Am I using my CO2 Regulator wrong?
January 11, 2013 3:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to build my very own carbonation system. It's been done before plenty of times. I think I've got all the parts connected right, but there is no activity in the regulator when I open the tank. I don't hear a peep. How do I troubleshoot this?

Some photos:
the regulator connected to the tubing, regulator connected to the tank.

Supposedly, at this point I should be able to open the CO2 tank and see some activity in the regulator but actually nothing happens when I do that. I tried adjusting the regulator pressure, nothing. What am I missing here and how can I troubleshoot?
posted by amandabee to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you get a hiss when you crack the valve on the tank without the regulator connected? That is, is your tank full?
posted by supercres at 3:58 PM on January 11, 2013

Does the pressure gauge measure the pressure before the regulator, or after? And what pressure is it at when you open all the valves?

Have you opened the tank (GENTLY) to see if there is any pressure in the tank?
posted by gjc at 3:59 PM on January 11, 2013

That regulator gauge should be measuring output pressure, not input pressure.

I don't know exactly what you expect to hear if you open the line between the tank and the regulator, but no output lines on the regulator. What happens when you open the output line?
posted by muddgirl at 4:06 PM on January 11, 2013

Are you sure you have gas in the tank? If you are sure, then manually open the output line (push in the pin inside the connector) and see/hear what happens. Regulators do sometimes fail but I always suspect the tank. My regulator has a separate gauge for the tank but even then I sometimes forget to look at it.
posted by tommasz at 4:12 PM on January 11, 2013

@muddgirl, I should have said that I also opened the output line. I did.

@supercres, @gjc: I was scared to try that because I don't really know what I'm doing, but I went ahead and disconnected the regulator. I got a definite hiss just disconnecting it. So the CO2 tank is indeed full.

(So far I'm just reassured that if I'm returning something it is to the nice homebrew store guys and not the welding supply place.)
posted by amandabee at 4:13 PM on January 11, 2013

Yeah, regulators with only one gauge are generally only sensing the delivery pressure rather than the supply pressure. My guess is that you've got the regulator dialed all the way down.

I would close the valve on the bottle most of the way (so you can shut it off quickly with <1 turn if you need to) and slowly dial up the regulator delivery pressure. When you've got a hiss going, open the bottle more so that the regulator is doing all the work.
posted by janell at 4:13 PM on January 11, 2013

@tommasz I'm not sure what you mean by "push the pin inside the connector"
posted by amandabee at 4:14 PM on January 11, 2013

That gauge is for measuring the pressure in the outgoing line.

To test if there's pressure in the tank (assuming the regulator will pass pressure along to the line), close the valve that leads to the outgoing line from the regulator (in the picture, that's closed, perpendicular to the direction of flow). It's below the regulator when the regulator and line are hooked to the tank.

Now open the tank (which will pressurize the regulator), use the screw on the regulator to allow psi to the outgoing line. Adjust the screw until the gauge reads something (5 psi is fine). Now close the tank. There should still be some pressure in the regulator.

Then open the pressure relief valve on the regulator itself (just below the gauge). It should hiss, which indicates, along with pressure displayed on the gauge, that you've got pressure.

Given your description already, it sounds like you may have already done these things but it's also possible you did it in the wrong order. When I do operations with gas tanks, even if it's only a few knobs and valves, I write it down and proofread it. Working with pressure is almost always non-intuitive and sometimes dangerous.

Assuming your tank is pressurized it's probably pressurized at around 800 psi. If you suspect it isn't pressured, after the above test, you can very carefully, very slowly, try to open the tank, but beware that it's dangerous, especially if you've got 800 psi and you don't know it.
posted by kalessin at 4:14 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sorry to come late to the party, the hot preview didn't display activity. :)
posted by kalessin at 4:15 PM on January 11, 2013

In your first photo, the gray connector on the bottle has spring-loaded pin that is pushed in when the connector is put on a keg (or the device shown). You can (carefully) depress this manually to see if the output line has pressure.
posted by tommasz at 4:16 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you take the regulator off the tank, don't open the valve on the tank (bottle) indoors. There's a substantial ashphyxiation hazard.
posted by janell at 4:16 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Emphatically agree with janell. Also I got a 2-gauge regulator so I could monitor my tank pressure. If you've got the option to upgrade in the future you might make a similar decision. With the 2-gauge regulator I just close the regulator (screw all the way to loose, no pressure on the diaphragm) and open the tank. The tank pressure then reads on the 2nd gauge.

P.S. Feel free to drop me a line at if you've got additional questions after this AskMe expires.
posted by kalessin at 4:21 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by amandabee at 4:24 PM on January 11, 2013

Okay, sorry, I got excited.

@janell, yeah I didn't think opening the tank in my living room qualified as a bright idea.

@kalessin and @tommasz's advice made got me there. I was misunderstanding basically everything about how the gauge works. I stuck the bottle cap into the grey valve and started tinkering with *tightening* the regulator screw rather than loosening it and got a hiss.

Then I yelped and came running back here to say thank you.
posted by amandabee at 4:27 PM on January 11, 2013

The screw coming out of the regulator is how you adjust the pressure of CO2 that the regulator will deliver. If you're using this to push and carbonate beer out of a keg you will need different pressures depending on which style of beer you are making; ales tend to be carbonated to 1.5 Volumes of CO2 and lagers around 2.5 volumes of CO2. Because the solubility of CO2 is dependent on the temperature of the system this can get somewhat complicated and you would need to have the keg pressurised to a higher amount while warm to deliver correctly carbonated beer at the correct temperature. Also because you are replenishing the headspace with CO2 it is best to "balance" the system using the lines that deliver the beer to the tap. Narrower lines mean more PSI is required to push the beer out at a good flow rate.

Are you making your own keg system?
posted by koolkat at 7:07 AM on January 12, 2013

Is that teflon tape I see on the tank connector? It does not belong there- that's NOT where the connector seals. On these types of fittings, you don't use teflon tape. That's only for tapered pipe threads.
posted by drhydro at 8:08 PM on January 12, 2013

@kooklat, just carbonating water.

@dryhdro, Tell me more? There is a rubber/plastic washer in the tank connector as well. (photo) -- are you saying I don't need the teflon tape or that the teflon tape is bad?

The body of the ball lock coupler screws on to the gas line connection and I wound up adding teflon tape to that connection as well, because it was clear that a great deal of CO2 was escaping through it.
posted by amandabee at 2:13 PM on January 13, 2013

You shouldn't need the teflon tape where you have it, but you'll get as many opinions as people you ask about whether there *should* be teflon tape there.

It isn't poisonous or nasty tasting. If your connection doesn't leak, it isn't worth taking it apart to add/remove the tape.
posted by janell at 6:51 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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