There is a lot of debate in the RV community over whether or not it's safe to have propane on while driving an RV. But, we should start with if it's illegal…
Many RV owners want to use their RV fridge and other appliances while driving between camping destinations. That desire leads to the following two questions:
- Is it illegal to drive an RV with propane on?
- Is it safe to drive an RV with propane on?
In this blog post, we'll address both questions, including the exceptions of when and how it is illegal. We'll also include tips to keep you safe if you choose to use propane in transit.
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Is It Illegal to Have Propane On While Driving an RV?
In most cases, it's not illegal to drive with propane on in an RV. There is no nationwide law that prohibits it directly. However, some states have rules about how you store and use it.
Furthermore, some states have rules against having it on in certain situations. These situations revolve around a greater risk to people and structures…
What Are the Exceptions?
Although it's usually legal to drive with propane on, there are a couple of exceptions to keep in mind. And these are safety concerns you should consider regardless of legality.
First, some states say you can't use propane while driving across bridges. Understandably, an explosion on a bridge has even more dangerous and serious implications than an explosion on a road.
Second, it's often required to turn off your propane (or at least your propane appliances) before entering a gas station. Gas is flammable enough without the added risk of flammable propane.
Even If It's Legal, Is It Safe?
Knowing if something is allowed is one thing, but realistic safety is another. There is MUCH DEBATE in the RV community over this differentiation.
While propane is generally safe, there are some things to think about. Propane is a gas that can catch fire easily or slowly asphyxiate you undetected. So, it's important to be aware of the potential risks and be careful to keep everyone safe.
Dangers of Driving with Propane On
1. Fire and Explosion Risk: Propane can explode or start a fire if not handled properly. That's why it's important to ensure no leaks or problems with your propane system or lines while driving. You don't want to put yourself, your passengers, or other people on the road in danger.
2. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: If propane lines, attachments, or appliances aren't working correctly, they could release carbon monoxide gas. This gas has no smell and can make you very sick or even cause death.
Controversy in the RV Community
Many RVers argue that these risks are very minimal. That the chances of a leak or an explosion are unlikely.
However, other RVers argue that it only takes one incident to have devastating results. So, they opt for being safe rather than sorry.
Regardless of your opinion, there are some safety measures all RVers should take when driving with propane. And yes, I mean whether or not the propane is turned on or off. (Potential leaks can occur even when the system is turned off.)
Why It's a Low Risk… but with Big Consequences
As a compressed fuel, propane is still relatively safe, even in the event of an RV collision. Obviously, if propane is leaking from a severed section of tubing and ignition sources are close by, that would present a problem.
ASME tanks and DOT cylinders have multiple safeguards present on every RV.
For instance, an ASME tank has a square-looking device inside the POL valve called an excess flow restrictor. This excess flow device protects the high pressure (tank pressure) from escaping too quickly should the regulator and/or the POL fitting be broken off. Keep in mind, this flow restrictor will not totally shut off the gas flow, but it will impede it greatly.
Other safety devices include the backflow check valve (at the ASME fill valve) and a separate safety relief valve.
However, though the risk is low when propane is on, it is still possible under the right circumstances for a propane accident to occur. And by propane accidents, we mean fires, explosions, or CO poisoning– all very dangerous and potentially lethal consequences.
When the service valve is shut off completely while traveling, there is virtually no risk, even with propane in the lines. When the propane tank is turned off, the rapid rate of expansion will dissipate the gas to stay outside the limits of flammability in most cases.
Therefore, even though the risk is low, safety experts encourage all RVers to turn the propane container(s) off while driving down the road.
5 Tips for Safely Driving with Propane On
The following tips are imperative to follow if you drive with propane on. And many you should follow even if it's turned off.
1. Check Your Propane System
Before you start driving, make sure your propane system, including the propane lines and valves, is in good condition. Look for any leaks, damages, or signs of wear. If you notice something wrong, get a qualified RV technician or professional to fix it.
2. Keep Your RV Ventilated
It's important to have good airflow in your travel trailer. Keep some windows and vents open while you're using propane appliances.
3. Make Sure Your CO Detector Is Working
More RVers die from CO poisoning than can be avoided. Making sure you have a working CO detector in your RV can mean the difference between life or death.
4. Secure Your Propane Tanks
Make sure your travel trailer's propane tank is securely fastened. You don't want it moving or falling while you're driving. This includes portable propane tanks for your grill, etc!
5. Turn Off Appliances
Remember to turn off all your propane appliances before going to a gas station. If you're going over a larger bridge, you may need to turn them off, too. This will help prevent accidents and keep everyone safe.
Also, get into the habit of turning off appliances when you're not using them to avoid any leaks or malfunctions.
What RV Appliances Run on Propane?
Propane is commonly used in travel trailers to power various appliances. Here are some of the main RV appliances that typically run on propane:
Stove/Oven: Some RV stoves and ovens run on propane. They allow you to cook meals just like you would in a regular kitchen. Propane stoves provide a reliable heat source for cooking, making them a popular choice for travel trailer owners.
Water Heater: Propane-powered water heaters quickly heat water for showering, washing dishes, or other hot water needs in your RV. They are efficient and provide a constant supply of hot water, enabling you to enjoy the comforts of home while on the road.
Refrigerator: Many RV refrigerators can operate on both propane and electricity. When you're not connected to shore power, having a propane option lets you keep your food cold and fresh. Depending on your type of RV fridge, you might be able to run it off battery power.
Furnace: Propane furnaces are used for heating the interior of your travel trailer. Propane furnaces are highly efficient and can quickly heat up your RV, keeping you comfortable in colder climates.
It's important to note that not all RVs have every appliance listed, and some appliances may also run on electricity or a combination of propane and electricity. It's always recommended to check your RV's specifications to know which appliances run on propane and how to safely operate them.
7 RV Propane Safety Tips to Prevent an EXPLOSION
A quick Google search of “RV blows up” will produce more results than you might think. Even if you amend the search to include this year or even month, you'll likely see recent news stories.
That's why every RVer needs to practice propane tank safety. You need to know how to store it, when to turn it off, how to detect leaks, and more.
I'm going to give you several RV propane safety tips to help keep you and your family safe. Keep reading…
How to Safely Transport Propane Tanks
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We've queued up this video, where Brenda shares tips on safely transporting propane in your RV. You can also read more about it here.
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