There are millions of propane systems in RVs as well as homes and barbeques with very few accidents. While LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is highly explosive, it is quite safe, if used properly. Neglected, the results can be disastrous.
If you smell gas, exit immediately. Don't use electric switches or appliances. Leave the door open to air out the RV. Shut off the supply valve on the propane tank and don’t open it until the problem has been corrected.
- If the propane detector isn't working properly, replace it with a new one immediately. The detector should be located as close to floor as possible where propane vapors accumulate and near propane appliances.
A propane system should be inspected annually by a certified propane technician. This should also be done when you purchase a used RV or make major repairs to the system or to stoves, furnaces, hot water heaters and refrigerators that operate on propane.
Periodically, check for leaks, condition of valves and fittings, and that propane storage containers are free from rust and dents. Supply lines should be inspected to see if they are rubbing against other objects.
There are a couple of ways to check for propane leaks. You can use battery-powered, portable leak detector. Or fill a spray bottle filled with a soapy water solution and spray on connections. If you see any bubbles, turn off the main supply valve at the tank and do not turn on until the leak has been repaired. Then recheck to assure the leak has been taken care of.
Two types of containers used in RVs - DoT cylinders or ASME tanks. DoT cylinders are typically used on trailers and truck campers and must be installed vertically. ASME tanks are used in motor homes and must be installed horizontally.
DoT type propane cylinders must be transported and stored in an upright position so the pressure relief device will function properly. Don’t lay a cylinder on its side in the car trunk or allow it to roll around in a pickup bed. Place the cylinder in an old milk or plastic storage crate to hold it upright.
DoT cylinders may only be used for 12 years after their manufacture date. Sometimes cylinders can be much older than the RV since they were produced before the RV was built. So check the date on the tank. After 12 years, cylinders must be re-certified for another five years of use and can be re-certified every five years thereafter. ASME tanks do not require re-certification, but they are supposed to be inspected visually every time they are filled.
While propane sellers are required to look at the date stamped on the cylinder before filling it, some do and some don’t. So check the date stamped on your cylinders.
It is better to refill removable propane tanks like the ones used for barbeque grills than exchanging empty ones for full ones. You will know the condition of the tank including previous use and abuse and you won’t be trading a new one for a very old one.
All small propane cylinders up to 40 pounds capacity manufactured after September 1998 are equipped with an overfilling protection device (OPD). Cylinders without OPDs can no longer be refilled. The OPD prevents accidental overfilling by using an internal float that shuts off the valve when the cylinder is 80-percent full. The new OPD valve also will not release gas unless the pigtail hose is properly connected, even with the valve is open. ASME type cylinders in most motor homes have had this OPD feature for many years.
Install tank covers over propane cylinders located outside an RV, such as on the trailer hitch mounting, to protect the cylinders and valves from damage and the elements.
When refilling on-board propane cylinders or tanks, turn off the RV engine, all appliances, and electronic re-igniters. Make sure no one is in the RV during refueling.