RV Lifestyle

Carbon Monoxide and propane issues spike in spring for RVers

As warm weather returns, this is again the time for a semiannual spike in carbon monoxide deaths and propane issues for RVers.

Here's some examples over the past few years: At a KOA in Nashville, a couple was found dead in their RV by relatives who drove to the campground after not being able to reach them for several days. Carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause, said authorities, caused by a their propane burner.

An RV fully engaged by fire caused by a propane leak in a Walmart parking lot in MO

In Washington State, a propane tank explosion inside an RV east of Lacey sent a couple who lived there to an area hospital with burns. The woman suffered second- and third-degree burns in the explosion. The man suffered minor burns. Fire officials said investigation indicated a leak in the propane tank that caused it to explode.

And at a Walmart parking lot in Sikeston, MO ,there was  a propane explosion inside a motorhome while people were inside the RV. The explosion blew out the side of the vehicle. One of the occupants told officers he was trying to light the stove to provide some heat because the inside of the RV was cold when the explosion occurred. They escaped with minor injuries but their motorhome was destroyed.

These three incidents underscore the need to make sure your RV has a working carbon monoxide alarm and that you have inspected your propane tanks and plumbing.

The propane system on an RV usually provides heat and hot water, power for the stove and refrigerator, and fuel for barbecue grills or other small appliances.  There are two basic types of propane containers and systems: Department of Transportation (DOT) cylinders and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) tanks.  Travel trailers, folding camping trailers, and fifth-wheel units use two movable DOT cylinders, which are positioned vertically upright and mounted to the outside front or back of the RV.  Motor homes use a single, permanently installed ASME tank, positioned horizontally, and located underneath the cabin, near the entryway.  Regardless of container type, all refilling repair, or replacement must be done by certified service technicians.

While you may do touchups to your RV from time to time, do not paint propane cylinders, valves, or mounting hardware. This may mask important service issues, affect valves, or result in system failure.

Make sure your system is inspected at least annually by a certified service technician.  They are trained to detect incorrect tank pressure, leaks, or other potential hazards, and address them properly.  Do not connect your propane piping to another gas source or attempt to repair any propane-related component yourself.

AmeriGas, a leading propane supplier, and the Propane Education and Research Council has issued some safety guidelines for RVers.

Most RV refrigerators can keep food/beverages cold during several hours of travel without a power source.  They strongly recommend that propane systems be turned off while driving.  Other safety tips while traveling:

At the Campground…

If You Smell Gas…
It is not “normal” for propane systems to leak. If you detect a leak—or sense a propane odor(rotten egg smell)—have it checked out immediately.

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