Focusing on Gas Pressure Regulators!
By Michael Angello – Branch Manager, Tucson
Most commercial cooking equipment has an external gas pressure regulator installed on them; this is a secondary regulator to the main regulator on the outside of your building. Have you seen them or know what they do? They are the grey square object that sticks out of the back or side of your oven, salamander, or fryer. Have you ever wondered what they do and if they ever need to be maintained? Hopefully, we can help answer some of the questions you may have and maybe save you some money on a service call.
Just as they sound, the regulators regulate gas pressure going into your cooking equipment to prevent damage to the more sensitive components within. This is achieved by having a diaphragm and spring that is measuring the incoming pressure and adjusts the pressure variants to keep your equipment operating with a smooth and steady pressure. For example, in normal operation, if the pressure becomes too high, the vent connected to the diaphragm vents a very small amount of gas out to the atmosphere, if it is too low the vent closes. This is the action of gas regulating which prevents damage to the main gas valve of your equipment. If you are now wondering about the vent, look at your regulator – it is a small gold nipple sticking up off the regulator. The vent is the cause and remedy for most regulator issues.
The vent serves a second purpose on the regulator. If the gas pressure becomes so high that it can no longer regulate, it becomes a pressure relief valve. This is very important, because if the regulator on your building fails, your last line of defense is your equipment’s regulator, as it will relieve pressure and close the regulator to prevent equipment damage or an explosion in the kitchen. These are the basic operations of gas regulators, but unfortunately, they are sometimes forgotten as most of the time they work as they should. But what happens when they fail? The most common failure is when the vent gets clogged. This can result in two scenarios, gas pressure too low or too high. When gas pressure is too low the pilot light may ignite, but not the main burner or you may not get any gas at all, so nothing ignites. With gas pressure that is too high, the main burner may have delayed ignition, and then when it lights it will make a very loud pop. We have seen an instance so bad that it blew the doors off a fryer! That is one scary situation and can lead to costly repairs as high gas pressure can damage several parts of your equipment.
There is a simple and easy way to ensure your pressure regulator vent is operating correctly. Keep it clean, that is it. When you have the equipment pulled out for cleaning, use a mild soap solution and towel to wipe it down, paying attention to the vent. If there is heavy grease buildup it may require some elbow grease. Never spray directly onto the valve as you may be able to get fluid into the vent and this will cause the regulator to fail. If you keep the vent clean on your regulator, it can extend the life of your equipment and allow for optimal performance.
If you have or suspect an issue with your gas pressure regulator on your equipment it is best to call in a professional service company such as General Parts Group to look at it. Typically, when the vent gets plugged by grease/food debris it will also damage the diaphragm, and as there are no repairable parts the valve will need to be replaced. This is a job you want to leave to the professionals.