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Thread: Propane heater question

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    Propane heater question

    Hi! I'm new here! I'm learning a ton already but could use some advice on this one. I bought a short sale in Phoenix that has an inground, plaster, play pool with attached spa. It looks old... early 90s maybe, built by Paddock, I believe. It has a Raypak propane heater and 4'x2' propane tank with no gauge or cert. label. This is my third pool but first experience with a heater.

    I'm feeling a little ripped off by the local pool supply store repairman ($180/hour???) and underwhelmed by the knowledge level (and response times) of the self-employed "pool guy" the seller's used. I just want someone to tell me how to see if the heater works. If it does, I only want to heat the spa, to see how expensive it is gas-wise before committing to much more. The heater does have a pool/spa switch and temp dials but I don't see how to fire it up. I don't know if the propane tank has gas and the truck won't fill it without me bringing it in for certification. Someone suggested I hook it up to a full BBQ-sized tank just for diagnosing the heater but I'm a little afraid to mess with the gas since I have no idea what I'm doing.

    Can anyone recommend someone to call to come troubleshoot this system?

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    Re: Propane heater question

    Call a contractor with gas experience, such as an HVAC contractor. You could call the propane supplier and ask them to recommend a contractor.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    The better thing to do, IMO, is find out who the propane tank belongs too. Did the owner of the house actually own the tank himself or was it leased from a propane comany? If it belongs to a propane comany, you need to call that company and have them come out and look at it. A gas HVAC guy can look at the heater, but you wont get anyone to fill the tank until they know its certified. The company that owns the tank can tell you that. The way propane gererally works is that you lease the tanks from a company, and you buy the propane from them. They give you the tanks for free if you buy a certain amount of propane per year. But until you determine who or what company owns the tanks, nobody is going to fill them until you get a certification. A full service propane company can look at the tank, check out the regulators, lines, etc, and can tell you have.
    FWIW, 4'x2' tank doesnt sound big enough. Thats maybe 75 gallons? If you can load it up by yourself and bring it in, it's not big enough. I have a 400k heater and i have two, 150 gallon tanks for mine.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    A BIG "me, too" on what bk406 said.
    Dave S.
    42k vinyl and concrete pool, 1.5hp pump, 140gpm filter
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    Lershac's Avatar
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    Re: Propane heater question

    Bk, what's your run time on that heater with that amount of propane? Just curious?
    (DIY):16K Gal 20X30 rectangular IG Gunite, w/spa, CCP 520 filter,2 Pentair VS pumps, 400KBTU Pentair gas heater, Heat Pump for cooling, **update5.25.2013** added an intellichem with acid pump that will control existing SWG. My Build Thread Here

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    Re: Propane heater question

    Thanks! I don't think it's leased. It has no identifiers on it and the prior homeowners had it here their whole 6 year stay and never used it. The propane company I called didn't mention leasing but said to buy a new one would be like $129. I'm guessing that's what the original pool owner did?

    It's not big enough to heat a small spa? The propane people said I could load it up and move it myself, full or empty. They thought maybe 200 lbs. full.

    I guess the thing to do is first see if the heater works and then decide if the expense of a new (larger?) tank and the gas will be worthwhile.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Contrary


    It's not big enough to heat a small spa? .
    Thats not really the issue. The heater pulls a lot of gas to fire itself. Much more than a gas grill. If there's not enough gas in the tank, it will freeze up as the gas is drawn out. Propane exists as a liquid and a gas. The amount of gas in a tank depends a several factors including the volume of the tank, the ambient air temperature, the surface area of the tank, etc. The more surface area of the tank, the more gas that will be available to fire the heater. If the tank is too small, the gas gets drawn off to quickly before the liquid has a chance to vaporize. When that happens, the flame gets yellow, doesnt heat to full capacity casuing the heater to soot, or even go out.

    As for a new tank costing $129, thats a small tank. The right size would be at least 125-150 gallons, at the minimum. Depends on the heater size really. Do you nkow what the ehater size is? A 200 gallon tank can costm up to $400. As I said earlier, you dont buy the tanks, you lease them from the propane company. Once you do that, they certify the tanks, keep them maintained, and you dont owe anything on them if you buy a certain amount of gas each year. i have to buy 250 gallons per year, which i do easily since i also have a firplace insert and cook with propane as well. Since you have the spa, your going to need to heat it to use it. I'd call a local propane company, have them look at it, and have them give you the info for tank lease, minimum yearly buy, etc.

    Lershac,
    About 70 hours. Last season I used around 220 gallons total from April 15th-October 20th. But I also have a heat pump so a lot of the season I only use the HP. I use the gas on either end of the season and sometimes here and there My-august when its cooler or if it's been rainy. The HP doesn't do much below 65-63 degrees or so and if its raining, forget it.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    I don't know the size. It says "BTU Hr Input 333600"? It seems odd Shasta Pools would undersize the tank. It wouldn't surprise me if whoever built this never planned on heating the pool, only the spa. Heating pools is rare out here. The swim season is plenty long already for most.

    I will be bummed if the spa isn't functional because who wants a cold spa in your yard but it's a matter of cost, too. Many people tell me to forget it and buy an above ground spa instead, if I want a spa. This pool/spa is kind of looking like it might need new everything in coming years, and we are not much for using our pools. Though I won't let it sit green, I definitely will let a spa sit cold if it's cost prohibitive.

