When we talk about RVs, many of us think about powering the appliances, their safety, and related protocols. RV owners commonly prefer propane, which is a liquefied gas, to power the appliances. These appliances include a furnace, fridge, oven, heater, etc.
Now, we have two options in propane tanks. One is the DOT cylinder, and the other one is the ASME tank. DOT cylinders are the combination of two cylinders fixed on top of the trailer, whereas the ASME tank is a fixed tank. This tank is fixed inside a side compartment on your RV.
No matter which tank we use, chances of explosion and poisoning are present. Since propane is a highly flammable gas and can explode when its tank comes in contact with heat, acute safety measures are mandatory. However, if used properly, it works great for cooking food, refrigeration, indoor heating, etc.
Let us discuss how we can stay safe while using propane tanks in our RVs. For this, we should know the following points:
Factors To Consider When Buying a Propane Tank
Whether we are buying a brand-new propane tank or going for the used one, checking some important documents and attributes is imperative. These include:
Firstly, the tank should be certified by a legal institute. Be sure to check the stamp and the date of certification. If you are buying a new one, you do not need to bear the propane gas safety certificate cost for at least 10-12 years (depending on the rules in your region). However, if it a used tank, make sure that it holds a valid certification. Also, check after how many days you need to get it recertified.
Secondly, you should check the gauge. This gauge tells the amount of propane left in your tank. All ASME tanks are equipped with this gauge. However, DOT cylinders require you to purchase a piece of separate equipment for measuring gas.
3. Relief Valve
Thirdly, notice the relief valve in your tank. You might not find them in the older tanks, but all new models are equipped with them. This valve is highly important as it protects the tank if excessive inside pressure is built up. They are attached to the spring, and as long as the internal pressure is below the spring, the valve doesn’t give any signal. However, if the pressure goes above it, the valve produces a hissing sound.
4. Tank Cover and Holder
As mentioned above, we keep the DOT cylinders outside the RV. Therefore, it is likely to get affected by weather conditions, dust, and grime. Therefore, a tank cover is ideal for its protection. Additionally, these DOT cylinders require a holder or mount to get fixed. This holder increases the safety of using cylinders as it ensures easy refilling.
Maintenance of Propane Tank
Thankfully, there is not a huge maintenance checklist of propane tanks. However, you can never ignore the basics as they can be life-threatening. Yes, leakage from propane tanks results in carbon-monoxide poising, which is fatal. In the same way, damaged and cracked tanks are likely to catch fire and explode.
Therefore, always follow the basic maintenance instructions for your propane tanks. Here are a few key tips related to maintenance:
- If you are using your RV after a long time, be sure to get it checked by a professional.
- Make sure to clean the furnace before use. Also, wear a face mask and gloves.
- Blow propane lines after every six to seven months.
- If you are going on a trip after a long break, make sure to check all protective devices, including the gauges.
- Thoroughly check the cylinders for leaks and scratches before every use.
Refilling of Propane Tank
If you have a DOT cylinder, you can easily remove it and take it to the gas station. However, if you have an ASME tank, you need to take your RV with you. Therefore, consider your location and decide if it will be feasible for you to take the RV along for gas refilling. However, you have another option of using camping propane cylinders. These are small and do not need to be refilled.
Furthermore, you should ask about the propane mix. This is important, especially if you are traveling to an area where the temperature is below zero. Besides this, be extra vigilant during the refilling process. Remember to keep the following points in mind:
- The RV should not have any passengers during refilling.
- All sources of ignition should be off.
- No other RV should be around.
- Make sure to check the valves after refilling, and they should be closed.
Additionally, never fill your tanks up to 100%. Experts advise filling 80% of the tank so that there will be space for expansion in case of high pressure. Apart from it, you should have the protective equipment that protects you in case of overfilling.
Driving with Propane Tanks
You should be extra careful when driving an RV. Firstly, double-check that all your appliances are shut off, and the valves are properly closed. The fuel system should never be working while driving. Now, if you are taking some extra cylinders, never put them inside. Instead, keep them in a well-ventilated space. Besides this, the cylinders should be kept in an upright position. Mounting them on the roof of your RV can be dangerous.
Checking Propane Leakages
Checking leakages is simple. You just need to prepare a mixture of soap water with an equal ratio of water and soap. Now, apply this mixture to the connections when the appliances are off. If you see any bubble, there is a leakage. In this scenario, get your RV checked by a licensed professional. However, check the propane leakage after every six months. Also, inspect the tanks carefully and take prompt action in case of small cracks.
What to do During a Leakage?
Even on the go, if you smell something suspicious, take instant action. Do you know that propane tanks contain several odourants to make leakage detection easier? The smell is similar to a boiling cabbage or a rotten egg. Without any delay, go out of your RV. Now, turn off the valves if it looks safe and immediately calls the fire service station. Some people turn on flashlights or use a mobile torch at this time. It is the biggest mistake. Never use any light until you are out from your RV.
RV Propane Appliances
Not every propane appliance is for your RV. RV appliances are separate, and they hold a legal certificate for it. Therefore, always check the license of the appliances before using them in an RV. Also, keep an eye on the flame. The flame should be blue or sometimes yellow. A consistent yellow flame indicates a danger.
Key Safety Tips
Apart from the above points, let me share some other safety tips. These are:
- Never make the mistake of smoking inside your RV. Also, make sure that there is no chance of an open flame near RV appliances.
- Always install a detector for carbon monoxide leakage.
- Do not paint your tanks.
- While driving, turn off all the appliances.
- Never use the RV oven or stove to warm it up.
- Always check the certification of a used RV.
