RV explosions are rare, but not as rare as they should be. The following RV propane safety tips can keep your RV (and you) from blowing up…
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. It's a good idea to share this with fellow RVers, too, who may be taking their safety for granted.
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Types of RV Propane Tanks
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.
7 RV Propane Safety Tips
Explosions are a real threat when it comes to propane tanks, but they're not the only threat. Many deaths linked to a propane leak result from carbon monoxide poisoning, not a fiery explosion. However, a spark quickly changes it from a silent killer to an explosive one.
In addition to the following information, you should read 11 Critical Tips on How to Detect Carbon Monoxide in Your RV.
The following RV propane safety tips will help protect you from injury and death from both terrible causes. They'll help you prevent or catch leaks and any situation that may cause an explosion.
1. Store It in an Upright Position (Outside)
RV propane tanks should always be stored in an upright position. This includes whenever you're transporting them, too. For instance, if you load the propane tanks into the back of your truck to refill them, strap them upright.
Never keep portable tanks inside your RV or vehicle, either. They should always be stored in your RV's exterior “garages” or storage compartments.
Again, this includes when you're in transit.
It's simply not a good idea to have them in human-occupied places, even when humans aren't currently occupying those places.
2. Protect From Excessive Heat & Flying Debris
Leaks in the propane lines or connection points aren't the only way a propane tank can ignite. There is another type of propane explosion called a BLEVE. That's an acronym for “boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion.”
In other words, the propane inside the tank reaches its boiling point and explodes out of the pressurized tank. BLEVEs occur propane tanks are exposed to sustained, direct heat.
Propane gas can start to leak or combust at 120 degrees F. That means you need to keep it a safe distance from open flames, like a campfire, or hot locations, like a metal shed in Arizona.
On that same note, you want to protect your propane tank from flying debris that can get kicked up from the road. If the tank is punctured and a spark occurs when it's pierced, it can explode. So, you don't want to store it in transit anywhere that it's exposed to road debris.
3. Turn Off Propane Systems During Travel
Another important safety measure is to turn off propane tank valves during travel. This keeps gas from flowing through your RV propane system as you drive down the road.
If you're ever in an accident, you don't want propane fumes permeating the crash site. A single spark can blow up the entire scene.
4. Inspect Propane System Regularly
It's also very important to inspect your propane system regularly, including all propane appliances. Check for leaks, rust, corrosion, loose fittings, pinched cables, and the like.
You can use a gas leak detector or soapy water to determine where leaks are coming from. If you put soapy water on a leaky gas line, it will bubble wherever the leak is.
Ideally, you'll have this inspection completed by a certified service technician once a year. That's in addition to checking it yourself on a regular basis.
5. Ensure Proper Ventilation
Whenever you use portable propane appliances, such as generators or heaters, make sure they're properly ventilated. Follow all appliance manufacturer safety instructions.
Also, open a window and turn on your exhaust fan when using your stove.
Portable fuel-burning equipment, including wood, charcoal, and propane grills and stoves, should not be used inside the RV or near the entryway. The use of this equipment inside an RV can cause fires or carbon monoxide poisoning.
6. Have Working CO Detector
New RVs now come with carbon monoxide detectors, but it's up to you to keep them in working order. You should test them regularly and replace batteries if necessary, as applicable. (Some are directly wired into your RV instead of using batteries.)
This device can SAVE YOUR LIFE! It has certainly saved countless lives and could have saved even more if they were properly maintained.
So, be sure to add “test carbon monoxide detector” to any maintenance list you have.
7. Know What To Do 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.
- Immediately put out all smoking materials, pilot lights, and other open flames. Do not operate lights, appliances, or cell phones. Flames or sparks from these sources can trigger an explosion or fire.
- If you can, safely turn off the gas supply valve on your cylinder or container.
- Open all doors and other ventilating openings.
- Immediately leave the area and call 911 or the local fire department.
- Before you restart or use any of your propane appliances, have a qualified service technician inspect your entire system.
MORE Important Information
I strongly encourage you to read and share the following related articles:
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Tips on Preventing it in your RV [SAVE THIS!]
- 11 Critical Tips on How to Detect Carbon Monoxide in Your RV
- 8 Big Health & Safety Concerns of RV Living
MORE RV Travel & Safety Tips
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In the above video, we share stories and feedback from our viewers about their experiences with accidents and road emergencies. Cautionary tales and lots of great tips to keep you safe while traveling.
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