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Old 01-07-2013, 05:24 PM   #1
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Default LP Tank Safety

Ok, so every single thing I have read, both printed and online all state the same... LP tanks should not be stored inside.

But there are many small conversions that just dont have that as an option. And I have seen office trailers on contruction sites that OSHA visits regularly using propane tanks with heaters attached to the top.

If you check your connections regularly, is it really the end of the world to have a tank inside?
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:15 PM   #2
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I think you may find the issue is not a loose connection that causes concern, but if a full tank gets too warm it may vent out the relief valve. While the inside of a insulated RV may not typically get hot enough when closed up on a hot day to cause the tank to vent, it is not a chance I would take. It does not take much propane to leak out to make an air/fuel mix perfect for an explosion. With propane being heavier than air it can settle in all kinds of low spots waiting for an ignition source. During my time as a Firefighter I have seen a couple of rv's fall victim to a propane leak, not much left.

If it were me, I would keep the tank in a vented outside compartment.

Dave
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:28 PM   #3
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I worked in the propane business for about 14 years, and it was my family business since birth, so hopefully I know a little on the subject.

Construction sites and the likes fall under an entirely different set of rules from homes or rvs etc., and can get away with quite a bit of things you would not normally be able to under the regulations as "temporary heating" situations. That tank with the heater mounted to it is perfectly acceptable in a situation like you describe, but you would not want that in a living area, and definitely not where you are going to sleep. First off, even a tiny leak in an enclosed area can build up to the point where the whole thing can blow up when it finds a source of ignition. And second, that type of portable infrared heater can get knocked over, or something can brush up against it, and create a fire hazard. Plus you've got 5 gallons of very flammable liquid under pressure inside the camper with you.

You definitely need to have the tank(s) mounted outside the living area. Either entirely outside, or in a vented compartment with an airtight seal to the interior. So if you are building an enclosed area for the tanks, it would need to be accessed from the outside only and not the inside, and have adequate ventilation (like a screened area, or louvered vent) in the floor or bottom of a sidewall as propane is heavier than air and will sink down if you have a leak. That way if a small leak were to develop on the tank itself, or a connection, or a regulator were to fail, the gas would safely vent to the outside instead of building up inside the rv where you are sleeping. Also be sure to seal any openings or joints into the interior of the unit so gas cannot seep from the compartment to the interior in case of a leak. Ran D. St. Clair has some good pics of the vented compartment he built in his stealth camper build thread. Also be sure the tanks are mounted away from any heat source, the hotter the tank, the higher the pressure. And there is a safety pressure relief which will vent gas if the tank gets too high a pressure, which you don't want to happen. So keep them away from exhaust from the engine, generator, or appliances.

The regulations for camper on tank size depend on the type of tank. The permanently frame mounted ASME tanks have no max size limit at all, but those are fairly expensive. The portable DOT cylinder (like bbq tanks) are limited to a maximum size or 35# per cylinder, a maximum of 3 cylinders, and a maximum of 90# total capacity. In the real world there are 20#, 30# and 40# cylinders, so you could use 3 30# tanks to get to the max. I cheated a little on mine and mounted 2 40# tanks outside under the gooseneck area. I only had room for 2 tanks, but had plenty of height clearance so I opted for the taller tanks. Not quite the correct size, but hey I'm a professional right? lol. I really don't think the size or number of tanks is real important issue safety wise, as long as they are securely mounted, and vented.

A few other things to keep in mind: All gas lines other than the connection from the tank to the regulator need to be metallic. The lines from the regulator to the appliances can be threaded schedule 40 black pipe, or single flared soft copper refrigeration tubing. No rubber hoses (can rub and rupture), no aluminum tubing (susceptible to cracking under vibration), no compression fittings (can crack and leak), no solder joints. If you use soft copper, you can run that directly to each appliance with a shut off valve for each appliance. If you use schedule 40, you will need either a stainless flex connector, or a soft copper connector to the appliance for vibration. Be sure to pressure test the system for leaks before use.

Be sure to use a propane detector installed inside the unit, as well as a carbon monoxide (CO) detector. These are fairly inexpensive and available at most of the rv surplus outlets and on ebay. The gas detector will sound if you have a leak, and the CO detector if you have a carbon monoxide buildup, which can kill you. CO buildup is fairly easy to do in an small enclosed area in you aren't using the proper type of appliances or venting.

Any heater you use should preferably designed specifically for rv use, and if not it at least needs to be designed and approved for residential use in sleeping areas. That sleeping area designation is very important as you have to remember that any gas burning appliance is burning up the same oxygen that you are breathing. A heater designed for sleeping areas has an oxygen depletion sensor built in which will shut the unit down if it uses up too much air. That way you will wake up in the morning. Some wall type heaters are designed for areas like garages or recreation rooms and do not have that feature. The portable tank mounted heaters definitely do not.

