How to use refillable LPG propane in your campervan complete guide

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LPG gas cooker

What are refillable propane tanks?

 

Propane tanks contain liquid petroleum gas (LPG). LPG is used for gas cookers and fires, allowing you to enjoy cooking in your camper van. Caravans and motorhomes have used these for years, and camper vans have joined this group too. Campervan LPG installation includes some brands that are one-use-only whilst others are refillable, which can be more convenient for you and better for the environment. They will fit in any size campervan. This article will focus on creating a refillable setup. However, single-use LPG propane tanks can be used interchangeably. The following video from the motorhome man gives an insightful initial overview of LPG tanks.

 

What can you use campervan LPG installation for?

 

LPG propane tanks have a range of uses. The most popular is for them to fuel the gas cooker, a key element to any camper van. Increasingly LPG has been used to power heaters and heat water. So they are a useful, versatile addition to any camper van set up. All of these functions are available at the flick of a switch in addition to a valve in this case.

A step by step guide on how to set LPG up in your campervan

 

To set up refillable or replaceable propane tanks, you must create a tested system to deliver the gas safely. The following guide will cover all aspects of the system you will need to have these facilities in your campervan.

Step 1 Choosing your refillable Propane Bottle for the campervan LPG installation

 

There are several trusted, reputable brands to choose from on the market. A critical point to make here is that although you can buy refillable LPG propane tanks on the second-hand market, it is strongly not advised. Yes, they may be cheaper, but they will not be under warranty. They could be damaged, not working effectively, or generally unsafe. It is simply not worth taking the risk when trusted brands like the three below offer refillable LPG tanks.

Safefill

 

Arguably the best-known provider of refillable LPG in the UK. Safefill provides a lightweight, safe range of refillable LPG bottles. Their fibreglass bodies not only make them strong, but they’ll be half the weight of comparable steel sized bottles. In 2017 they were finalists in the APEA Innovation Award, highlighting the quality of their offering. A further advantage of these products is with the bottle being translucent; you can see how much gas is left in the bottle. Included with every purchase is a 10-year warranty which builds further trust in this brand. They offer a 5KG bottle, 7.5KG bottle and 10KG bottle. You can purchase all these from authorised dealers. The 5KG bottle costs £157 whereas the 10KG one costs £167, so if you have enough room, it would be smart to go for the larger bottle.

 

 

Gaslow

 

Have become a well established reputable gas provider in the UK Market since there formation in 1978. They are just as well recognised for there yellow bottles. The most notable option Gaslow provide is a smaller refillable LPG bottle. At 2.7KG, it is the smallest on the market, which sets them aside from there competitors. A smaller bottle can have many benefits. It saves a bit of weight. Can fit into smaller spaces. It makes sense for the likes of micro campers and short off-grid trips. Alternatively, they offer bottles up to 11KG, which would be more suitable for long-duration off-grid trips.

 

Gas it

 

A final reputable company to discuss is Gas It. Noticable for the distinct red colour, they have been producing refillable LPG since the ’90s.

Ranging from a 6KG bottle right up to 21KG, they provide a wide range of bottles to suit the customer’s need. What they also provide is a Bluetooth sensor. For £54.99, you can have a sensor that will show accurate to a % how much LPG you have left. This is a great tool to have to plan trips. You can monitor usage as you go. You can plan when you need to refuel. If you get off the grid, it allows you to check you have enough gas for your means.

Step 2 Put the refillable LPG propane in a tank locker.

 

Now you have the tank you need to buy or create a locker to store it safely in. The image below is a typical example you would see in a motorhome. Box that exits through a drilled hole out of the vehicle.

 

 

You can’t guarantee it would be 100% sealed particularly if you construct yourself, although some high-quality boxes on the market will be close.  Therefore as propane is denser than air, if there is a leak, it sinks and could pool in the bottom of the tank. So it is an increasingly common practice to have a vent at the bottom of the box like in the image below. This is just a safety recommendation.

 

 

A further recommendation to the propane tank is a bulkhead fitting. Bulkhead fitting allows secure fitting from tanks to pipes. So the pipe will run from the tank propane tank to this. Then another pipe will run from the external side of the bulkhead fitting to the target appliance. Therefore the box can be shut while the gas flows, adding another element of safety.

