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Are there any particular safety or damage concerns with brewing in a basement? Things I'm thinking of are damage from moisture, possible fire or maybe gasses emitted from the propane tank.

I've seen basement setups on the internet, but I'm wondering about any special considerations these people have taken that I wouldn't have seen in a picture.

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Perhaps you saw an indoor setup that was running on natural gas, like what powers gas stoves? Do NOT burn propane indoors. You could easily die from the fumes. –  Graham Jan 17 '12 at 19:33
    
Okay, thanks guys, happy I asked. homebrew stackexchange may have saved a life. –  PMV Jan 18 '12 at 15:05

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There are several issues with a large propane burner used indoors (or natural gas/methane for that matter - propane is derived from NG, in fact).

The issues with a large open flame on a mobile base inside your house are obvious.

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The burner would have to be situated at a distance from any combustibles, similar to safely installing a wood stove.

Then there's the gas itself. Unlike natural gas/methane, Propane is heavier than air, so any leaks in the system will cause the propane to pool where you can't smell it. Then it will find an ignition source, and you can fill in the rest.

Next comes combustion. Propane (and natural gas) combustion byproducts are CO2 (carbon dioxide) and water. Innocuous enough, however:

If there is not enough oxygen available for complete combustion, some unburned fuel will escape and its energy will be lost. Usually this takes the form of carbon monoxide being formed in place of carbon dioxide.

Carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it's there. Even the non-poisonous carbon dioxide can be a problem by replacing the breathable air in your brewing room.

Then there's the more mundane issue of water vapor. I boil off almost 2 gallons in an hour. That liquid has to go somewhere. In your house, that somewhere is into your walls, ceiling, woodwork, etc, where it will make a lovely environment for mold. Imagine dumping 2 gallons of water on the floor of your kitchen.

So while you can do it with adequate ventilation and fire-proofing, it's definitely not something I would do. The risks - especially the heaver-than-air bit - far outweigh the benefits, in my opinion.

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The photo is a little dramatic isn't it? The heavier than air bit is only an issue if the air is completely still walking around and normal room air currents prevent it from pooling. It dispurses fairly easily. –  brewchez Jan 5 '13 at 13:58
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Everyone has to assess their own risk tolerance. The furnace in my basement is at a low point, which is the last place I want propane pooling. I'm not going to depend on random currents to prevent that. And yes, the photo is meant to be overly dramatic. –  JoeFish Jan 5 '13 at 17:57

do not burn propane indoors without ventilation, it produces carbon dioxide when burned, this could potentially fill up your basement and suffocate you. Also incomplete combustion of propane will produce carbon monoxide which is toxic.

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Just don't do it. –  Graham Jan 17 '12 at 19:32

Propane indoors would indeed be a bad idea. What about switching to an electric based method like a heatstick? The heatsticks are a great option if you have GFI outlets, or can install them. With two of them (plugged into different circuits) you should be able to boil quite quickly.

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