Propane issues with food truck

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jsutor
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2013/09/24 22:15:26 (permalink)

Propane issues with food truck

I have owned my food truck for about 20 months now and both years around this time of year i start to get some propane issues. The problem is that the pressure in the main line isn't high enough to keep all my three appliances lit at a high enough temp. On my truck i have 2-One hundred pound propane tanks that provide gas to three appliances. A 40lb deep fryer, a 36in griddle and a steam table that can hold two full pans. 
I have replaced the regulator twice now and it seems to work just find for the first couple of days when we replace the regulator but then it begins to have problems again. I am always dealing with the pressure of the main line being too low. Some days are better than others, but what confuses me if the inconsistency of the pressure in the main line. I have had a couple propane experts come out to check on the issue and none of them can put a finger on why it keeps messing up. 
I'm wondering if anyone else out there has had this same issue and if they were able to fix the problem. I can provide whatever other information you need to help me out. I'm at my whits end and I'm searching everywhere for help! 
#1

27 Replies Related Threads

    fishscale28
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/24 23:22:17 (permalink)
    Are the tanks getting too cold/freezing because of over demand? Are you using two simultaneously or on at a time?
    #2
    edwmax
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/25 03:55:47 (permalink)
    What is the max. BTU requirement/output of the equipment?   ... 40lb deep fryer, a 36in griddle and a steam table  ...
     
    What size is the main gas line from the tank?
     
    Next, freezing & visible frost on the gas line & tank is an indication of lack of capacity of the tank to meet vapor demand.   ... The LP tank acts as a boiler producing steam, in this case gas vapor.   In cold weather the btu output of single 100lb tank (@25%) is as follows (2 tanks; X's 2):
    +40F .... 61,500  btu
    +30F .... 52,400  btu
    +20F .... 43,300  btu
    +10F .... 17,200  btu
    0 .....       25,000  btu
     
    In cold weather you may need to open both tanks and provide heat blankets on the tanks. 
    post edited by edwmax - 2013/09/25 04:21:29
    #3
    jsutor
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/25 09:32:28 (permalink)
    The tanks can be used at the same time but from what i've heard, the regulator only pulls from the tank with the highest pressure at the time so having them both on wouldn't do anything different? They could be wrong but i have been going off that comment and just using one which always seems to work until now. The tanks don't seem to be showing any sign of freezing or frosting on them. 
    #4
    jsutor
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/25 09:40:09 (permalink)
    All the equipment combines has a max output of about 200,000 BTU's if i remember correctly. The main gas line is 3/4 of an inch. We were in a pinch and got a new regulator that had a max outlet of 360,000 BTU's and a 3/8ths inch outlet. It worked great for about two days but now is back to not having enough pressure in the main line. The weather here is about <50 at night when we are running it but the tanks are almost full. I have a heating blanket for it that i plan on putting on it when it gets a little colder. 
    #5
    hpx
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/25 10:11:58 (permalink)
    sounds like you have some sort of debris in your piping from the regulator to your appliances. When you change out the regulator it settles and then "kicks" back up after a few days again. Is the piping from the regulator forward hoses? or black iron pipe? or what. this will restrict your flow in erratic ways. Just a thought
    #6
    roadkillgrill
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/25 11:22:22 (permalink)
    Ok it sounds like a similar problem I had years ago. the prime regulator is not large enough. They replaced my primary regulator with a high output regulator. It's red and LARGE!!!  then installed inline regulators for those items that required lower pressure. been working like a dream for years now.
     
    Now the other thing it might be is the safety valve inside the shut off valve on the tank. It is designed to cut back pressure if it believes there is a leak. this is taken care of by proper lighting technique, or last resort replace the valve .
    #7
    fishscale28
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/25 15:17:12 (permalink)
    I have a dual stage regulator (and it's a little guy) and they've been stellar.  Having both tanks going at the same time lessens the demand on one tank and will inhibit freezing or blockage from freezing/high demand.
     
    But it does sound like there is something going on.  Maybe if you can run the tanks empty and have then taken apart, cleaned and inspected you'd be able to possibly keep that from happening in the future
     
    #8
    edwmax
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/25 17:20:15 (permalink)
    jsutor

    The tanks can be used at the same time but from what i've heard, the regulator only pulls from the tank with the highest pressure at the time so having them both on wouldn't do anything different? They could be wrong but i have been going off that comment and just using one which always seems to work until now. The tanks don't seem to be showing any sign of freezing or frosting on them. 
       ... If the two tanks are manifold together, then connected to the regulator; the pressure will be equal in both tanks. And, both tanks will supply gas equally.
     
    Now, it you have auto switch over valves, then supply might be restricted to one tank at a time..
     
     
     
    #9
    edwmax
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/09/25 17:30:40 (permalink)
    jsutor

    All the equipment combines has a max output of about 200,000 BTU's if i remember correctly. The main gas line is 3/4 of an inch. We were in a pinch and got a new regulator that had a max outlet of 360,000 BTU's and a 3/8ths inch outlet. It worked great for about two days but now is back to not having enough pressure in the main line. The weather here is about <50 at night when we are running it but the tanks are almost full. I have a heating blanket for it that i plan on putting on it when it gets a little colder. 