 

 

Step 3 Hosing and piping involved in campervan LPG installation

 

Once you have the LPG propane tank in a secure tank locker, it’s time to consider how you want the system to operate. The gas comes out at high pressure from the LPG tanks. This can be suitable for certain appliances such as a stove. You can connect high-pressure hosing from the tank to a valve to the outlet that needs the gas in this scenario. This is usually orange and the likes that you might have seen at school operating a bunsen burner.

 

You manually open the valve when you want the gas to flow, presuming you have already opened the valve on the LPG tank. There is a wide range of valves in the market, but a simple screw valve will work effectively.

 

Step 4 Regulators and additional piping for campervan LPG installation

 

Not all LPG fuelled appliances can run directly on the high pressure of an LPG propane tank. This is where a regulator comes in. Regulators reduce the high pressure from the tank to a lower pressure to run appliances on. There are two forms of regulators to choose from.

 

Single-stage regulator

 

A compact mechanism that reduces the pressure in a single step. A majority of the time, these are sufficient and effective in reducing pressure.

 

 

Two-stage regulator

 

It does exactly what a single-stage regulator does. However, they’re known for delivering a more reliable constant pressure and have a reputation for being more reliable. It’s worth noting they are bigger than single-stage regulators, so that you will need slightly more space.

 

 

Step 5 Additional extras that you can add to your campervan LPG installation

 

The following additions aren’t compulsory. However, they can be beneficial for safety and practicality.

 

Solenoid valve

 

Essentially solenoid valves are electronic valves. They are extremely effective and only open when a 12V source energizes them and usually only draw a small AMP current. You would put one of these between the tank and the regulator. It’s a great fail-safe to make sure the LPG is turned off, as when the electric switch is off, the gas flow has stopped. They are the safest way to ensure the gas is off and are very simple to add.

 

The below image gives an example of how the high-pressure hose feeds into the solenoid valve.

 

 

Carbon Monoxide alarm

 

When burning propane, there is a chance carbon monoxide can be produced. Carbon monoxide has no smell, unlike a leak from the propane tank. As campervans contain an integrated sleeping and eating area, you don’t want to sleep there, not knowing if there was a carbon monoxide leak. Install an alarm on the floor or ceiling as it distributes like air either location will pick it up. When it comes to safety, it is smart not to compromise, and such a simple addition could literally save a life.

 

 

Step 6 Refilling your refillable LPG Propane tank.

 

With all the preceding information, all the knowledge is needed to create an effective, safe refillable LPG system to meet any camper. The final information you need to know is how to replenish the LPG.

Switching the old bottle for a new one

 

You can, of course, switch the bottle. This is not as environmentally friendly as a refill.  This method costs more money as bottles with gas are more expensive than just gas.

Getting an LPG propane tank refill

 

Depending on the refillable LPG propane tank you purchased will determine where you get a refill from. Each company discussed earlier: Gaslow, Safefill, and Gas provide refill locations on their websites. Below are the links to discover your closest fill-up station and its process. You turn up to the location and follow the instructions the company gives you to fill up safely, like the Safefill procedure below.

 

There will be qualified and understanding willing to help you if you have any issues at verified refill stations.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER: Under no circumstances, use a nonverified refill station or attempt to refill your LPG propane container by yourself. Not only are both of these practices illegal, but you could also harm yourself or others, and death may even be a result. The brands that create, sell, supply and refill these containers have safety procedures, standards, and practices to promote safe use. To a large extent, the campervan lifestyle is a DIY world, but gas safety is not something to explore or try to leave to the professionals. Gas it summarises the risks involving Gas in the below article.

LPG Refilling adapters vary from country to country

 

It is worth noting that you will need a different adapter type to refill your LPG tank, depending on the country you’re in. So without the correct adapter, you can’t refill your LPG; therefore, it’s essential to pack for your road trip. The LPG shop created the below photographic to illustrate the range of adapters you need depending on where you travel. This completes the complete guide to using refillable LPG in your camper van.

 

 

 

The complete guide on how to use refillable LPG in your camper van Conclusion

 

Refillable LPG is a great addition to any campervan if installed and refilled safely. It can allow you to cook on gas at will whether you are on a day trip or off the grid for weeks. There are many tested systems and products out there offered by reputable companies. This guide covers enough information to create your own system. To explore more about car specific systems, options and products relating to refillable LPG systems, head to the Leister based LPG Shop. They’re the experts when it comes to this topic

 

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