Propane gas, otherwise known as Liquid petroleum gas (LPG), is one of the safest fossil fuels there is. It is clean burning and efficient, and the byproduct is mostly vapor and carbon dioxide. It produces a much lighter impact on our environmental footprint than wood, coal and oil, as it produces fewer greenhouse emissions. Here in the United States, there are more than 65 million homes that use it to power stoves, water heaters and other appliances. This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of RVs that travel the country.
The RV industry has gone to great lengths to make sure that our standards for propane safety remain up to date, and are adhered to. While LP is a very useful gas, if misused it can result in serious consequences. A propane leak on the inside of an RV can become volatile should the gas build up in the unit. Just a stroke of a match, or an inadvertent spark from plugging something in could result in a deadly explosion.
If you want to be sure that your recreational vehicle has no LP gas leaks, take it to a qualified RV dealer or a railroad commissioned supplier of LP gas. Either of these entities can conduct an inspection of your coach to assure that there are no leaks. They will also look at the regulator to make sure that it’s set properly. In addition, they’ll check the fittings and valves to make sure that the integrity of the physical components are intact. If any faulty equipment is located, it should be replaced immediately.
In addition to checking the propane tanks and fuel lines, you should also be vigilant about the condition of your appliances that run on gas. These would include the refrigerator, the water heater, the stove and the furnace. Closely inspect them to assure that the lines attached to them are under no stress, or pull. Make sure that they are not rubbing on any sharp edges that could cause a rupture in the line.
Propane in its natural form has no odor. Because it’s imperative to know if a leak has occurred, it is a law that 1.5 lbs of an additive called ethyl mercaptan is added to every 10,000 gallons of gas. This creates a stench that emits from the gas, which isn’t unlike a “rotten egg” odor. It’s not pleasant, but it does grab your attention to let you know that there is gas coming from somewhere. Just as an added precaution, it’s a good idea to install a propane leak detector in your recreational vehicle as well. This detector should be carefully checked and monitored for proper function on a regular basis.
One precaution that should always be taken with propane fuel is to make sure not to fill the tank in excess. There must be room left inside the canister for the gas to expand as temperatures vary. If the tank is overfilled, there is no room for the gas expansion, and it could leak through the relief valve as an escape route. This gas could also leak into the fuel lines, putting undue pressure on the appliances at the end of the lines. In any case, leaking gas is never a good thing. Make sure of the origin of the leak and have it repaired right away. In the spring of 1998, all cylinders up to 40-pound capacity have been fitted with an OPD (Overfilling Protection Device). This new equipment will not permit too much LP to be pumped into the cylinder.
In the event that you smell gas inside your RV, don’t waste any time; get out immediately. Leave the doors open to help air out and disperse the gas, then shut off the supply valve from outside. Don’t flip any light switches and don’t attempt to use any appliances until the source of the problem is determined and repaired. You can call the fire department or the gas supplier for an immediate response.
At Pedata RV, we always conduct safety inspections to make sure that our RVs are in tiptop safety condition. As an RV owner, you should do the same thing. The upkeep and maintenance on an RV is not complicated, and will eventually pay big dividends if done correctly. Remember that the ultimate responsibility of your safety is in your hands. Make sure to keep up the safety inspections; not only for yourself, but for the precious cargo that travels with you.