For a caravanner or camper, liquified petroleum gas (or LPG) is an excellent travelling companion. It’s a clean, convenient and portable fuel source which can be used for a range of appliances and applications. Let’s look at what you need to know about LPG because there’s more to it than turning on a gas bottle.
What is LPG?
LPG is a by-product from petroleum processing and primarily consists of propane and butane. It’s a vapour gas under normal atmospheric pressure, but changes to a liquid form when stored under pressure in approved tanks and cylinders. As it’s a flammable product, looking after your gas system and always operating it in a safe manner should be a high priority.
Rules and regulations
Nationally recognised Australian standards cover the use of LPG, equipment, appliances and installation, along with storage and handling. An RV’s gas system isn’t something a weekend DIYer should modify after watching a Youtube video. Not only could things go horribly wrong, but you’ll also void any warranty. Plus, no insurance company is going to cover you. There’s even a strong likelihood you’ll face the long arm of the law and possibly prosecution.
Servicing, maintenance and new installations need to be carried out by a licenced gasfitter. These guys are also responsible for issuing a certificate of compliance at the completion of any gas work they undertake which is valid for five years. As your RV ages, have your gas system serviced to update your certificate of compliance.
When buying a new RV, it’s mandatory for the owner to receive a compliance certificate. Although things can get a little confusing under differing state rules when selling second hand. Having an up-to-date compliance certificate is the best way to safeguard the buyer and seller. It’s not recommended to take ownership if the compliance certificate isn’t current.
5 Gas facts every RV owner should know
1 Gas bottles
If you’re storing gas bottles on an A-frame, they must be placed in an upright position and secured tightly. It also pays to have some form of shielding/stone deflector to prevent any objects damaging fittings while in transit. Any gas bottles you store in a compartment or box must also be completely sealed off from the inside of the RV and provided with adequate outside ventilation. Compartments also require a red LP gas storage sticker to be displayed on the compartment’s outside. Gas bottles are stamped with a manufacturing date and require an inspection and re-testing every 10 years. You’ll find the date is stamped near the valve.
The regulator here has been cleverly covered up to protect it from any flying objects during transit
They’re used to lower the high pressure inside the gas bottle to a pressure that’s suitable for appliances like stoves, hot water services, three-way fridges and gas heaters. A regulator these days is a two-stage type that needs to be mounted in a vertical position close to the gas bottles. But they also need to be mounted high enough, so the flexible lines slope down towards the gas bottle. Their vents need to point down for protection from the weather.
Using a soap solution to test for any gas leaks
3 Pigtail gas bottle attachment lines
These lines need to be correctly rated as they take the high-pressured LPG to the regulator. As gas bottle attachment fittings are fitted with a serviceable O-ring, some choose to use a hand wheel for its convenience and speed. While others might look for added security by choosing a fitting which requires a spanner. Both methods are good, just resist over-tightening. Look for any signs of leaks by periodically spraying the attached fittings with a mild soap solution (bubbles will appear if a leak is present). Any leaks should be addressed by an authorised gasfitter.
Periodically check all gas fittings underneath
4 Pipes and fittings
These must undergo a periodical visual inspection, as the mains supply line should be installed on the outside of the RV. It’s important to check they remain attached correctly to the chassis and have adequate protection. Pipes that penetrate the floor or other areas of the RV need to be protected from abrasion and any fixing points for shut-off valves located inside cupboards secured. Anything that’s mounted externally on your RV could be damaged by flying stones, sticks or the terrain you drive over, so have these checked each time you visit a service agent.
A vent is located at the lowest point of the caravan by the entry door
Inside ventilation is paramount and there are clear regulations for fresh air entry and exit that relate to gas appliances. With gas weighing more than air, vents are installed at the lowest point in an RV which should remain open at all times to assist any leaking gas to escape. It’s not okay to block these vents to prevent dust entering while travelling on dirt roads. Any leaking gas can congregate at the blocked vents in large volumes to create an explosion risk awaiting an ignition source.
Using LPG in RVs allows us to access an efficient energy source so we can run numerous appliances while camping. The very nature of LPG being highly flammable means it deserves our respect. The next time you step into your RV and get ready to turn on that gas appliance, take a look at when your RV was last serviced and checked over for gas compliance. It will allow you to sleep more soundly knowing your RV is safe and fully complies.
Words and images Grant Hanan and Linda Bloffwitch.