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Old 12-12-2008
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Priming pressurized alcohol stoves.

I got involved in a thread on the boat purchasing forum regarding Alcohol vs. Propane stoves. It became apparent to me that many problems with alcohol stoves seem to be related to over priming. I have a Hillerange stove and oven, have never had any problem seeing the flame or operating the stove. For the purpose of showing the flame I over primed the stove with about 5 times as much fuel as I would normally use (see attached pictures). Even then, the fire burned itself out and was never close to being dangerous. Even if the boat had been heeling at 20 degrees with an non-gimbled stove, this isn't enough fuel to be dangerous. The picture with the blue flame shows the stove in cooking mode. All of these pictures were taken with the curtains open on a bright day. In fact, one portlight is directly above the stove, and the galley is directly in front of the companionway, which was open. As you can see, the flame is clearly visible. The supply tube only needs to be heated for about a minute to vaporize the fuel. It takes very little priming fuel to achieve this (so little, it was impossible to photograph). When priming, you can hear the fuel gurgle, and see it on the wick and in the pan. If you see a big puddle of alcohol, DON'T LIGHT IT! Let it evaporate (it won't take long), and use less fuel next time. Maybe I got lucky and just got a great stove, but I don't understand why some people are apparently using so much fuel to prime the system, and can't see the flame.
Attached Thumbnails
Priming pressurized alcohol stoves.-oversize-priming-flame-1.jpg   Priming pressurized alcohol stoves.-oversize-priming-flame.jpg   Priming pressurized alcohol stoves.-alcohol-cooking-flame.jpg  

Last edited by L124C; 12-13-2008 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 12-12-2008
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Our primary objection to raw fuel priming was the fumes generated during the priming burn.. we found them very hard on the eyes particularly.

In the end we preheated the burners with a small propane torch (with the nice trigger burners attached) for, as you say, a minute or so, and the burners flash right up clean, no muss, no spills, no fuss, no flareups, no fumes...

The torch also came in handy to light the BBQ and melt the ends of cut lines..
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Old 12-12-2008
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Good advice! We had a kerosene stove for a while and finally started priming it with a propane torch as well. We got some awful flare-ups and sooty smoke with that stove and we both loathed it. I finally converted it over to propane out of fear that the galley wench was going to go on strike.
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It also depends on what fuel you're using in the alcohol stove, as some burn with a less visible flame than other fuels.

As ERPS has pointed out, the convenience of propane is another reason many people prefer it. Also, the fuel is widely available and relatively inexpensive, compared to alcohol.
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I have always heard propane is easy to find here in the USA, but not so easy in other countries or on remote islands. In fact, I have been told if you are going to do serious cruising, away from the USA, you should convert to alcohol or kerosine, as it is easiest to find outside the USA. Who really knows the best approach?
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Old 12-13-2008
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If you do not use propane for it's heat output and convenience because of the danger, doesn't that become a moot point if you preheat your alcohol stove with a propane torch? You do keep the propane torch in a sealed locker vented to the outside of course!
Propane is available all over the world either as propane or butane. Fittings are different and a selection is usually carried. If propane is not used , I would put kerosene as a second choice. It preheats like alcohol, but burns much hotter and is many times less expensive than stove grade alcohol which can be more expensive than liquor in many parts of the world!
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Littlewing - Most of the cruising books I read when I was younger do suggest as you say that propane is hard to find worldwide - but the Hiscocks, Smeetons et all cruised in the 60's and 70's. Any place I've travelled seems to use propane domestically if they do not use electricity at this time.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleWingCA View Post
I have always heard propane is easy to find here in the USA, but not so easy in other countries or on remote islands. In fact, I have been told if you are going to do serious cruising, away from the USA, you should convert to alcohol or kerosine, as it is easiest to find outside the USA. Who really knows the best approach?
I think your library needs updating.Or maybe you need to talk with people that have actual experience. Worldwide propane is MORE easily available than either alcohol or kerosene.
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ACE is the place!

The fuel I use (and that's creating the flame in the pictures) is Denatured Alcohol from any ACE hardware store. I would have to use a LOT of it to get obnoxious fumes. Even when I over primed it for the pictures, the fumes were not bad, and I have a sensitive sense of smell. When I prime the stove properly, the flame is about an inch tall. You wouldn't know anything was burning if you were in the salon. I can't even attribute that to the stove as, priming is of course, burning alcohol in liquid form. If you are getting those nasty eye watering, chocking alcohol fumes while priming or cooking using ACE fuel, I think you need to service (or throw away) your stove.
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