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Thread: Propane heaters

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    Maine
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    Propane heaters

    Wonder what your experience is with propane wall mounted heaters used to supply water to existing hot water radiators? Specifically, does there exist any particular risk of fire caused by sawdust or fumes? It's my belief that these units use intake air from outside and thus there should be no such risk. But I'm wondering what the "real world experience" is. Let's look specifically at units installed in the last 5 or 6 years please.

    Thanks in advance!
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    Jim Mackell
    Arundel, ME

  2. #2
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    There are two types of propane/gas heating devices; vented and unvented. Vented is preferred for both intake and exhaust for both safety reasons and to not have an excess moisture issue in the space you are heating. In fact, unvented units are not legal in some geographies at this point. Your fire hazard should be limited with these devices relative to sawdust. (clean them off regularly) Using finishing materials that have highly flammable (and dangerous to humans) fumes honestly shouldn't be done without a proper environment anyway.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
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    Jan 2010
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    Naperville,IL
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    Are you talking about tankless water heater?
    Jaromir

  4. #4
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    Aug 2004
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    Millsboro, DE
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    Is that the only option? I just installed a mini-split. Smallish heat pump unit on the wall with lines to an small outside compressor. Mine is efficient down to 20 degrees F; there's a hyper version that's efficient to 5 degrees (wish I had that one last week!) Filters need to be blown off once periodically but no flames. Also cools but that might not be so important in Maine.

    The house does have a tankless water heater which does suck air in from the outside and works like a champ.

  5. #5
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    Aug 2006
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    Maine
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    The heating system in the shop where I volunteer is on the verge of dying. From what our sources tell us, we should be replacing our old, large antique oil boiler with 2 new boilers to carry the load. They have given us proposal for both propane and oil. Initial cost of propane is less, but in our area, using heating oil will be about $1,500. less annually for the same number of BTU's. Both oil and propane now can be wall mounted and direct vented and use intake air from outside. I personally like propane because it's cleaner but it's really hard to justify the ongoing extra expense. And there's a few folks who keep insisting we'll blow up because of the sawdust/gas combo.
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    Jim Mackell
    Arundel, ME

  6. #6
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    Somewhere in the Land of Lincoln
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    On demand high efficiency water heaters are often used for floor heat. (Pipe in the concrete) Whether that is a viable option here is difficult to say. It depends on the system needs as far as flow. You can see Mike Hedricks in-floor set up in the workshop forum. When I get to that point that's how my shop will be heated. It's what many floor heat specialists recommend. Boilers run higher temperatures and aren't as efficient for floor heat. I suspect it might be the same situation except for the opposite reason with radiators. In floor heat you don't need the high temperature of a boiler. So a water heater works well. Some even use tank type water heaters but I don't know how well they work. The high efficiency tankless vent through the wall with intake and exhaust.

  7. #7
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    Ronald, I haven't seen a tankless water heater used for radiant heat...since they are activated by water flow, can I assume that there's some form of circulation pump that can be thermostatically controlled? (I have two large tankless water heaters in our home, so I'm intimately familiar with them for their primary purpose)
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
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    Boston
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    Not to hijack the thread but what is the name of the “hyper” mini-split?
    Don

  9. #9
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    Nov 2013
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    Falls Church, VA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Ronald, I haven't seen a tankless water heater used for radiant heat...since they are activated by water flow, can I assume that there's some form of circulation pump that can be thermostatically controlled? (I have two large tankless water heaters in our home, so I'm intimately familiar with them for their primary purpose)
    Jim — That’s exactly how our radiant floor heat works. Rinnai tankless supplies the hot water to circulation pumps that “create” the demand based on the slab thermostat. The previous owner put the system in, so it wasn’t our decision. It works, but according to our radiant floor contractor it isn’t necessarily the ideal way to implement radiant heat.

  10. #10
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    Yea, I can see that it might not be quite the best way. My observation is that tankless water heaters (while being the best thing since a hot spring... ) do like to work for a bit and are probably less happy with continual short on-off cycles.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
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    Jun 2017
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    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
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    The demand water heater (natural gas) we have heats water as needed for the house and for shop heat it heats a glycol solution closed loop in a separate burner that is pumped to a radiator and fan in my shop above the garage. If water is needed while the heat is on it changes over to heat the water and back after the hot water demand is over. It can instead of a radiator heat an in floor heat system.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Ronald, I haven't seen a tankless water heater used for radiant heat...since they are activated by water flow, can I assume that there's some form of circulation pump that can be thermostatically controlled? (I have two large tankless water heaters in our home, so I'm intimately familiar with them for their primary purpose)
    Actually from my limited knowledge at this point if you google it this is a recommended heat source. As for short cycling as was mentioned I don't think that's an issue at all. The beauty of radiant floor heat is the evenness and the steady temperature that's maintained. You aren't running the hot water to a faucet and when the thermostat calls for heat it is going to run for at least a few minutes to warm the floor and air enough to go to standby mode. Those I know who have it rave by it. I hope to have mine going by next winter. New house has to get finished first. Yes a circulating pump is used.

  13. #13
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    Nov 2013
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    Falls Church, VA
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    In our place, there is a separate tankless for the domestic hot water and one dedicated for the radiant floor since it’s a closed loop system.

  14. #14
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    Makes sense to me...I was just saying I hadn't see it done that way. I'm a believer in the tankless setup for sure...having two of them in this house.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
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    Sep 2016
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    Modesto, CA, USA
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    I think the extra expense and complications of a tankless heater are a waste in a heating system. I do not believe a tankless heater is any more efficient in the actual heating of the water. There advantage is that they do not have a large tank of hot water slowly cooling off.
    If the waterheater is only running in the heating season a small pilot light and heat lost out of the tank simply add heat to the house. But I live in a climate where you do not heat the house all the time in winter. Most of the time no heat is needed except early morning and evening. Most people I know turn the heat off at bedtime.
    Bill D

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