Tempstar Propane Leak

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Old 12-26-09, 02:18 PM
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Tempstar Propane Leak

I have a Tempstar furnace N9MP2100F14B1 using propane. From time to time I get a strong odor in my basement (where the furnace is). I've had a plumber check the gas line and its OK no leaks. The only thing left is the furnace. Before I call an HVAC tech is it possible that this can occur? I assumed that there exists controls on this furnace that would prevent propane from being allowed in the furnace unless the ignitor was ready to light the gas? I have removed the cover and watched several cycles everything seems to work OK. But just yesterday (Christmas) the odor was very strong throughout the house.
 
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Old 12-26-09, 02:23 PM
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Especially due to the odor throughout the house, for safety's sake, you really need to evacuate the house and shut down the gas and call whomever you need to to get the leak found. I know it sounds alarmist but I do know a guy that had to rebuild his house due to a gas leak explosion. Luckily nobody was home at the time.

that odor is put there for one reason: so you can smell the gas if there is a leak because it is so serious of an issue.
 
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Old 12-26-09, 04:26 PM
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I investigated thousands of natural gas odor complaints for the utility I used to work for ---- propane is a lot more dangerous than natural gas because it's heavier than air and concentrates in basements and crawl spaces, where there are often furnaces or water heater pilots to light off an explosion when enough gas is present.


Gas explosion in houses usually blow the walls out, and then the roof collapses and the whole debris pile starts burning, usually rapidly. Not much chance of extricating family members from that kind of mess.

So I agree with nap---- get out now! Take everyone with you as you head out the door. Call the fire department to investigate for you and shut off the gas, and have your propane supplier or a good repairman come out to identify the problem.

Still reading this? You are a hard case. You should have been gone a couple of paragraphs ago.
 
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Old 12-26-09, 04:32 PM
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Could the plumber smell the smell?, to confirm it indeed was propane?, and not sewer gas?

Did you run the furnace when the plumber was there, to try to simulate it?

Is the odor consistant with the running of the furnace?, or aren't you sure?

Does it do it all the time?

Have you tried to leave off the furnace to see if it is non-existant then?

If a certain number of gas molecules per cubic foot are in the air, you could have a refrigerator kick on upstairs and have the house go off like a bomb. Happened to my neighborhood house years ago. Bricks flew all over the neighborhood.
 
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Old 12-26-09, 05:11 PM
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The smell is intermittant. Since last night no smell. Its not sewer gas checked that a long time ago. This has been happening for some time. Maybe one every other month. I've left the house before had it checked by the propane company (of course by then the smell had left), they could find nothing. Plumber can find nothing. Every time its happened I've soaped the joints and found no leaks. The only thing left is the furnace. I just didn't think it was possible for this furnace to leak gas?
 
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Old 12-26-09, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by elecmast View Post
I just didn't think it was possible for this furnace to leak gas?

It can. A variety of different defects can cause the main burner gas to stay on, unlit.

Lazy repairman often claim that they can't fix intermittent problems because the symptom isn't there. Often ---even usually, you can.

A good furnace repairman might start by cycling the furnace 100-200 times or so to get it to fail. What other gas appliances do you have besides the furnace.
 
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Old 12-26-09, 05:27 PM
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Only the furnace uses the gas
 
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Old 12-26-09, 06:04 PM
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is this an open burner type furnace?
 
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Old 12-26-09, 06:18 PM
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yes........................................................................
 
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Old 12-27-09, 06:45 AM
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I noticed that the 1/2 inch gas line enters the furnace enclosure in a 2 inch plus hole. Could this cause some extraneous propane to escape the furnace? The burner is an open type just sitting in the enclosure. It seems that when the pilot is lit and gas is called for that a small amount of the propane could fall out of the path of the burner? Does anyone think this is possible? I could easily seal the gas line hole with duct seal, but I don't want to do this if it could cuase a problem (like an explosion of propane in the enclosure outside the burner path). It seems that tempstar wanted the burner completly enclosed because of the tight seals on the covers and all other holes (where the exhaust and air intake enter are tight against the enclosure). Thoughts?
 
