Have you ever had issues with gas cooking equipment, and tried to find the correct natural gas pressure for it? In a modern kitchen, most of the cooking equipment is powered by natural gas or propane. Ovens, ranges, steam kettles and griddles are all heated this way, and a typical kitchen will have a long wall of gas hookups, connected to equipment using a thick commercial grade yellow hose for permanent installation or blue/red/grey for mobile equipment that can be disconnected to aid in cleaning.
We regularly see questions on the forum asking “what is considered high pressure?” or “what is the right gas pressure for cooking equipment?” In this article, we’ll explain why the topic isn’t as straightforward (or safe) as it may seem.
Before we continue, let’s look at some basics; the traditional unit of measure for natural gas or propane is WC – inches of water column. Before the age of metered or digital measuring gauges, an inch of water column was exactly what the name implies – the pressure required to move one inch of water up a U-tube. The measuring U-tube has water on one side, and the gas is connected to the other side. The higher the pressure, the higher the water will go – and that provides the WC measurement.
There are just under 28 inches of water column in 1 PSI, so we’re talking about the ability to measure pretty low pressures. The WC unit is traditionally limited to use in residential and low-pressure commercial systems. In the gas distribution network and high pressure systems that exceed 7 inches WC for natural gas, or 11 inches for liquid propane, the unit is in PSI. Still with us?
Now for the spooky stuff – and where we have the obligation to post a warning about working on commercial kitchen equipment without the proper training. In the case of gas, little mistakes could cost you your restaurant, or in the worst cases – your life and those working around you.
If work in a commercial kitchen and something isn’t right with the gas supply or any equipment connected to it, do not consider trying to figure it out yourself. Despite countless online videos that attempt to show “how anyone can be an expert” or how to make changes to the natural gas supply settings, this is not something to be messed with. Pick up the phone and call a repair technician.
If you smell gas or hear a gas leak, immediately close the main gas valve (only if possible) then exit the building. Do not touch any light switches, do not try to turn appliances on or off and do not use your phone. Once you and everyone else are safely outside and away from the building, call 911. Notify neighbors of the situation, and recommend that they also evacuate the building.
Only a trained technician will arrive with the right training, experience, and equipment to work on your commercial kitchen equipment and the gas distribution network. They commonly carry dedicated gas pressure gauges, combustible gas detectors, and other leak testing hardware along with a good eye for remembering the location of fire extinguishers. They’ll also be able to check and replace hoses or other parts that can wear out over time.
Even though some parts of your residential gas network are considered user-replaceable (like the dryer hookup), the pressure involved in commercial gas is so much higher that a little experience with gas at home does not give you the experience to safely deal with a commercial gas supply.
What is the Right Gas Pressure for Kitchen Equipment?
There is NO “one number fits all” answer to the question of the right gas pressure. Despite online search results trying to provide the right answer or comments providing a single number to use for all equipment, there is only one reliable source for the required gas pressure of your equipment: the manufacturer.
The Manufacturer Model/Serial Plate has All the Answers…
As with all other important equipment data, you’ll find the answer to your question on the model or serial number plate of your commercial equipment. Sometimes it can take a bit of effort, a paper towel to clean off dust and a flashlight to make the plate readable, but the information is definitely there.
As you can see in the enlarged version of this photo, this oven runs on natural gas, has 4 burners, manifold pressure of 3.5″ WC and total input of 60,000BTU/H. If this all reads like mumbo-jumbo to you, then please take it as another reminder to stop where you are, and contact a professional.
If the model number plate is missing, damaged or unreadable, then you should contact the manufacturer or a professional technician. With their experience, they can determine what the right pressure should be, and only they should be trusted to adjust the regulator to ensure the right pressure setting. They can determine the correct flame height, perform combustion analysis, and other factors to help you get your equipment safely performing as it should.