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Propane


fat pete

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I worked in places that had propane forklifts and heaters and was always told that propane exhaust is not harmful. I wonder? I put a long day in burnin and pounding yesterday. When I was finished I ate and went right to bed. I figured I was just tired from workin all day....I wonder because today I have had a small dull headache and also been tired still. I run a single burner in a none insulated garage. There are two doors (garage type) that I keep 3-4 inches open and I have a man door open to the outside in another room. I thought that would be plenty of air but today I am not so sure. Otherwise I feel fine. So I think I am putting a sensor of some sort in there just to make sure. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the only thing I can figure.
What do ya'll think?

FP

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Very likely; when I use my propane forge I try to keep a 10'x10' door open at either end of the shop, (except for when the wind is blowing anvils over, then I only open them 1/2 way...).

Of course I do a lot of knife work and so often have my propane forge tuned towards reducing and so CO producing.

Also if you re-run any of your exhaust back into the forge the chance of CO production goes way up.

A CO detector would be a good idea...

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From Wikipedia:


Propane undergoes combustion reactions in a similar fashion to other alkanes. In the presence of excess oxygen, propane burns to form water and carbon dioxide.

C3H8 + 5O2 → 3CO2 + 4H2O + heat

When not enough oxygen is present for complete combustion, propane burns to form water and carbon monoxide.

2C3H8 + 7O2 → 6CO + 8H2O + heat


Non-life-supporting gasses are a byproduct of ALL combustion save a few special cases (like oxygen generating candles used in the space agency)
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I just wrote an article recently about this on one of the posts. Co is a killer whoever told you that propane did not give of dangerous gases should be educated. I am not going to take the time to dig out that post but I am really happy that you are well enough to post on here. A co detector for sure. This may also be another reminder that we should be well aware of anything we use in the shop or home and know what the properties are and dangers and how to avoid problems. If what you are feeling is from CO poisoning and those are classics symptoms. You may have CO in you red blood cells. The red blood cells prefer CO to oxygen and they bind well with it. The CO does not release from the bond. In order to heal the red blood cells must be replaced with healthy cells. This is normal bodily process and in time you will have more oxygen carrying capability than you may have now. I would stay away from the forge for a while. This can become worse in a short period of time with repeated exposure. Not a healthy thing at all. May want to spend the down time figuring out a ventilation system that will clear the air so to speak,,,,Get well.

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Well I really do appreciate all the advice, thx guys. I wasnt completely enclosed so I thought that was enuff, evidently not. I will get a detector tomorrow and do some cold work for awhile....
Rich i will try and find the post. Coincidently I had a blood test today...I wonder if that will show up...anyway thx again for the advice!

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I have a CO detector in the duplex plug under the forge blower for the LP forges. 50 bucks I think but also detects raw gas. I look at it as an excellent investment. BTW I have worn CO detector in factory workplace ( while operating an LP powered lift truck). I STILL suspect it is not healthy breathing the exhaust with 15-20 lifts operating even in a 480,000 square foot warehouse. None of the detectors alarmed though.

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I have been useing propane forges in buildings for about 15 years. The comercial ones that I use all are pretty lean and have never shown CO on my detecters. I have two from Rex Price and if not tuned lean they will start putting out CO pretty quick, so pretty much what Thomas Powers said. My climate is different than his and I close my doors this time of year. I do keep a window part way open to replace O2. Also I have a hood over my main forge to vent the water.

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geez i have been thinking about different solutions i can employ..ordered a digital co sensor from amazon ...almost 20 dollars cheaper than going to Lowes and I didnt have to leave anywhere....lol nice and icey here now slide down to the forge in awhile maybe.....lol

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I have run my single burner propane forge in a 10x12x12 foot shop with the walk in door, window and ceiling vent fan running. In the first 10 min of running my forge in this room I have watched my digital co sensor run from 0 to 999 parts per million CO. The forge is well tuned but the cold start does not give a full burn of the carbon in the propane. 900 parts per million CO will cause loss of consciousness in less than 5 min. 135 ppm will kill over longer exposures. After my forge reaches operating temps my CO levels in the room drop back to 0, but remember that you are still producing Co2 and burning available oxygen. Coal, charcoal, and fuel oil will also produce CO.

I have had two close encounters with CO in automotive settings they are not fun. My personal opinion is that a CO detector is as necessary as safety glasses. I recommend the Nighthawk Digital CO unit, the digital read out gives you a visual warning prior to the nightmarish alarm going off and waking the neighbors, also this unit has a cumulative exposure algorithm that sets the alarm off when you have a low exposure over a long period of time.

Disclaimer: I am not associated in any way with the Nighthawk company. I only know that they have saved my life on more than one occasion.

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Friend and I were forging one day back when my small, two-burner propane forge was inside the shop, man doors open at each end, good cross-draft augmented by open hatch up at the ridge of the roof, but we looked at each other after a couple hours and shut down. Bad headaches, each. Carbon monoxide or whatever, propane exhaust is evil stuff, ad it seems to just linger. I moved the forge outdoors, but even then last year had to put a 5-foot diameter, 10-foot high tipi of corrugated roofing around it to draft the nasties up and away from me. Let us not forget that propane is a heavy gas and if there is a leak or a spill, it just lays there waiting to explode or burn. Didn't that happen to the famous sculptor, albert Paley, when a bottle tipped on him when he was working from inside a cherry picker bucket a few years back? Bad burns. Isn't having a bottle indoors against the building/fire code?