     
    100lb tanks are not big enough to supply the maximum demand of 200, 000 btu.  However most cooking equipment doesn't always work at max. burn.    Even if the equipment is burning at 50% (100, 000 btu), this is more than one 100 lb tank should be supplying.  This is the juggling act most hotdoggers & truck/trailer concessions have to deal with ... usually the result of oversize commercial equipment    ... So in 70 & 80 deg weather your are getting passable gas supply from the tanks.   Below about 60 deg, you will have problems.    ... Even if there are no obstructions in the lines.    
    post edited by edwmax - 2013/09/25 18:01:13
    #10
    jsutor
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/01 11:46:55 (permalink)
    This is one of my thoughts too. When we take the trailer out some night we leave the propane running while we drive. I don't know if its possible for the liquid propane to slosh around and drop down into the piping or the regulator but we definitely drive around with the propane on for short periods of time. My thought is that if its possible for the liquid propane to slosh around and drop into the pipe that it would cause it to clog up and restrict flow to the main line. 
    The other weird thing is that when i test the griddle line when only my griddle in on, it is running at 9 on the WC. This is after the regulator to the main line and after the regulator for the appliance. Even when i turn on my steam table, the pressure for the griddle stays the same. But the second i turn on my deef fryer, the pressure drops to 1 on the WC. When all three appliances are on, the pressure in the regulator is at 12 on the WC, which makes no sense to me. Thats why i think something might be in the pipe. Our main line is a 3/4" black iron pipe i believe. 
    #11
    CajunKing
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/01 12:29:39 (permalink)
    edwmax - I still want your brain!  Your knowledge in these matters is truly an asset.
    #12
    edwmax
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/01 13:24:29 (permalink)
    jsutor
    ....
    The other weird thing is that when i test the griddle line when only my griddle in on, it is running at 9 on the WC. This is after the regulator to the main line and after the regulator for the appliance. Even when i turn on my steam table, the pressure for the griddle stays the same. But the second i turn on my deef fryer, the pressure drops to 1 on the WC. When all three appliances are on, the pressure in the regulator is at 12 on the WC, which makes no sense to me. Thats why i think something might be in the pipe. Our main line is a 3/4" black iron pipe i believe. 

     
    I assume this reading is at the griddle where the 9 WC was being read.   
    1st.   What is the Brand name and  model number of your Fryer? Then we might be able to located the installation manual.
     
    Now you stated above the fryer was a 40 lb model, these are usually floor models with a BTU requirement of about 90,000.  ... This gas demand by itself exceeds the rated capacity of a single 100lb tank in cool weather.   ... Gas like water follows the path of lest resistance, the deep fryer is using all the available gas supply!
     
    Since I don't know your specific fryer model, I will use the Entree model F-3 as an example. http://www.acitydiscount.com/Entree-40lb-LP-Gas-Restaurant-Deep-Fryer-w-Two-Fry-Baskets-F3-P.0.115504.1.1.htm  ... installation manual, pdf http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&ved=0CFQQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.avantcoequipment.com%2Fdocs%2FFF300-500.pdf&ei=1v9KUo-kGZa54AOikICoAQ&usg=AFQjCNHtmo_F506aW_vXID7eSPjxHdTyRA&sig2=2PcMoWRCxMwjwnwkXXuB2w&bvm=bv.53371865,d.dmg
     
    Now this model & installation manual indicates the unit requires a min. of 10WC after its built-in regulator and the main supply line (3/4 inch) pressure needs to be 11 WC after an allowance of 25% pressure drop.    Therefore, the min supply 'main' line pressure should be 15 to 16 WC (may be 18 WC) to insure the 11WC min at the fryer when it is on.
     
    I would try setting the Fryer at about 7 or 8 WC (70% to 80%) to reduce the max BTU of the unit.  This should help gas supply to other appliances, and reduce possible freezing at the tank.     Once the oil is up to operating temp, I doubt you would notice little difference.
     
    If your fryer doesn't have a regulator, it needs one (you haven't stated so above).  Also, make sure an LP orifice is installed instead of the Nat Gas orifice.    ... This example could be a lot different from your specific model, BUT I don't think so.
    #13
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/02 02:21:15 (permalink)
    I'm learning stuff. This is why I enjoy this forum. I'm totally here to learn more then I am to teach.
    #14
    daddywoofdawg
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/06 23:16:24 (permalink)
    If you turn on any reg from the tank to fast the safety valve kicks in,turn on the reg valve slowly to keep the safety from kicking in slowing the flow down.
    #15
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/07 17:45:04 (permalink)
    So I have a 36" jade griddle, and a two burner hot plate, and it ran just fine full raring to go for a whole shift on a twenty pound tank. I was under the understand by Edmax that this was impossible. Is my truck The Messiah? Is it a miracle? Am I delusional? Or just confused?
    #16
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/07 17:46:04 (permalink)
    Either way I was really worried it wouldn't work, and now im confident as long as I fill up daily and keep and extra tank on hand I will be fine
    #17
    edwmax
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/07 21:30:28 (permalink)
    gonzojuice

    So I have a 36" jade griddle, and a two burner hot plate, and it ran just fine full raring to go for a whole shift on a twenty pound tank. I was under the understand by Edmax that this was impossible. Is my truck The Messiah? Is it a miracle? Am I delusional? Or just confused?