I used an Oylmpian Wave Catalytic wall heater in mine: Olympian Wave Catalytic Safety Heaters - Product - Camping World They are a little pricey, but a nice self contained easy to install unit with all the correct safety features. My living quarters are the front 20' of a gooseneck race car trailer with no significant insulation at all. I used the Wave 6 only because I did not have the room for the Wave 8 on the wall where I wanted to put it. It has 3 settings up to a max 6000btu on high, which does not sound like much, but it really does the job. The only time it is ever on high is to warm up and take the chill off, after that it stays on low (about 3000btu). On a night in the 40's or 50's I leave the roof vent open to let a little heat out or it actually gets to hot inside. We've never used it below the 40's, but I think it would keep up just fine into the 30's. The nice thing for a home built camper, is the unit is completely self contained, just bolt it to the wall and hook up the gas, and operates entirely on propane alone. No 110v, no 12v, so if you are dry camping it will run without having to worry about a thermostat, or a fan to run down the batteries. We are in situations often where we can't plug in, and there are "quiet hours" where we can't run the generator at night, so that unit has worked out very nicely.

Sizing your tanks: Propane has 21600 btu per pound. So for example my 6000 btu heater will burn up a pound of propane in 3.6 hours, so a 20# tank will last 72 hours on high. On low it will burn a pound in 7.2 hours, for 144 hours on a 20# tank. You can figure that usage out for any given heater and make sure you do the math and that you will have enough propane on board or last as long as you will need to. It is far cheaper in the long run to have more capacity on hand so you can fill your tanks at a reputable propane dealer at your convenience, instead of those ridiculously expensive exchange tanks (which they only put 15# in these days) when you run out at inconvenient times and need it in a hurry.

Just remember that propane is very very safe in if installed and used correctly, and very very dangerous if you do not do it correctly.

Well, that is probably way more than you wanted to know, but I figured I'd cover the whole subject in one shot. Good luck!
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:05 PM   #4
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Dragonslayer- I used to do training at our company for local fire departments on propane and fighting propane fires. Sorry you had to deal with the aftermath, but I am glad to hear you were paying attention to the training. I'll bet you are a volunteer, those guys were always paying attention and asking questions, and the full timers were usually in the back of the room not paying a bit of attention during their "required" training. Thanks for what you do.

Your comment reminded me of the relief valve in a little more detail- the relief valve should never open up and vent gas under normal circumstances including a closed up hot vehicle. A DOT cylinder (bbq tank) has a 375 psi relief valve which means the tank would have to be over 160 degrees to vent, which would require some outside heat source like a vehicle/appliance exhaust, too close to a heater, or obviously involved in an unrelated vehicle fire that heats it up. A frame mounted ASME tank has a 250 psi relief valve which would have to be over 127 degrees, which sounds low but again will never open under normal circumstance. The exception to that rule would be the case of a tank which is over filled. If the tank is over filled past the 80% mark, then there is not enough room in the tank for expansion, and it can vent gas out of the relief valve even at room temperature. That would be a pretty rare situation these days as most portable cylinders have auto stop filler valves, but it can happen and not worth taking the chance with a tank indoors.
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:20 PM   #5
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it will be interesting to find out what happened on Lake of the Woods, % guys spending their very first night in a brand new portable ice house when she went BOOM.

5 remain hospitalized after ice house explosion | kare11.com

5 guys whom life will never be the same..

-blizz
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:37 PM   #6
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I looked at the Olympian. Nice looking unit. I liked the fact that it was a true catalytic heater, and produced essentially no CO2. In the end I went with a Big Buddy from Mr Heater for a couple reasons. Primary reason, portable. Can use it in my house when the power fails. Which happens monthly lately here in Atlanta. Price did factor into it, but not much. The other reason I picked Big Buddy was size of heater (my unit on low puts out almost as much as yours on high.. 4500 on low, 9000 on medium and an insane 18000 on high.) On low it burns about 2 lbs every 10 hours. And it is rated for indoor use, has the safety features you mentioned. Shut off for low oxygen, tip over shut off, etc. So a 20 lbs tank would need to be replaced every 10-12 days. Plan on putting two underneath the truck in a box specifically for them. But that is down the road. If at all. I was planning on running electric for everything. But thats a discussion for another thread...This rig is headed to Texas and heating season is almost over there. I have a small supply of the portable 1 lb bottles that will get me there till I can plug in and run my electric space heater.
Will be installing a CO2/Propane alarm before I head back on the road in 9 days to be safe.

