Striker Force

By , March 21, 2014

A year or two after moving to the “homestead,” we replaced the small, broken propane range in the cabin with a “new” one, purchased from neighbors. They’d recently purchased it, but found that it didn’t meet their needs. It  lacked piezoelectric igniters integrated into the gas knobs. I had used this feature before, and hoped to find a stove with them ourselves, but the savings proved too good to pass up. We decided to ignite our pilots individually each time we use the stove.

Our two-fisted approach to propane stove lighting (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Our two-gun approach to propane stove lighting (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Our propane system features a cut off valve behind the stove. We turn the propane on for use, then off when finished. A friend told us that turning off pilot lights between uses can save as much as 30 gallons of propane a year! For us, that saves more than $135 annually, based on current local prices. It also means we haul about 7 fewer bottles of propane over the ridge each year.

At first, we used a flint striker to ignite the pilots. Unfortunately, in this age of disposable butane grill lighters, flints became harder to find in Haines, then disappeared all together. At that point, I started looking for a type of piezoelectric striker I’d once seen.

Ironically, the long search for that striker ended in overabundance. When we took Aly south to start college (see “Someday” Starts Today) we split up in a shopping area one day. Michelle and I each found a striker, and bought it. We reunited, eager to show our new found treasure, only to discover that we now had two of them!

We discussed returning one, but decided to keep both, a decision that has proven wise.

I had found a Coghlan’s piezoelectric striker, which provides a spark at the flick of a button without electricity. Michelle found an Olympian GM-12 Multi-Sparker Gas Appliance Ignitor that uses a single C battery, which emits a continuous series of sparks as long as the trigger is compressed. It also includes a built-in flashlight.

Each has its advantages, and both get used about equally.

We vent our stove by opening a window above the range. When it’s calm, or the wind comes from a favorable quarter, the Coghlan’s ignites the pilot well. When there’s too much air turbulence, the gas apparently won’t “pool” properly. It either dissipates and doesn’t ignite, or it will ignite explosively enough to blow out the flame. When that happens, the GM-12 steps in. Sometimes, even it blows the flame out, but not often—the continuous spark ignites the gas immediately after the blow out.

There are other, somewhat intangible factors that make one striker work better than the other. There’s something about one’s state of mind that aids or interferes with the process from day to day. I can ignite the pilots with a single spark from the Coghlan’s for weeks on end. Then, inexplicably, I’ll lose the knack, and find myself needing the GM-12. There seems to be an element of muscle memory or other body English to inserting each sparker’s nozzle in the pilot area just right to ensure ignition. Somedays ya got it, some days ya don’t. Inevitably, trying to perform this little chore before one’s morning coffee or tea does not help in the least . . . .

Between the two, the stove gets lit. And, for all my concern about needing a battery for the GM-12, I have to admit: 3 years on, we’re still using the original battery.

Occasionally, I regret storing two lighters in our small cabin. Almost every time I do, I end up starting with one striker and switching to the other, reminding myself why we keep both handy.

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