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RVers discuss propane safety tips and tricks

It was chilly around a recent campfire, but the conversation heated up rather quickly as folks shared their thoughts about propane safety.

Propane transport

Chet began. “I just got a dressing down,” he said. “I took my 30 lb. propane tank to fill it up and was told I needed to transport my filled tank upright. That’s impossible in my small vehicle. I put it in the backseat and as you can see—I survived.”

Rob smiled, “As long as you kept your car window open, you won’t asphyxiate yourself.”

“You should always keep your full propane tank upright!” Rick admonished. “You want to keep the relief valve above the liquid propane. The valve is on the top of the tank to vent gaseous propane. If laid on its side, the valve may vent liquid propane—a potentially explosive situation. Not to mention the possibility of damaging the relief valve.”

Joan added, “I’ve always used a milk crate and some bungee cords to safely transport our propane tank in our pickup truck. You can purchase tank stabilizers or holders, too.”

Other propane safety tips

Here are some propane tips and tricks other RVers shared:

  • Tip to find a gas leak. Use dish soap and water to help locate a gas leak. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle or use a rag to apply the mixture to joints, connectors, or pipes. Bubbles will appear where you have a leak.
  • Blue is the best color. Propane burners typically produce a blue-colored flame. If you notice a yellow or orange flame, you may have a carbon monoxide or other problem. Ask a qualified technician to come for an inspection.
  • Bitter temperatures. It doesn’t take long to run low on propane when temps drop and stay low. Supplement your RV’s propane furnace with space heaters and the RV fireplace (if present). Also, consider insulating windows with foam board and put sofa pillows or RV vent covers over ceiling vents to hold heat inside your rig.
  • Don’t run out of propane. Check your propane gauge regularly, especially during heavy usage. If your tank runs dry your pilot light will go out. Also, a propane tank that remains connected to an open gas line can allow moisture or air to seep inside. This may corrode the tank and form rust, which can eventually cause tank leaks. Even if no rust forms, the corrosion can reduce the propane odor (rotten eggs or skunk spray smell).
  • Match usage to tank size. If you plan to RV in colder weather, consider purchasing a larger capacity tank for winter months. Many RVers upgrade the propane tank that came with their rig to a larger size. Just measure your RV’s propane storage area carefully to make sure a larger tank will fit.

Know what to do

When used properly, propane is one of the safest fuels available. Still, things can happen. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and those who RV with you:

The smell test. If you detect a rotten egg smell or the smell resembling a skunk’s spray, you may have a propane leak.

If you smell propane. AmeriGas recommends:

  • Put out candles, smoking materials, or any open flames.
  • Get everyone outside immediately.
  • Contact emergency services.
  • Do not operate appliances, lights, or cell phones (all these things may cause a spark which can be dangerous).
  • If it’s safe to do so, turn off the supply valve to your propane tank by turning the valve clockwise (to the right).
  • Return to your RV only after professionals have checked out your propane system and advised that it’s safe for you to use your propane appliances once again.

Can you add tips or tricks to the propane safety list? Please do so in the comments below.

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rvgrandma
1 month ago

I had a leak at my big tank. I called the dealer twice but no one came out – they didn’t believe me. The third call I told the woman I would light a match by it to prove it was leaking (which I wouldn’t but I wanted to prove my point). Had a guy out within an hour!

ChuckJ
1 month ago

As a retired firefighter I NEVER travel with the propane tank open. Another thing to remember about propane is that it is heavier than air or natural gas. Meaning that it will accumulate in low lying areas. Have fun and be safe.

Impavid
1 month ago

Go to amazon and search “propane detector”. For $32 you can buy a sniffer to check each and every corner of your rv and check at the tank every time you change the tank for a new one. P.S. RV travel gets a few pennies back when you get to Amazon by clicking on RVT Amazon Store on the right end of the big blue banner at the top of the newsletter home page or at the top of this page. Of course, you have to buy something.

bill
1 month ago
Reply to  Impavid

The propane leak detectors are only accurate after enough time has lapsed and you are away from the fill station. I give 1/2 hour or so to let residual fumes dissipate.

Kevin
1 month ago
Reply to  bill

Electronic detectors are a nice option versus dish soap and water. There not nearly as messy. But! as with any electronic device you have to be aware of false positives and false negatives. Few if any of these devices come with a certificate of calibration. Consequently I would always use the dish soap test in conjunction with it. I personally wouldn’t 100 % trust a device that has been bouncing around in a drawer or toolbox.

Admin
Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Impavid

Thanks for the plug, Impavid. Every little bit helps. Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Jeff
1 month ago

Oddly enough my place of employment for over 40 years, propane tank storage rack holds them horizontal & are transported by a propane company in the horizontal fashion . Also many places selling the trade out 20# tanks also store them horizontal.
But this is not California.

Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

Propane powered forklifts have the tanks mounted horizontal as well.

WilBB
1 month ago

If a 30lb tank is to old to refill (w/o inspection), what’s the easiest store to just swap for a filled bottle? I think I’ve seen a few at HDepot, but not every one.

Last edited 1 month ago by WilBB
Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  WilBB

I’ve only seen bbq sized propane tanks available for swap – and I don’t trust them.

chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

What’s not to trust?

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  chris

That they have been totally or properly filled.

I watched a guy (I think it was Home Depot) that had gone inside, paid for the exchange, and was given a number of a tank slot to take out. When he pulled the tank it was empty.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tommy Molnar
chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

They are not completely filled, but sometimes it’s your only choice.

Last edited 1 month ago by chris
Warren G
1 month ago
Reply to  chris

While I normally go to a local place that refills my tanks, I have exchanged them a couple of times. Small sample size, but they weighed the same as the filled tanks from my normal place.

chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren G

Good to know. I’m just going by the rumor that they’re not completely filled.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  chris

I know. That’s why I usually go to U-Haul or CAL Ranch and have them physically fill the tank while I stand there.

chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Overfilling, while not common, can be a problem as it may cause the valve to not open. Then it’s screwdriver time on the relief valve to bleed off the excess.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  chris

Twice I’ve had a guy fill my tank by just watching the gauge and quitting at seven gallons. Not a mental giant so I just took the tank back and released the excess gas at my site. Not everyone is a “factory trained expert”.

Wayne C
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

When I have my totally empty 30lb bottles filled the proper way ( by using the bleeder valve and/or float cutoff) they will take 7 gallons each. But like you, I wouldn’t have them filled by watching a gauge. I thought it nearly impossible to overfill an OBD bottle if it’s in its upright position. When I had my first frame mounted ASME tank, I was very happy with the overfill device. When it was full the inlet shut tight. No overfill regardless of the persons capability doing the job.

Kevin
1 month ago
Reply to  chris

While this method of reducing the pressure in a tank works, it must be done with caution. Anytime you bleed off pressure it generates static electricity, the neminus of all bleeding procedures. Proper grounding is of the up most importance. Better yet, albeit more expensive, is to bring it to a propane business verses a propane filling station and have them vacume bleed the pressure down.

bill
1 month ago
Reply to  chris

Remember the 80% rule on tank filling. A 5 gallon tank will only accept 4 gallons of propane.

Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  bill

A 20lb tank is rated for 20lbs. The 20% safety factor has already been deducted. When you exchange, the bottle is only filled at 15lbs, so you are being shorted. And if you compare lb for lb on exchange vs refill, it’s double to triple the cost. Only time I exchange is if my tank is out of certification (12 yrs from manufacturer date) or looking bad.

chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe

I hope you check the dates on those tanks because some of them are pretty old.

chris
1 month ago
Reply to  WilBB

Most convenience stores have them. Walmart and groceries too,

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