Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cooking with Gas! (Liquid Propane Gas)

For those of us used to cooking with gas, it comes as a rude shock that industrial lofts don't necessarily have natural gas hookups. In an industrial zone, occupants may be expected to supply their own gas if  they require it to manufacture their goods. The industrial loft complex we moved into does not have natural gas supply lines so power for heating, hot water and cooking is provided via electricity. Since we prefer to cook over a gas flame instead of electric coils, the lack of natural gas posed a challenge.

After some research into alternatives to natural gas and electricity, we realized that denizens of high-altitude and remote regions generally utilize liquid propane gas (LPG) as a safe, effective source of cooking flames. We then discovered that there was a well-known, high-end appliance company in our area that was well-versed in manufacturing liquid propane-ready cooktops. Generally, LPG cooktops are hooked up to large propane tanks situated just outside the dwelling. Pressure regulators and reinforced gas lines and fittings ensure controlled and safe gas delivery. In our case, however, installing a big tank outside the loft wasn't an option, so we consulted with people familiar with LPG hookups and determined that there was no known reason why we couldn't connect the appliance to a smaller, portable, barbeque-style 20lb LPG tank. So we decided to take the plunge and purchase a beautiful LPG four-burner cooktop. The LPG cooktop comes with a factory-installed pressure regulator that automatically shuts off the gas supply if the gas force is too great. Furthermore, the propane supply tank - whatever the size - must be fitted with a second pressure regulator that also controls the force of the gas coming out of the tank. It is a fail-safe design that combined with the manually-controlled gas shutoff valve found of all portable tanks, is extremely safe.
Factory Regulator (connected to gas lines with "Pipe Dope" sealant)

Tank-Side Regulator
We drove a few miles to the factory to pick up the LPG cooktop and got to see the immaculate and very organized Japanese-style assembly facility where the cooktop was made. Once we got the cooktop home we examined the cutsheet (guidelines for the dimensions required to fit, install and power the appliance) and  fabricated a custom phenolic resin countertop to house it. Then we hooked the factory-supplied gas pipe and regulator to the propane tank line - the propane tank also had to have its own pressure regulator for the cooktop to work. A single pressure regulator won't allow the burners to ignite because the amount of gas pressure coming out of an unregulated propane tank causes the cooktop-side regulator valve to close. But with a pressure regulator attached to each end of the gas line, the gas flow is highly controlled and the burners light like a charm.
Easy Tank Storage

High-End Looks and Performance
Cooking with liquid propane has been fun and educational. At first, we anticipated the 20lb tank would run out of gas within two weeks or so. Thus far, however, one tank has lasted us over five weeks for daily teakettle heating, egg-frying and 4 nights-a-week dinner cooking. The little tank has not run out! In addition, we discovered that LPG burns hotter and heats faster than natural gas. Propane provides more energy per unit volume than natural gas -- propane will give you over 2x the BTUs as the same volume of natural gas. A kettle of water seems to boil in approximately 2/3 of the time and frying takes about 33-50%  less flame strength. It has been a rewarding solution to cooking with gas without a natural gas supply. As an added bonus, city folk who don't have experience cooking with LPG think it's a pretty clever and amazing setup.

Cooking with Gas!

1 comment:

  1. Nics pics! Ofcourse, I think natural gas is also a better choice for cooking.