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Thread: Plumbing for propane lights

  1. #1

    Default Plumbing for propane lights

    I put up a 16 x 28 cabin this summer and will be working on the inside this winter. I bought 4 Mr Heater propane lights (cabin is remote) and was thinking I would use 3/8 inch Type L copper tubing ran between the studs to connect the lights to a 100 lb propane tank outside. However, I just had a coworker tell me that propane will react with the copper, causing the interior of the pipe to flake and clog the line in less than 10 years. He said it might be better to use black iron pipe.

    Does anyone out there have any experience with using copper tubing for propane lights (or stove and refrigerator)? Any advice on what type piping would work better over the long term? Also, I would appreciate any tips you might have on how to run the piping and how you would bring the lines together to connect to the propane tank sitting outside. My cabin sits off the ground a couple of feet, so I was thinking of running the piping along the bottom of the joists before turning up into the wall cavities. Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Building codes explicitly rule out hard copper pipes for propane and natural gas, you can use soft copper tubing but need a flaring tool. The easiest way is black pipe and flexible stainless connectors.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    Try to keep the pipe as warm and protected as you can to keep from freezing up.
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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    I have been to cabins where I sold them soft copper when I was a kid 30 years ago. Still going strong. There is both type K and L in rolls of soft copper, either will work.
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  5. #5

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    Was wondering myself if running propane inside of walls was a good idea? I did not have the warm fuzzy feeling so i wired for 12v and 110.

  6. #6

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    As Doug said I have had propane plumed in my cabin with soft copper for 25 plus years and never anykind of a problem. I have a total of 9 lights ,cooking stove and propane refrigerator. I don't remember the size's of the lines but I have a main line coming off of the two tanks with a switching valve and then a line for the stove off of that then one for the ref. and then the the gas lights. I have my 100lb. bottles (two) in a insulated shed with a frame work between the tanks that I can put heated fire bricks( that I have heated on the wood stove ) In case we start having problems in extream cold. I have a switching valve between the tanks and if I see the lights going low it is quick and easy to just flip a valve and keep the propane flowing. Anyone that has ever used propane will tell you that it will not run out in the middle of the afternoon at 30 above but at night at 30 below.

  7. #7
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    Soft copper, flared and connected directly to propane appliances, no problem. My lines for lights and fridge are 1/4". The only line bigger than that is a 3/8" to the full-size stove/oven. I had all the plumbing inside the walls but never used it. I changed my mind and wanted to see the lines and fittings and to be able to address any leaks. I've never had any.

  8. #8
    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    My guest cabin has the soft copper running inside on the walls. It's been there since '76 and still going strong.
    BK

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    Flex copper works great. Just get a good flare tool. I used 3/8's for three lights, stove and frig.....all exposed....for now....with unfinished interior walls.
    If you are concerned about gas line code the requirement is for hard pipe in the walls, black pipe not soft copper.
    I looked for a flex line, for in-the-wall application, but could not find any that met code.

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    Standard soft copper used for LP gas installations is Type L . Type L copper is sized per i.d. dimension. Brass flare fittings are sized per o.d. dimension. So for 3/8 o.d lines & fittings, you will need to buy 1/4" L copper ( 1/4 i.d / 3/8 o.d. ) and 3/8 brass flare fittings. Many of the l.p gas lights have a 1/4" threaded connection, so you'll be looking to buy 3/8 flare X 1/4" NPT fittings for each light-- but check your specific lights for the proper threaded inlet size.
    Brass flare fittings are always listed by the flare size first. Universally, straight fittings that are flare X mpt are referred to as a #48; 90 degree fittings of same type are a #49; flare X fpt is a #46; straight unions ( flare x flare ) are a #42; flare nuts are a #41. You'll need 1ea flare nut for every flare fitting connection, so be sure to buy extra - they're not expensive. These fitting identification numbers may be helpful when communicating with your supplier - whether it be a local hardware store, or a specialty shop such as Central Plumbing/Heatland.
    Don't scrimp on the price of a flaring tool- good quality flaring tools are well worth the extra $$. A flaring tool should be a standard tool in every cabin-owners tool shed if they have LP and fuel-oil systems. Most fuel oil systems are 3/8 o.d; although it's not uncommon to see 1/2 od on larger btu capacity systems.
    Don't use compression fittings- commit yourself to doing it right, and learn to flare copper. Most common mistake greenhorn's perform when using a flaring tool: over-flaring. So don't over do it. And - don't over-tighten flare connections, either. A flare connection is a very stable, and non-leaking connection ( whether under pressure or vacuum ) if made correctly, and it doesn't need to be over-tightened. In fact, over-flared and over-tightened flare connections can become problematic, and may need to be cut and re-flared. It's really quite easy. So practice flaring a few connections to get the hang of it, before you tackle the final installation. Copper isn't that cheap, but sacrifice a foot or two of copper for practice and familiarity and you won't regret it.

