The Stove That Would Not Boil Water
February 15, 2017 3:35 PM   Subscribe

We're on our third brand-new, professionally-installed LP gas stove that will not boil water. After 20 minutes on high, it gets to a gentle almost-boil, but never more than that. Technicians from the gas company, BestBuy (where we bought it) and Samsung (the manufacturer) have all been here, some multiple times, and once all at the same time...and everyone is stumped.

The first two stoves were Samsung NX58H5600SS. We are running it on propane, with a newly-installed propane tank and gas line. The stoves were converted to LP with correct orifices and correctly-oriented regulator, and checked multiple times. Regulators on both the gas lines and the stove were replaced. Gas pressure has been checked multiple times and is correct.

Here is a video of the second stove trying to boil water.

With the technician, we hooked up a small BBQ propane tank directly to the stove with a regulator to give it the correct pressure and still had the same issue. This led us to believe that the issue was with the stove, and we swapped it for a third unit - an upgraded model NX58H5650WS. It has the same issue both when connected to the gas line and when connected to the BBQ tank.

One other confounding thing is that 99% of the time, the flames are blue, occasionally tipped with a flicker of yellow - as I understand they should be. However, maybe three times now, while cooking (it still gets hot enough to sauté) the flames will go yellow as if they are getting too much oxygen, as shown in this video.

We've talked to multiple technicians, posted on various appliance forums, and googled for hours on end. My wife has cried. Multiple times. Everyone is stumped and we are on the verge of giving up and going electric despite having spent a lot of money getting gas installed, so I could have the gas stove I always wanted.

Can anyone help? Please? If you crack the case, I will cook you are really good dinner. Seriously.
posted by SampleSize to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I assume you've replaced the hoses connecting the range to the pipe?
posted by postel's law at 3:42 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

What altitude are you at?
posted by zadcat at 3:45 PM on February 15, 2017 [8 favorites]

Paradoxically, have you tried turning it down a bit?

I have a gas stove that seems to boil water faster at medium-high than high - though I have to admit I've never formally tested it.

It feels like on 'high', the heat from the flames gets pushed out the side away from the pot, rather than going up into it.

(Carefully!) Put your hand near the side of the pot; can you feel a bunch of hot air rushing by?

Also, FWIW, water boils faster if there's a lid on the pot.
posted by Hatashran at 3:48 PM on February 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm impatient in getting water to boil on my gas stove. Even with a lid, it takes FOREVER. So when I'm looking to boil water, I'll boil it in an electric kettle first, and then pour it into a pot on high. It cools some in this quick transition, then comes to a boil in the pot within a minute.

The electric kettle is an extra step, but it speeds things up significantly.
posted by raztaj at 3:59 PM on February 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

What's your altitude?
posted by janey47 at 4:03 PM on February 15, 2017

My gas stove boils water just fine, and in a timely fashion. The pot I use to boil water in, for now, is a medium sized sauce pan with a lid, and I go with medium high setting, because high flames all around the exterior of the pan, and medium heats the middle of the bottom of the pan, as It should. I wonder if the very top diffusers are proper, the little jet spaces where the flame, gas and oxygen mix. Maybe they have to be different sized to work with a different gas.
posted by Oyéah at 4:04 PM on February 15, 2017

Best answer: You guys. With all the people and hassle involved in this (THREE!!! STOVES) my strong assumption is that this is not a problem of impatience on the part of the OP. Also, normal stoves are able to bring pots of water to boil without needing to put a bird lid on it. There is something very non-standard going on here.
posted by phunniemee at 4:06 PM on February 15, 2017 [43 favorites]

Have you been using the same pot for each test? I have one good-sized pan that wouldn't boil water if you threw it in an active volcano. All my others are OK.
posted by kate4914 at 4:18 PM on February 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding that it could be related to heat loss around the pan. Try a lower setting, a smaller burner, a bigger pot.
posted by so fucking future at 4:31 PM on February 15, 2017

From the video, the flames (on high!) appear to be a little bit small, but not really. The pot also seems to be farther away from the burner than I'd expect, but again not really.

I do some outside cooking with propane, and I've experienced that if I turn things on too fast, there is a safety valve on the tank that will limit--but not stop--the gas flow and so nothing ever boils; I have to turn everything off and then slowly back on again. That might account for the yellow-flame incidents, but that doesn't seem like something that should be a constant issue, and you've also tested with a different tank. Surely a house-sized propane tank would be able to accommodate you turning on a stove.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:34 PM on February 15, 2017

Were you using a humidifier the times that the flame was orange?
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:34 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a stove that behaved exactly as you described - it had a gas leak. It was a small, difficult to detect one. It took about 8 to 9 months to identify the CO build up. When the CO detector went off the stove had been on for quite a while.

