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Got Gas? - RV Propane Safety

Some newer RV models are available as all-electric, and with the solar/lithium battery technology advances, these RV's function quite well with only the occasional need for supplemental shore or generator power to top off the batteries.

For the vast majority of RV's on the road however, propane powered appliances are a reality.

So, yes, we've got gas. Propane, that is and like the electricity we hook up to, we must respect the danger represented by having a flammable gas on board under high pressure.

Propane Basics:

There are generally two types of Propane tanks found in RV's: DOT cylinders similar or larger in capacity than the standard household gas grill, and an ASME tank usually found mounted in a compartment on a motorized RV.

DOT tanks need to be recertified after 10 years of their manufacture date and every 5 years thereafter No recertification is needed for ASME tanks.

Regardless of the type of tank, the propane in them is under high pressure, typically between 100 and 200 psi. This is too high a pressure for RV appliances so the propane runs through a two stage regulator. The first stage reduces the pressure down to 10 psi and the second stage reduces it further to 11 inches of water column, roughly .4 psi. This is then piped to all the appliances that utilize propane: Refrigerator, water heater, stove, and furnace. On some RV's there may be an exterior quick connect port for a gas grille.

When your tank(s) are being refilled, the rule is to fill them to 80% to allow expansion room for the gas. It is very dangerous to overfill the tank.

Propane Safety:

What is the safe and proper way to use your on-board propane when camping or driving?

Before Hitting the Road:

Inspect propane cylinders and their mounting hardware for wear, rust, or damage; if you spot a problem with your cylinders or other propane hardware, have your equipment professionally serviced.

If you are carrying extra propane cylinders, store them securely in an upright position in a well-ventilated area; never store a propane container inside your RV.

Inspect propane appliance hoses for frays, kinks, or damage.

Make sure your system is inspected at least once a year by a trained service technician; never attempt to repair any propane-related component yourself.

Make sure your RV has working propane, carbon monoxide, and smoke detectors.

You should also have at least one fire extinguisher (Class 5-B:C for trailers; Class 10-B:C for motor homes).

If you smell propane (the Mercaptan additive) or the Propane alarm sounds shut it off at the tank(s) and have the system checked and serviced by a qualified RV or Propane Service Technician.

While Camping:

Open a window or roof vent and turn on your exhaust fan when cooking.

Never use your stove as a space heater.

Never use fuel-burning equipment designed for outdoor use inside the RV.

Keep propane tanks and cylinders at least 10 feet away from heat sources.

When Storing your RV

Turn off all propane supply valves and appliances.

If you store your vehicle in an enclosed area, remove all portable cylinders and store them securely in an upright position, in a well-ventilated area. Never store a cylinder indoors or in an enclosed area such as a basement, garage, or shed.

Should propane appliances be on while driving?

This question is hotly debated with passionate arguments made from both sides of the issue.

The objective facts to consider in answering this question are:

1. A road hazard, tire failure, or accident could rupture a propane gas line and cause a fire,

2. It is against the law to have an open flame in a gas station when refueling.

3. The wind draft alongside the RV can pull the propane flame 'out of position' making it less effective and perhaps damaging the appliance or causing a fire.

4. There is no need to have the water heater, furnace or stove operating on propane while driving.

5. The refrigerator is the only appliance where operation on propane while driving may be perceived as a necessity.

6. It is against the law to drive through tunnels, get on ferries etc. with propane turned on.

It is considered a best practice to turn off your propane supply at the tank while driving.

I am a firm believer in the principle that every solution creates a new problem to solve. Therefore, if we solved the danger issue by turning off the gas at the tank, we now have a new problem to solve in keeping the contents of the refrigerator/freezer at proper temperature.

Some alternative solutions to consider:

1. Use the Refrigerator as a cooler. Pack it with 2 liter bottles of frozen water or other ice packs after getting it super cold the day before a travel day. The refrigerator will keep food cold for a reasonable amount of time if the door is not opened and the ambient temperature is not in the triple digits. This creates a new problem to solve in that we now need to refreeze the water bottles or buy ice for the next leg of the journey.

2. Run the Refrigerator off the generator power while underway perhaps with the Air Conditioner. This consumes fuel, but gets the job done.

3. Run the Refrigerator off the Inverter while replenishing the batteries from the engine alternator and/or solar.

I personally subscribe to a three-step solution.

  1. Turn OFF propane at the tank when driving.

  2. Set up the refrigerator to run off of an inverter while driving with the engine alternator replenishing the batteries.

  3. Install a GasStop device to 100% shut off the flow of propane should a leak open up in a gas line or appliance while we are camping.

Gas Stop (POL) for ASME tanks

Gas Stop (ACME) for DOT tanks

Gas Stop Demonstration Video


I hope you have found the information in this blog useful. Remember, If you need an NRVTA Certified RV Service Technician to help you with any repairs or preventative maintenance on your RV propane or other systems, you can find one near you at:

If you are selling your RV and want to facilitate a quick sale it is good to have a recent Independent NRVIA Certified Inspection report on hand to share with prospective buyers.

If you are buying a new or preowned RV, be sure to hire an independent NRVIA Certified Inspector to give you the knowledge of the true condition of the RV before you buy.

You can find an NRVIA Certified Inspector near you through the NRVIA web site locator.

Our primary objective at Sherlock RV Inspection Service, LLC is to serve you by making sure your RV is safe to occupy and all major systems and appliances are functioning as intended.

We are a mobile RV Inspection Service and will travel throughout the Southeast and beyond as needed. (subject to travel and per diem costs) Check out our web site to get to know us better and for the inspection details and sample reports for review.

Safe Travels!

Ron Francoeur

Sherlock RV Inspection Service, LLC

Office: 352 – 224 – 9477

Cell/Text: 678 – 360 - 6883

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