How To Change Out a Natural Gas Orifice to Propane on a 2012 Kenmore Elite Dryer

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August 20, 2012

We live off grid, which is why the natural gas Kenmore Elite laundry dryer won’t work; it has to be propane, and that means changing out the orifice.

Note: The Kenmore Elite is made by LG, so these instructions are likely to work for that brand (LG) as well as they do for the Sears machines.

Double Note: Sears is completely chicken and in-your-face on this particular orifice-changing topic. Bluntly put, Sears won’t do it. It’s up to the buyer. Once I got into it, I saw why. The changeout kit costs a whopping ten bucks, but the installation requires disassembling the dryer almost completely.

Say what, Ghost?

Back in the day, my wife changed out one of these. That was long before she was my wife, though, and long before the computer geeks took over the appliance industry and dryers came with steam options and there ended up being more circuitry and inconvenient engineering with each new model.

Gone are the days, sadly enough, when you popped one panel for access, swapped out the jets (okay, “orifices” for you purists), reset the screw thingie from NG to LPG, and were done in a matter of minutes.

That said, let’s get started.

 One entire page of disassembly instructions.


One entire page of disassembly instructions.

The actual orifice-changing instructions.

The actual orifice-changing instructions.

The first thing the instructions from Sears say to do is remove the front panel–but you can’t just do that. You have to remove a bunch of other stuff first, beginning with the top panel. Three screws in the back, and it lifts back (a bit, to clear a couple of retainers), up, and off.

So far, so good.

It's the photo, not the top panel, that's crooked.

It’s the photo, not the top panel, that’s crooked.

Next comes the steam water supply drawer. In these newfangled machines, you have the option (whether you want it or not) of steam refreshing and sanitizing your laundry.

Big whoop.

No doubt any number of women must like this feature. To me, it’s just one more thing that can go wrong.

However, back to the task: The drawer can be removed by “pushing up on the retaining tab”, at least according to the instructions. What they don’t tell you is that said retaining tab is a long down-pushing plastic thingie that sticks way out and a bit down from the rear of that drawer to keep the user from accidentally yanking the drawer all the way out.

Once you figure out where the beast actually resides, it’s a simple enough removal

The steam water supply drawer, stashed on top of the washer for the moment.

The steam water supply drawer, stashed on top of the washer for the moment.

Next comes the removal of the control panel. The instruction sheet tells you where the screws are that need to be removed first and also mentions the fact that the retaining tabs (on the control panel) tend to be tight.

What do they not tell you? Two things, really:

    1. They don’t tell you those retaining tabs are plastic and that you’re going to scare yourself, figuring you’re going to bust one sure as the dickens. Fortunately, I finally got this machine’s control panel freed without doing that, but it was a spooky proposition. Proceed with care.

    2. They also don’t have it right when it comes to getting the control panel out of the way. Unsnap some or all of the wiring connectors as needed to either set the panel atop the dryer or perhaps set it to one side out of the way, say they.

Nope. Not happening. Two of the wiring cables did have mid-machine connectors that could possibly have been disconnected without doing damage. The third cable, however, ran all the way from the control panel to the rear of the dryer and out of sight without any sign whatsoever of a connector.

Ugly situation. But I got lucky: It was possible to “cock” the control panel atop the front edge of the machine without disconnecting any wiring. See next photo.

The control panel, cocked atop the front edge of the dryer--hopefully without stressing the wiring cables TOO much.

The control panel, cocked atop the front edge of the dryer–hopefully without stressing the wiring cables TOO much.

Okay, now the front panel can be removed. We set that off to one side, take a look at the rather stripped-down remains of the dryer, and…looks a bit a bit naked, eh?

Well…at least the two screws holding the venturi in place can now be removed, right?

Front panel, free at last!

Front panel, free at last!

Exposed dryer, down to the bones...almost.

Exposed dryer, down to the bones…almost.

WRONG!

Take a close look at the hole (or holes) you’re expected to reach through to access the venturi screws–which, if you’ve no clue, are several inches behind the remaining sheet metal. An Ace with the right sort of Wild Card super power might be able to reach through the metal or something, but a Base Normal Human?

Not happening.

By the time it looked like I might have a chance if I went to Home Depot for a couple of stubby screwdrivers, both the aluminum hot humid air exhaust shroud and the lint filter assembly had also been removed, steps that are not mentioned in the instructions.

All righty then. Off to Home Depot.

No way my hand will slip past that aluminum shroud to reach--hm. See next photo.

No way my hand will slip past that aluminum shroud to reach–hm. See next photo.

This'll get the point across. The two screws that secure the venturi (which has to come out) are several inches DOWN and BEHIND that white screw-head thingie.

