Brewing with natural gas indoors?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by far333, Dec 1, 2016.

  1. far333

    far333 Poo-Bah (2,023) Nov 16, 2002 Connecticut

    My old school Italian grandparents had a full kitchen in the basement, as was required of Italians a generation or two ago. Part of that was a natural gas stove.

    So if it was okay back then to run a natural gas stove in a basement (and I can't even recall any kind of ventilation), would it be okay for me to run natural gas burners in my basement for brewing? This would allow me to brew in any kind of weather, and prevent having to move equipment from basement to garage, and then move full fermentors from garage back down to basement. I have a double-wide shop sink in the basement, plus fridge fermentor and chest freezer storage.

    On the surface, it seems simple:
    - Tap into my existing natural gas line and run lines out to my two burners
    - Replace the propane orifices on the burners with larger natural gas orifices
    - Install a hood vent over the brewing stand and run a stove pipe or flexible round hose out the basement window to vent steam and CO
    - Open another basement window while burning to replace the air consumed and vented out by the brewing process
    - Install a CO detector

    But in my research it seems that:
    - The length of the gas lines can impact the flow of gas and therefore the strength and efficiency of the flame.
    - Natural gas orifices can't be swapped out on all propane burners, they only work on certain ones
    - Simple exhaust venting may not be enough to remove the CO and other waste gases
    - The oxygen usage of the burners can draw air significantly out of the area, and create a large draw that can actually suck exhaust down the furnace flue and into the home

    Also, Gram and Gramp weren't running a 110,000 BTU burner, so there's that difference as well.

    Anybody doing something like this? Or is this an awful idea? Thanks.
  2. invertalon

    invertalon Devotee (454) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio

    Natural gas is actually safer, in terms of brewing indoors and such. Propane gas is denser than air and if you have a leak, will "puddle" into the lowest point. More riskier for explosions and such, while natural gas is lighter than air and will usually vent out much easier. So natural gas is a better choice for indoor brewing.

    Gas lines do create pressure drops... Only a few feet it won't make much difference. I wouldn't worry too much about that for this type of application.

    No need to open a basement window... Unless your room is air-tight, you will have plenty of air being drawn by the negative pressure in the room while burning. If anything, you will want the venting to keep the room cooler with the input being output into the room. Will get hot!

    The orifice works via the pressure drop to get the proper flow... By replacing the propane orifice with the natural gas one (which will be larger), you must make sure your pressure is regulated somehow or the orifice is made for the supply pressure. Propane tanks have regulators usually to 11"wc or so which controls the flow across the orifice for the proper BTU input, which is how the burners are designed. Natural gas likely will be around 7"wc or so, I believe. Since switching to natural gas, you will want to confirm the gas pressure in the lines at your home and ensure the orifice is sized appropriately. This way, you are not under or overpowering the burners. If they are standardized, then it should be taken care of by just swapping the orifice.

    As far as CO, it's good to have a detector. Typically, CO isn't an issue if the burner is operating properly at the right A/F ratios and all that... But it's always smart in confined spaces to have a detector.

    I am not familiar with residential burners, but for the ones I work on, burners that run on natural gas often can run propane with no changes, but stability windows may change for various burners. The fuels are quite similar in terms of burning for the most part... Propane holes in grid/line type burners are smaller, but that is basically the change of the orifice plate you will do anyway. My work is with industrial burners, although much larger for steel/aluminum and all that, but same thing really (except in the millions of btu, vs. 100k).

    Hope this helps some! Brewing indoors is amazing... I have a kettle that covers two of my NG stove burners so I get a nice strong boil for my 10G kettle... Would hate to have to brew outside, so I have no desire to brew larger volumes than 5G batches!
  3. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (733) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Why not use Gram and Gramps' stove? If you are only brewing 5 gal batches it should be plenty of BTUs if you can find a kettle that will straddle 2 burners.

    Edit: Make sure there are no leaks, etc. if it hasn't been used in awhile.
    far333 likes this.
  4. DunkelFester

    DunkelFester Initiate (186) Aug 24, 2004 Pennsylvania

    I don't think he's talking about the same basement his grandparents had...

    far333 and GreenKrusty101 like this.
  5. far333

    far333 Poo-Bah (2,023) Nov 16, 2002 Connecticut

    True! That stove is long gone.

    Also, I'm doing ten gallon batches, so I need to boil a good volume of pre-boil wort.
  6. JrGtr

    JrGtr Disciple (370) Apr 13, 2006 Massachusetts

    I would actually recommend ventilation - both for potential fumes / CO and for the boil-off humidity. Something like a simple kitchen hood routed out through a window would be fine. There should be enough air coming in, but it still wouldn't hurt to keep another window or door cracked open for extra safety.
  7. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (510) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    I'd advise against it for safety reasons but if you go for it definitely have good ventilation and a CO monitor. A fan in the window pulling air out would be my choice.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  8. Hogue2112

    Hogue2112 Initiate (0) Apr 7, 2016 Ohio

    Put a bed liner down the night before you start tinkering on this. :wink:

    You should be able to find or make a regulator for the NG, inline before your burners. Instead of buying some proprietary BS. See if you can use flex hose, probably make your life a lot easier.

