Propane boiler in basement?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by technogirl74, Sep 24, 2013.

  1. technogirl74

    technogirl74 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    ny
    Was hoping you guys can answer some questions.

    Quick background: Looking to replace our old oil boiler with a new boiler.
    We really want natural gas but its not on our street yet. We are being told it may happen in the future so we were thinking of buying the boiler but converting it to propane in the mean time.
    However, the installation instructions say a propane device cant be installed in a basement because propane is heavier than air.
    It references Chapter 5 of the 1994 UNIFORM MECHANICAL CODE but we cant find mention of if there are any interlocks that can be installed to make it ok.

    I tried contacting our building dept but that is proving useless as they are never there and keep transferring us to other inspectors and no one can seem to answer our questions.

    So before we spend money on a boiler and the permit process, was hoping to get some more insight.
    This is in Long Island NY if it that matters.
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    Not a good idea! They're right, propane is heavier than air, so if you have a leak, even though it is small, it will just flow out and fill the room from the floor up...big recipe for disaster. While NG isn't perfectly safe, either, it is lighter than air, has a special chemical mixed in with a distinctive smell, and goes up (and hopefully, out) where you're more likely to smell it should it have a leak. Either one can literally flatten a building, but it's more likely with propane. There's a reason you can't transport it through a tunnel, since they're usually a u-shape to get under whatever, it would just sit at the bottom waiting for a spark.

    It's not only about interlocks, it's about an accidental leak somewhere. All burners contain something to detect if the burner did not come on, but with propane, each time it tried, a little more gas would accumulate in the area, eventually reaching a point where the next time, when it tries to light, it may just light up the room and blow the house up.

    You could put it in an attached shed, but you'd have to fill the system with antifreeze (this decreases the ability of it to transfer heat, so you may need a slightly larger one), and it wouldn't be as efficient since the heat would be outside verses inside.
  3. technogirl74

    technogirl74 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    ny
    Do Wall hung propane boilers fall under this requirment too?
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    I do not know the specifics, but my guess would be ANY propane fired device would fall under those restrictions.
  5. technogirl74

    technogirl74 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    ny
    Thanks.. We've got to rethink this..
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,837
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    That is the first time I have ever heard that limitation, but then we don't have basements here. When I did live where there were basements, they DID have furnaces, boilers, and hot water heaters in the basements, because that is where they are installed. Normally, the only way propane gas could accumulate in a basement would be from a leak, because the safety devices prevent the unit from "spilling" gas unless the burner is running.
  7. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,232
    Location:
    Maine
    We install hundreds of propane boilers and water heaters in basements. There is nothing in the mechanical code that prohibits propane appliances provided all of the safety equipment is proper.
  8. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    I do not recall ever seeing a gas dryer in a basement, but I would guess that has been done. My wife and I used to live on a houseboat and hauled our 100# propane bottle to shore monthly for a refill. The bottle was out on the front deck, and it fed the refrigerator and stove inside the boat. But because of the bilge area below, we had a sensor that would close the valve at the tank if any gas were detected in the refrigerator cabinet or bilge. I would not be afraid of a propane furnace in the basement if it had a shutdown sensor beside the furnace and a small fan of some kind continually bringing fresh air in for dilution of any vapor -- that is how you deal with gasses on a boat -- while the valve at the tank was open. However, and even if the inspector does not answer you next call, you might see what your insurance company might have to say.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2013
  9. Buffalobillpatrick

    Buffalobillpatrick New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Stonewall Colorado
    My building inspector wouldn't allow LP boiler in my basement.
    I do have a 1500 gal. cistern down there with a gas detection alarm above it, as my well water could include methane.
  10. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,437
    Location:
    IL
  11. BillTheEngineer

    BillTheEngineer Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    Hauppauge, NY
    Do you have an attached garage to install it in (that isn't below grade)? I am on Long Island too, not sure if propane would be cheaper than oil, It might be a break even at best if you use a lot. I had propane for cooking and the price at low usage was almost double the price per gallon as oil was. Add in the cost for a tank, and I don't think it would really pay. Also the local propane distributors are not the most helpful either, they are more interested in leasing you a tank then selling you one. Depending on how long it would be till gas makes it to you might be good or bad. And the last and biggest issue in finding an installer for the propane and getting the local building department to ok everything. If you can hold off for NG I would really do that.

    I would start with checking with all the people between you and where the gas line ends to see if you could get enough of them to get National Grid to run a line for little to no cost. I know of a couple of places where this has worked out.
  12. jacobsond

    jacobsond DIY Junior Member

    Messages:
    59
    Location:
    ND
    I never heard of limiting propane equipment to above ground.Sounds kind of strange to me. Most houses around here have basements. Most dont have natural gas because of the rural area. Wild guess 90% have propane furnaces or boilers.Must be a local code not to put one in a basement.Propane has odorant in it also so you know when you have a leak. I have had a propane boiler in my basement for 20yrs (not the same boiler) no problems. The guy your going to have install the new boiler should know. Make sure you pull all the required building permits and have a pro install it.
  13. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,924
    Location:
    01609
    Only in very RARE markets will propane break-even with oil. It's more expensive in most places, even at annual-home-heating type volumes.

    On L.I. it's cheaper to heat with ductless air source heat pumps (mini-splits) or the highest efficiency variable speed ducted air source heat pumps (Carrier Greenspeed, mostly) than it is to heat with oil or propane. Whether those would be suitable here have a whole lot of "depends" clauses. (How open is the house layout, if multi-story, is there a way to route ducts to the second story without going into the attic, etc.) If it's open enough to heat with mini-splits, it's half the cost of heating with propane, and comparable to the cost of heating with gas. A ducted GreenSpeed heat pump would have comparable cost to gas or mini-splits if the duct runs are short, and are located entirely inside of conditioned space, not the attic (basement is OK.)

    And since the power grid already reaches your house (unless you're one of the unlucky few with enough Sandy damage that they won't hook you up yet), there isn't going to be an expensive grid-extension and hook-up charge the way there would be with gas.
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