I can't give you an exact time period for that because it's pretty hazy, what with the carbon monoxide poisoning. What I can tell you is that while by the end of that period I had serious and clearly identifiable symptoms of CO poisoning, the onset and build up of those symptoms was gradual to the point of being unidentifiable at the time.

This is tangential but for what it's worth, I find that I like induction stoves very, very much.
posted by Verba Volant at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2017 [11 favorites]

Have you seen this video? Any chance you're running a humidifier in the house?
posted by defreckled at 4:40 PM on February 15, 2017

That video with the yellow flames - that's not right. And the hissing? That doesn't sound right either. NG and LP run at quite different pressures, are you 100% sure that the LP conversion was done right at every step of the way?

Frankly, many ranges out there today simply suck from the get-go. Can you try a different brand? I mean, after three bum Samsungs, maybe that's just how they are - poor performers. I've had several ranges that don't really live up to my expectations.

Also, at some point when boiling water, it requires alot more energy to push it from 'simmer' to 'rolling boil' - because you're not just heating the water any more, you're causing it to change state from liquid to gas. So your stove may just not put out enough heat to really kick it up to "rolling boil" - it might be happy just chugging along at an equilibrium of 'high simmer'. Add in the variables like heat loss out of single-wall stainless pots and whatnot, and you might just be getting what you're gonna get. I definitely notice a difference between three-ply walled pots and single walled pots - at a certain point the thin ones radiate heat as much as they direct it towards their contents.
posted by gyusan at 4:48 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Verba Volant - That is very interesting. We have not changed the hose from gas to stove, as questioned by postel's law...and it was still in the equation even with the BBQ tank. I will try a new one tomorrow.

We're close to sea level, no humidifier.
posted by SampleSize at 4:58 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is the pressure regulator on the tank working correctly?
posted by humboldt32 at 5:17 PM on February 15, 2017

Yellow flames are usually a sign of too little oxygen, since a yellow color can come from glowing soot particles which are generated when there isn't enough oxygen to burn all the carbon.

Is there any chance that the space in which your stove is installed is somehow choking off the air supply to the adjustable valves?
posted by jamjam at 5:19 PM on February 15, 2017

Even if you were at altitude, that would mean it would be EASIER to boil water. Things take longer to cook at altitude because water has a lower boiling temperature when there's less air pressure, therefore things take longer to cook.
posted by LionIndex at 5:26 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you quite sure you have the orifices for propane? The yellow flame indicates insufficient oxygen, the opposite of what you say in the post. Burning LPG requires much more oxygen than natural gas. In any event the burners need more oxygen, not less.
posted by exogenous at 6:06 PM on February 15, 2017

Nthing gyusan. There was an episode of Dinner Impossible in which the equipment in the temporary outdoor kitchen did not get hot enough to cook the food because it was set up for the wrong fuel.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:07 PM on February 15, 2017

NG requires a bigger orifice than LP; if the wrong ones were installed you'd have noticeably too large flame with lots of yellow. If the air mixture was oxygen deficient your flame would be yellow all the time not just intermittently. Plus you've got to assume one of the three techs you have had out would have been able to diagnose that.

Huffy Puffy: "I do some outside cooking with propane, and I've experienced that if I turn things on too fast, there is a safety valve on the tank that will limit--but not stop--the gas flow and so nothing ever boils;"

This only applies to tanks 40lbs and smaller so SampleSize if you are using 100lb tanks or a pig this isn't the problem.

This is a head scratcher. SampleSize has it been crazy cold (like -30F)? Propane stops evaporating near -40 (depending on the butane content) and that can cause low vapour pressures.

Otherwise my guess would be a restriction in the line somewhere. A kinked, crushed or otherwise restricted line can sometimes show proper pressure but be unable to flow the correct volume. You say a new line was installed. Copper or black iron? If copper can you perform a visual inspection of the entire length to ensure there are no kinks? If you are using a rubber/braided line between the wall and the range they can sometimes collapse internally or have a manufacturing defect that obstructs the flow. Disconnect it from both ends and see if it is clear if you look down it.

If it was me I'd buy a new hose and regulator and the adapter bit to connect it to your stove and try that one more time. Maybe borrow a tank from a neighbour.

The other thing that can cause this is a high BTU draw but your latest stove is quite reasonable and not some huge Wolf thing. The largest burner is 18K BTUs which should boil a couple quarts of water in less than 10 minutes.

Here's some grasping at straws:
Do you have a hood fan and are you using it in your attempts to boil? It's kind of a stretch but you might want to introduce fresh air via opening your kitchen window a couple inches. I've seen some weird things when commercial kitchen haven't had enough makeup air.

