Propane for hot water and a fireplace insert

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JimD

Jim
Senior User
I went to some websites of local propane suppliers to try and get a plan together to get a large propane tank at the house, then put in a tankless water heater fueled by propane and then a fireplace insert with outside air intake and blower that burns propane. I don't have natural gas available. I haven't heard from the propane suppliers yet, I will call them or go buy if they don't call me today or send a note. I thought I'd post a note and see if anybody has any tips for any of these steps.

My three possible suppliers seem to be AmeriGas, Palmetto Propane and Suburban Propane. I actually talked to Palmetto Propane once already but it was about six months ago and I wasn't ready to do the work yet. I am off until 2019 so now is a good time for me, possibly not for them. Palmetto thought I'd need a 100 lb tank and I could have one or two - with two I'd always have gas. I asked about possibly using one of my little 20 lb tanks as a backup and the salesman was negative about it but didn't really say why.

Things I would like to know are location for the tank, do I need a little pad under it, whether I should buy or lease a tank - or do they just provide it if I keep buying gas from them. I also need to know what they do, just drop a tank off or do they set up a connection that me or my plumber ties into. I have a spot picked out on the other side of the wall I think I want the tankless to vent through. My idea would put the tank maybe six feet horizontally from the water heater exhaust. I would like to have some sort of backup that would allow me to have gas for a few days after the tank runs out while I am waiting on a refill. I am not very interested in a "just call us, we'll come right out" plan. What if it's a weekend, holiday, etc.. Usually it's just me but the kids visit and a house full of people with no hot water is not something I want to ever happen.

I've seen the tankless water heaters at Home Depot at what seems to be an OK price but not the installation kits. I think I would want to have a plumber's help, maybe they want to sell him the kit? Or it has to come from a plumbing supply or something? The plumber I used on an addition last year would let me be his helper to cut cost and that seems like a good arrangement. We could probably knock it off in a day. But I don't want to install the heater until I have at least a solid plan for the gas.

Anybody have an opinion on using a little gas grill tank as a backup? I have at least 3. And lots of places sell tanks somewhat full you can swap your "empty" tank for. If the little tank holds 1/5 of the big one, it seems like it could give me several days of backup.

Another potential use for the propane is a backup generator. It would save hauling gasoline and help the generator last longer. I got city water partially to have water if I loose power. I think if I had hot water, a little heat from the fireplace insert and a generator big enough to run the refrigerator plus a few other smallish loads I could be reasonably comfortable for our typically few hour power outage (I had one for 5 hours a few weeks ago, apparently due to wind).

Any suggestions?
 

MarkE

Mark
Corporate Member
We have the same setup here, gas fireplace and a tankless water heater.

We use Ferrellgas for propane. We are on an automatic delivery schedule and have never run out. Most propane dealers should offer this service. We did get down to 10% once so I called them and they showed up the next day. With auto delivery you should never have to worry about having a backup tank and/or the hassle of switching them out.

We have a 420 lb tank that holds 100 gallons when filled to 80%. A larger tank would have had to be located out in the backyard, this size can be right beside the house. The tank is leased from Ferrellgas for $39/year. The tank was looking pretty bad a couple of years ago and they sent a guy out to repaint it. He did a great job and there was no charge since it is their tank and they do any and all maintenance on the tank. Ferrellgas delivered and set up the tank and made all of the gas connections when we signed up with them.

Our water heater is a Rheem whole house unit mounted on the outside of the house. I wasn't sure how to properly mount it with our vinyl siding. FredP came over and got it mounted for us. I ran the electric for the heater control panel myself and hired a plumber to connect the water lines. Ferrellgas installed the gas line to the water heater, don't remember how much they charged. There is a remote control for the water temperature that I mounted inside the garage. It is normally set to 116 degrees but it will go down to 85 or up to 140, if we need really hot water for something. I use the 140 setting when filling up my canning pot for instance.

Our tank is sitting on three pieces of concrete, like stepping stones. The guy that installed the tank didn't seem to be too concerned about it being completely level, but it is very stable where it is.

I got the fittings for the water inlet and outlet on Amazon and the plumber installed those for me. They have hose bibs so I can flush the water heater with vinegar to clean the scale. Haven't done that yet, but I guess I should.

We have a ventless fireplace and it is the main heat source for the first floor. It has a remote thermostat that works very well. We keep the fireplace set to 70 degrees and the heat pump set at 68. The moisture from the fireplace is an added plus and really cuts down on the static electricity in the house in the winter.
 
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Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
I have the following:

1. Amerigas 500 gallon propane tank and they fill it based on their records of our usage (we've never run out in 30 years). They're pretty good at predicting about when we're due for a refill. Hassle free.

2. Propane gas furnace and stove.

3. Noritz tankless hot water heater. Rinnai is another reputable brand. One plumber installed it per codes and it took about 1 day. DIY was not an option in my opinion. I don't know anything about the tankless heaters from the BORGS.

4. Our regular 5000 watt gasoline generator works fine when we need it. Powering up selected items: lights, refrig and freezers, propane furnace.
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
Why do you heat hot water?
Good point Mike and it seems redundant doesn't it? Traditional water heaters cycle on and off to maintain a set point temperature somewhere between "less than hot and hot".
 

Raymond

Raymond
Corporate Member
Jim (JimD), I have never used propane, so no experience there. Tankless hot water heaters, I have used three different ones. The only thing I will say about them is make sure the one you choose is constructed with a stainless steel heat tank and not a copper one - stainless steel will give you better performance, longer life and needs less maintenance than a copper one.

If you are going to mount it on an external wall, make sure the outside enclosure is installed with a thermal insulation kit and that your water lines leading into are insulated and have an electrical pipe wrap (just to be on the safe side).
 

