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Gas Regulators

Is My Gas Regulator Safe?

Gas cylinders, regulators and hoses have become an ongoing cause of concern for many people. In a recent article we looked at the government issued equipment (and locally made copies), much of which is substandard, have been the cause of a series of explosions and have resulted in a number of public demonstrations. The difficulty is that millions (75 million) have been released to the general public and in a country where many people have to make a living in any way they can, it will be very difficult to withdraw them. They are going to be around for a long time to come.

This is an obvious cause for concern however as long as you use good quality equipment and avoid the small green gas cylinders you should not have a problem.

Inga asks:

"I am frequently visited from sharply dressed young men who say they come from 'Pertamina' - but turn out to represent a private company. They want to check my gas equipment and nearly every time, they find dangerous faults.

Last year, they replaced my standard gas hoses (previously installed by a main electronics shop in Denpasar) with 'safe' hoses that had a mesh woven into them.

They also replaced my standard regulator with a non-leak regulator, where gas does not exit into the gas hose unless you open your gas appliance, so there is no gas pressure standing inside the hose. The young men said such gas pressure in the hose will cause it to deteriorate and leak.

Another pair of sharp looking young men arrived today, declaring that last year's regulator was 'broken' so I had to buy the latest model (with SNI stamp and 5 years guarantee, Ibu).

They also said I had to change my gas hoses again, with their brightly orange coloured type ('with metal mesh inside, Ibu').

I sense something fishy about these keen, young salesmen. At the same time, I am worried about gas safety.

  1. Is it dangerous to use a 'normal' gas regulator that lets gas flow into the gas hose at all times?
  2. What type of gas hose must I use?
  3. How often do gas hoses and regulators generally need changing?
  4. One of my gas hoses, which receives direct sunlight in the afternoon, looks 'cracked'. It looks a bit like an old bicycle tyre - dry, brittle and cracked into a marble pattern. Should it be changed?"

Yes Inga as fishy as Neptune's naughty bits! You should always be wary of smart young men wanting to check out your equipment.

These young men, always in pairs, sometimes in uniforms and very often carrying an official "identification", are in fact fraudsters. I had a couple came to my house and let them in just so I could watch how they operate and hear what they said. The comments they made about my existing regulator were like something from the Mad Hatter's teaparty, words invented to persuade me to buy a new regulator - from them of course. In answer to your questions:

  1. All gas regulators allow gas into the hose at the standard low pressure that is required for your cooker. The "safe" type they are talking about is simply not possible. You should always look for the "SNI" (Indonesian Standards) mark on the regulator but bear in mind that this is Indonesia and anyone can put SNI on their product.
  2. There are various types of hose around, don't use the thin plastic ones. Look at the end of the hose to see how it is made. I tend to look for thick rubber ones with a canvas reinforcing layer in the centre of the rubber. Check that the rubber is in good condition all the way along and that at the ends the layers have not come apart. Safety hoses tend to have a metal spiral wrapping to protect the rubber from damage but have a downside in that you cannot inspect the condition of the rubber underneath.
  3. A good regulator may last for years without problem. I have had the same hose and regulator on my cooker for 6 years now. Problems are usually found in the hose and the rubber seal in the top of the gas cylinder.
  4. Yes Inga, if there are any signs of cracking in the rubber replace the hose as soon as possible.

In a letter from Adam he quite rightly points out that the most dangerous aspect of using gas cylinders is the need to move the regulator from one gas cylinder to another. This is the time when mistakes and problems occur particularly when carried out by the pembantu (housemaid).

The regulator is installed fitting inside a small rubber sealing ring which is fitted inside the top of the brass valve on the top of the gas cylinder. This seal often becomes damaged and doesn't seal properly. Pertamina usually make sure that the seal is in good condition when they refill cylinders but you should always be careful.

Installing a Gas Regulator

Firstly make sure that the seal is in good condition. If it isn't in good condition gently remove it making sure you don't damage the brass valve that the seal fits into. Install a new one (new seals are available from a number of places including hardware shops and it is good to always keep a few handy) making sure it is properly seated in the groove in the top of the brass valve.

Check the regulator is clean and in good condition. Turn the plastic knob on the side of the regulator and check that it is working correctly. As you turn the knob you should see a clamp move up inside the end of the regulator and then a pin come out from the bottom. The clamp pulls the regulator onto the valve and holds it in place while the pin pushes down into the brass valve to release the flow of gas. Turn the knob back to its "open" position with the pin withdrawn.

Carefully push the regulator onto the top of the brass valve, hold it down and turn the plastic knob. Do not force anything. If the knob doesn't turn find out why. If the regulator installs correctly you may hear a short hiss or pop as the gas is released. This initial flow will push the seal into position sealing the regulator to the valve and the hiss should stop.

Listen carefully, if the regulator is correctly installed you should not hear any hissing. If the seal is leaking you will probably hear a gentle hissing noise. If the regulator doesn't seal remove it and check the condition of the rubber sealing ring and also the outer surface of the bottom of the regulator against which the seal must seat.

And finally this week examination of some recent PLN bills reveals - very little I'm afraid. Trying to track down exactly how new bills are being calculated is proving rather elusive. I'll let you know when we get to the bottom of it so to speak.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
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