Caravans often use gas as one of the primary fuels, though it can be dangerous.
Knowing how to store gas in your caravan, what to do in the event of a regulator failure or why carbon monoxide is dangerous can make a massive difference.
Keeping you caravan gas and gas appliances clean and safe is one of the most important responsibilities of being a caravanner. Carbon Monoxide kills, so being unaware of the dangers is not an option.
Caravanners also need to know about Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), including safe use and storage.
Be sure to read the article carefully to help keep your caravan, your family and yourself, safe.
How to choose the right type
At Calor Gas we’ve supported the caravan industry since we began trading in 1935. We’re passionate about caravans and camping, and we continue to invest in new products specifically for caravanners throughout the UK. As experts in everything LPG, we’re able to offer advice on choosing the right gas for your caravan.
LPG cylinders are ideal for caravans because they power your heating, lighting and cooking too. Some caravans can even use it to run the fridge.
Petroleum gas is created as part of the process of refining crude oil – it’s collected and compressed into a liquid before being bottled. The LPG will remain in its liquid form for as long as it is held under sufficient pressure. If that pressure is lowered (i.e. some gas is drawn off) an amount of the liquid will boil into gas until the pressure is restored. For caravan gas appliances it’s allowed to boil and then used in its gaseous state.
Types of LPG
There are two different types of LPG – Propane and Butane.
Propane has a lower boiling point than Butane and is stored at a higher pressure so it is more suited for storage outside. Propane has a boiling point of -42.1°C, so it will always produce a flammable gas supply. You may have noticed that our propane gas comes in a red cylinder and is often used for leisure applications such as barbecues or patio heaters. There are also specially designed lightweight propane cylinders available on the market, especially for caravanning, and are designed to reduce the nose weight of your caravan.
Butane gas bottles are predominately used for portable gas heaters and leisure applications through the warmer months. Butane’s boiling point (conversion from liquid to gas) is around 0˚C. Most British winters (and the occasional summer) can see temperatures around or below 0°C; this usually means that butane can only be used during the warmer months or indoors. Butane is less toxic, so you can legally store it indoors.
For this reason, Propane is often the best choice for caravanners, especially for those who use their caravan throughout the year and is also useful to power the all-important barbecue. When it comes to replacing your gas cylinder, plenty of campsites and caravan parks stock gas cylinders, so it’s easy to replenish your supply.
How much LPG have I got left in my cylinder?
Cylinders are normally described by the weight of gas they contain when full. There are a few ways to determine the amount of gas remaining in a cylinder.
The simplest method is to pick up the cylinder and swirl it around listening for the sound of liquid. Obviously this isn’t accurate – and the cylinders can be very heavy. Some of Calor’s gas cylinders come readily fitted with a gas indicator, so that you can clearly see the amount of gas remaining in the cylinder. This avoids the situation of running out and gives you time to buy a replacement, so you won’t become a cold caravanner!
Make sure you carefully consider where you store your gas cylinders. Gas cylinders should always be stored upright in a safe location. Lying them down may cause LPG to escape through the valve and become a large volume of combustible gas. At Calor Gas we recommend that you disconnect them from any of your caravan’s appliances while you’re in transit. Make sure that there’s adequate ventilation in the area they’re stored in.
Storing gas cylinders
Caravan storage sites differ in their policy on storing gas cylinders. Some will allow you to leave them in your caravan, others may have designated storage cages while some may not allow them on site at all. If they don’t allow them on site this is usually for insurance or fire safety reasons.
You should consult the manager of the site or check the site’s policy to be sure.
Whether you’re storing your caravan gas cylinders on site or at home, they should always be kept upright and secure, with plenty of ventilation. It is vitally important to ensure they are disconnected and turned off. Likewise, all appliances when not in use should be turned off.
It’s important to keep in mind the differences between LPG gases when storing them. Butane will freeze below 4C whereas propane will not.
You may have seen secure gas cylinder storage lockers or units at caravan sites or storage sites. These can be pricey but if you can fit them into your budget and you have room for one, they can be a safe and secure method of storage at home. Otherwise, it’s inadvisable to store them indoors, including in garages or sheds. You should store them a safe distance away from your house.
It’s a good idea to check cylinders regularly when in storage to ensure they are still upright and there haven’t been any leaks or attempted thefts.
Some gas cylinder companies will offer an exchange service where they will take an empty bottle from you and replace it with a new one, for a price. Some may even offer to do this at your home, saving you the trouble of transporting a bottle. This is a convenient and safe method of replacing empty cylinders, though it does cost extra.
Transporting gas bottles
Carrying gas cylinders in your car is not recommended. There is often not enough ventilation in cars for leaking LPG to sufficiently dissipate. They should never be stored on their side. A gas cylinder stored like this can roll around freely and, in the case of an accident, can become lethal to the driver and passengers.
Storing gas cylinders on their side will often increase the chances of a leak as the liquid can cover the valve. If this valve is covered, pressure can build up resulting in a lot of damage. They should also never be in direct sunlight or left in a vehicle for more than a couple of hours.
If possible, gas cylinders should be transported in a properly secured storage unit aboard a well-ventilated vehicle such as a flat bed or pick up truck or on a secure trailer. Otherwise, storing them upright in your caravan’s gas storage unit and transporting them this way would be your best option.
It is important to remain conscious of your weight limits when transporting gas cylinders. Depending on the location of your caravan gas compartment, your noseweight may be affected. Many gas companies offer smaller lightweight cylinders which may be good if you need to watch the weight of your caravan. However, these may not be suitable if you’re going on a longer holiday.
You should also ensure that your gas compartment is well ventilated. Butane and propane are heavier than air so will sink to the ground. Good ground level ventilation will allow gas to flow out in the event of a leak. Regularly checking these vents for obstructions or blockages will help ensure your safety.
A responsible step to take would be to get some “compressed gas” warning stickers for your car or caravan when you’re carrying gas cylinders. These will alert the emergency services to the presence of gas should you be involved in an accident. They can then adjust their actions accordingly, aware of the dangers.
In the eventuality a cylinder should fall onto its side when transporting, you should stand it upright and leave it to settle for a few minutes before connecting it to anything.
Standard safety precautions apply when transporting LPG. For example, you should never smoke around gas cylinders. If you are unsure about the safety of transporting them, consult an expert.
When handled correctly LPG is a reliable and safe fuel but caution and common sense are vital. If you are in any doubt about storing or transporting gas cylinders, consult an expert.