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Traditionally there is not much information passed on to the customer with regards to Liquefied Petroleum Gas or LPG. This short article hopes to address that.
LPG is a mixture of hydrocarbon gases used as a heating fuel. LPG is odorless in its basic form and has a powerful odorant added to help with easy detection of the gas. (On that note did you know, on average women can smell LPG before men can? Next time your wife tells you she smells LPG, trust her nose!)
Although LPG is a flammable fuel it requires a minimum amount of 2.5 % mixture in air to ignite. By contrast LPG is detectable with a concentration of only 0.5% so at the point you smell it, it still requires an amount equivalent to 5 times that to ignite making it a very safe source of fuel.
The LP tanks you see on your RV are Department of Transport approved containers. These are basically the same as your BBQ tank. They are still only ever filled to a maximum of 80% of their capacity; they have the same type of valve system and connect in the same way.
The main difference is that a bbq tank is a single skin steel tank whereas a DOT tank is a triple skin. This may not sound like much but the triple skin obviously has more chance of surviving a motor vehicle collision than its BBQ cousin.
There is also a cost implication with regard to the replacement of the tanks. A BBQ tank (most often seen now at various ‘exchange’ programs at gas stations) cost on average $50 for a 30 lb tank. A DOT approved tank (as provided on your new RV) costs on average $200. So don’t be fooled into giving up your nice DOT tank for the more inferior BBQ type.
Although LPG is a very safe fuel, all sources of ignition should be switched off when you are traveling with your RV. This includes closing the main valve on the tank. There is no sense in having the super safe DOT tank and then leaving the valve open! (Your fridge by the way, once cooled, will retain sufficient temperature for about 12 hours without a source of fuel; so no worries about your food spoiling while driving for the day).
An annual LP leak test should also be part of your regular maintenance. This low cost safety test can ensure you have no nasty surprises. LPG is heavier that air so a small leak can allow the gas to find its way into low lying cavities and storage areas in your RV allowing a dangerous accumulation of fuel.
On the whole, LPG is a safe source of heating fuel when the correct transport and storage methods are employed.
Andy is a professional Service Administrator with Bucars RV Centre