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Old 12-27-09, 07:15 AM
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Propane Smell

Often when a propane tank gets low one will get an odor. Is it possible the tank was nearly empty each time you notice the odor?
In a couple of cases I've had a gas valve failing to close completely & allowing the slightest trace of LP to weep thru. If someone sniffed the exhaust vent as soon as the venter started there was a definate odor of propane. We found the cause by use of an explosive gas meter (sniffer).
 
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Old 12-27-09, 09:24 AM
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I am not a furnace guy so I was hoping one of the guys that deals with furnaces would have a winning idea but the pickin's seem slim.



I'm grasping at straws and just trying to come up with some logical ideas.

when you noticed the odor, was it windy? If so, is it possible there was a reverse flow in the chimney/ex stack that pushed the gas into the house?

I know there are proper heights for an ex stack as compared to surrounding roof area (I have no idea as to what they are). Improper heights can cause the stack to not draft properly.

I do not know what kind of an area you are in but in my area (small town) I would call the fire department when the smell is noticed. Ours has a gas detector and would be able to determine a level. I would speak with them prior so they do not make a major call out for the situation though.

Short of that, all I can really suggest would be to purchase your own gas detector to attempt to find the source but as a minimum, I would purchase something like this:

Amazon.com: Safety Siren (HS80504) Propane and Natural Gas Detector Alarm: Home Improvement

no endorsement for that specific product. That is just the first detector that popped up on a search.
 
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Old 12-27-09, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by nap View Post
Short of that, all I can really suggest would be to purchase your own gas detector to attempt to find the source but as a minimum

Bad advice, in my opinion as someone who has investigated gas odor complaints hundreds of times.


A competent and experienced repairman needs to identify the cause of the odors and correct it. This is the kind of thing that can be very dangerous, especially with propane.
 
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Old 12-27-09, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by SeattlePioneer View Post
Bad advice, in my opinion as someone who has investigated gas odor complaints hundreds of times.


A competent and experienced repairman needs to identify the cause of the odors and correct it. This is the kind of thing that can be very dangerous, especially with propane.
that was a last resort, not a first line of action.

After seeing a house last year that exploded due to such a situation and seeing videos such as this:

YouTube - Shopping center explodes in Forestville, Maryland - Caught on tape!
YouTube - sioux falls house explodes

I understand how serious it is.

Did you notice in the first post I recommended he leave the house and call whomever was required to determine the cause? That is still the best action but I am also a realist and realize the OP is not moving out of the house as we speak.

Somebody needs to determine the cause and OP appeared to be resistant to the "call somebody" suggestion.

if OP is going to be messing with this, he, at least, needs a proper detector.

Best action is still evacuate and call a qualified person to determine the source. At this time, it appears that a furnace tech is the proper avenue.
 
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Old 12-27-09, 11:53 AM
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I understand nap. Inexpensive detectors (smoke, CO, gas, and so on) may be worthwhile to warn of otherwise unknown hazards, but they are not suitable to use to try to manage a known hazard, in my opinion.


I recall one intermittent gas leak I investigated in a multistory apartment building. One tenant noticed a gas leak periodically, but it would usually go away before repair people could detect it. The woman was getting a reputation as a nut case.

I was called in when I was doing my gig as an independent repairman. This building had one gas meter serving all the apartments, with four or more gas lines going up to serve the apartments above the ground floor parking garage.

I shut off the gas to the whole building and installed a gas valve for the stack of four or five apartments above that point.

Then I had to shut off the valves going to the equipment in all those apartments, so I could air test the line without damaging the appliances.

I couldn't get the line to hold air ---- it was blowing freely out the damaged pipe. After breaking into a wall or two, identified a cracked 1" steel pipe, apparently cracked when the building settled a bit.

Apparently when the building warmed up or cooled off a bit this cracked pipe would open up enough to cause the gas leak, but then could move back and seal itself up again.

Just an example of how easy it is to underestimate the hazards of a gas leak. And propane is a lot more dangerous than natural gas!

Anyway, I have lots of gas leak stories.
 
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Old 12-27-09, 12:15 PM
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=SeattlePioneer;1668787]I understand nap. Inexpensive detectors (smoke, CO, gas, and so on) may be worthwhile to warn of otherwise unknown hazards, but they are not suitable to use to try to manage a known hazard, in my opinion.
I see. You misunderstood my suggestion. If one were to go looking for a leak, one needs a proper detector. That is not what I linked. I linked a detector that I would suggest installing just to alert the guy to the presence of gas at any time. That is for a warning to get the Hell out of Dodge, not to find the source of the leak.

