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How to convert natural gas heater to propane

How to convert natural gas heater to propane

Many heaters can efficiently work with either natural gas or propane.

Even so, they will need particular gas utilization parts/fittings for each source of fuel, since natural gas and propane run with varying levels of pressure.

The good news is that most natural gas heaters can be converted to use propane – there are a few exceptions so check your device’s manual to be sure.

Now, if you have been considering modifying your natural gas heater to work with propane – assuming you own a model that is deemed convertible – read on to learn how to convert natural gas heater to propane.

To be honest, it’s a bit challenging but not impossible for any homeowner to accomplish if you dedicate enough effort.

How to convert natural gas heater to propane

Here is how to convert natural gas heater to propane- perhaps you love the way propane heats or you find it more convenient:

Check if the unit came with a conversion kit

For the most part, newer heaters come with a conversion kit so they’re ready to be adjusted to run off of propane at any given moment.

If you’re not aware, the conversion kit compensates for the difference in pressure between natural gas and propane and makes it safe for you to operate the unit off propane.

Check if you might have received a compatible conversion kit at the time your heater was installed.

Don’t sweat on it if you didn’t- you can order one directly from the manufacturer.

Your other option is to purchase a fitting after-market natural gas to propane conversion kit online or from a hardware store near you.

Can you use a propane heater indoors?

Preliminaries

  1. Turn off natural gas supply to your heater before carrying out any procedure.
  2. Next, the electrical cord should be unplugged from the outlet before proceeding.
  3. Ensure you have assembled everything necessary for the procedure (as listed in the documentation) before starting installation.

How to convert natural gas heater to propane- step by step

(May differ depending on your kit model)

  1. Remove the heater’s access panel.
  2. Disconnect the piping that supplies gas to the heater.
  3. Remove all the electrical connections going to the gas valve.
  4. Remove the screws that attach the manifold to your burner box. This allows you to remove the manifold along with the gas valve assembly.
  5. Remove the orifices on the manifold assembly. Store them safely in case you may need them – you may re-convert it to natural gas in the future.
  6. Now insert your propane orifices (from the kit) into the opening where the removed orifices were on the manifold assembly (discard any extra orifices).
  7. Use a wrench to tighten the orifices until they’re gas-tight.
  8. Then convert your combination gas valve – simply follow the guidelines that came with your specific regulator kit.
  9. Fix the propane fuel rating plate label that was supplied with your conversion kit on the space heater, usually next to the serial plate (on the same panel where the common replacement part’s label is fixed).
  10. Re-install the manifold assembly on your burner box and screw it in place.
  11. Replace the various electrical connections to your gas valve.
  12. Check that the sensor and igniter are still in place and not damaged.
  13. Re-connect the piping that supplies gas to your heater using 2(two) wrenches to avoid placing too much strain on the unit’s heater gas manifold.

That’s it.

You can now turn your propane gas supply and check if it is heating.  

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Useful tips

  • Remember to test it– The installation can never be said to be proper and safely completed until you have tested the operation of your converted heater. Do this before use.
  • Selection of the right kit– The kits are not universal and you could be in big trouble if you attempt to work with an incompatible kit. Do your homework well ahead of ordering.
  • Read the entire instruction manual– Finally, read the entire instruction manual supplied with the conversion kit before commencing the installation. It will help clear up any grey areas.

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What other options do you have?

As repeatedly mentioned, the only issue that makes the convention a little complicated is the huge difference in the running pressure of natural gas supply and propane.

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We saw above that the key purpose of the conversion kit is to cancel out the pressure discrepancies and it’s perhaps the easiest and safest way to complete the changeover.

But it’s not the only available recourse and you can try out these other two workarounds:

  • Change the orifices– Instead of the kit, people often replace the larger diameter orifices normally used in their natural-gas-fed heaters (especially if they’re screw-in types) with smaller fuel orifices. That way, the resultant pressure level is controlled and the heater will probably run just fine off propane.

Warning: If you don’t change to a smaller-diameter fuel orifice, you’ll be running the risk of over-fueling the heater. This can be dangerous because it could cause excessive carbon monoxide production due to improper combustion. A natural gas propane conversion chart can help you determine the correct orifice size (It shows gas used in BTUs/hour against diverse orifice sizes).

  • Introduce a pressure regulator– Another approach folks take (and you can adopt it too) to bring the pressure to a safe level for propane use is to add a pressure regulator. As the name suggests, the accessory simply adjusts the pressure appropriately to allow you to work with propane.

How to convert natural gas fireplace to propane

The process of switching a natural gas fireplace to use propane is similar to that of changing a heater from natural gas to propane.

In short, you still require a matching natural gas to propane fireplace conversion kit such as this.

Besides, it’s considerable work as well though some conversion kits are designed to be installed with minimal complication.

To give you an idea, watch the above video demonstrating how to install a conversion kit on Napoleon’s WHD31 Gas Fireplace.

Winding it up

Please check all local codes prior to the customization and follow the requirements- bear in mind that codes in some localities require a licensed professional to do such conversions. 

Also note that the manufacturers’ instructions usually indicate everything you need to know before performing the switchover- from whether it’s safe to all the components needed so it’s very important to refer to your appliance’s manual before taking any step. 

Regrettably, a few gas heaters aren’t convertible and your best bet is buying a brand that accepts propane if you’re compelled by circumstances to use propane for supplemental heat.

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