Is it safe to bring a propane tank inside an RV?

19

By Dave Helgeson
Is it safe to bring a propane tank inside of an RV? The answer is a resounding NO!

“Never use, store, or transport propane cylinders or liquid fuels in the passenger space or living area of your RV.” So says RVer James Callow.

The issue of whether it is safe, or not, to bring and use a propane tank inside your RV seems to have become as controversial as “Is it safe to travel with my propane turned on” lately. I was involved in several online social media “discussions” on the subject during the recent cold snap across the country. One social media post became so heated the moderator shut it down.

Propane tank indoors
No! Do not do this!

I became quite concerned with the number of RVers that feel it is okay to bring a 5– to 10-gallon propane tank into their RV. Some were using a tank and a length of hose to supply gas to their approved indoor space heaters. Others brought a propane tank inside to warm up so the gas could vaporize better.

While I understand both camps of the “traveling with the propane turned on” debate, there should be no question regarding the safety of bringing a DOT propane tank (technically a cylinder) inside an RV as it is ILLEGAL!

Using a cylinder indoors is not only illegal, it is terribly unsafe. Keep in mind that a full propane barbeque cylinder contains enough liquid to produce over 300 cubic feet of vapor. A fuel source such as that should not only be stored outdoors, it should never be used indoors.” [Emphasis added.] Per Propane 101.com

Here are the reasons to consider

Unlike a small unvented disposable propane canister many RVers use on their outdoor grills, DOT cylinders are vented. The vent is designed to release propane vapor into the air when the propane in the bottle expands beyond a safe point. If the tank is located outdoors vented vapor falls harmlessly to the ground and quickly dissipates into the air. If the tank is located indoors vented vapor has nowhere to go and will accumulate.

Since propane is a very flammable vapor, any ignition source can ignite it. That could lead to an explosion within the RV. If the tank continues to vent propane once ignited, the vent will act as a blowtorch spewing flames. Note: A less-than-full tank is unlikely to vent from excess pressure. However, the vent still has the potential to release gas due to debris in the valve seat and/or a weak spring.

RVers using a Little Buddy or other approved indoor propane heater point out that it is okay to operate them indoors via the small disposable canisters. They wonder why you shouldn’t bring a larger propane tank inside. In addition to DOT tanks being vented, a 5-gallon tank contains 20 times more fuel than a disposable canister. The design and limited amount of fuel in a canister are approved for indoor use – a DOT tank is not.

Propane tank inside
Tank and regulator – Two potential leak sources. Photo via Youtube video from West Coast Roller

RVers using a low-pressure portable catalytic heater, like shown in the above screenshot from this video from “West Coast Roller,” face a secondary risk via the regulator. Propane regulators also have a vent. While they’re not designed to vent propane, the potential is there if the diaphragm in the regulator fails.

DOT tanks can fall over

If not properly secured, DOT tanks can fall over during use or in transit. This could allow liquid propane to enter the valve and potentially flow through the connecting hose to an appliance resulting in a fire. Per the folks at Parker Gas: Always store propane tanks securely in an upright position in a well-ventilated area; never store a propane container inside your RV.

It is considered illegal to use or store a propane tank inside an enclosed space. Therefore, your insurance company may very well deny a claim if you have an accident involving the tank.

What can happen during an RV fire with a propane tank inside?

The propane system in your RV is a low pressure system operating at 11 inches of water column. That is equivalent to a mere 0.5 PSI. On the other hand, the pressure in a propane tank can be 200 PSI or more! We are all familiar with RV tire pressure. So ask yourself, which is more likely to develop a leak and how quickly will the contents escape?

Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE) – If your RV were to catch fire with a propane tank inside, a BLEVE could occur. This would be catastrophic to the occupants, the RV and the firefighters attempting to extinguish the flames. Yes, exterior-mounted DOT propane tanks on the front of RVs could do the same thing. However, firefighters expect tanks to be in those locations, not inside the RV. Please do them a favor. Save them a potential deadly surprise by keeping DOT propane tanks outside where they legally belong. Click here to view a BLEVE posted on YouTube by “multipleshotsfired.”