Edit: The reason I bothered at all with the propane heater, it's a 3 day trip to where I am headed, and I dont feel like freezing my nose off while getting there. I plan on taking my time getting there, ie, leaving after rush hour, getting my butt off the road and at a truck stop before rush hour again (and it gets crowded). I figure 6 hours a day, with a lunch break in the middle. About 300 miles a day
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Old 01-08-2013, 02:13 AM   #7
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Sad news on the ice house. No mystery though, small gas leak built up overnight, somebody got up in the morning, turned on the heater or flipped a switch and boom. I wonder if it was a factory built deal, or homebuilt.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:33 AM   #8
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interesting and timely subject -

my coach, frame mounted (ASME? 50gal?) uses a rubber hose from the regulator
threaded black pipe (under the coach)....the black pipe then has copper lines that feed into the coach/appliances.

i was fed up w/ 1 lb green bottles (for my grill), and temporarily was using 20lb grill bottles (i carried the grill bottle in the basement storage with out issue)...always making certain the tank was blocked in & the valve was off/tight during transport or non-use.

i recently ran a copper line (single flared) from the black pipe (under the coach) to the back of the coach, where i terminated the copper pipe w/ a QD connector (ive converted my outdoor grill to accept the QD connector).

securing the copper line under the coach presented some issues but i was certain to protect & insulate the copper line w/ wire loom & foam pipe insulation...which i then secured to frame points w/ zip ties or rubber insulated pipe clamps.

im wondering, do i need a separate shut off valve on the copper grill line ?
i dont know where id put the shut off valve...and still be able to get to it.
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Old 01-08-2013, 08:54 PM   #9
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It was a brand new factory built Ice Castle. First time out, they bought it as a family Christmas present.
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Old 01-08-2013, 08:56 PM   #10
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^ someone is gonna get sued !
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Old 01-08-2013, 10:39 PM   #11
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Don, as with any appliance in a gas system, you definitely need a manual shutoff somewhere in that line to the grill, particularly with that quick disconnect. I am not a fan of quick disconnect fittings, but they are ok as long as you use the proper fittings. Make sure they are rated for gas, and not just a shop air connector. We have all walked into a garage and heard a quick disconnect hissing off in a corner somewhere which is fine for shop air but scary for gas, and propane will attack and deteriorate some grades of rubber so you need to make sure it is rated for gas. I would suggest a connector designed for natural gas that you can get from your gas company or a good plumbing outlet, or one from Paulin PAULIN OUTDOOR PRODUCTS - INDOOR HEATERS they specialize in propane accessories. Which reminds me, they make a really nice line of gas lights if you are really trying to stay away from power for dry camping, but that is another subject. Anyway, use a manual shutoff either at tee where you branch off, or at the end of the line at the QD, as long as it is where you can get to it. I just don't trust the QD's, particularly when you are driving, so just make sure to manually shut off the gas when not in use.
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Old 01-09-2013, 12:05 AM   #12
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im convinced - just have struggled w/ where to put the ball valve.

im using Gas rated fittings (i use the same ones at home & on our tri-fuel portable generator at the house).

I shut the LP off at the tank when im not using the coach, but i agree, i need to add a shut off for the grill too...fact of the matter is, ive already got the 1/3 turn ball valve - just havent figured out where the hell ill mount it.

i appreciate the suggestions & feedback.
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Old 01-13-2013, 10:41 AM   #13
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I use a Mr. Heater Little Buddy, and on high that thing will sweat me out of my small (8'X12') box. I have been using 1 pound bottles for now, but will be installing a mount off the frame for a 2 20 pound bottles. I intend on converting my generator to run propane rather than petrol.
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Old 01-13-2013, 11:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodger View Post
I use a Mr. Heater Little Buddy, and on high that thing will sweat me out of my small (8'X12') box. I have been using 1 pound bottles for now, but will be installing a mount off the frame for a 2 20 pound bottles. I intend on converting my generator to run propane rather than petrol.
I looked at the smaller one. I went with the larger one because it wasnt that much more money, and it had 2 bottles. That will run the heater on low for 10 hours. And on low it makes quite a difference, have not tried on medium or high. And the reason I havent is because of the only problem I have found with this heater. It isnt a problem with the heater itself, but the tanks. The small 1 lb tanks tend to freeze up. Even on low, I had frost on one of the tanks when I tested it. A little frost isnt the end of the world, and it didnt seem to affect the propane flow at all, but I think on a higher setting it would be a problem...

