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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Boat Review and Purchase Forum > Stoves - pressurized alcohol or propane, which is better?
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Thread: Stoves - pressurized alcohol or propane, which is better? Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
12-15-2008 02:04 PM
bubb2 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.
12-15-2008 01:39 PM
dem45133 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.
12-15-2008 01:33 PM
SEMIJim
Quote:
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.

Jim
12-15-2008 01:25 PM
dem45133 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?.

Dave
12-12-2008 08:49 PM
Sailormann
Quote:
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
12-12-2008 05:29 PM
L124C
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:
http://www.uscg.mil/d1/sectornne/Saf...n%20Hazard.pdf
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:
BoatUS.com - 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.
12-11-2008 11:51 AM
SEMIJim
Quote:
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

Jim
12-11-2008 11:47 AM
bubb2 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.

What I find funny is that many of us dream about crossing Oceans at 5 and 6 knots, But we want our meals at miro-wave speed, We got the time as sailors.
12-11-2008 11:28 AM
SEMIJim
Quote:
Originally Posted by soulesailor View Post
The regulars on this board who love their propane cooking systems have undoubtedly done A LOT of research with propane storage, installation and leakage alarms and installed their system accordingly. It is very possible and great, I'm sure, but not easy or something you should do casually.
I wouldn't feel comfortable with propane w/o a properly-designed, dedicated propane locker. IIUC: "Properly-designed" includes venting at the bottom to mitigate against a propane leak in the locker, which means it has to be entirely above the waterline. (Have a friend that had their boat retrofitted with a propane locker by having a stern lazarette converted. Unfortunately, in a following sea...) We have a place on the starboard side of the boat where we could conceivably have such a thing done, and the locker would end-up right next to and behind the galley. But we haven't the money for that now and, TBH, probably never will have. So...

Quote:
Originally Posted by soulesailor View Post
If you are looking for a simple, easy and relatively safe cooking set-up I'd scrap both the propane and pressurized alcohol systems and go for UN-pressurized alcohol.
That's the way we'll go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soulesailor View Post
It is very easy to cook with, boils water just about as fast as pressurized alcohol ...
Most comments I've read say faster.

As per an earlier comment: I would not predicate my purchase based on the stove included, unless all else was equal. (Which is unlikely in the extreme.) I would make damn certain my surveyor really understood propane installations, what was required for them on a boat, and inspected the thing in excruciating detail. If you've got two boats of about the same age and the same make and model, odds are good the propane installation was a retrofit.

Jim
12-11-2008 10:57 AM
SteveRobison Propane kinda scares me on a sailboat, if there is a leak it going to sink down instead of venting up and out. I have a propane stove on my boat, but haven't ever used it, I have been useing a one burner non-presurized alcohol stove, or my little propane bbq thats out side on a rail. Well I guess I will just keep reading along in here and mybe someone will enlighten me on this. And yes I know I could be wrong about it all, guess I'm just old school.
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