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Thread: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

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    I.Robert's Avatar
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    Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    Hello,

    First of all - huge thanks to TFP as this season has been literally trouble free (at least the pool was)

    We just installed a pool heater in the spring and it's wonderful!
    I have a question about the heater and am wondering if anyone else experiences this...

    Occasionally when the heater is off, I can smell a faint odor of natural gas (mercaptan). I can smell it sometimes when I get within a few yards of the heater and then I can't smell it again for about a minute. Even if I get right up to the lines and the unit, I won't smell it unless I wait a while.

    The gas guy who installed the line could not detect any leak by the soap method or with his electronic detector.
    He said that some of these heaters have valves to the atmosphere and it could purge some gas at times.

    I also read on the internet that some people are especially sensitive to mercaptan and can smell it when the leak is actually acceptable and harmless. It seems strange to me that any leak is acceptable.

    Thanks for your thoughts or advice!

    -Rob
    7400gal AG :: Hayward PowerFlo Matrix 1hp single speed pump :: Hayward Pro 150lb sand filter :: RayPak 156 150k BTU natural gas heater :: TF-100 test kit

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    setsailsoon's Avatar
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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    Rob,

    Doesn't sound right to me. I believe many of the newer heaters have a purge cycle that's part of the start sequence logic. These systems run the air blower through the air intake, burners, and exhaust for a short time to be sure there's no possibility of having explosive level then they turn on the ignite element then open the gas valve. If the system doesn't detect a flame the gas valve shuts. So you could get a little gas in the exhaust during a start cycle. But this wouldn't happen when the unit is not running. I'd have the installer check again. You can't be too careful with gas. The odorant is put in the gas for one reason. To let you know you have a leak. It's done its job and now you should get the installer to find out where the leak is. If he can't find it tell him your not comfortable 'till he makes it stop and escalate with his supervisor if needed. The chance of this being your nose's fault is almost zero.

    I hope this helps.

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump,Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    This unit doesn't have a purge cycle as it doesn't have a blower on it. Units that have blower motors will run a purge cycle.

    As for the gas smell, is there a regulator somewhere near the heater? Possible that the regulator might be dumping a small amount especially if the diaphragm is having issues. If no regulator, does the supply line come from up out of the ground? Here in FL we use galvanized pipe and lots of times I see where it comes up out of the ground rusts out and every once in a while you might get a whiff of gas. However, usually testing with soapy water tells you there is a small leak.

    The electronic sniffers is usually pretty sensitive and can pick up very small amounts usually. If he soap tested all of the connections and still found nothing then I wouldn't know what else to tell you to check.
    Paul
    http://www.gastekservices.com

    A word of caution: When working with gas and electrical you might want to consider a licensed contractor. Consider the value of your life and others around you.

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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    It's possible to get a faint smell coming right off of the burners, or the draft hood especially soon after it shuts down. If you smell gas whenever you enter the room or walk by the heater you have a leak. It doesn't take much gas in the room at all for you to pick up the smell, many times below the lower explosive limit concentration of 5%.

    Common leaks on any gas appliance are joints and valves either in the piping, or sometimes internal to the heater (gas valve, pilot connections, test port plug, etc).

    As mentioned before, if there is a regulator in line somewhere nearby, it has a vent on it, and it can puff a tiny amount of gas occasionally. Usually in a residential situation you won't have a separate regulator near the appliance as it's built into the unit's gas valve. The main regulator will be at the meter. If there is a constant odor from that, though, it has failed and needs replaced.

    If you can smell it, a decent electronic sniffer in the right hands should be able to find it. I have pinpointed many a gas leak with just my nose, then verified with soap bubbles, or a lighter. I'm not going to officially recommend that, though, lol...
    16' x 34' 16,000 gallon | IG Vinyl | Pentair Tagelus sand filter | Jandy 2hp epump | AquaPro PRO1300 heat pump | Coverstar auto cover | Taylor K-2006 | built August, 2016.

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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    Thanks everyone for the great replies!

    The line is yellow gastite to cast iron, with brass couplings.

    There is no external regulator.

    Could the internal regulator occasionally discharge normally? It's definitely not a constant leak.

    Also I think it is more than a minute or two between discharges. I took a sniff last night.

    -Rob

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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    There is no internal regulator, just a gas valve that is run off of 24V and is activated when you turn the heater on.

    Where are you smelling at?
    Paul
    http://www.gastekservices.com

    A word of caution: When working with gas and electrical you might want to consider a licensed contractor. Consider the value of your life and others around you.

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    I.Robert's Avatar
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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    Anywhere nearby the appliance but it seems stronger if I get right up to the area where the line enters it.

    The installer had the cover off and I watched as he soaped every connection inside and out. Of course at that time there was no odor for him to smell

    -Rob

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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    Rob,

    You've got an expert on this thread that clearly knows more than I do about your specific unit. So I'll stand aside as he helps you. I'm definitely not an expert on your unit. I will say though that I've worked in the gas production industry for 40 years. Most of the time when people have problems like you describe it turns out to be a faulty part or fitting that is leaking such a minor amount of gas it's very hard to detect until it gets worse and then it gets fixed... no big deal. However there are those cases where it gets bad quickly and unexpectedly and somebody gets hurt. I've led fatal accident investigations several times and it's not pretty. So please don't write this off until you absolutely, positively are certain what's causing it and it is fixed.

    Best regards,

    Chris
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump,Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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    I.Robert's Avatar
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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    I appreciate all of the replies!
    It was really helpful to know that this appliance should not purge.

    I finally got my gas guy to send someone to check everything.
    It turns out that one of the gastite fittings just needed to be a little tighter. It took over a minute to build a soap bubble. The tech said that he was surprised I could even smell that outside. Not a dangerous leak at that stage, but a leak is a leak.

    Happy to get to the bottom of it!

    -Rob

    P.S. I forgot to mention that I also called Rheem to understand the warranty. They need a gas tech to document that the leak is internal to the unit, before they will authorize any work. They also said that the test needs to involve a manometer at the inlet and after the manifold.

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    MarianParoo's Avatar
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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    For any future people that read this thread... Our local gas provider will come out free of charge immediately if you call and report any kind of gas smell.
    27K IG rectangular; vinyl liner; sand filter; 1hp pump; auto-cover; heater; K-2006C.

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    Re: Natural gas odor while heater is off - RayPak 156

    Quote Originally Posted by I.Robert View Post
    I appreciate all of the replies!
    It was really helpful to know that this appliance should not purge.

    I finally got my gas guy to send someone to check everything.
    It turns out that one of the gastite fittings just needed to be a little tighter. It took over a minute to build a soap bubble. The tech said that he was surprised I could even smell that outside. Not a dangerous leak at that stage, but a leak is a leak.

    Happy to get to the bottom of it!

    -Rob

    P.S. I forgot to mention that I also called Rheem to understand the warranty. They need a gas tech to document that the leak is internal to the unit, before they will authorize any work. They also said that the test needs to involve a manometer at the inlet and after the manifold.
    Great Job! So happy that persistence paid off for you.

    Sent from my SM-N900V using Tapatalk
    -Chris-
    2013 In-ground plaster/pebble, screen enclosed, 12000 gal w/ Jandy 2 speed 1 HP pump,Jandy CS 200 cartridge filter 800 gal spa w/ 1.5 HP booster pump, Solar heater, 2 LED lights in pool 1 light in spa, TF-100 test kit, The PoolCleaner Next Generation, Jandy RS-12 Automation system with iAqualink 2.0 control, Separate Hayward/Goldline Solar control

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