Introduction: BBQ Conversion to Gas

Picture of BBQ Conversion to Gas

I built a charcoal BBQ some years ago and I hate how long it takes to fire up. I looked at new gas grills and thought I could just make one myself for a lot less. Here is the basics of how to convert one yourself. This could be applied to any charcoal grill, with a round fire ring a Webber could be converted as well.




Propane/NG  Disclaimer
Site Disclaimer
This instructable is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be an instructional medium of any type. Nor is it intended to be an authority regarding safety or regulatory issues. It is not intended to be a guide for safety or security. This instructable is designed to introduce current and prospective users of propane to common issues in the use of propane and as an explanation of how propane tanks, LP/NG Gas parts, related appurtenances operate and what their purpose is. Using this site as a guide for diagnosing problems or attempting to fix propane related problems is, under no circumstance whatsoever advised or recommended. Only licensed propane companies and/or LP Gas plumbers are to diagnose and make repairs. This site assumes no liability as it is intended for educational and informational purposes only.

I do not endorse any particular safety procedure or policy but rather endorses the practice of overall safety and common sense regarding all aspects of propane/NG and its properties. This site is not intended for "do it yourself" consumers or as a guide for unlicensed propane plumbing activity. It is published solely as a resource for people seeking information about propane and to better understand the activities that licensed propane companies, installers and plumbers are engaged in. 

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Step 1: Parts Needed

Picture of Parts Needed

For Natural Gas:
1) 3/8 NG hose and a needle valve to adjust the flame size. I use brass 45deg flair fitting for the hose ends and the attachments at the BBQ and house.
2) Fire ring/bar. This is the distribution system that is below the grill for your gas. If you have the ability to weld and make rings you can make your own using a 1/2 weldable (not cast iron) coupler in the center, 5/8 thin wall tubing for the ring and drilling 3/32 holes every 1 1/2". The ring should 1/2 - 1/3 the size of your BBQ container diameter.
Stainless steel will prolong the life of the ring especially during the winter when you forget to cover your BBQ in the first rain. I've heard of people using copper too. 
3) BBQ Fittings: A 1/2 NPT brass bulkhead coupler and 1 1/8 lock nut, or a 1/2 weldable steel coupler, Brass1/2 to 1/4 reducer, 1/4 street 90, neddle valve, 45 deg flare (for attaching the hose to)(not used in this build), brass 1/2 NPT nipple (to attach the the ring to the coupler welded to the container)(not used in this build).
4) House Fittings: all brass; 3/4 to 3/8 reducer, 3/8 street 90, 3/8 nipple, 3/8 ball valve, 3/8 to 45 deg flare for attaching hose to BBQ.

For Propane:
1) Regulator/hose 1-30 PSI (not a BBQ regulator, too small) and a needle valve to adjust the flame size. I use brass 45deg flair fitting for the hose ends and the attachment at the BBQ. BBQ propane tank. You will need a venturi if the propane flame is too smoky. 

Alt.: Home Depot sells replacement BBQ parts. Buy the reg, hose, burner and install in your charcoal grill.

I've put together an affordable kit of the basic plumbing supplies you'll need to build a fire pit. This kit could be used to build a BBQ as well.
I offer several sizes of rings, stainless upgrades and fully auto systems for high end remote controlled fire pits.
Fire Pit Kit link

Step 2: Make a Hole

Picture of Make a Hole

1) The fire ring/bar should be 4-8 from the grill. Closer will give you hot spots and farther will even out the heat. I chose 5 so I could have hot spots for the meat and veggies could cook slower on the sides.
2) Locate and mark the hole for the bulkhead fitting on the BBQ, then center punch. Make sure you are center punching with a hard object backing up the other side. if you don't your mark will be too light and you risk just making a big dent. Now using a hole saw on a drill, make a 1 1/8 hole. if you find the bit wandering off center go back and make a better center punch. Stainless steel is very hard and lots of pressure is need to get it started. 

Step 3: Add the Plumbing

Picture of Add the Plumbing

For this build I use a brass Bulkhead fitting & set nut. It fits snug in the hole and needed no additional sealant or welding. Use a wrench to make sure it's tight. Now thread the fire ring on one side and the 1/2 to 1/4 reducer, 1/4 street 90, needle valve, and 45 deg flare on the other. I used Teflon tape to seal.