This’ll get the point across. The two screws that secure the venturi (which has to come out) are several inches DOWN and BEHIND that white screw-head thingie.

Ah! Shroud and lint filter assembly off, providing JUST enough room for my hand to slip INTO THE DARKNESS. After a trip to Home Depot, of course.

Ah! Shroud and lint filter assembly off, providing JUST enough room for my hand to slip INTO THE DARKNESS. After a trip to Home Depot, of course.

At Home Depot, they had Husky brand stubby screwdrivers–Made in America!–that were both the least expensive and a bit shorter than the others.

There was one “iffy” tool situation. Changing the orifice itself, the entire point of this ridiculous exercise in stupid engineering design, would require a 10mm wrench. I have a great little set of sockets (also Husky brand, come to think of it), but there was no guarantee that even the small ratchet would be able to maneuver in place when the time came.

So I also bought a set of combination (box-open end) stubby wrenches in metric, which for some reason weren’t showing up in our various toolboxes.

Turned out it wasn’t necessary. The ratchet did the job. But it was close. Very, very close. Better safe than sorry.

What? You want to know what I mean about “stupid engineering design”? Sure. No problem.

The Sears Kenmore Elite (build by LG) could easily have included a simple 4″ x 6″ access panel on the right side of the dryer which would have made the entire orifice changeout a ten minute job. It wouldn’t even have cost them much more to manufacture that way–pennies at most.

They just didn’t care.

Stubby screwdrivers from Home Depot.

Stubby screwdrivers from Home Depot.

Here we go! Lookee there! Ghost got a couple of (venturi) screws loose!

Which still wasn’t as easy as it sounds, but I’m thinking it was fortunate the orifice needed changing. The left (rear) screw was pretty dang tight, took some real struggle with the awkwardness of working in such a limited space…but the right (forward) screw came out too easily.

In other words, the dryer had been delivered with one venturi screw loose, or at least barely snug. Whether vibration would have backed it all the way out and helped the dryer break down at some point or not, who knows–but it’s good to know it’s Ghost-tight now.

The two venturi screws.

The two venturi screws.

What’s the venturi look like? Um…think “pipe”. The next photo shows that plus the stubby Phillips screwdriver, the pair of pliers required for extra turning torque to bust the rear screw loose, and the straight screwdriver used for needed “pop” to slide the venturi end (on the right) back off of the orifice.

 Venturi with removal tools.


Venturi with removal tools.

Next–finally!–the removal of the natural gas orifice.

And…the comparison between the natural gas and propane versions. The NG (natural gas) orifice is singular and quite tiny. The LPG (liquid propane gas) orifice, on the other hand, has multiple outlet holes, all of them sizeable.

Who knew?

Well, besides all of y’all appliance dealer types, that is.

The socket wrench in position to remove the natural gas orifice.

The socket wrench in position to remove the natural gas orifice.

The small caliber NG orifice. Such a teensy part to cause such a major hassle. You know, like a...human HEART or something....

The small caliber NG orifice. Such a teensy part to cause such a major hassle. You know, like a…human HEART or something….

The much larger caliber, multi-ported LPG orifice. Heart transplant!

The much larger caliber, multi-ported LPG orifice. Heart transplant!

NG (upper) and LPG (lower) orifices. The white gunk is leftover Teflon tape.

NG (upper) and LPG (lower) orifices. The white gunk is leftover Teflon tape.

In position to start cranking the screw down from NG to LPG usage.

In position to start cranking the screw down from NG to LPG usage.

Locked down.

Locked down.

Once the new (LPG/propane) orifice was Teflon taped and cinched in place, it was simply a matter of buttoning everything back up. Just in case you’re already bored, we’ll show that with a photo sequence but no captions.

There was only one real point of confusion about that part of the procedure: Sure enough, I ended up with exactly one sheet metal screw left over. Couldn’t figure out where it went, either. Lint filter arrangement, aluminum shroud, front panel, control panel, steam tray, and top panel all had all their screws back in place.

And yet, we ended up the way you somehow knew we would.

Ghost really does have a screw loose.

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4 thoughts on “How To Change Out a Natural Gas Orifice to Propane on a 2012 Kenmore Elite Dryer

  1. You bet–I’ll keep my fingers crossed! 🙂

    And thanks for commenting. It’s readers like you who keep me enthused enough to write and publish a new post every night.

  2. I work for a propane co. and have to convert these things on a daily basis!..Some brands are even harder to convert than LG/Kenmore Elite!..I run the other way from Bosch, Lol.

  3. Thanks, Tony; I’ll keep that in mind. No Bosch! Except the spark plugs for certain of our portable generators, of course. 🙂

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