So, these were the basic safety tips. Let me now guide you about safety before, during, and after the trip.
Before the Trip
Even if your travel frequently in your RV, carrying out an inspection is mandatory. Therefore, you should follow the below-mentioned guidelines before going on the road:
- Thoroughly check the cylinders from every aspect. See if there is any wear or tear, slight cracks, or leakage. If you any doubts, get it checked by a professional.
- Carrying extra cylinders is helpful but risky too. So, make sure to carry them safely. Never place them in an upright position. Also, be sure that the cylinders are out of your RV.
- Try not to paint your cylinders, but if they are looking old and dusty, you can paint. You cannot select any color or paint for the cylinder. The color should be light and dull. Silver, grey, and white are the three approved colors for cylinders. Besides this, you should select the paint that is manufactured especially for metal surfaces. In case if there is rust on the cylinder, it should be properly removed before you paint. You can use a wire to remove it, but if there is excess rust, the cylinder should be replaced. Rust can absorb a lot of heat, and it can be dangerous if not removed properly. Therefore, consult an expert instead of painting a cylinder at home.
- Also, make sure that you have an approved fire extinguisher for RVs with you. Other detectors and safety equipment should also be in working condition.
During The Trip
As mentioned above, you need to be extra careful while driving. Here are some additional tips:
- Even if you are facing any problem, never use external burning equipment inside your RV.
- Never smoke near the cylinders or the propane appliances.
- Be sure to follow all the rules and regulations when entering new areas.
- Be careful while refueling; get the cylinder refueled from only a certified source.
- Let everyone in the RV know the fire station number.
After The Trip
After completing a trip, you cannot just put the cylinder in storage. Following some key rules is essential for safety, these are:
- Make sure that all the valves and appliances are off. Also, double-check that the vents are open.
- Try storing the RV in a well-ventilated area. However, if you do not have much space, take out all the portable cylinders. (Do not forget the placement position of cylinders)
Another thing about which some people often debate is about bringing the propane tank inside your RV. A few months later, I noticed a social media group where this debate was going on. I was shocked to know that many of us are still not aware of the science behind it. Let me explain this fact in detail:
Why Putting a Propane Tank Inside an RV is Dangerous?
Firstly, all of us should know that it is illegal to put a propane tank inside your RV. Besides this, it is highly risky. Most of the DOT cylinders are vented. The small disposable cylinders used for grilling and barbeques are an exception because they are unvented. Now, these vented cylinders release water vapor into the air. This happens when the internal pressure rises from the safe point.
If the tank is inside, it will fall on the ground or go up with the air without causing any harm. However, if it is inside, the vapors will not get any space to escape. Consequently, the chances of an explosion will increase. We all know that propane is a flammable gas. Inside an RV, there are multiple sources of ignition, and any single source can ignite it in no time.
Some people argue that a half-filled tank cannot explode in any case. Undoubtedly, the chances of an explosion, in this case, are less, but still, it can explode. The cause of the explosion in this scenario is the debris inside the valve or a problem in the spring. Additionally, the DOT tanks can fall inside an RV. Thus, liquid propane can cause fire by entering the valve and hose that is connected to the RV appliances.
What Will Happen If a Propane Tank Bursts Inside?
Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE)
A BLEVE can occur if the RV is about to catch fire from the propane tank. This can be fatal or extremely harmful for the occupants as well as for the firefighters. Since we are legally required to keep the propane tanks outside, firefighters do not expect them inside an RV. Therefore, do not make things difficult for others. This is a big danger. Stay safe and do not put others’ lives at risk.
Since it is not legal to put your propane tanks inside the RV, insurance companies will deny the claim in case of a propane accident.
Before ending my article, I want to share two useful tips with you. I have learned it through my experience, and I do not want others to make similar mistakes. These tips are:
- Be extra careful in opening the valves of your DOT propane cylinders. I made the mistake of opening them in a rush. Never do this. Always open them slowly because it can restrict the flow, which can result in improper or non-functioning of your appliances. However, if it happens, you need to turn off the valves and detach the hose. Then, follow the above tip of opening it slowly. It will work!
- Experts suggest turning off the propane while driving, but some people keep it on for using a refrigerator. If you are one of them, make sure to turn it off before reaching the fueling station. You can keep a rechargeable fan with you for air circulation.
Propane Safety Device
A few months back, I got to know about a new propane safety device. It’s called Gas Stop. This device works as a shut-off valve in emergencies. Whenever there is a major gas leakage, the device automatically shuts off the system. Thus, it saves you from big hurdles. Besides this, it has an indicator that signals in the case of low gas. Even newbies can use the device easily as it is easy to install and use. Instead of doing the guesswork, you can use this device and thoroughly check your propane system for major as well as minor leaks.
Additionally, it comes with a 5-year warranty, but one device supports just one tank. If you have dual tanks, be ready to make a double investment. Furthermore, it won’t shut off your system if there is just a minor leak. Instead, it will give a signal and lets you resolve the issue. However, if there is a major leak, it will immediately shut off the entire system.
The installation process is written on the backside of the packing, making it easier for you to install in 4 simple steps. These are:
- Connecting the device with the tank
- Tightening the connection
- Connecting the propane line to the device
- Pumping the pressure gauge
Wrapping It Up
In short, traveling in an RV requires you to take acute precautionary measures against propane explosions. You should follow all protocols, select a propane tank wisely, and be vigilant in dealing with it. Furthermore, prefer buying a new tank, install it outside your RV, and do not keep the propane on while driving. Also, be prepared with a contingency plan in case of an emergency. Many detectors and propane safety devices are available in the market. Buy one to ensure a safe trip!