Tom from Clayton

tom
Senior User
This thread got me thinking about my vent-free fireplace heater. It's a Majestic and smells terrible. I wonder if anyone can suggest a vendor to take a look at it. My hands and knees days are long gone so I need a pro to help.
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
We use propane, for drying clothes, cooking, hot water, and back up heat. Been doing it for 38 years. Until last summer, our heat pump had a gas furnace for aux. heat. As soon as I can install a hydronic coil, again back up heat will be from LP. We have a 320 gallon tank, which holds 280 gallons, that in most years only needs filling less than twice. I would insist on a minimum of a 100 gallon tank, with two stage regulator. Smaller tanks (less than 100#) will have a hard time vaporizing propane fast enough to keep up with tankless WH. As for losses from WH (tank type) , when we go on a trip for less than a week, I turn WH to pilot before leaving, also shut off supply in case of a leak. When we return, seldom does burner come on when turned back up. We have been in this house for 38+ years, and are on our second LP gas WH. First one (expensive brand,) gas valve finally gave out, after 18 years, which means second (cheapie from Lowes) has been in for 20+ years. I knew I should have bought the 9 year one instead of the six year on the second one. FYI, the only difference between the 6 year and 9 year model is a second anode, and a couple hundred bucks in price. Over at Campers on a Mission, at state fair, we operate 50 gallon gas WH from a single 100# cylinder for the two weeks of state fair. We have NEVER run out of hot water at either place.
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
This thread got me thinking about my vent-free fireplace heater. It's a Majestic and smells terrible. I wonder if anyone can suggest a vendor to take a look at it. My hands and knees days are long gone so I need a pro to help.
Your LOCAL propane supplier would be my first choice. There is one right ther on business 70 in Clayton. Because it smells, it's not getting complete combustion. This could be as simple as cob webs and dust in air intake for burner, to burnt out burner. Very litlte else to go wrong.
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
On tanks, you have three choices, own, rent, or gas company furnished. Owning tank allows for ANY SUPPLIER to fill your tank. You can shop for best price. Rented, or furnished by gas company, only they can fill it. With no rent, usually you pay about a dime a gallon more than a rented tank. There are no free lunches. Your tank leaks, it's on you. Their tank leaks it's on them. You have asses your risk taking ability. I use gas company furnished tank, and am on will call, instead of automatic fill. I pay $0.10 a gallon more than I pay distributor for LP when I fill my small tanks. This means gas company sends a truck out for less than $28 to fill my tank, which is pretty cheap, IMHO.
 

Tom from Clayton

tom
Senior User
Thanks, junquecol but it's not a propane smell. I'm familiar with that. I think the catalytic filters need to be cleaned but you need to stand on your head and dismantle most of the fireplace to get to them so I'm looking for a commercial outfit that specializes in them. If the smell can't be removed then I will have a new one installed. I'm planning on selling the place in a year or so and it needs to work properly. We rarely use it so it hasn't mattered much in the past.
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
Since posting this I've talked to one local supplier and have another coming Monday. The one I talked to also charts your usage and autofills. They say there is a gauge you can check too. Seems OK. They seem to want to sell me the tankless water heater. I might go that way. They want to bring the propane after the heater is in and connect it, checking for leaks. I'll see what the other one says but I know they sell the water heaters too. The one I talked to sell Ranai (probably spelled wrong).

It sounded like I would be renting the tank, their install fee was really low, like less than $100. But we didn't specifically discuss it.

If it looks like their price is OK I might just let one of them install the water heater. I've reviewed the process and am pretty confident I can do all of it but I also don't want to mess around and have a problem - like no hot water if I forget to get something I cannot easily obtain. I will put in the outlet for it, however. I want it on the same circuit as the refrigerator (for generator purposes). I know by local code the frig is supposed to have a dedicated circuit but I think that is silly, the draw is well under 10 amps and the pilot of the water heater is about 1. So I may just give them the outlet. If they look too pricey, I will probably hire the plumber who roughed in two bathrooms and helped me hook up the city water last year. On the city water, I was the helper and it went well.
 

Raymond

Raymond
Corporate Member
Jim, we currently have the Rinnai Model RUC98i (indoor use only) - the Rinnai RC98e (outdoor use only) is what you want to look at; unless there is a newer model. With the model we have, when the full family is in house - hot water is no longer an issue and these models are designed to handle three hot water demands at the same time (without a drop off in selected temperature). Make sure you maintain your warranty by having it serviced every year - you won't regret it.
 

Drew

Drew Goodson
User
We have a 500 gallon in ground propane tank that heats the house, powers the range, and feeds the Rianni tankless water heater.

If you decide not to own your own tank, price and service are huge. We started with Amerigas and they were very difficult to deal with and expensive. We switched companies and are much happier and spend less. Luckily they didn’t have to dig up our tank. I would get all the local opinions I could on service and call around for pricing, acting as if you own a tank already in place.

Also, if you are able to locate the tankless water heater in doors, I would strongly recommend that. I didn’t pay extra for that and regret not having it in my garage to this day.
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
I plan an indoor installation for the water heater. The location I have selected is something we will discuss tomorrow.

I sent Amerigas an inquiry. They did not respond. I prefer three quotes but can work with two.
 

Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
I have an empty or nearly so, 500 gal. in-ground propane take you can have FOR FREE but you must dig it up and haul it away.

It is just under the surface so you might be able to remove the creeping juniper and dirt from above, some of the dirt on the sides, then use a piece of pipe to force water down and float it up.
 

zdorsch

Zach
Senior User
That’s been my experience in the midlands as well—call for quotes and maybe get a phone call back. If they call back it’s going to be weeks before work will begin. I’m scheduled to have a shingle removal and new shingles put on the week of New Years from a quote in late October/early November.
 
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