When last I posted about this topic I’d reached out to Ballard Sheet Metal to fabricate two custom brackets I intended to use to mount a pair of 20lb propane tanks on the stern of Miss Teak. I was contacted last Friday and told they’d be ready this Friday, a week later. Monday afternoon however, Greg contacted me to let me know the parts were ready for pickup. Felt like Christmas morning…the kind of Christmas morning where you pay Santa over $300 bucks before he hands over your presents.
Nonetheless I was excited about the end product. In addition to the speed of service, the quality of the fabrication is exceptional. They are not anodized. I’d contacted a local company to get a quote on anodization and was told it could be done for ~$150 apiece. I will not be anodizing these brackets any time soon. Sure Marine provided the tanks, the stainless steel straps, hoses, brass tees, propane and advice.
Here’s the tanks dry fitted on the stern.
Here’s the assembly I’m using for the tanks.
I’ve got three shutoff valves. One for each tank and one for the high pressure outlet for the BBQ. The valve on the BBQ outlet is redundant since it automatically cuts off the gas when the hose is disconnected. I figure better safe than sorry since it wouldn’t be the first time a component designed not to fail has failed. In fact, the other two valves which shut off the incoming propane from each of the incoming tanks are equally redundant since I could simply turn the valve knob at the tanks to shut off gas from an individual tank if need be. A single pressure gauge facilitates leak testing (more on that later). The high pressure shutoff solenoid below the BBQ outlet is wired to a Xintex controller mounted in the galley which is in turn wired to two gasoline/propane sniffers to warn us if any gasoline or propane is accumulating in the boat and shut off the propane automagically should this occur. Currently I’m still trying to determine the best location to permanently mount each of the two sniffers. Finally, two hoses lead back to the two appliances consuming propane in the cabin. Specifically our older 70’s-era 3 burner stove / oven and our new Dickinsen bulkhead mounted heater. You’ll note I’ve given each appliance it’s own low pressure regulator. This is recommended by ABYC standards but plenty of people get away with running more than one appliance off of a single regulator. The potential problem is when all appliances are at full throttle, one may be starved for propane. Depending on the appliance this could pose a hazard. However as mentioned, most people are just fine getting by with one. Since I’m building this from scratch and I have the room behind one of the tanks on the stern to mount this assembly I went with one regulator for each appliance as per the recommendation. With two 20lb tanks costing less than $30 to fill together at Sure Marine we’re interested to see how long we’ll get by with the heater running as often as needed and the stove and oven used to cook most of our meals daily.Speaking of our heater, Dan from Emerald Harbor Marine came Tuesday afternoon to drill a hole in the deck for the chimney vent used by the heater.
I was comfortable with all the other details of the install but I couldn’t bring myself to drill a 3 inch hole through our boat’s 40 year old skin. Looking back I can see now I would have been able to handle it myself just fine however with Dan’s experience and a little bit of sunshine peeking through the clouds we got it done within an hour or so. Had I done the work myself I’d have second guessed every step and spent far too much time looking up every step on Google and in books to ensure I wasn’t going to regret the next step. I’m certain it would have taken me 10 times as long since I’d never done it before. Dan was fast, the work was stellar and most importantly he shared with me everything he was doing along with why it was being done. I feel like I came away with more than a chimney install, I came away with some imparted knowledge which alone was worth cost of having someone help me with this step.After the heater was mounted I wired it up along with the propane controller, solenoid and sniffers. The brass fittings needed to be tightened and the fittings that were threaded needed Teflon added. Fittings sealed with a flare, o-ring or compression fitting should not use Teflon since the seal on these fittings is accomplished by metal on metal contact. Adding Teflon to these fittings introduces the potential the Teflon will get on this metal and prevent a solid seal. After using a couple of wrenches to tighten all the fittings as much as I could keeping in mind not to over tighten it was time to turn on the gas and conduct a pressure test for leaks. Pressure testing for leaks should be done often. Very often. As often as you care about not having a leak and blowing up, assuming that’s something you care about. Since the test takes only a few minutes one would be prudent to test every single time the gas is turned on. Contrary to some articles and forum posts I’ve found online, the way to test for leaks does NOT involve waving a lighter around the fittings unless you have a keen desire to experience Darwinism first hand, then by all means…:-|. The correct procedure is simple, utilizes your pressure gauge and is thus:
- Turn on the propane by activating the solenoid switch in the galley (or wherever you have it mounted).
- Turn on an appliance, for example a stove burner.
- Turn off the appliance however leave the solenoid switch turned on.
- Go to your propane locker or wherever your pressure gauge is and note the reading. In my case it read exactly 100psi. If you don’t think you can remember the reading for 3 whole minutes. Write it down.
- Now leaving everything else as is, close the valves on the tank(s) to shut off the gas from the tank(s).
- Wait 3 minutes.
- Read the pressure gauge again.
- If the pressure reads the same, wait another 15 minutes and read it one more time.
- If there is no change in pressure you can be confident you are leak free.
Shortly after 2 AM, I fried up a couple of pork chops on the now safe stove and chowed down with my beautiful wife in front of the romantic glow of our new heater. Although the heater did a great job of toasting the cabin’s interior I was warmed more by the satisfaction of finishing up this marathon install without blowing anything or anyone up. Always a good conclusion to a boat project. I’ve still got a few minor details to wrap up. The brackets need a couple of pairs of holes for u-bolts to attach to the stern rails to prevent lateral motion while underway. The regulator assembly needs a more permanent attachment to the rails as well. A zip tie currently fills the role but another u-bolt may get the final job. As mentioned previously I still need to find a permanent home for the leak detection sniffers. I’ll have those tasks done in short time along with pictures. For now, we’re warm and confident in the safety of our new system.