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Why does my fireplace make the house smell like propane?

Parafly 1,135 November 5, 2007 at 05:38 AM
I have an exterior vented propane fireplace in a new home my wife and I bought. It sucks. It puts out a dinky little flame and within minutes the whole house smells like propane and I have to open the windows to air it out. I just had the tank filled (100 gallon propane tank) last May and I have only run the fireplace a total of ten minutes.

The propane company said it might smell because the tank might be almost empty but is it really possible that the fireplace could use 100 gallons of propane in five months on the pilot light alone?

Also, why would it smell if the tank is running low? That doesn't make any sense to me at all.

ANy ideas? I had a natural gas fireplace in the apartment my wife and I had prior to our house, and that thing stunk too. Is it normal? The smell isn't overwhelming, but it definately is there and definately is a distraction.
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#2
Propane itself doesn't have an odor. What you smell is an additive that helps identify leaks. If your fireplace is working properly, the smell would indicate your tank is running low because the concentration of the odor additive being sent into the burner is higher.

If the tank isn't low, you may have a leak somewhere. You may need to have someone take a look at the fuel regulators.
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#3
Quote from acm9782 View Post :
Propane itself doesn't have an odor. What you smell is an additive that helps identify leaks. If your fireplace is working properly, the smell would indicate your tank is running low because the concentration of the odor additive being sent into the burner is higher.

If the tank isn't low, you may have a leak somewhere. You may need to have someone take a look at the fuel regulators.
Oh, actually I did know that it was an additive, but i did not know it was heavier than propane (ie sunk to the bottom of the tank) so when you get low it smells bad. Hmm...)

So... it's either low on fuel or leaking? It only smells when it is operating, not when just the pilot light is on.

Also, I went outside and the tank feels like it weighs nothing. i can tilt it and lift it and it's like 5' tall and 3' in diameter. I know propane is normally pretty heavy.

How can the tank be empty after four months of only having a pilot light on? DOes the pilot really burn 15 gallons a month? Why hasn't someone built a system like a propane stove that only comes on when needed, instead of a constant pilot?

Also, any reason why my flame is tiny when the fireplace is running? (literally, about 2-3" tall) (yes, I did try adjusting the "height" selector knob thing)
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#4
Quote from Parafly9 View Post :
Oh, actually I did know that it was an additive, but i did not know it was heavier than propane (ie sunk to the bottom of the tank) so when you get low it smells bad. Hmm...)

So... it's either low on fuel or leaking? It only smells when it is operating, not when just the pilot light is on.

Also, I went outside and the tank feels like it weighs nothing. i can tilt it and lift it and it's like 5' tall and 3' in diameter. I know propane is normally pretty heavy.

How can the tank be empty after four months of only having a pilot light on? DOes the pilot really burn 15 gallons a month? Why hasn't someone built a system like a propane stove that only comes on when needed, instead of a constant pilot?

Also, any reason why my flame is tiny when the fireplace is running? (literally, about 2-3" tall)
it shouldn't burn 15 gallons a month. i agree with the op, that you need to get it checked out for leaks.

as far as the flame -- that should be adjustable. look in the panel below your fireplace.
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#5
Quote from n30 View Post :
it shouldn't burn 15 gallons a month. i agree with the op, that you need to get it checked out for leaks.

as far as the flame -- that should be adjustable. look in the panel below your fireplace.
I added onto my OP earlier, sorry, the adjuster knob is set as large as the flame will go.

It literally is the most pathetic looking flame I have ever seen in a fireplace, ever. EEK!
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#6
Quote from Parafly9 View Post :
Oh, actually I did know that it was an additive, but i did not know it was heavier than propane (ie sunk to the bottom of the tank) so when you get low it smells bad. Hmm...)
I'm not sure of the entire mechanics behind it, but I would assume that as you deplete the propane gas, there is more room in the tank for the odor gas buildup. Eventually what reaches the burners is more odor and less propane.

Quote from Parafly9 View Post :
So... it's either low on fuel or leaking? It only smells when it is operating, not when just the pilot light is on.
You're significantly increasing the amount of propane consumed when you run the fireplace. The pilot probably uses an amount of propane so small that you wouldn't detect the odor.