Alternates methods of plumbing the gas though the container for thicker materials:
Bolt on flange - great for thick material. Make sure to use a high temp silicon sealer to make sure there are no leaks. see attached photo
Weldable couple r- The best solution, but you must be able to weld.

Now attach the hose/regulator using the 45 deg flare fitting on the end of your hose.

Step 4: Natural Gas Hook Up

Picture of Natural Gas Hook Up

When I built my house I made sure to leave a t so I could hook up "other things" later.
!st shut down your gas. Next I removed the plug and replaced it with a ball valve and a 3/8 45 deg flare fitting to attach to the hose.

Now hook up the hose.

Step 5: Propane Hookup

Picture of Propane Hookup

Propane (not used in this build)

Follow the instructions in steps 1-3. In step 3 complete the connection of the bulk head fitting to the fire ring/bar, then attach the Venturi shown below to the bulkhead fitting. A 1/2 F npt to 45 deg flare threads on to the venturi to attach the hose to. The 30 psi Regulator has the needle valve attached to it, but this could also be placed at the BBQ for easy reach to adjust the flame size.
The venturi introduces air to the gas and  takes the soot away. The one I sell has an adjustment nut to fine tune to your BBQ.

 I used Teflon tape to seal all the NPT fittings.

Step 6: Time to Cook

Picture of Time to Cook

Zolie suggested we get out the fire hat in case we didn't do it right. 
This is a match light set up and a long BBQ lighter is a must. It worked pretty good and is much easier then lighting briquet's. 

I like some smoke in my food so I lined the bottom of the grill with several pieces of apple wood. You have to make sure it's not so close to the flame that it burns, but close enough to slowly smoke away. I also have an abundance of thyme that I spread over the grill top that gives me plenty of smoke and flavor.

Additions I might add are:
Push button lighter
thin sheet metal over the flame to spread out the heat more.
Meat to eat.

Have fun

Link to my Fire kit site.
http://www.formandreform.com/wordpress/?page_id=2568 

Comments

barking_spider (author)2016-02-22

I went to Home Depot to get the propane BBQ parts, but the replacement burner has a slip fitting for the needle valve to fit into. Is there some sort of part to adapt from 3/8" flare to the slip fitting?

wheelbme (author)2010-09-25

Great instructable Jon! I completed mine, a propane setup. I'm having a problem, the flame isn't getting hot enough. What should be a 20 minute cook time is taking more like 45. The flame doesn't get very high, and acts as if it's trying to go out. Every few seconds it makes a "poof '' sound and the flame goes down and then starts up. What did I do wrong?

jonsarriugarte (author)wheelbme2010-09-26

send me a picture

irongus (author)2010-07-29

It takes 20 minutes from deciding to have a BBQ to having the coals ready...and that includes getting the beer out of the fridge...how can that be too long?

Esmagamus (author)irongus2010-08-13

I agree with you. It doesn't take that long to have a barbecue ready and gas is getting more and more expensive. I can buy a ton of bits of high density, well dried french oak for 25€ from a flooring factory nearby. A 45 kg propane tank is selling at 76€ and rising. Some people can't get firewood that cheap, some can get propane for a lot less. I'll stick with firewood. (That doesn't mean the author hasn't done a good work.)

irongus (author)Esmagamus2010-08-15

I agree the author has done good work. what i hear a lot of the time is that it takes a really long time to get a charcoal bbq ready to cook on, and it is just not true in my expereince

jonsarriugarte (author)irongus2010-07-30

Plus the time to buy the charcoal. Still too long when you have 4 year old who wants to eat now!

noexit (author)irongus2010-07-29

Agreed. Looks like he needs one of these: http://www.google.com/search?aq=0&oq=charcoal+ch&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=charcoal+chimney

luvit (author)2010-08-09

mm gas flavoure'd meat. mm. please sir, can i have some more?

