Propane heater help needed

I have two 30,000 BTU propane heaters that I want to install high in my shop. Make is Schwank and they are of no help. Problem is that I want to mount them about 10 feet off the ground and do not want a pilot light burning all winter. In order to light them you have to hold the starter button in for a good long minute. No fun on a high ladder.
Would like to convert this to electric ignition but unable to find any information that would help me. The advantage of the pilot light is that it is a safety in case the flame should ever blow out. The pilot (thermocouple)keeps the solenoid valve open. If flame goes out the main gas valve shuts in about 1.5 seconds.
Anyway, anybody have any ideas oh how to reconfigure this and still have a safe system. Would putting an electric ignitor BUT keeping all the existing controls work? Guess not, ignitor would be able to light the main burners but not the pilot since there is nobody there to push the button. This must have already been solved somewhere, somehow.
All ideas appreciated. Buying new units not an option. How about the freestanding heaters used in outdoor restaurants? How do they work? Does somebody stand there for a minute lighting a pilot???
Thanks, Ivan Vegvary
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Ivan Vegvary wrote:

There's a gas-fired heater way up high in the shop here that seems to have been working for a couple of years or more, and nobody's had to go light the pilot.
That at least shows that _somebody_ knows how to do it; you might ask in the HVAC NG, but the last time I was there, it seemed to be a very tight- knit group and not very welcoming towards amateurs.
Have you tried calling the guy who sold you the heaters?
Good Luck! Rich
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On Sun, 12 Jun 2011 01:07:28 -0700, Rich Grise

Where is the original post? Anyhow, pilot lights have two functions, one is to light the burner when it is allowed and to generate voltage in milliamps from the crystal (forget the name) which travels in a loop of safety checks such as a high limit (which is when it is too hot), a pressure switch or flow switch (which is heating a fluid/swimming pools), and hmmm anyhow most of the wires in a gas heater are criteria switches.
With an electric start the milliamps are generated from the line voltage and run the check list to complete the circuit and the thermostat or on/off start the high voltage start with gas.
So, one could leave it on all year and not worry about the pilot being on wasting gas or venting it.
I found the hvac groups have secret police.
SW
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Hi Rich, Thanks for your reply. The guy that sold me the heaters(2)bought them from somebody else while I was on vacation (6 years ago)on the assumption that I would want them. They simply had them mounted high in the shop with pilot light constantly lit. The put an on/off switch on the wall in line with a thermostat. The switch would cut in/out the 24 volt transformer needed for the gas solenoid (and I suppose the thermostat).
Thanks for your thoughts.
Ivan Vegvary
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On 6/11/2011 11:47 PM, Ivan Vegvary wrote:

want a pilot light burning all winter. In order to light them you have to hold the starter button in for a good long minute. No fun on a high ladder.

information that would help me. The advantage of the pilot light is that it is a safety in case the flame should ever blow out. The pilot (thermocouple)keeps the solenoid valve open. If flame goes out the main gas valve shuts in about 1.5 seconds.

safe system. Would putting an electric ignitor BUT keeping all the existing controls work? Guess not, ignitor would be able to light the main burners but not the pilot since there is nobody there to push the button. This must have already been solved somewhere, somehow.

freestanding heaters used in outdoor restaurants? How do they work? Does somebody stand there for a minute lighting a pilot???

