Keep the Heat Coming

Posted: July 1, 2012

Regularly check your gas appliances and system components for wear.

By: Deane Hislop

There’s nothing more satisfying than capping a long day on the water with a good meal, be it burgers and dogs on the grill or a culinary extravaganza whipped up by the galley wizard. Gas appliances and system components are engineered to provide long service and include many often -redundant safety features. But like any complex system, they require regular maintenance to deliver the heat their designers intended.

The most important thing you can do for your appliances is to keep them scrupulously clean and dry. Food or spillage that is left to build up can clog burner orifices, make valves difficult to operate and degrade performance. To make cleaning easier, the tops of many stoves’ burners are designed to be removed with a screwdriver. The gas orifice, which is under a cap at the burner’s center, must be kept clear of any blockage that could interfere with the flow of gas through it. If the blockage can’t be cleared by running a stiff wire through the hole, the orifice should be replaced.

Burner valve stems can become difficult to turn after the boat has been laid up for a long time. In many cases, you can remove the valve cover to clean the stem, but you must use great care to keep the components clean before reassembly. Valve covers typically use a gasket-free seal that will leak if grit or contamination remains. A safer, more reliable approach is to replace the valve completely.

As the stove ages, its thermocouples — safety devices that switch off the gas supply if the flame goes out — may begin to fail, a condition that can cause the burner to keep shutting down. You should replace thermocouples, or at least carry spares aboard, once the stove is three to five years old.

Propane system components are overdesigned and highly reliable, but the integrity of the system should be checked regularly. The easiest way to test for leaks is to shut off all appliances, activate the system by turning on the solenoid and then open the main valve at the propane tank to pressurize the entire system. Then, close the main valve and observe the pressure gauge for a period of three to five minutes. If you observe any drop in pressure within that time, there is a leak in the system.

Leaks usually occur at fittings in the supply lines or at junctions with other components, such as solenoids or regulators. Apply a solution of water and non-ammoniated detergent to the pressurized joint with a brush or spray bottle to check for leaks, which will be given away by telltale bubbling. The regulator body can be checked for leaks in the same manner. Shut off the propane system at the tank valve until the leak can be corrected. If you have any doubt about your ability to handle the job, enlist the help of a professional to complete this critical maintenance correctly.

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