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Gas Smell In House When Lighting LP Stove

Q: I purchased a propane gas stove two season ago, it has leaked (smelled like gas) sporadically since we bought it. The stove man revented twice and charged for it, but it still smells like gas when you first light the pilot - after 5 or 10 minutes it quits but by then it has run everybody out, and we have to open windows.

Our dealer has closed and we have no one to turn to that may be able to fix it or help. We love the looks of the stove and only want it to work. Can you please help us?

Thank you, Ernest Poncet

Sweepy  The firebox on your gas stove is "leaky" on purpose; you don't want to try to burn gas in an airtight environment. Here's why: every time you call for heat when the stove is cold, gas flows through the burner and into the firebox cavity until the pilot flame ignites it. The time it takes for the gas to ignite varies, as does the amount of fuel present in the firebox at ignition. When ignition is delayed and the firebox is extra full of gas, lightoff can be quite violent, so your gas stove firebox has relief openings to the room to prevent extreme firebox pressurization that could lead to explosion.

Unlike natural gas, LP (propane) gas is heavier than air, so when the pilot isn't lit and the exhaust system is cold (and not drafting), and/or the house is negatively pressurized, unburned LP can be drawn out through openings in the firebox and into the room before the pilot has a chance to light off, carrying the odor of gas with it.

Here's a few tips that can help minimize the odor:

1) See if you can eliminate the negative air pressurization in your house.   The article linked to at left is about wood fireplaces, but the principle is the same for any vented appliance. Your fix might be as simple as cracking a window for a couple of minutes to stabilize indoor pressure before you light your pilot.

2) Make sure your pilot flame is turned up high enough to provide the fastest possible ignition. The flame should engulf the thermopile (the pencil-diameter metal tube right next to the pilot assembly), but not quite meet on the back side.

3) Adjust the air/fuel ratio at the burner to provide more air to the fuel mixture. With LP stoves, we usually set the air mixer nearly wide open. This will take some of the yellow out of the flame display, but the oxygen-rich mixture will ignite faster at lightup.

4) When lighting your pilot, start clicking your igniter button rapidly and repeatedly BEFORE you push in on the control button to start the flow of gas. Your goal is for the gas to hit a spark immediately upon exiting the pilot hood.

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