Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Propane Tee Fitting

One thing lead to another with these boat projects. This blog is about linking three boat projects, and each one is worthy of it's own post. But for now, I'll give a precise of the  events.
Firstly, in the shower cubicle of the boat, I had a cupboard with a large 12 gallon hot water tank that I wanted to replace with a washing machine. So I set about removing the HW tank and then installing the washing machine. Because the doors were only 18 inches wide, the WM had to be disassembled to get through the door and then reassembled in-situ. This may become another blog at some time.
Now, because I had removed the HW tank and our only method of heating water, I then set about installing a califont, or probably better known as a "heat as you go, propane water heating unit". This was a unit sold in New Zealand, but I have seen similar units sold in Camping World in the USA. The igniter is powered by two "D" size batteries, and is small enough to install in boats and RV's.

I installed the unit under the aft vanity unit on a bulkhead. I have a means of varying the temperature output and have placed some blue masking tape for the shower temperature so that we don't need to use the mixer tap to get the temperature right. The ducting is 4 feet in length and vents to the bilge. Heat at the end of the 4 foot ducting is almost nil, and one can hold your hand over it easily. I saw many units installed on other boats with out the ducting to outside, and as others have said, "it's no worse than running the stove". Propane and co2 monitors are a safety measure. Now we have hot water on tap with no need to run the generator to supply power to the old HW tank.
Finally, when installing the propane califont, I had to install a propane hose to the unit. Initially, I "Teed" into the existing propane line with the one propane cut off switch to be used to supply both the califont and the stove. This however proved to be less than satisfactory, because the califont would remove some of the gas from the stove line while it was in use. This then made igniting the stove burners, a little more time consuming as we had to wait for the gas to flow back through the line to the stove.
New Brass T to Propane Tank
The solution was to use another solenoid and regulator for the new califont and "Tee" in both solenoid/regulators to that "Tee". Each solenoid has it's own on/off switch.
We also plumbed a hot water line to the aft of the boat so that we can have hot showers on the aft deck. We also think we will use less propane, than heating a kettle of hot water on the stove to do the dishes. I'll comment on that as data comes to hand.
The "T" also allows us to carry a spare propane tank to swap to when running out on the tank in use.


  1. I am very curious to see how the propane usage works out...

  2. Me too! When I get a full tank, I'll keep a record of it's use and post my findings back here. Under the old system, I got about 3 months from each 9kg tank. The old "system" meant I heated hot water on the stove for the dishes and some showers.

  3. Just a word I have of concern re your califont installation. The new gas regulations (NZ and Australia) say that the units must be completely sealed units or the combustion gases must be vented to the outside with specified distances from any openings (hatches, ports etc).
    The specific concern that I have about your installation is that heat is not the only by product, your combustion gases are vented to your bilge and over a period will build up without escaping. Co2 is a silent killer you can not smell it.
    Regards, Sue.

  4. Sue, I'm not privy to those regulations and not sure if it applies to foreign registered vessels. I will seek those regulations on the internet, or perhaps you can direct me to them?
    My brother who owns a boat building business (in NZ), also has not seen that requirement. Perhaps you can help us both out?
    Interesting comment about the CO2. Where do you think the CO2 from the gas stove goes to? Straight to the bilge! That's why modern boats have CO2 detectors; however, I've never been on a boat when a CO2 detector has activated.
    The stove verses the califont: the stove puts more CO2 out than the califont. Based on BTU's and time used. My stove often is on for 30-60 minutes, while the califont is never on for more than 5 minutes. And that would be considered a long shower!
    Finally, when I was at the Auckland boat show, I came across a number of boats from different manufacturers who had installed these without venting to the outside. I took particular attention and asked a lot of questions because I was about to install one. Venting was discussed and none of the installations I saw had venting to the outside. Most vented to the same cabin space as the stove for the reasons given.

  5. With one season gone with the new Califont, I can say that we got 3 months of use from our 9KG tank of propane like we always have. The 1st tank actually lasted 2 months and three weeks; just short of the three months. Perhaps, we did just a little more baking? 2nd tanks lasted 3 months almost to the day.


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