Chance of vapor fire with electric still

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Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Lone Wolf » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:37 pm

Hi all,

I have just converted my keg to electric, will be doing a water run to double check for leaks, a new cleaning with vinegar/water first, then an alcohol run before my real runs start up again.

I have a small room, about 6x9 in my basement that I am wiring a 240 socket in the room. (Already landed in the box - was for electric stove, but we switched to gas)

The question I have is about ventilation and/or fires.

I have been running in my garage with propane, back door open and garage door up about 1 foot for good cross flow.

What type of ventilation should I have in my basement with electric? As of the last run I made, I have zero leaks, and in the basement there will be no open flames.

Should I just leave the door open with a fan circulating the air out? Should I put a bathroom type fan in and vent to the outside, or another part of the basement with a window?

What are the chances of fires starting with electric, other than an electrical fire?

BTW, I read through all the threads under this topic but didn't run across any fire issues other than with propane usage, but I could have missed one if it was out there.

Thanks for any input.

LW
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Richard7 » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:43 pm

With alcohol vapor being heavier that air I would say that a box fan on the floor blowing out of a door should be plenty but never leave it unattended.
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Butterman » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:56 pm

I would think that running a reflux still rather than a pot still in a closed area would be more dangerous as the percent of alcohol that is being produced.
But I run my electric pot still indoors with just a fan running and I hear that some people run reflux stills in their kitchens (over open flame, yikes).
I would just take some good precautions ie fire extinguisher, some ventilation, and general attentiveness.

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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Lone Wolf » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:11 am

Sorry, I thought I responded last night......

I am currently running a Nixon Stone offset head still. I'm not sure why a reflux still would be more 'dangerous' than a pot still other than vapor could escape if my condenser failed. A pot still run slowly can produce rather high abv too.

As for running the still, I don't leave the still unattended ever. A box fan sounds like a good idea without closing the door to the room.

I guess the bigger question I have, and maybe I didn't ask it correctly is this: Is there a chance of fire with an electric boiler as there is with propane with a vapor leak?

Everything I have read so far about fires and vapor leaks is from folks using propane.....Did I miss the electric boiler mishaps somewhere?

Other than fixing ANY leak no matter how small, having proper venting, a fire extinguisher on hand, sufficient cooling water.....is there anything else I should be thinking about?

I don't want to leave out any other safety steps.

Thanks,
LW
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby bellybuster » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:15 am

I think you got'er covered myself.
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby rad14701 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:22 am

You wouldn't have to worry about the element causing problems just as long as it is always submerged in wash within the boiler... Even if the heating element failed there really wouldn't be much chance of a fire or explosion because there isn't enough oxygen in the boiler to allow for a combustible mixture... However, you would still have the possibility of an explosion from an external ignition source should the still start spewing high proof alcohol vapor into the stilling area...
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Lone Wolf » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:36 am

Great point Rad.

I am only using a small boiler, and the element is only a couple inches from the bottom. Definitely worth keeping in mind when running several stripped runs. Just need to make sure I dilute it enough as to not uncover the element.

The room I plan on using is right next to the furnace and water heater - both natural gas, so I'd better be damn sure there are no leaks and I don't leave it alone.

As of my last run, I don't have any leaks, but that has been over 6 months ago. I am going to go through all the cleaning runs and test for leaks again, as well as on my mash runs.

I feel safer from a privacy standpoint in my basement, but not so much from a safety standpoint, only because I haven't done it before inside.

I am all about taking my time, doing it right, and being safe. This is a serious hobby, which requires me to pay extra attention to what is going on.

Still going to be a while before I start, the parts to my power control are still in the mail.

Thanks,
LW
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Soggy Bottom Boy » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:55 pm

It might be prudent to shut down any natural gas appliances that have a pilot light or anything that starts automatically using piezoelectric spark ignition. Most electric motors are not safe around flammable vapors as well, so if you plan to use a fan to induce air flow, placement is fairly critical, ....especially in an indoor environment. I don't think you would want to use an exhaust fan, as that would draw alcohol vapors out through the fan assembly. A blower fan placed higher than floor level, and helping any natural air flow, would be a much better choice.
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby sensei » Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:01 am

Wouldn't any vapor escaping just condense in air?
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Ghost » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:39 am

Much like everything else with this hobby - depends on the variables. If in a cold shop it will condense quicker than if you are in a heated basement or house. Or if the ambient temps outside are higher. Colder ambient temps would make it condense faster of course. Warmer temps would allow the vapor to stay just that - vapor and possibly pool in lower areas.
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Lone Wolf » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:53 am

I am not sure that turning off the hot water heater as well as the furnace for a run when the temp outside is only 25F would go over well with the family, especially since my wife is always cold when the thermostat is set at 72F. I have my furnace room right next to my stillin room. Most likely what I will end up doing is having two fans, one for each room blowing away from any appliances.

If we are going to talk about what could ignite ethanol vapors, then we shouldn't use light switches, tv's, fans, or even a radio, while stilling.

I think the key to this hobby indoors is ensuring no leaks, have decent ventilation, and don't leave your still unattended.

As for escaping vapor just condensing in the air, I believe that the relative humidity level in the home would have to be high enough for the vapor not to remain vapor since the atmosphere, inside or out, can hold a certain amount of liquit without it condensing - if that makes sense. Think of it this way, if you boil a pot of water on your stove to the point where it all boils off/evaporates, it doesn't start raining in your kitchen. The air can hold the liquid in vapor form.

Overall, turning off the furnace and hot water heater is something to think about as well as having a fan at the entrance to the furnace room pushing air/vapor away.

Thanks,
LW
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Max_Vino » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:17 pm

Hi Lone,

If I were in your shoes I wouldn't do it. While the risks are very small that you might have an explosion or fire, the consequences are very large if you do. I know you're thinking that you got all of your bases covered but I've had a lot of experience dealing with the distillation of dangerous chemicals and the one thing that I've learned is that it's always what you don't expect that comes and bites you in the butt.

I don't know what it is about people... there is no one on this board who would distill gasoline in their basement ...yet ethanol is also used as a replacement for gasoline.

(From Wikipedia)
An ethanol-water solution that contains 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) will catch fire if heated to about 26 °C (79 °F) and if an ignition source is applied to it. The flash point of pure ethanol is 16.60 °C (61.88 °F), less than average room temperature.

Cheers,
Max
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Azure » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:03 pm

I run a candle next to my burner but between the burner and the water heater in case the burner goes out as a backup in case my burner goes out.
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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Navy vet » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:46 pm

I'd keep a Co2 fire extinguisher in reach at all times, I think is unlikely you would saturate that space with enough vapor concentration to cause an explosion. But anything is possible. The best you can do is minimize as may risks as you can then decide if it's worth the risk to you.

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Re: Chance of vapor fire with electric still

Postby Andy Capp » Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:12 am

Navy vet wrote:I'd keep a Co2 fire extinguisher in reach at all times, I think is unlikely you would saturate that space with enough vapor concentration to cause an explosion. But anything is possible. The best you can do is minimize as may risks as you can then decide if it's worth the risk to you.

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