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natural gas to lpg water heater conversion? Options
hunter63
#1 Posted : Saturday, October 18, 2003 1:43:45 AM
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Contact your local Rheen dealer with the model number, they will let you know if it can be converted. There are a lot of propane heaters out there. Look in the cabinet, or with the manuel, ther might be a conversion kit are ready there. Many units are shipped with both.
You will need the orifice and the valve spring.
Some valves have the spring insert on top of the valve, marker "red or black" just turn it over for propane.
Hope this helps
macloudd
#2 Posted : Saturday, October 18, 2003 1:24:48 PM
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Converting natural to propane is a pain,pardon the semi pun.Natural gas requires a larger opening for the gas to feed into a burner chamber(the orifice).Unless there is a factory conversion kit,you will have alot of trouble and it would probably void any kind of warranty on the appliance,or insurance on your home if you have it.You can run anything from a 20lb cylinder,but be prepared for the tank to freeze up and lock the regulator down when it gets cold.Propane "boils" at any temperature above -44 degrees F,the propane will bubble up to the opening of the tank and freeze the regulator,the safest thing to defrost it with is warm or hot water.As far as pumping the water out,water seeks it''s own level,and if the spring is above the tank,then gravity should work,but it will be a slow process unless you are way below the spring,it will be more of a siphoning process.IMHO 61 gallons sounds like a pretty large water heater for a cabin,do you have a large family?If I was heating water for one person I would probably make a wood burning water heater out of a discarded gas fired WH.
cvadala
#3 Posted : Monday, October 20, 2003 6:23:01 PM
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Macloudd, would any modifications have to be made to the tank itself? Just so you know, I found this unit so there''s no holding back on this project. I think that the gas jet and controls would have to come out for starters, correct me if I''m wrong. And also, what type of heat source would you have to have? Wood is a viable option, got plenty of that, but would it have to be any type of elaborate setup? I mean, could it simply be placed (the tank) over a rock fire ring and grate with a wood fire underneath to heat the water, or would the tank have to be modified to accept a woodburning firebox at the bottom? I''m hoping the "low tech" fire ring would work, as I have some hand tools, but not anything specialized at this point. And also, I''m thinking there may be some challenges as to regulating the temp of the water (don''t want a miniature "old faithful" blowing up in the yard!!), hopefully some type of temp gauge could be used. Maybe just using the hot coals from the woodstove might be better than actually setting the tank over a fire. Thanks for all your help!
macloudd
#4 Posted : Tuesday, October 21, 2003 1:42:01 AM
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I remember the old "Lassie" shows,they had an old wood burning water heater in the kitchen(I don''t know why that kind of stuff sticks with me),anyway..You would have to remove all the"gas parts".A gas fired water heater has the flue already built in,so all you basically need is a heat source,so I would say the "low tech" method would work fine.I would keep the pressure relief valve intact,that will keep it from making a crater on the homested.If you need me to,I could make some kind of sketch to show you what I mean.Personally I would opt for the conventional firebox,with a vented flue in a room or building of some sort to make use of the residual heat and to keep freezing from being a problem.Best of luck!
skruzich
#5 Posted : Tuesday, October 21, 2003 1:48:59 AM
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Just use a water jacketed wood stove
hunter63
#6 Posted : Tuesday, October 21, 2003 2:17:01 AM
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Is this going to be a gravity system? Just wondering as I''m still figuring mine out.
A regular hot water heater uses pressure to push the water thru, but with a wood fire it would take a long time to heat that much water. Most water heaters are 35000 and up btu''s. Will be intersted to hear how it works.
skruzich
#7 Posted : Tuesday, October 21, 2003 2:29:07 AM
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I have used a water jacketed wood heater, it heats the water fast, and the water circulates from the heat.
steve
Lowell Bernhardt
#8 Posted : Wednesday, October 22, 2003 12:32:15 AM
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Well, here''s my 2 cents.

I think I would have to build a solar collector for the side yard and then use the hot water tank as a storage container, for my solar water heater. Mother has alot of great articles about the subject of solar hot water. If you were to put the tank out side I suppose you could still use it as a wood burning water heater when the sun didn''t couperate. The only problemis you''d have to remove all of the foam insulation from the tank first and then burn the wood under it. If you don''t remove the foam you''re asking for trouble. You don''t want to breath that smoke!

Best of luck,
LOST
hunter63
#9 Posted : Wednesday, October 22, 2003 1:38:10 AM
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I can''t find the issue right now but i remember an article in "Mother" that showed a stripped down hot water heater sitting on a cut off 30 gal oil barrel for a fire box, the center vent being used for the vent. Can''t remember if it was force fed or not. Will keep looking.
Lost, your right about the insulation. Nasty stuff.
Hunter
macloudd
#10 Posted : Wednesday, October 22, 2003 2:49:01 PM
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I guess I have been out of the loop when it comes to gas water heaters.The ones I have seen had a builtin firebox that protects the insulation from the GAS FIRE.I am wondering how many people have actually built a solar collector to heat their water,I haven''t yet.I have one built to pump a few BTU''s into the house,but I don''t even have that up and running properly yet.The reason I have not built the solar collector/water heater is the cost involved to do it correctly.You simply can not just throw a collector in the side yard and pump water to the house,unless you live in an area where freezing will never be a problem,the first night it gets into the teens,you are going to have a problem.Namely frozen broken pipes.To do this correctly you either have to want to take on the job of draining the collector every evening or when the sun isn''t shining,or making sure it has some sort of heat to keep it from freezing(and there goes any money you may have saved by letting the sun do it for you),or you have to make a closed loop system that transfers the heat from the anti freeze filled tubing running through the specially modified tank that has a grundfos(pardon spelling)pump circulating the antifreeze through the collector.I do not mean to dis anyone with this post,but this stuff is not easy to do.The easiest way is to let the electric or gas company do it all for you,and if that isn''t an option or something you want to do,then be prepared to do some serious work to accomplish your goals.
hunter63
#11 Posted : Thursday, October 23, 2003 1:54:32 AM
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Mac, your right about the insulation being protected by the fire ring,but it sounded like she was planning on setting the heater on a fire pit( rocks). Sounded like the whole thing might get scorched.
Just a note, Lermans Country Store sells side water heaters for wood stoves and has a booklet out that is a must read if someone is planning to do something like this, so as to not get hurt.
Heat+ water+container= pressure!
skruzich
#12 Posted : Thursday, October 23, 2003 2:01:49 AM
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Heck, it might be better to build a small boiler.
cvadala
#13 Posted : Thursday, October 23, 2003 2:01:49 AM
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Greetings to All!
I have a question concerning attempting to convert a natural gas powered water heater tank to propane. Found a Rheem 61 gallon natural gas water heater and it's just about the right size for my cabin, where I desperately needed an alternative source for hot water. However, I'm off grid and it'll have to be propane. Does anyone have any experience in converting a natural gas water heater to lpg? First of all, can it be done? Second, can it be done with a kit? Can be done without any special tools or technical know how? (I'm handy but no expert in any of the trades). Can you run it off a 20 lb. lpg cylinder? And then, will I need a pump to move the water in and out of the tank? (Got a hose from the spring that works on gravity, I guess that can supply the cold side). OK, any advice, info, or sites that you can show me will really be greatly appreciated.
Thanks Again!
CathyV.
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