    Do you plan on having any home inspections or anything soon? I'm not sure about the code laws in CT, but around here that would be a large slap in the wrist if it wasn't done by a "professional."

    I would imagine that the pressure decrease would not be a big deal by extending those runs a few feet. You're house should pull from the main based off of the draw, logically speaking.

    Anyway, sounds like a cool plan :slight_smile: I would do it if I didn't have a garage to brew in!
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  9. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (329) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    I would strongly recommend opening a window at opposite ends of the basement, both equipped with fans - one blowing in fresh air, the other blowing out heat, humidity, and CO. I suspect the need will quickly become apparent once you fire up the 100+K burner, which, incidentally, is bigger than most residential furnaces. A simple kitchen exhaust hood (300-ish CFM) will be woefully inadequate for this. You'll likely find your burner running much more efficiently due to the absence of wind. Even the slightest breeze outside can make a huge difference.
  10. far333

    far333 Poo-Bah (2,023) Nov 16, 2002 Connecticut

    Thanks to all for your advice. For those who mentioned that a few feet of gas line won't drop the pressure, how many feet will it take for the pressure to drop? I'm looking at about ten or twelve feet of distance to cover.

    And I will definitely be working with a professional licensed plumber.
  11. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (329) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    I use 10' of 1/2" gas hose to connect my burner on the patio using a QD. That connection is at the end of about 30' of 1/2" black pipe. 30' of 3/4" pipe before that. For some reason, I didn't think that would be adequate, but my 100K burner doesn't seem starved for gas. I don't know if that answers your question, it there it is.
  12. youradhere

    youradhere Zealot (516) Feb 29, 2008 Washington

    Sounds like @invertalon covered the technical aspects like a pro- I would recommend a carbon monoxide detector(s), and if you have extra money to burn use/rent an gas detector to monitor O2 levels (I can't remember what it is called, we always called it "the sniffer" as plumbers to detect noxious/explosive gas levels. Just be sure to never fart into the detection end- you will ruin the calibration!).

    So long as it is vented and there is a way for fresh air to get down there, you should be fine. I however would be nervous the first ~3 times I brewed until I got some confidence that I wouldn't asphyxiate myself :slight_smile:
  13. epk

    epk Initiate (166) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    Slightly off topic, but related - and you probably have already thought about it - but cleaning indoors vs. outdoors may present a challenge. You'll likely need to get 20+ pounds of grain out of the basement and wash down all the equipment. Suppose the big sink you mentioned will help, but it is always so convenient to spray down the mash tun and kettle with a hose outside. I plan to eventually move inside myself, but probably not until I have a nice area built out that I don't mind getting wet - especially with a floor drain.
    #13 epk, Dec 5, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2016
  14. EzHomebrew

    EzHomebrew Initiate (15) Nov 7, 2018 New Jersey

    Hi a am interested to find out what you ended up doing. I am in the same situation in my basement. I have access to my natural gas line ( where my dryer used to be) and could tap into it real easy. The burner would be right below a window that I plan to put a ventilation fan/hood out of either way NG burner or electric. There are a couple windows that I could and would open while the burner and fan are running to recoup lost air.

    My electric panel is pretty full and I would have to hire an electrician to run a line over to the brew area and then buy all the equipment ( element, controller....etc) to brew electrically.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  15. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (398) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    You are wise to install a venalaion system. I'd also invest in a gas meter that measures CO and other potentially harmful gas. Me
    Good meters are expensive but, it's Cheap insurance if you have a gas leak. Or your vent system is not big enough.
  16. far333

    far333 Poo-Bah (2,023) Nov 16, 2002 Connecticut

    Since starting this thread a while back (can't believe it's nearly two years to the day), I decided to go down a completely different path. The risks associated with open flame from a big gas burner inside the house were just too much for my comfort level. I'm in the middle of building out an all electric basement brewery using an induction burner. It's taken more time than I expected, many hours of research on burner, new kettle, exhaust fan, hood, etc. I built a port through the basement window, mounted a fan and built a hood out of thick foam board. I'm wrapping up work now on a PVC board housing to surround the exterior of the basement window and support exhaust ductwork. Still need to have an electrician come in to install a 220V circuit to power the 5000W burner. I'll post photos as soon as some of the work is completed.
    frozyn, Eggman20 and riptorn like this.