    Thanks!! I will call some other propane companies for referrals and pricing on tank leases.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    The heater is ~300k BTU heater. Not a bad size, really.
    Shasta pools didnt put in the propane tank. The pool comany doesnt mess with gas. You said that the previous owner didnt use the heat, so my guess is he bought a tank and didnt know what he was doing. Again, even if they onlu wanted to heat the spa only, the tank you have isnt big enough to fire that heater properly.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    I'm pretty sure the previous owners never touched it out there. They had a hoard of preschoolers and had it locked off like Fort Knox. What little landscaping there was is dead.

    But who knows who put the tank in. It's painted the same color as the block wall that looks like it was painted a long time ago, and is boxed in by an oleander that looks old, too. I've seen other pool/spas and never noticed much larger tanks, but I guess I wouldn't have paid much attention. Thanks!

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    Re: Propane heater question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Contrary
    They thought maybe 200 lbs. full.
    Assuming a cylinder 4 foot long and 2 foot in diameter, that would be about 95 gallons. Using a density of about 4.2 pounds per gallon, that would make the propane in a full tank weigh about 400 pounds. The tank is probably about 250 pounds. The total full weight of the tank plus the liquid propane would be about 650 pounds. The tank won't be filled to 100 %, so it would weigh less, probably around 570 pounds full.

    As bk406 noted, that tank is undersized, especially if you live somewhere cold. I think that a 200 gallon tank would be about right for that heater.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    Wow, I don't know how the propane shop thought I'd be wheeling that off a pickup bed! Maybe I misunderstood her. She said it wasn't hard, she could roll them around herself, that size. She also predicted about $129 to fill the tank, if that's any indication of what size she thought it was. Oddly, the collar on the tank is stamped with WC 1000, which she said means 'water capacity' but clearly that 4' tank isn't that size.

    I'm in Phoenix so it's very mild.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    The WC 1000 means the tank will hold 1000 pounds of water, which means that it is a 120 gallon tank. That tank might work as long as the propane is at least 55 F.

    Assuming a 500 gallon hot tub and an 83 % efficient heater, it would take about 2.2 gallons of propane to raise the water temperature by 40 degrees. Using a propane cost of $2.85 per gallon, it would cost $6.27 to raise the temperature by 40 degrees ($0.157 per degree).

    Assuming a 72 gallon delivery (assuming a 60 % usable capacity), it would cost $205.

    72 gallons of propane would provide 6,624,000 Btu, which would allow the heater to run for about 20 hours and would provide about 1,318 degrees (assuming an 83 % efficient heater).

    The other number that should be stamped on the tank is the Tare weight (TW), which is the weight of the empty tank.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    I think I love you. :P

    It looks smaller than what Google Images shows for 500 gallon spas. It's just a little curved bench seat for maybe 3 and the other side is the wall separating it from the pool.

    I have to try it, if the heater works, or I'll always wonder. I used to use an electric spa nightly at a house I owned in college and I was dirt poor then, and it was an ancient, in-ground spa. Surely the propane is cheaper? But it sounds like it's roughly $10/hour to run the heater ($205 tank/20 hours run time)? The weather here in winter runs about 45-70 degrees (hi/lo) this time of year. How long would the heater need to run to bring it back up to temp each night, I wonder? There's no cover for the spa so it'd be losing heat overnight for sure. I imagine I should make a 'solar cover' for it.

    Thanks!!!

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    Re: Propane heater question

    The cost to keep the tub heated will depend on several factors, such as insulation, being covered etc. I would estimate that it would probably cost between 20 to 50 dollars per month. I think that it would be worth using if you can get the heater in good working condition. I would estimate that the heater would only need to run about 5 to 10 minutes per day. At a run time of 10 minutes, that would allow 120 days of use on 72 gallons of propane.

    Also, the price of LP gas varies, so your cost will also depend on what your price is.

  16. Back To Top    #16

    Re: Propane heater question

    Now I KNOW I love you! Seriously, it helps so much to hear these estimates, even if they're not right. I'm a data person so paying a pro to come out and look at the heater when others are telling me "forget it" is hard, unless I have a realistic best case scenario. It was 1999 when I moved away from my spa and I've always missed it but I never got another because I always had a pool to maintain and the thought of managing two separate bodies of water sounded like a chore. Thank you!

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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Propane heater question

    Just to reiterate, what you have is a 100 gallon tank. That's a standard size and in a lot of places the minimum quantity an LP company will deliver.

    If your spa is less than 500 gallons the tank should be fine to heat it, but it's not going to heat it for very long. If you don't have to replace anything in the system (regulator, etc) it'll be worth it to try it. Also, around here the delivery person will "soap test" for leaks outside the home and re-light any pilots if requested. You'll need to check with your local companies to see if they offer that service.
    Dave J. TFP Moderator
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    Re: Propane heater question

    I also cant stress enough that you need to have the LP company come out and look at it. All the lines, regulators, and tank need to be inspected. Until thats done, no one will just bring you gas.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

  19. Back To Top    #19

    Re: Propane heater question

    Thanks. The one propane company I called told me they wouldn't bring me gas without a current cert on the tank and that to get them to certify it I had to bring it in. I'll see if I can find a company that will do it on site.

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    Re: Propane heater question

    Honestly, just have an LP company come out and give you an estimate on a tank install. Forget you even have a tank there. Talk to the sales department, not the delivery department. An estimate should be free. The tank will be free too as long as you buy a certain amount of gas per year. They'll bring you a tank, look at the current set up, put their own regulators on it, check the existing lines and sell you a tank full of LP.
    14,000 gallon IG, Vinyl. Hayward 3/4 hp superpump, Penatair IC40 SWCG, Pentair automation, Hayward sand filter, Aqua Comfort heat pump, Hayward 400k Lo-Nox LP heater.

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