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The CO detector is a real life-saver. Mine, like habu's, gives off lots of CO until the forge gets good and hot. My forge is in a 2-car garage, and I replaced the doors with swing-outs, complete with opening windows. With the doors and windows closed, it'll get to over 250ppm in about 15 minutes. So I've got a Wally-mart variety pedestal fan blowing out one window and the window on the opposite side open. The CO detector stays at 0 when I do that. After a while, I can shut off the fan.

But this forge is nothing compared to my lawn tractor. I had it in the shop to check something out and the CO went to 500ppm in about a minute.

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Thank you Pete for bringing this subject up. I am constantly amazed at the wealth of info on this site. I too run a gas forge. I have to admit, I've never thought of the risks that were brought up here. I will definitelly pick up a co detector or two for my shop. It seems to me that a detector is probably the first ( & most important ) tool that that should go into any shop. Thanks again to Pete & all those who have shared their experiences & knowledge.

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  • 1 year later...

The day was no different starting out. Planning and cutting out materials for a few projuects, then on to forging some decorative stuff, no big deal. Well, last month the heating fuel, and then the money for it ran dry, so it's working cold for me, which means doors and windows all closed up, something I failed to notice when forging fo a few hours this am, till the headache and shortness of breath told me I needed to take a break, I really didn't feel good, and about four hours later my wife came home to find me in such a state, that she put me in the car and took me to the emergency room where I spent the next four hours on 100% oxygen and more tubes than you could shake a stick at. My CO level was way above 20%, and when they drew my blood it was really dark instead of the normal bright red, and I can't even begin to describe , or remember all I felt. Now, I'm dealing with a blinding headache that I'm told will last for a good while. So this is my warning to all metalmashers, keep the windows open and doors cracked, and live a little longer, in good health. Wes

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I am the safety and enviro guy at a large factory. We run forklifts that burn propane. Before I started there they had an issue with carbon monoxide. Now this factory is airconditioned to hold the humidity down to prevent flash rusting and some other issues. The air con means our air is exchanged slower than a normally wide open doors etc factory.
We use a propane fuel mix that burns cleaner and produces less CO. BUT!!! When an engine is not running perfectly, it will still produce CO. We have a handheld sensor, that I walk on a pattern the covers the entire factory, every aisle gets measured at at least 4 places, and every truck in use gets measured. Now I do not stick the sensor in the tailpipe, but rather hold the sensor 18" behind and at waist level at the rear of the truck. If a truck is running badly, I get a CO reading that climbs like mad, and I send the truck to our lead mechanic who adjusts and repairs until it is running well, then he has an identical meter to check.
With care we keep the factory at less the 10 ppm. I catch a truck making CO at high rates about every other week. The area it is operating in will be high, say 13 to 18 PPM as I get closer to the truck.
We also have an automatic sensor system linked to two 5' exhaust fans at shipping receiving as the truck usage is highest there. If the CO hits 25PPM the fans come on. This also lets the operators know if one of the trucks is making too much CO.

In my home shop, I have a 24" turbine ventalator directly over my gas forge, and a 5' wide door is open if I am running the gasser. Cold in the winter, but I am alive o feel it:)

Remember, "Life is too short to spend any of it dead, injuried, or in jail, and any combo of the three really sucks"

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not to high-jack.... but when I tested my new shops ventilator, a 22" fan mounted in a copula in the roof, I smoke bombed the place, and got a reading of 84ppm. then turned on the exhaust fan, and hit stop watch. 20 seconds to clear air. I am sure that a zero reading was sooner but I was not watching that, I was looking at stop watch and smoke cloud. I was impressed it cleared out so fast, in normal use I have never triggered anything above 0 ppm CO.

As Ptree said its prevention we should focus on. I just included a back up plan. Please stay safe

Edited by steve sells
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Here's a few things that set off the CO detector in the shop that I wouldn't have thought of :
Oxy-Acet rose bud. Had it turned way up pre-heating a big chunk, the alarm went off in under 2 minutes.
Miller Bobcat portable welder. The welder was outside on the trailer, the big shop door was open, the prevailing breeze sent all the exhaust right into the shop.
Lump Charcoal barbecue. Cold snowy night, so I wheeled the BBQ into the shop to cook dinner. The alarm went off in less than 10 minutes.

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Viking Sword you are a luck man, you owe that lady of yours at least a dozen roses and a steak dinner at the best place in town.

A bit of info about CO and the body: Red blood cells have an afinity for CO. They will absorb CO 10 times more readily than Oxygen. Once the CO molecule has been absorbed by the red blood cell, it blocks that blood cell from being able to absorb and use Oxygen. Also once the red blood cell has absorbed the CO it hangs on to it and does not like to release it. After an acute over exposure it can take quite a while to get all the CO out of your system so even though you are removed from the area where the CO is present, the effects of the exposure can get more severe.

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The first time I fired my gasser several years ago, I had it in the middle of my one car attached garage, facing the open door. I only had it on for about a minute or less, but the next thing I know, the missus (who had already gone to bed) was ranting about "whats that smell??? and why is the CO detector going of???" The detector was upstairs in the living room!! The amount wasn't terribly high but enough to set it off; you don't want them to wait until the levels are in the "call the coroner, not the ambulance" zone ;) But I was amazed that the fumes were able to penetrate into the house so fast. I ALWAYS run my gasser outside now.

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