Stoves - pressurized alcohol or propane, which is better? - Page 3 - SailNet Community
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #21 of 27 Old 12-11-2008
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,708
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 11
Originally Posted by bubb2 View Post
I have aways found a chuckle in the debate over the non-pressurized alcohol stoves are slow. Maybe it does take 5 mins. longer to make a pot of coffee.
Spoken by somebody who has obviously never been jones'n for a cuppa joe

SEMIJim is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
Sponsored Links
post #22 of 27 Old 12-12-2008
Senior Member
L124C's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,450
Thanks: 61
Thanked 6 Times in 6 Posts
Rep Power: 10
Wink A Thesis on the Perils of alcohol!

These posts regarding Alcohol vs. Propane have peeked my curiosity. The more I look at the issue, the more I find a strong unfounded bias against Alcohol. Many people seem to be willing to rule in favor of Propane, based on unsubstantiated evidence. In a post in this thread, somebody states that Propane is much safer than alcohol because he knows someone who was burnt using Alcohol. Hardly a statistical analysis. Surely he has heard of at least one boat being blown apart due to a Propane explosion! On another site, I found this post regarding the same issue:
"I have used and owned all three types of stoves, with the exception of the non-pressurized alcohol. I have first hand experience with a propane explosion involving 2 fatalities, and I have first hand experience with an alcohol fire. The propane was human error, and you will find that the majority of propane fires are a result of human error. The alcohol fire was a result of not being able to see the flame, and the primer spilling while underway.
My "opinion" and I admit that that is what it is, is that the convenience of propane out weighs the danger when compared to pressurized alcohol or diesel. As the cooks enthusiasm about sailing is not quite as strong as mine, functionality in the galley is paramount to her continued willingness to cruise. The propane cooker fits that bill".
This guy apparently saw two people die from a Propane explosion, and experienced a Alcohol fire (I assume injuries would have mentioned if there were any) that I would guess, may have been related to too much primer (If so, also "human error"). He still comes out ruling in favor of Propane in the name of "convenience"! It's amazing! I wonder if the "cook" read the post!
I Goggled "Boat explosion Propane" and "Boat explosion Alcohol" and did the same with "fire". One of the first sites that came up for Propane was this from the Coast Guard, which spells out in detail how a leaky joint in a Propane line caused an explosion on a sailboat:
The sites that came up for Alcohol tended to be things like gasoline explosions where people had been drinking alcohol!
Even Boat US seems a little conflicted about the issue!
Here are some quotes from Boat US's on line boating safety course (highlights added for Sailingdogs benefit):
LPG - Liquefied petroleum gas is really two different gases that are generally classed together and are interchangeable. Propane and butane are both used in LPG appliances and have some advantages over CONG. LPG has a much higher heat output (21,000 BTUs/lb. for LPG vs. 9,000 BTUs/lb. for CNG) LPG also operates at lower pressures. One drawback to LPG is that fumes are heavier than air, and can build up to dangerous levels in bilge compartments. Even a small spark can signal the end of your boat!Alcohol is used largely for stoves and is a relatively safe fuel. Denatured ethyl alcohol does not burn very hot- it may take quite some time to boil water on an alcohol stove. One of the best aspects of alcohol is that a flame can be put out with water. Like kerosene, alcohol must be clean for an appliance to work properly.
Heres a link if you want to see the entire section on "fueling your boat"
BoatUS Foundation

On the other hand, you were correct Sailingdog. Boat US does speculate that the reduction in stove related fires might be attributed to fewer alcohol stoves on new boats.

"6) Stove 1% "
"Stove fires appear to be less common (1%) than in the past, probably due to fewer alcohol stoves being installed on new boats. Still, alcohol can be a dangerous fuel; though it canít explode, an alcohol flame is hard to see. One fire was started when a member tried to light the stove and gave up because he couldn'tít see the flame. Unfortunately, he had succeeded, but didn'tít realize it until he got a call from the fire department."
Isn't it interesting that in talking about how dangerous alcohol is, they state that it "can't explode". An obvious reference to one of Propanes major dangers, yet that risk is never even mentioned in connection with Propane (as it clearly was in the safety course).
Having used a pressurized alcohol stove often, the "members" story doesn't ring true. Assuming he was using a pressurized system (I can't address anything else), he should have clearly smelt the alcohol when he primed the system. You can also hear (gurgling) and see the fuel. When you put a match to it, it pops when it ignites, and burns with a orange/blue flame, which turns bright blue when vaporized. I have NEVER had any problem seeing the flame in my galley (in direct sunlight, yes (tested it on concrete and its so invisible it is scary!)...In the galley, NO). So...this "member" obviously intended to heat or cook something, apparently used A LOT of fuel to prime his stove (properly primed, my stove would just burn itself out if I left it unattended) couldn't get the stove lit (or so he "thought"!, (wouldn't he feel the heat from that much fuel?)), changed plans, locked up the boat (apparently very quickly, as he didn't smell burning curtains, fiberglass or wood) with a fire burning that was was so large it eventually bunt the boat down. By the way, if you over prime a alcohol stove, the fumes from the liquid fuel burning are literally breath taking. It's a weird sensation, you could never mistake the fumes for anything else.
It seems to me that Mr. "Member" was probably having a hard time selling his boat, and Boat US was the only buyer in the market (just a theory of course)! I would have thought Boat US's fraud department would have been all over this one! Instead, they use it as an example of the evils of alcohol fuel!
Boat US goes on to say:
"Only one fire was started by propane; a portable stove fell off a counter and ignited a cushion."
Only a cushion was lost? Oh my! Then Propane MUST be safer! No time reference (past year, etc.)is given for the statistics.
Here is the link: - Seaworthy Magazine

I come to this discussion as someone who was leary of alcohol stoves (do to the hype), until I used one. I don't understand it....The second shooter on the grassy knoll in Dallas, and the conspiracy against Alcohol Stoves. Neither will probably ever be solved. Embrace the Alcohol stove, it's your friend (as long as you use your head)! I was going to include photos of the "invisible" flame on my stove is but this post is too long already. I'll do a seperate post.