Are you getting your stove propane and BBQ propane from the same company? In the old days you'd occasionally get a supplier who had a lot of butane in their propane and it would cause usability problems.
posted by Mitheral at 6:24 PM on February 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I used to failure analysis full time on consumer goods. I am also located in north jersey and would be interested in swinging by and pulling out a few things from my bag of tricks and taking a look at the overall setup and installation and seeing what could possibly be the issue. Memail me if you would be interested in some on site assistance.
posted by Nackt at 6:34 PM on February 15, 2017 [17 favorites]

Don't know how big your tanks are, but Boyles Law may come in to play... when you take propane out of a bottle, the bottle gets colder, and evaporation slows. I've had them freeze up on forklifts. Bigger tank is going to have less change, smaller tank more.
posted by rudd135 at 6:36 PM on February 15, 2017

SampleSize if you have your BBQ tank hooked up while it is inside your house you'll be able to see that problem as frost on the tank that extends from the bottom to the liquid level line. If you have no frost then the LP isn't getting cold enough to reduce it's pressure below a usable level.
posted by Mitheral at 6:45 PM on February 15, 2017

Two things on the stove need to be changed to convert from natural gas to propane, the orifices in the burners and the regulator (on the back of the stove, not the one out on the tank). Many of the regulators have an insert that needs to be turned over.
I've also had problems with the regulators on the propane tanks, my barbeque drew so much that the safety valve would close, they are sized for different maximum flows, they may have installed the smallest one for only a stove (as opposed to someone that also has propane heat and water heater). The symptom was the same as yours, the barbeque seemed to work, but didn't get very hot.
posted by 445supermag at 7:24 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Was the pressure measured while the stove was running, from another point behind the regulator?

The biggest burner is supposed to be 18kBTU; are they using the same conversion parts on each attempt? Maybe they are putting small burners in instead?
posted by flimflam at 8:22 PM on February 15, 2017

You know, in that video where all the flames are yellow, the audio makes it sound like the gas is fairly roaring out of there, and I'm wondering whether your whole problem could be gas flow rates that are too high for the air flow you can achieve, and may even be high enough to shoot the hot, combusted gases out beyond the edge of the pan before they rise up to heat whatever's on the stove, because at the 0:37 mark in the first video, which is after you've taken the pan off the stove, you can see that the one small section of the pan where the water was boiling vigorously was directly above a flame that didn't seem to have as much pressure behind it for some reason, and was going up instead of shooting out.
posted by jamjam at 10:18 PM on February 15, 2017

Are you getting soot on the bottom of your pots? This is another indication that you aren't getting enough oxygen to cleanly burn and is a good indication that the stove wasn't correctly converted from natural gas to propane.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:41 AM on February 16, 2017

How did the old stove work? Did you ever run it with the newly installed tank & line?

I've cooked on both LP and NG, that yellow-flame isn't right.

When you finally find it, please come back and tell us what the fix was.
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:12 AM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the anecdata pile: the only time I've seen yellow flames like that on our propane stove is when I've misaligned the little disks that sit in the center of the flame. Like I would take them out to wash them, and set them back carelessly, and that yellow flame and whoosh would tell me I'd set it wrong.

I think the hose/leak thing is most likely unless there is something preventing you from placing those disks centrally -- like if your entire house is tipped at a 45 degree angle and somehow everyone is a ninja about placing those disks improperly -- but thought I'd share.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:23 AM on February 16, 2017

I wonder if there is a way to measure total heat energy coming off the burner. Presumably the stove is not generating normal heat. If there was a method for testing this you woulf have a way to know if your tweaks are working. Infrared cameras come to mind or a metal plate with a temp sensor attached.
posted by diode at 7:25 AM on February 16, 2017

I'm thinking about the line too. Not sure if you have the time or want to video your home, but a short video of the tank set up, and how the line is run, might be useful here. It looks like pretty much every other component in the system has been picked over.

Is it possible you could borrow a rubber propane line and somehow run it it into the back of the stove from the tank and run some tests that way?

But yeah an interesting head scratcher. Keep us updated!
posted by carter at 12:55 PM on February 16, 2017

Please come back and tell us. This is currently the most riveting thread on AskMeFi.
posted by billjings at 7:57 PM on February 16, 2017 [16 favorites]

I come back to this thread once a day. So sad. The mystery remains.
posted by billjings at 11:05 AM on February 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Belated follow-up!

I was sure that replacing the hose from the gas line to the stove was going to fix everything....but no luck. I tried cracking the window, and mayyybe it slightly improved things? Hard to say.

Stove #4 was installed two days ago. After the 3 Samsungs, this time we tried a Frigidaire, model FGGF3058RF.

Guess what? Water boils in 10 minutes. No intermittent yellow flames. So, the thrilling conclusion is Samsung sucks. Thanks all very much for your help.
posted by SampleSize at 11:38 AM on March 17, 2017 [14 favorites]

*wild applause*
posted by billjings at 8:51 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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