Propane tank inside
Recent comment posted on RVTravel.com

I will end by sharing this statement from an RVTravel.com article:

As an RVer, the last thing you want is propane leaking into your RV’s living space. It can be deadly. Every year such leaks result in RV fires, and, sadly, the death of RVers who breathe the deadly gas, sometimes while sleeping.”

##RVT990

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John Boy
1 month ago

I have the typical outdoor BBQ 5lb tank stored in my Seneca basement storage which is not air tight. It is strapped upright in the corner and I have a very heavy grill in front of it as well. I use this for our Big Red campfire and I have Stay awhile propane kit in case we run out of propane on the main tank.

Is this safe carry this way?
Thanks!!

J D
1 month ago
Reply to  John Boy

Along this same line, are vented propane lockers inside a van or camper legal? There seem to be official specs on what they should be like.

Mike Albert
1 month ago

Pertaining to those that ask or mention proper operating and testing of CO; smoke and propane detectors; add checking and knowing how to properly use a fire extinguisher. Additionally, read your daily news paper and see how many deaths are attributed to non operating or missing smoke detectors in houses. You can’t fix stupid!
Detectors Save Lives!!!!
Once we get everyone on the same page about detectors, then you can preach about safe transportation of LPG tanks. Unfortunately, don’t think it’s going to happen on my lifetime.

Phil Atterbery
1 month ago

I have also entered into FB discussions about the proper care & feeding of portable propane tanks. I feel alot of it stems from folks not being taught the proper terms for things. The RV sales force is also to blame.

J D
1 month ago

Has anyone come up with a way to carry a small propane tank outside of a Class B? I have searched in vain for a solution.

WEB
1 month ago
Reply to  J D

There are propane conversion kits to mount small horizontal tanks underneath, depending on the model. I also have seen 20 lb. tanks secured to modified rear bumpers .

J D
1 month ago
Reply to  WEB

I read that it is illegal to carry a tank on the rear of any vehicle. We can do the undermount but would like to have a small portable to fire our portable fire pit.

Really
1 month ago

TO THE AUTHOR:

Great article!

But now how do you convince people to do the SAFE thing?

There have been a bunch of articles and incidents where the Occupants of RV’s have “WOKE UP DEAD”, because they failed to adhere to Safety procedures! Propane and CO alarms disconnected or not installed at all! WOW!

As I am preparing my 5th wheel for our upcoming first trip of the season, I have already checked my Propane and CO detectors for proper operation! I USE A PRODUCT, called GASSTOP on my propane cylinders too. And I never travel with my Propane ON!

SAFETY IS JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS, THAT SHOULD NEVER BE COMPROMISED!

Bill T
1 month ago

Don’t the little green bottles have an over pressure relief valve on them as well?

Really
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill T

No they don’t! They are considered disposable tanks or cylinders! And need to be disposed of properly! Don’t just throw them in a Trash Can!

Last edited 1 month ago by Really
JGinFL
1 month ago
Reply to  Really

I’m curious. What is the proper way to dispose of these disposable cans? And while we’re at it, how about the 20# cans too?

WEB
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill T

Of course they do. It is the little “tire filling valve looking thingie” on top.
Really really does not know their stuff. :-/

Really
1 month ago
Reply to  WEB

That little tire valve looking thingy is a safety vent. Not an over pressure relief valve. THE OPD in larger tanks are internal and work thru the main valve on top! Since your little green bottle is hooked to a regulator on your outside grill or other propane device. When propane exceeds 250psi in the cylinder this safety vent will vent a little gas out. But it is NOT an OPD!

I used to drive Propane and Fuel Trucks, So, YES I DO KNOW MY STUFF!

SAFETY FIRST!

Ron T.
1 month ago
Reply to  WEB

That Schroeder valve is not a pressure relief valve but could be called a pressure release valve as it can only be operated by depressing the center pin from the outside. You can use that to vent the remaining gas pressure before properly disposing of the bottles.

Really
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron T.

Thank You Ron!

Really
1 month ago
Reply to  WEB

For your information WEB:

 After January 1, 2003, all propane cylinders 4 pounds to 40 pounds MUST be equipped with an OPD. This standard is required by the National Fire Protection Association . 

So the question about the little GREEN 1 pound cylinders is answered here!