Last edited by L124C; 12-14-2008 at 04:34 PM.
L124C is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #23 of 27 Old 12-12-2008
Here .. Pull this
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 2,031
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 11
Stoves - pressurized alcohol or propane, which is better?
Propane is better

On my father's boat we had a pressurised alcohol stove. While it never really exploded I can remember some spectacular flare-ups and finally my mother insisting that we were all in the cockpit ready to pile overboard while my father lit the galley stove.

It was replaced with an Origo - which was failry avant garde in that area at the time.

On my own boats - up until the present one, I had Origo non-pressurised alcohol stoves and found them dependable and fairly safe. They are slow though. It takes a while to make coffee or tea.

The boat we have now came with propane. We hemmed and hawed about replacing it with an Origo purely from a safety standpoint. We ended up keeping the stove and investing in a new tank, propane sniffers, electric solenoid with automatic shut-off, and we replaced all of the hoses.

It truly is like night and day. We are no long camping on the boat and having to prepare everything to the point where it just needs to be reheated to eat. We cook full meals. We have the stove top, the oven and a barbecue. There is really not much that we can prepare at home that we can't make on the boat with relative ease.

And althought this is slightly OT - Think seriously about getting on-board hot pressurised water.

Good Luck

Last edited by Sailormann; 12-12-2008 at 07:57 PM.
Sailormann is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #24 of 27 Old 12-15-2008
dem45133's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 89
Thanks: 6
Thanked 8 Times in 8 Posts
Rep Power: 9
Well, here's my two cents worth...

#1, I wouldn't base my decision on a stove... only if all else were 100% equal.

#2, all stoves and or ranges/ovens require a fuel... but all fuels on a boat are an issue and have to me properly contained or set up/ventilated.

Given #2, and the fact that I too have an alcohol stove that I do not trust (its 30 years old)... we did a sort of propane conversion using a camping stove with the small disposable propane cylinders. Last year we just set it on the old range when inside, but this winter I plan on incorporating it into the original alcohol stove frame (although still removable).

Personally I wonder about the use of LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) as its lighter than air. But I've not seen anything on it... Have any of you?.

dem45133 is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #25 of 27 Old 12-15-2008
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,708
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 11
Originally Posted by dem45133 View Post
Personally I wonder about the use of LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) as its lighter than air. But I've not seen anything on it... Have any of you?.
CNG stoves exist. CNG is probably the best compromise between efficiency, convenience and safety. Unfortunately, CNG is both expensive and anywhere from difficult-to-impossible to get refilled, I'm told.

SEMIJim is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #26 of 27 Old 12-15-2008
dem45133's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 89
Thanks: 6
Thanked 8 Times in 8 Posts
Rep Power: 9
Oh, one more thing noticed the "non-pressurized" statement about alcohol stoves... Well thats not entirely true... its still a low pressurized system... you have to pump it up. At least on mine. and its a liquid that will flow out and down.

The first time I tried mine (when I got the boat home on purchasing) ... I just about ripped it out of the cabinet to throw it over board (on land)... had me spooked with 18" high flames before I could get the valve off. Never used it again on board. I did pull it and test in on the ground... but never did get it to function proper... not going to bother.

Last edited by dem45133; 12-15-2008 at 12:57 PM.
dem45133 is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #27 of 27 Old 12-15-2008
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: New York
Posts: 5,856
Thanks: 0
Thanked 18 Times in 17 Posts
Rep Power: 17
Dem, this is most common non-pressurized alcohol stove. No pump. No pressure. No flare up! It uses a wick! Your's is a traditional pressurized stove witch as you learned can be dangerous.

The 3100 CookMate Portable Stove uses the Safe-Flame™ Non-Pressurized Canister System with a large capacity of 1 1/4 quarts of Alcohol per burner. This needs No hose, No pumping, No preheating. Environmentally Friendly Fuel using grain based alcohol. 6800 BTU of heating per burner - can boil 1 quart of water in 8 minutes. Stainless Steel long lasting construction - Dimensions 5 3/8" H x 18 5/16" W x 10 5/16" D. Weight 14 lbs.
bubb2 is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook

Quick Reply

By choosing to post the reply above you agree to the rules you agreed to when joining Sailnet.
Click Here to view those rules.

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the SailNet Community forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
Please note: After entering 3 characters a list of Usernames already in use will appear and the list will disappear once a valid Username is entered.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Something New to Worry About - Propane Hazard jparks Gear & Maintenance 8 06-18-2008 05:52 AM
Using an alcohol stove Bermuda30 General Discussion (sailing related) 10 09-19-2007 12:11 PM
stoves: propane vs alcohol slocum2 Gear & Maintenance 17 08-17-2007 04:17 PM
Alcohol Stoves Mark Matthews Gear and Maintenance Articles 0 10-26-2001 08:00 PM
Alcohol Stoves Mark Matthews Cruising Articles 0 10-26-2001 08:00 PM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome