If you're a licensed gas professional, you probably don't need instructions for replacing a regulator in a residential propane system. If you're not a pro, you shouldn't try to do it. It's dangerous, and in most places illegal, for a non-licensed individual to do this job. The actual mechanics of the procedure are simple enough to understand, but it takes professional know-how to choose the proper regulator and install it correctly. However, any homeowner can legally and safely replace the regulator on a propane grill or a personal heating or cooking appliance. In fact, small-appliance regulators are designed to make this an easy job for just about anyone.
One Regulator Doesn't Fit All
A gas regulator is a bit like an electrical transformer. Its job is to step down the pressure supplied by the tank to a pressure that appliances, such as heaters and grills, can safely use. The type of regulation system you need depends not just on the pressure one appliance requires but on the needs of all the appliances drawing gas from the tank.
Most residential systems are served by an integral twin-stage regulator connected to the tank, but this configuration won't work if you have a high-demand heater that needs more gas than other appliances. In such a case, the regulator on the tank may supply gas at a high pressure, and each appliance may have its own second-stage regulator. The high pressure regulator is analogous to the 240-volt transformer that supplies power to a residential panel. In this analogy, the second-stage regulators are like the small transformers that supply power to individual electronic devices.
Only a licensed individual who understands the pressure needs of a residential gas system should replace any of the regulators because choosing the wrong regulator could have serious consequences.
Homeowners Can Check for Correct Installation
Even though you shouldn't replace regulators yourself, it's good to know how a regulator should be installed so you can spot problems that could be affecting your appliances. The main regulator on the tank should be under a cover. If it isn't, it should be installed with its vent opening pointed down to prevent rain and snow from getting inside. All second-stage regulators should be installed in the same way, and none of them should be close to a source of heat. Each second-stage regulator should be 12 to 18 inches above the ground or higher in areas of heavy snow accumulation. The vent opening should have a screen to prevent insects from nesting inside. If any regulator appears to have been submerged in water, it should be replaced immediately.
Replacing the Regulator on an Individual Appliance
If you're running a small appliance, such as a grill or heater, using a 5-gallon tank and you need to replace the regulator, you can do it safely. Most small-appliance regulators are connected to a rubber hose that screws onto the appliance gas inlet. The regulator itself usually has a large screw fitting on its inlet side that you can tighten onto the tank by hand.
To replace a worn regulator, start by turning off the gas valve on the tank, then unscrew the regulator fitting from the tank. Use a wrench to do this if the fitting can't be loosened by hand. You'll need the wrench to unscrew the other end of the hose from the appliance. Reverse the procedure to install the new regulator. Before using the appliance, turn on the gas and test the connections by brushing soapy water on each one. If you see bubbles, turn off the gas and tighten the fitting. The appliance is ready to use when the gas is on and you see no bubbles at any fitting.