jonsarriugarte (author)luvit2010-08-09

I don't understand what your talking about I smoke my meat with this grill

Sergei- (author)2010-08-05

Here in australia we have kits for this for about $99Au You get everything to convert your Lpg bbq to a natural gas set up except for the jets they have to be specialy ordered for the particular bbq from the manufacturer or you can try to make your jets bigger with a drill but chances are you will make them to big - that is one difference in nat gas and Lp gas bbq's the jet size But you still need a licensed plumber to install it and generaly people do it to bbq's that look like they will last more then a week without the rust flavours

rallen71366 (author)2010-08-01

Just wondering on the teflon thread tape you used: is it the standard white for water, or the colored tape formulated for use with propane/NG? I've read that the white tape will breakdown over time with exposure to gas. I think you would have to check for that with soapy water. Have you noticed any degradation of the tape? Other than that question, I think it's a fantastic build. BTW, you've got a great apprentice there! : )

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thread_seal_tape

f
or more info.
I use pink, yellow and white. White is thinner.
I like to use a small bit of pipe dope along with the tape.

Hugh02 (author)2010-08-01

its probably a bad idea to connect things to mains gas, and in the UK is illegal unless you have a gas safe listing. propane is a much better idea IMHO

jonsarriugarte (author)Hugh022010-08-01

Not a problem here. Making things is sometimes dangerous, be smart and use common sense. NG has a lot of benefits over propane and I like not having to get propane all the time.

culinarian (author)2010-08-01

Correct me if I'm wrong, but did I see in the before/after pictures that you simply removed the MAIN SHUTOFF VALVE internals to connect your branch tee to???!!! What happens if you ever need to open your system for any reason.. i.e. repairing a ruptured/broken pipe et al? I hope your home is well insured and that your local gas provider never sees that.

No I did not remove my shutoff valve. I did add a shut off to this project so I can safely turn it off at the house.

jimwi (author)2010-07-30

You need to put some air ( venturi) in to your Natural Gas burner. The flame should be blue like your gas stove top not yellow. There is no heat in yellow flames. Plus Natural Gas and LPG jets are different. Keep up the good work.

snowdonssecret (author)2010-07-30

great idea but i don't understand why you would want to cook on a bbq with gas? you might as well put a grill over your gas hob. it's supposed to be all about the smoke, poking coals and the hot and cold spots!

Sorry missed a step. I added above in step 5 I like some smoke in my food so I lined the bottom of the grill with several pieces of apple wood. You have to make sure it's not so close to the flame that it burns, but close enough to slowly smoke away. I also have an abundance of thyme that I spread over the grill top that gives me plenty of smoke and flavor.

anyheck (author)2010-07-29

You may want to consider a quick disconnect (which is self-closing) on there so that it's not trivial to just open the valve and have gas venting if you have your grill moved out of the way for some reason. Makes moving the grill easier too. Something like this: http://www.bar-b-que.com/store/item.asp?ITEM_ID=391

fungus amungus (author)2010-07-27

Nice project. Zolie looks like she makes a great helper, too.

More kids should be using power tools. Makes for good memories, smart kids, and cute photos.

she is a great helper! Daddy is very proud. Jon

ELF (author)2010-07-28

My parents' new BBQ grill has a gas STARTER, but is still charcoal based. If one prefers charcoal, I wonder how much different the grill would have to be to be used as a quick-start-charcoal-grill... Anyone tried making one?

dragonvpm (author)2010-07-28

This looks like a very nice project, but I was a bit concerned about the hose. You didn't really mention anything about it. What kind is it and is it approved for use with NG? For any folks reading this who aren't familiar with working with fuel gasses, not all hoses are created equal and using a hose that is not actually intended for use with NG could create a significant insurance liability if there was ever a fire etc... That's not to say you can't do this sort of project, just that it's important to make sure that everything used is approved for use outdoors, with NG etc... Also did you happen to check if there were any local restrictions on what kinds of materials are approved for NG use? I know of some cities where the gas company might shut down your gas service if they saw this sort of setup (and depending on where it was in relation to your gas meter that could be more or less likely). Again not a deal breaker but no one wants to come home to find their gas shut off (and if you live someplace like my home town if your gas is shut off for some sort of installation issue you can't get it turned back on until you have the whole thing inspected by the city). Anyways, good job on the Instructable and the project itself.

jonsarriugarte (author)dragonvpm2010-07-28

Good point, make sure your hose is rated for Natural Gas and/or propane. This is usually printed on the hose. BBQ retail stores are a great place to find both, or contact me for parts.

SinAmos (author)2010-07-27

I love that you did this, because is exactly what I was going to do, but it was far down on my list.

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