    First, what was the outside temperature or the temperature of the tank?    ...
    I didn't say it was impossible.   Gas output (vaporization) is a function of temperature, and wetted surface area (volume of gas & in contact with the tank wall) of the tank.   The steel tank acts like a water steam boiler, but in this case it used ambient air temperature to heat the LPG.   ... So you can heat a tank (hot water, heat blanket, bonfire) to force it vaporize the LPG for maximum pressure (220 psi @ 110 deg F) and BTU output.   With heat, you can force a 20 lb tank to supply 300,000 btu/hr and be empty in about 1 1/2 hrs.
     
    If you heat the tank,  I don't think you should heat to above 70 or 80 deg F (abt 100 psi).    The tank safety relief valves will open at about 375 psi.  
     
    Next, your flat grill and 2 burner hot plate would use less than half of the BTU of the OP of this thread; and I doubt you ran these wide open for a full shift.   Weight the tank at the start & end of the shift. Then multiply the LPG lbs used by 21900 btu & divide by the shift hours (run time).   Compare this to the maximum BTU rating of the grill & hot plate.     If the tank has moisture or frost on the outside, then it is not furnishing  the BTU & Gas demand.
    post edited by edwmax - 2013/10/07 21:33:46
    #18
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/08 14:32:22 (permalink)
    You are one smart cookie. Your right, I did not run full steam all night. I was a bit deceptive before. I did run them as needed and didn't experience a problem. It is also still quite warm in Texas. I have a thirty pound tank attached to the frame under the truck withan automatic switch over regulator and a twenty pound tank sitting on the ground that I hook up when I get to the gig. This is with the idea that I can run gas while I drive to heat the griddle and then switch when I get there to a bottle that is easier to fill or replace. This is important since I discovered my thirty pound tank actually has to be removed to fill(inconvenient). I mostly was really concerned that the small tank wouldn't run all my stuff at once. I may be screwed when it gets cold here for the week or two it actually does in Austin. Thanks Edwmax. A well put together and intelligent explanation is always welcome in my book. :-)
    #19
    fishscale28
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/08 16:53:10 (permalink)
    It doesn't make you nervous driving with the gas on and flowing through the equipment?  Not trying to rain on your parade but the potential for a boo boo would probably be pretty high with that practice.  But I could be totally wrong
    #20
    chefbuba
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/08 23:10:01 (permalink)
    I drove around every morning for seven years with the truck fully ablaze when I was doing movie catering. We would leave the commissary ready to serve breakfast, drive to the location, be it ten minutes or two hrs away. Pretty much show up and start serving within 30 minutes. Long slow cook items in the oven, steam table and coffee urns on.
    Large metro areas with industrial caterers do the same thing all day long, cooking while they are driving to get ready for the next stop.
    #21
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/09 16:03:17 (permalink)
    Doesn't make me nervous at all. Hard lines are attached very well to the frame of the truck, and lines going to equipment on one side and to the tank on the other side are flexible. I installed it all myself. I'm not nervous.
    #22
    fishscale28
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/09 17:30:05 (permalink)
    Different strokes I guess...I'm sure there isn't a single thing to worry about but I just heir on the side of a bit more caution.  It only takes my flattop and fryer about 15 minutes to get to operating temps and I've been loving my pressure cooker for those longer cooking items.  I would just hate to think a flame could go out accidentally and have something else ignite it...or the off chance a piece of equipment came loose in an accident and ripped the gas line out with an open flame still present.
     
    http://www.mobilefoodnews.../2011/04/FRITES-21.jpg
     
    Would an insurance claim be challenged it it was discovered one was driving with propane running?  
     
    I'm not hating...I'm the last person who needs to be telling any seasoned owner any of this...just some concerns I might have.  And there might be others here who aren't as careful as you guys and could definitely put themselves in danger
    #23
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/10 12:06:46 (permalink)
    No, your concerns are fully valid and aren't outlandish or un sensible at all. I especially think it's good to question each other on this site. I'm still not nervous though.
    #24
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/10 12:08:02 (permalink)
    We did recently have a trailer burn down here in Austin also. Well it's repairable, but burned out.
    #25
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/10 12:09:30 (permalink)
    I would have to recommend against some of the things I do, by the way :-)
    #26
    edwmax
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/10 12:49:02 (permalink)
    Welllll ....   some of us has to learn the HARD way.     ... I'd be more concerned with spillage and the mess to cleanup.
    #27
    gonzojuice
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    Re:Propane issues with food truck 2013/10/11 01:10:00 (permalink)
    Spillage? I have no fryer and soup pots are secured.
    #28
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