If he wants to hunt for the source, it is going to take a detector made for the purpose. I didn't bother to look for one because it is generally more cost effective to have a pro come and find the leak for you and that is still what I would suggest.

I would still recommend the gas detector just as one should have smoke and CO detectors as well in a house.




Just an example of how easy it is to underestimate the hazards of a gas leak. And propane is a lot more dangerous than natural gas!
great story and it does help explain how difficult it is to find a source sometimes.

Mine is much more simple. Smelled gas when I walked out the front door of my house. Not always but often enough that I was concerned.

Called the gas company. They came and looked. Didn't find anything. When I got home I smelled it again. Grabbed my bubbles and away I went. Less than 5 minutes and I find it.

I call the gas company and told them:

I found the leak. It is on YOUR side of the meter so it does not cost me anything in lost gas. This is a notice there is a leak on YOUR side of the meter so if my house blows up, you have already been notified of a leak on YOUR side of the meter.

They came back out and fixed it that day.
 
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Old 12-27-09, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by SeattlePioneer View Post
Anyway, I have lots of gas leak stories.
Share them with us down in the Chat forum way down near the bottom of all the forums here. There is a regular group of people that contribute in that forum - and I'd say the ones that do (the most regularly)are the ones here with high post counts and are pros, or avid DIYers in various fields, who would love to learn about some of these stories.
 
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Old 12-27-09, 04:51 PM
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I made the original post on this questions. As an electrical contractor I know the benefits of hiring a pro. I also know that intermittant problems are very difficult to find. I know HVAC contractors and have one coming out this week. I was only trying to get some ideas to give him because as with the plumbers and propane company that have already been here they may not be able to find anything during the service call.

I'm fairly sure that its caused by the furnace, but after observing 10 or so heating cycles with no problem I know it won't be straight forward to find.
 
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Old 12-27-09, 05:14 PM
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If say downdrafting was not the cause - any newer type furnace will have it that if it dioes not ignite the first time - 3 or 4 seconds of gas will come out the valve at each iignition attempt. But for that to permeate a residence, I don't know. Unless propane, being perhaps heavier, makes it worse that way than natural gas.

Anything revealing regarding what Grady said,and the tank getting near empty? - or I'll add way below 0 temps out at the tank or something like that, that might create improper fuel to air mixture resulting in more unburned fuel, that you are picking up on? If you run the furnace, and happened to catch it doing it, see if the flame size and color may be different than from when all seems well.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 08:05 AM
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Thanks for everyone's help on this. The problem is solved. It was sewer gas not propane. I know someone suggested this early on but I rejected this due to the fact that I had spent quite a bit of money having a plumber try to find the problem.

As it turns out my cousin owns a plumbing company and given the slowness of his business he agreed to come and take a look at it (I paid him for this work). He found that the trap in which the humidifer, evaporator and an ice machine drain into had a lot of build up of a gunk. Given that only a trickle of water flows into the trap it never had enough flow to clear this. His thought was that the water could still flow slowly through the buildup but the sewer gas could as well. In any case he cleaned it out and no more problem. By the way he was in agreement that I would be dead by now if this was a propane leak.

Thanks to all for your help.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 08:45 AM
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Glad you were able to identify the problem, electmast. Sounds like your brother did an excellent job for you.

And good call by Ecman, who first suggested sewer gas as a possible problem.


Gas leak complaints can be difficult for repairman. Overlooking something can be deadly, yet odors can be caused by lots of different things, as you found.

The utility I used to work for required repairman like me to test the ground around foundations and crawl spaces for gas in the soil that might come from leaking mains or gas services ---a leading cause of dangerous explosions. I've never known an independent repair service to do that kind of check.


And people can't evaluate the hazard that an odor might represent. Some people overreact to the most minor problems, other people will prefer to ignore real hazards.

The kind of generalized odor you described deserved to be taken very seriously because it could have been a leak capable of doing big damage.

Glad that wasn't the case, though!
 
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