Propane! ... new full-timer ;)

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RoverGirl

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hi All!
I'm new to this board ... and new to full-timing as well, but that's what i'm up to!
I've been out now for just 7 days, dry-camping the whole time so far ...
I don't think that my propane tanks have a proper working gauge on them ... so i'm getting pretty close
to thinking i'd better go get them filled again (this will be the first time).  I've been running my refrigerator full-time
with the propane tanks on while i drive.  One question -- is this a no no?  I need my fridge to run while i drive so I don't
see that turning the tanks off is an option!  Any thoughts? 
I've done some minimal cooking with the stove -- heating up water for coffee; a big juicy steak one night; chille; chicken breast; random stuff ... not a lot of use.
So far the two round propane tanks have provided for me for a week and a day...

Curious as to what suggestions/thoughts you all out there may have for me!

RoverGirl
 

DougJ

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We've only had a motorhome for two years, and during that time we always travel with the propane fridge / freezer running.  I've read several opinions in support of doing this.  In our case, the fridge has an electronic ignition system so I'm thinking (but an expert may need to correct me) that we're quite safe in running with it on.

Ciao,

Doug
 

Steve CDN

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Your propane question is a very good one, though there is contraversy on the answer.

According to Mac McCoy who gives the fire prevention seminars at FMCA rallies, the propane valve at the tank should be turned off while driving.  The reason is that in the event of a major accident where the pressurized propane line might get severed, it could present a fire hazard.  His recommendation is to install a small battery operated fan (available in most RV supply stores) in the fridge which causes the air to circulate.  The fan does the same thing as in a convection oven, to increase air flow and heat transfer...but for the cold air.  If you drive for 5 - 6 hours, and not open your fridge you food should remain cold.

OTOH there are a large number of RVers who travel with the fridge on without any problem.  An electronic ignition system should re ignite the pilot if it gets blown out while in motion, so the fridge will stay cold.

Another option is to turn off the propane and drive with the generator on to provide electricity to the fridge.

It will be interesting to read more opinions on this subject, which has many points of view.

Welcome to the RV Forum, and hope you will make it a regular part of your online activities.

Feel free to join in any of the ongoing discussions in the Forum to offer your comments.

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DonJordan

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Hi and welcome to the RV Forum.  Glad to see that you found us.

Re your question on propane and running the refrigerator while underway, there are safety reasons for shutting off the main propane valve at the tank(s) while driving, but I am pretty certain that the majority of RVers travel with the propane on and the refrigerator running.  With the newer refrigerators propane ignition is by automatic spark start so even if the flame blows out (unlikely) it will automatically restart.

I'd be surprised if your propane tanks are low after only a week of full timing.  The only reason that they might be would be if you have a leak in the system.  Your refrigerator and range should run a lot longer than a week if you have two cylindrical tanks.  Do you have the automatic cross over valve that switches tanks when the first runs empty?
 

Ron

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Hi,

We are gld you found us.  Welcome to the RV Forum.  Regarding your question regarding propane usage I doubt very much your tanks are anywhere near empty.  What does the gauge show? I would suspect you haven seen it move off of full yet.

 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Hello Rovergirl and welcome to RV Forum Community,
If yo have only been running the refrigerator, I doubt if your propane tank(s?) are anywhere near empty. You would be amazed at how little the fridge consumes - or the stove either.  But since you are bondocking, you may be heating water and that uses a bit. Even then, you probably still have weeks yet to go.

What size tank or tanks do you have?
 

Lou Schneider

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Hi Rovergirl!

Propane is stored in liquid form inside your tank.? ?Above the liquid there is the propane gas.? When you use propane, you draw off some of the gas, which is then replenished from the liquid.

You're interested in the amount of liquid propane in the tank.? When it's gone the tank is empty.

An easy way to find the level of the liquid propane is to pour some hot water down the side of the tank, then feel along the side with your hand.? ?You'll find a distinct contrast in temperature at the level of the liquid - the gas above the liquid won't absorb much heat, so the tank wall will be warmed by the hot water.? ?Liquid propane is an excellent heat sink, so the tank will remain cool below the level of the liquid.

Sometimes you can see a condensation line at the level of the liquid's surface after you pour the hot water onto the tank.

If you want to estimate your gas usage, look on the nameplate of each gas appliance for it's input in BTUs.? ?If you know that a gallon of propane contains approximately 80,000 BTUs you can tell how much fuel the appliance uses per hour by dividing it's BTU rating into 80,000.? ?For example, if your water heater? has a 12,000 BTU rating, it uses (12,000 / 80,000) or about 1/6 gallon of propane each hour the flame is on.

Stove burners use about 6500 BTUs for a standard burner, 9000 BTUs for a high output burner.? ?These are with the flame full on - if the burner is turned lower it uses proportionately less.? ?An oven burner uses about 9000 BTUs.? ?The little flame in your refrigerator uses about 800 BTUs.

The largest user is your furnace - depending on it's size iit can use anywhere from 20,000 - 35,000 BTUs

If you have two propane tanks, the regulator will automatically draw from one tank until it is empty, then it will switch to the second tank.? There should be a little lever on the changeover valve - turning it determines which tank is the primary tank.? ?When the primary tank is empty, a red flag will pop up in the little window and the regulator will begin drawing from the second tank.

I usually wait until my first tank is empty before getting propane.? Many propane places have a minimum charge, and going there with an empty tank ensures you will buy more than the amount needed to reach their minimum.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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RovrGirl,
To address your other question about traveling with the propane tanks on, I would say it is a standard practice except in areas where it is specifically forbidden. These are tunnels that dip under things (rivers, for example) and subterranean parking garages.  The  is because propane is heavier than air and any leaking gas would accumulate in the lower areas until eventually a passing vehicle ignited it. Such places will usually have warning signs but don't always have a place to stop to go close the valve.