Quote from Parafly9 View Post :
How can the tank be empty after four months of only having a pilot light on? DOes the pilot really burn 15 gallons a month?
This does seem like an inordinate amount of consumption for a pilot light. Maybe there is a leak in the line or outside? You'll have to check with the fireplace manufacturer regarding this.

Quote from Parafly9 View Post :
Also, any reason why my flame is tiny when the fireplace is running?
How long has this been going on? Since you refilled? Could the low flame be resulting from the almost empty tank?
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#7
Also, if you're having a lot of problems with the fireplace system, you should consider installing carbon monoxide and combustible gas detectors in your home. Relying on the indicator gas in propane isn't foolproof.
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#8
Quote from acm9782 View Post :
Also, if you're having a lot of problems with the fireplace system, you should consider installing carbon monoxide and combustible gas detectors in your home. Relying on the indicator gas in propane isn't foolproof.
Thanks for the tip. I do have carbon monoxide monitors at home. FYI, in Massachusetts it's now the law that every residence has to have them installed.

This is a brand-new house, and this tank is the first fillup I ever had for the fireplace. It has only been used a total of once since it was in existance on Planet Earth laugh out loud

I'm trying to get in touch with the propane company but the phone is totally jammed over there. I have a feeling they are scamming me with filling the tank less than full. I can't imagine having burned through the entire thing in four months jsut running a pilot, unless there is a leak, which would be on the exterior of the house I'm assuming.
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#9
Quote from Parafly9 View Post :
I added onto my OP earlier, sorry, the adjuster knob is set as large as the flame will go.

It literally is the most pathetic looking flame I have ever seen in a fireplace, ever. EEK!
awww, that sucks. mine can get a wicked flame (i have gas). i'd prefer a wood fireplace any day -- but i couldn't get one when i built my house because it wasn't being offered Frown
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#10
Um... I'm not exactly versed in propane fireplaces... but I assume there should be a flu of some type? (damper) Is it open so the gases can go out the exhaust?

Also check for obstructions in the exhaust.
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#11
that tank you have when full is pretty heavy... we use to drag them to new construction houses for temp heat. its not a tank your going to throw over your shoulder when full. i agree with the smell when the tank is low. im guessing a leak somewhere also
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#12
I think it's a leak, too. My whole house is run on propane (heat, hot water, cooking, and a propane fireplace that we never use). We have two 100-gallon tanks and even in the dead of winter it takes us 6-8 weeks to use 175 gallons. The new tanks we just got have gauges on them. And yes, a full tank weighs about 400lbs.

When we recently switched our propane provider, they came out to deliver the tanks and they did a pressure test on our system for leaks. Maybe you can ask your provider to do the same.
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#13
sounds like a cheap fireplace with a cheap regulator, also as the propane gets older the smell does get stronger, especially if the tank was not purged properly to begin with. Well thats atleast what i notice on regular bbq size tanks. Can't picture a 100 gal tank having a bad purge. Where do you live?? Down south they usually use cheaper fireplaces because its mostly there for looks not function
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#14
Yeah, I agree thats a crazy amount of propane, something is off. We have a ventless propane fireplace and it doesn't smell like propane. Check all the fittings with soapy water, see if you have any leaks.

One thing though, when ours was brand new, it did smell kind of funny when burning for a while. It would sort of irritate my eyes and throat. That went away after a few hours of burning spread out over a few different times. You may not have that problem since yours is vented - mine is not. Now there is no smell and it has a nice big flame.
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#15
Quote from Letssell View Post :
sounds like a cheap fireplace with a cheap regulator, also as the propane gets older the smell does get stronger, especially if the tank was not purged properly to begin with. Well thats atleast what i notice on regular bbq size tanks. Can't picture a 100 gal tank having a bad purge. Where do you live?? Down south they usually use cheaper fireplaces because its mostly there for looks not function
Up in Massachusetts. Where I actually would like to have a nice big warm flame in the winter.

Is propane pressurized? Would the tank / fittings leak even if nothing is operating? (although I guess since the pilot is always on....... it is always operating)
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