had swung down to the alarm activation level of 19.5! I allowed it to continue and it appeared to be dropping at a steady rate, so at 19% I decided that's enough, and I swung the door open, turned off the stove, and completely exchanged the air.
At no time did I myself detect any change in conditions, and as you can imagine during this time I was quite attuned to any altering of my environment. :NC Without a gas detector I'd have had no inkling of anything amiss, at least not to the level I permitted based on the gas detector readings.

So much for the stove, we won't be using that fella without plenty of ventilation. (not that we did before, just confirming how certain is the need for adequate ventilation prudent)

Now the catalytic heater. Turned on full and with all vents closed, this one consumed O2 down to 20.4 in 20 minutes and then seemed to stabilize and drop no more. Presumably there was enough exchange from the cumulative little imperfect seals and cracks to compensate at this point. Not something I'd rely upon but just saying that's what happened. No matter how much time passed it seemed to go no lower.
At this point I decided to restore the customary venting and I opened the high roof vent and the low air entry vent, and within less than a minute, with the catalytic heater still operating throughout, the inside air had returned fully to 20.9 % oxygen. As long as these vents were cracked open the O2 level never varied from 20.9.

Interestingly the CO detector didn't register appreciable increased CO during either of these tests! It was all about reduced O2. I tested the LEL gas too and with a stove burner off and venting gas the detector screamed bloody murder after a minute or so.

Just thought I'd share these real time findings with you, and they support the reports of how open flame propane devices in confined spaces have caused tragedies. I was surprized at the small to negligible role CO gas played in this admittedly very limited little test.
Don't worry, I'm not completely crazy, I'm a paramedic of 33 years and have training in confined spaces, and the G/F was outside ready to throw the door open if anything seemed amiss.
Beware the stoves and watch the Big Buddys, buddies. For a propane heat source the catalytic's got my vote. And vent, vent.
:thumbsup:
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby MtnDon » Wed May 07, 2014 10:18 am

Nice test and a very nice meter. Yours or the fire department? I've seen them here and have coveted one for years.
Our 6x12 deep vee nose cargo trailer camper conversion... viewtopic.php?f=42&t=58336

We have a small off grid cabin we built ourselves in the NM mountains; small PV solar system; 624 watts PV, Outback CC & inverter/charger ... http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=2335.0
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby citylights » Wed May 07, 2014 10:38 am

I am not a Dr. or an EMT, but this is how I understand it.

CO is the scary one because it is odorless, tasteless, and horribly harmful. CO captures the oxygen spot on red blood cells and does not release. A CO damaged red blood cell can not transport oxygen for you. The only way to repair is when the red blood cell dies and is replaced in a few days.

Your "test" is bothersome because even at low concentrations of CO, you are damaging every red blood cell that comes into contact with CO. First test, some damage, but maybe you are OK. Second test, a little more damage, but you don't feel any problem yet. Third test, more damage, are you still OK?

AND...

The CO damage is permanent until your body can build more red blood cells over the course of a day or two. If you start to feel faint and throw the door open... You are still screwed because the red blood cells are damaged by the CO and will not transport oxygen for you even if you get to fresh air!

Dude... Just don't.
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby Glenlivet » Wed May 07, 2014 5:54 pm

Thanks for the concern. I pretty much expected such but decided to share anyway. Yes, CO1 is insidious and deadly, the meter registered the concentrations in PPM in real time, and the measured results I found never approached 1% of the detectors alarm sounding limit, let alone dangerous concentrations. That is what I was most alert for and as I said, to my surprize, in this limited test this gas was not the one of concern. As I said, draw no conclusions nor relax any caution you may have from reading any of this. I'm just sharing what I found, principally the eye opening and rapid drop in available oxygen in the confined space resulting from the open flame appliance.

Yes, the four gas detector is my own, a $400.00 purchase (that I in no way regret!) from an eBay seller, after shopping around a good bit. I'm not about to hang my life on that either, but it's a nice tool. :thumbsup:
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby KennethW » Wed May 07, 2014 6:43 pm

I cringe when people preheat with a ventless heater. They are burning most of the oxygen up and maybe replacing it with Co2 before going to bed :? . That is why I made my radiant tube heater. :thinking: It burns outside air and vents the burnt gases. :thumbsup:
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby Glenlivet » Wed May 07, 2014 8:46 pm

makes the teardrop into a big heat exchanger! Cool. :thumbsup:
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby astrotrailer » Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:26 pm

I use a RV furnace with an outside combustion air source, exhaust and heat exchanger. I also added smoke, CO and propane alarms to my cargo trailer. Furnace is an Atwood that draws 2 amps when the blower is going. I have plenty of solar power 220 amp-hours of batteries so I have no problem even when winter camping. The furnaces keeps it warm enough the condensation isn't a problem when it is freezing out. You can see my furnace install details in the Cargo Trailer forum under my user name.
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby slowcowboy » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:53 am

as for propane stove. on most teardrops being our kitchens are outside under a suv like hatch this is vented all the time.

I use 12 volt heat as my teardrop is tiny enough that it doesn't take much to heat i!

slow
Plans. there was supposed to be plans to be followed when I built this thing. Opps! AH, gee, tum,tee tum. I think I forgot about the plans 2 years ago. ------Tow vehicles, 1995 ford explore, 1994 ford ranger, 1993 ford F-150, 2009 4x9 Off road teardrop, on harbor freight greatly modified frame.
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby slowcowboy » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:54 am

do you sleep all night with the radent tube heator on? I been studying your tread on this. Slow.
Plans. there was supposed to be plans to be followed when I built this thing. Opps! AH, gee, tum,tee tum. I think I forgot about the plans 2 years ago. ------Tow vehicles, 1995 ford explore, 1994 ford ranger, 1993 ford F-150, 2009 4x9 Off road teardrop, on harbor freight greatly modified frame.
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby KennethW » Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:19 pm

yes I do There is no flame burning in the sleeping compartment.
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby slowcowboy » Mon Jun 30, 2014 6:51 pm

interesting I got your tread book marked somewhere. I like this radent heator you built. I got a manafatured old one in shop but then if I ran that thing in my new teardrop the manafactured one would make me sleep outside!

but I like this home made one of yours.

slow
Plans. there was supposed to be plans to be followed when I built this thing. Opps! AH, gee, tum,tee tum. I think I forgot about the plans 2 years ago. ------Tow vehicles, 1995 ford explore, 1994 ford ranger, 1993 ford F-150, 2009 4x9 Off road teardrop, on harbor freight greatly modified frame.
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Re: Findings on propane appliances in an enclosed space.

Postby KennethW » Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:40 pm

The heater does relied on draft to move the flame thru the pipe. So there is some possibility of flame back or flame out. With flame out the propane will dissipate outside the same as if your grill blew-out. If flame back is a problem it can be fixed with a damper and a longer burner pipe putting the flame further into the conduit. I like the fact that no battery is needed. Making the heater real dependable. When camping in the mountion,there is always the possibility of getting snowed in. Relying on a battery for more the a day or two may not be wise. JUST MY OPINION.
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