You must also turn off all propane appliances while in a fuel station because operating propane appliances have an open flame. That's pretty obvious but easy to forget.

The federal DOT and the various state's fire marshall's regulate the carrying and use of propane in vehicles. LP gas regulations are very stringent but NONE of them have prohibited use of gas refrigerator's or other appliances while in motion and NONE of them have required the main valve be shut off (except the special cases noted above).  On the other hand, I think it is clear that shutting off the main valve provides some additional safety margin in the case of a severe accident. It's up to you to determine what you are comfortable with in terms of risk.

I'm one of those who routinely travel with the gas valve on and the fridge running on propane. However, I also use the house a/c to cool the motorhome and so run the fridge on electric rather than gas whenever the genset is running to operate the a/c.
 

Karl

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RoverGirl,
As was said previously, propane use by the fridge is minimal. Fuel gauges are notoriously inaccurate, but if it shows 'full', it probably is or nearly so based on what you said you used it for. Also, it would help to know what type of rig you have. If you have a propane generator or a portable one you set on the ground, then using it while travelling is not an option for obvious reasons. Besides, a fridge runs much more efficiently on propane than it does on electricity, and you'll be wasteing  a lot of gasoline. BBut, as Gary said, switching over to elec. while running the genset for other reasons makes sense - just make sure you switch back (if it doesn't automatically) to propane or you'll run your house batteries down in a hurry - and I speak from experience!!!

Welcome to the Forum and a whole new lifestyle!
 

RoverGirl

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You all are WONDERFUL!
thank you so much for all of the great information.
i recently stopped at a U-Haul and bought two new gauges (that actually work), one each for my 2 propane tanks, and
lo and behold, they were both still reading full!  So you guys aren't kidding when you say they will last a while ;)
I still haven't done anything but dry-camp and I've been going for a week and a half.
I so enjoyed reading your replies, and I'm even going back to read them again to glean all of the info i can.
thanks for hanging out online with me while i'm out there on the road ... ;)
my best,
RoverGirl :D
 

DonJordan

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RoverGirl,

Glad that you found our information useful.  Stick around and participate on a regular basis and I think that you will get a lot of information and enjoyment from the forum.
 

Ron

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RoverGirl,

Glad we could be of assistance.  Please feel free to ask more questions should they come up.  Also please provide answers to any questions that you may the answer to.

 

Carl L

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RoverGirl said:
hi All!
I'm new to this board ... and new to full-timing as well, but that's what i'm up to!
I've been out now for just 7 days, dry-camping the whole time so far ...
I don't think that my propane tanks have a proper working gauge on them ... so i'm getting pretty close
to thinking i'd better go get them filled again (this will be the first time).? I've been running my refrigerator full-time
with the propane tanks on while i drive.? One question -- is this a no no?? I need my fridge to run while i drive so I don't
see that turning the tanks off is an option!? Any thoughts??

Yeah, leave them on.  I have been doing so for some 10-15 years and have no problems to report about propane tanks on while driving.      If you pull onto a ferry, US Coast Guard requirements say turn them off.  Do so and turn them on again when you drive off.  As long as you don't open the fridge you should be ok.    Some states require that when you refuel the tow vehicle at a gas station.    That said, do turn them off at the tanks went you put the trailer in dead storage.
 

Smoky

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Rovergirl:

Count me in with the "run with propane on" gang.

We are right behind you in fulltiming, getting ready to upgrade from 30 foot trailer to Class A pusher in mid May.  We are moving to Montana as our place of residence, but in reality will be following the 70 degree line wherever it goes.

What kind of rig are you running and where are you dry camping?

 

Steel Rat

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Funny. I haven't done a LOT of RVing yet, but when I drove from Washington State to Illinois, I had the Propane off, and the fridge in Auto mode, it ran off the electricity of my truck. I'm guessing from the conversation that this isn't always the case.

Jeff
 

Ron

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Steel Rat said:
Funny. I haven't done a LOT of RVing yet, but when I drove from Washington State to Illinois, I had the Propane off, and the fridge in Auto mode, it ran off the electricity of my truck. I'm guessing from the conversation that this isn't always the case.

Jeff

There were some fridges that were three way 120VAC, GAs, or 12DC.  I am not sure if they are even available anymore most of the ones I see now are 120VAC or Gas.  Maybe you had one that could use 12DC.
 

Steel Rat

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There were some fridges that were three way 120VAC, GAs, or 12DC.  I am not sure if they are even available anymore most of the ones I see now are 120VAC or Gas.  Maybe you had one that could use 12DC.


I thought the inverter changed everything to 120. My Fifth wheel is a 2002 model, Dometic fridge (Is there any other kind?). It has two buttons, On/Off and Auto/Gas.
 

Ron

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Usually the fridge AC is not included in the inverter feed outlets.  Would take a pretty good bank of batteries to operate the fridge from the inverter output.
 

Phil

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Ron said:
Usually the fridge AC is not included in the inverter feed outlets.

Ron,

My fridge is on the inverter and, most of the time I wish it wasn't.  I just manually switch to gas when I dry camp with the inverter on.  One of Monaco's (not) better ideas.  :)

Phil
 

Ron

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Phil,

Our fridge is not on the inverter and I like it that way.  I have met a couple RVers that have installed a inverter just for the fridge.  Guess that is ok while your running but sure would run the batteries down when boondocking.
 
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