Honeywell Y8610U6006 is one example of a retrofit kit.
MikeB
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Hi MikeB,
The Honeywell kit that you referenced seems to be the ideal solution. However, not in the budget. I have an HVAC friend that is going to scrounge for parts from all the used gas furnaces that they throw away. My research shows that many home ovens also use an electronically ignited pilot which in turn kicks in the main gas valve. Used appliance dealers might have this assembly on the cheap.
Thanks again for your research.
Ivan Vegvary
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The first question I would ask is what are you saving by changing from a standing pilot?
What I mean by this is a building looses heat faster the greater the difference between the inside and the outside. Since the pilot is inside the heated space, you have no problem having the pilot on while the building is occupied in between the times the thermostat calls for heat and when it is in stand by mode. So at night if you shut off the thermostat the building will cool, but the rare of cooling slows as the building gets closer to the outside air temp. The gas that is burned at night when the building is unoccupied first off is not really much gas but secondly the few BTU's that are expended when the building is cooler tend to stay in the building and so the next morning the burner will run just a little bit less. If I recall correctly a standing pilot gives you something like 600 BTU's per hour. If your main burner consumes 30,000 BTU's per hour, that is, by my calculations, about 3 1/2 minutes of burner time per day of overnight pilot if you didn't factor in the heat that was banked. If you are trying to save money on propane, it seems to me that you would be better off spending the same money for insulation or a programmable thermostat.
Roger Shoaf
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Roger, Thanks for your well thought out reply.
What I,m really trying to do is heat a small work area in a big (40'x60') shop. I have a separate addition (21'x60') to the shop which has radiant heat installed in the concrete floor. This addition is set aside for my machine tools (I'm in Oregon, and if you don't heat your tools you loose them to rust) and billiard room. Neither of these two rooms are suitable for auto restoration. My hope was that I could work this winter by 'spot' heating a small 15'x15' open space area. I would only go in there maybe once or twice a week and ergo my concern about the pilot light.
Your comment about gas usage is spot on, except, in my case, while I changed all the heater jets over to propane, I have not altered the pilot system. Ergo I'm getting about a 5" pilot. I suppose I could squeeze down on the copper nozzle, or slam it shut and drill a smaller hole for propane.
Thanks again Roger. Any more thoughts would be appreciated.
Ivan Vegvary
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On Sun, 12 Jun 2011 19:28:21 -0700 (PDT), Ivan Vegvary

Ivan, forget propane and all the extra air you'd need to import from the frozen hinterlands to breathe after firing it up. Instead, build a simple house (2x4s and OSB) around 16x16x10' area (less cutting) and insulate it cheaply with fiberglass. Now use a single 1,500W ceramic heater to make the whole "room" toasty in minutes. Slap on a couple gallons of eggshell white paint and four 4' dual fluors and you're good to go.
I'll bet you could build the whole thing with the same budget you'd need for propane in one winter.
-- The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. --Herbert Spencer
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On Sunday, June 12, 2011 7:28:21 PM UTC-7, Ivan Vegvary wrote:

all the heater jets over to propane, I have not altered the pilot system. Ergo I'm getting about a 5" pilot.
If these were natural gas, the delivery pressure (for propane) should be about 10 to 15 inches of water; a regulator for the propane (about the same kind as BBQ grills use) would be appropriate.
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You can probably go years running a pilot continuously for what it'd cost you to do some kind of conversion. The hot surface ignitor on my furnace runs $50@ to replace, about every 2-3 years. Furnace parts guy says its dust that causes spot overheating. Even at today's prices, $50 would run a pilot light a loooong time.
Once you go to an electric ignitor, you pretty much have to go to a sequencer-type of thing, micro-controller handling an exhaust fan, an induction fan(maybe), plus the ignitor and gas valve solenoid. Board for the furnace was $150, got damaged by humidity one summer. Could run a pilot for many years for that kind of money.
Old-style systems use a small thermocouple to hold the gas valve open once the pilot is lit, usually have some kind of starting position on the gas valve or pushbutton over-ride that you have to hold until the thermocouple generates enough juice to hold the gas valve open. Trying to jump around that or disable it might be grounds for denial of insurance coverage if you ever have a fire. Watch out for the local building codes, too, they might require you to have a full electric system. I know one guy I worked with had to put in ducting for another outside source of combustion air, one wasn't enough for the local yokels.
The patio IR heaters I've seen have no pilots, no thermostats, just a gas valve. Turn them on, light them up and they're on constantly. Not automatic.
Stan
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