A propane regulator is vital for your safety (and that of your assets), no matter the applications you put your propane tank to. Put simply, the regulator reins on the very high gas pressure -from the propane tank- and brings it down to a safe and efficient level for your appliance.
Now, a couple of questions often arise when searching for a propane regulator: what kind of propane regulator do I need, what regulator do I need for an RV, and what is the best propane regulator for a house, etc.
There are the questions we’re here to talk about.
So if you have been wondering, “What kind of propane regulator do I need” we’ve got you covered. Plus, we are not leaving a thing out we will answer every question and explain the key factors to consider when shopping for a regulator for your propane system.
What Makes a Propane Regulator?
If you haven’t come across one, most propane regulators resemble a flying saucer.
Inside the ‘saucer’ you’ll find the heart of the device- the internal controlling rubber diaphragm- while a round cap (with the pressure regulating spring) is added at the center and top of the ‘saucer.’
The housing is generally aluminum- the metal is preferred since it’s lightweight and not a good spark generator (lowers the risk of fires).
And that’s it! It’s a rather simplistic accessory…
How does a propane regulator work?
As already hinted at, it’s the pressure spring that controls the exiting gas. It achieves this by exerting back pressure (when there is too much pressure) to slow down the flow of high-pressure propane in the tank.
That way, propane can leave the tank for the end-use appliance at a properly regulated pressure level to prevent hazards such as an explosion.
I should add that some regulators have stronger springs. This can be crucial as it significantly lowers the gas pressure (on exit) than those with lighter springs.
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Types of Propane Regulator
The first step in determining the type of regulator that will meet your needs is to understand the various propane regulators available to you.
This is again critical because different propane regulators are designed for different applications (Yea, they all do the same thing, but a regulator is not a regulator).
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Here is a short explanation of the main types and typical uses:
1. First-stage regulators
These are generally placed at the tank and will bring the tank pressure down to 10 PSI (usually). They are intended to be used along with second-stage regulators (at the appliance or house).
Their sole purpose is to deliver gas at reduced pressure to a second-stage regulator downstream.
2. Second-stage regulators
Second-stage regulators are placed between first-stage regulators and your actual appliance.
They further cut down the gas pressure (in the tank) to ensure the appliance won’t be overwhelmed by the pressure propane is being delivered.
3. Integral two-stage (twin) propane regulators
Two-stage propane regulators are a combination of first and second-stage regulators built into one unit.
They are installed at the propane tank and cancel out fluctuating tank pressures (at the inlet) to provide constant pressure (on the outlet) depending on the changing appliances’ demands.
They’re primarily recommended for residential applications, and most residential propane installations have twin-stage propane regulators built in.
4. Automatic changeover propane regulator
These are pretty much designed like integral two-stage regulators and work similarly.
They, however, come with a technology that senses when propane is running low in a cylinder and will switch its monitoring function over to the reserve tank in multi-tank installations.
The greatest benefit of this type of regulator is that it allows you to remove the empty cylinder for refilling without interrupting the propane supply.
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High pressure vs low-pressure propane regulator
You may have come across the terms high pressure and low-pressure propane regulators and probably became even more confused about the types of regulators.
Well, don’t be – the key difference is, as you may have guessed, the extent to which they reduce gas pressure.
Below is a detailed clarification:
· Low-pressure regulators
Low-pressure regulators are programmed to regulate gas pressure at 11 inches WC(Water Column) which is about 1/3 PSI. You may have noticed that most appliances operate at this lowly pressure.
Regarding installation, you can locate it on or near the main tank supplying the home, motor home, or even camper
· High-pressure regulators
High-pressure propane regulators are best for gas appliances that need more propane volumes than low-pressure regulators can deliver because they control the output pressure from as low as 1 PSI to 60 PSI.
In essence, high-pressure propane regulators are 2-stage regulation systems that lower tank pressure to 10 psi, 20 psi, or 30 psi, then distribute it to low-pressure regulators for additional lowering so that appliances can safely consume it.
And while some have propane pressure attenuated at certain fixed levels (mostly 10PSI or 20PSI), others are “adjustable”- you can adjust from 0-20 psi, 0-30 psi, or 0-60 psi with the adjustment mechanism built into the regulator if you have special purpose applications such as a large hand-held heating torch or incinerators.
These are again installed on the tank itself.
What kind of propane regulator do I need?
The short answer is: The type of propane regulator you need is determined by your specific propane usage requirements. In simple terms, you must choose your regulator depending on your applications (consider all simultaneously connected appliances).
An important point to note is that your regulator must produce enough pressure for a smooth operation. One way of figuring this out is by looking up a propane regulator sizing chart online or using a regulator sizing calculator like this (follow the direction to get accurate results).
But all in all, we suggest that you select as follows:
- First Stage and second-stage propane regulators (to be used jointly)- can work for small load applications but are not economical.
- Integral Twin-Stage Propane Regulators- Mainly suits residential appliances. This is generally the most commonly used type and is more practical for most installations.
- Second stage propane regulator (used in conjunction with a suitable single stage regular)- small load situations where the distance between the appliance or house and the tank is significant (e.g. 80-foot distance from the tank to your house with over 1,000,000 BTU total load).
- Automatic changeover propane regulators – RVs and similar installations with dual propane tanks.
Be sure to check the PSI Output, BTU Capacity, the manufacturer recommended usage, whether it’s adjustable or not, and more when comparing available models under each category.
Not all gas-powered appliances are similar, and many of us struggle to select an ideal propane regulator for our propane systems. But with this guide, you can now select the right regulator for your home or outdoor needs.
Of course, you can consult a certified gas technician or your propane company for professional assistance if you’re still unsure.