  11. #11

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    It would be super hard if not impossible to hard pipe to a regular propane light.As Mr. Bill stated just use type L with a good flare and you are good to go.

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    Member AKDoug's Avatar
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    Great advice Mr. Bill. I've been selling flare fittings for a long time and have never seen them referred by those numbers. You come into our place and ask for a 3/8 flare union and we'll always ask if you have 1/4" ID or 3/8" ID. I've never been able to figure out why the pipe guys and the fittings guys got that all screwed up.
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  13. #13

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    Thanks for the advice! Sounds like the concern with using soft copper tubing may have been overstated. Sure seems it would be much easier to install the copper tubing than black pipe. I know I can use tees with the copper lines to connect some of the lights together, but eventually I'll need to bring three or four lines together into a single line that connects to the propane tank outside. What's the best way to make up a manifold? I know Lowes carries a black pipe manifold that I could outfit with brass fittings to transition the copper tubing to. Is there another better way?

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    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Dont forget to put in a couple water traps... just a T and a drop in the line with a cap on it you can remove on occasion... our propane is dirty and full of water, will really help your longevety of your appliances.. also.. the MR heaters like a filter on them when using bulk tanks to clean up some of crap in them... about 16 bucks where the heaters are sold and screw on where the small bottle would.
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  15. #15

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    Just keep it simple and use the same type of material all the way through the plumbing process.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 20Aug View Post
    Thanks for the advice! Sounds like the concern with using soft copper tubing may have been overstated. Sure seems it would be much easier to install the copper tubing than black pipe. I know I can use tees with the copper lines to connect some of the lights together, but eventually I'll need to bring three or four lines together into a single line that connects to the propane tank outside. What's the best way to make up a manifold? I know Lowes carries a black pipe manifold that I could outfit with brass fittings to transition the copper tubing to. Is there another better way?
    I have two 100# bottles attached to an automatic switch (Suburban Propane) and feeding a single 3/8" line into the cabin. The closest appliance to the bottles is my stove. There's a tee there with a 3/8" outlet to the stove and a 1/4" line that's used for all the lights and the fridge. That single 1/4" line is very long and has a tee at each light and terminates at the fridge. I can run every propane appliance full open at the same time and there's no supply problem. As for the water trap comment? Put your bottles low and have the line climb from there. No problems. My bottles, switch, and regulator were underwater for a week during the recent floods. When the water receded I tapped on the regulator a few times to drain the line and clear the water from the vent and everything worked just fine. If I ever plumb in my Paloma water heater I'll need a dedicated line, sized depending on length. That burner consumes too much gas to run it on a shared line. If and when I choose to add it I can make a manifold but it'll be way easier to just run a dedicated bottle on a dedicated line.

  17. #17

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    AKDoug, what is the difference in the two types of tubing? Going to be plumbing the little cabin this fall. Great info from both you and Mr. Pid.
    Thanks.....

    Quote Originally Posted by AKDoug View Post
    I have been to cabins where I sold them soft copper when I was a kid 30 years ago. Still going strong. There is both type K and L in rolls of soft copper, either will work.
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