I am still on the fence about propane. I can build storage boxes underneath my frame easy enough. And they would be no where near the exhaust. (the muffler ends about 2 feet past where the box starts.) But I am just not sold on the propane yet. This was designed (at least in my head) as an all-electric house. In fact, the heater was only for the move to Texas (wont have power for the 3 day trip) and for exergency backup in the house when the power goes out.
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Old 01-13-2013, 12:22 PM   #15
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I only want propane for a way to power my generator and heat, maybe a port to hook an outdoor grill to. I do like the idea of having it onboard, my camper that I have owned for years has two 20 pounds tanks on it, and I have had no issues with em. I had entertained the idea of installing a camper furnace. Much like you, I liked the idea of being able to take the heater elsewhere like a tent of my house if need be. I also arranged a nice little spot for it and two 1 pound bottles in the truck so it stays out of trouble. I have found that if I leave the hatch open when the heater is on, there is no noticeable odor.
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Old 01-13-2013, 07:12 PM   #16
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And that is the only other thing that I dont like. I had forgotten about the slightly off odor that propane gives when burned. Not enough to give me a headache, but annoying. I have not tried it again since installing my first roof vent. It went in without any issues, just waiting on some rain to see if it leaks, lol.
And it's just been too warm to fire up the heater just to try it out. Dont feel like wasting the propane. If I wasnt paying 2.50 a bottle, sure I would have tested it already, lol.
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:09 PM   #17
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Are the propane rv furnaces expensive? I sure like to turn mine on and stay toasty warm in my rig on a cool day (or night). It's got an exhaust out the side so there isn't any smell. 12volt blower fan to run the heat through a few ducts.

Hotrod, thanks for being here and sharing your extensive knowledge. Sometime I'm going to be able to add something useful here. Just don't know when, or what, yet.
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Old 01-13-2013, 10:35 PM   #18
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Bob, you were here way before me and contributed a lot on a variety of things. I just have that on area I know something about, but thanks.

In my experience the infrared heaters do give off a small amount of odor, but you have to remember those portable jobs are designed for temporary heating situations, not a permanent installation. Any you should have a little bit of airflow (like cracking a window open) to make sure they have plenty of combustion air, and will minimize any odor. The catalytic style heaters have no noticeable odor, but are a bit more expensive. The best unit of course is a full on rv furnace, but they are more expensive and more complicated to install. And require electricity to operate. So it is all a trade off, how much to spend, how much work to put it in, and do you need power free operation.

akat- you should consider an adapter hose to run your heater from a 20# cylinder. you are paying $2.50 per pound for those throwaway tanks, and if you figure $15 to fill a 20# tank that is $.75 per pound. So you would spend $50 for the same propane that costs $15 in a 20# tank. You can pay for the hose and a tank in about 2 fills, less if you can come up with good deal on a used tank. My buddy uses that same heater in his race trailer and is quite happy. He puts the tank outside and runs the hose in through a cable hatch when he is using it.

Also that frosting of the tank is because the heater is using the propane faster than the small tank can produce vapor propane from the liquid inside. Eventually the pressure will drop to where the heater performance will drop, and you will also notice more odor when that happens, and you won't get all the gas out of the tank unless you shut the heater down and wait for the tank to warm back up and repressurize. The larger tank will cure that as well.
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:50 AM   #19
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Bob, you were here way before me and contributed a lot on a variety of things. I just have that on area I know something about, but thanks.

In my experience the infrared heaters do give off a small amount of odor, but you have to remember those portable jobs are designed for temporary heating situations, not a permanent installation. Any you should have a little bit of airflow (like cracking a window open) to make sure they have plenty of combustion air, and will minimize any odor. The catalytic style heaters have no noticeable odor, but are a bit more expensive. The best unit of course is a full on rv furnace, but they are more expensive and more complicated to install. And require electricity to operate. So it is all a trade off, how much to spend, how much work to put it in, and do you need power free operation.

akat- you should consider an adapter hose to run your heater from a 20# cylinder. you are paying $2.50 per pound for those throwaway tanks, and if you figure $15 to fill a 20# tank that is $.75 per pound. So you would spend $50 for the same propane that costs $15 in a 20# tank. You can pay for the hose and a tank in about 2 fills, less if you can come up with good deal on a used tank. My buddy uses that same heater in his race trailer and is quite happy. He puts the tank outside and runs the hose in through a cable hatch when he is using it.

Also that frosting of the tank is because the heater is using the propane faster than the small tank can produce vapor propane from the liquid inside. Eventually the pressure will drop to where the heater performance will drop, and you will also notice more odor when that happens, and you won't get all the gas out of the tank unless you shut the heater down and wait for the tank to warm back up and repressurize. The larger tank will cure that as well.
Everything you said is true. But this was a temporary fix while I decide what to do. Kind of what Congress and the President are going to do about spending. A temporary fix and let the next guy fix it, lol.

But on a more serious note, yes the 20 or even 30 lb'ers are much cheaper after the initial cost of buying tanks. That is true. But then I have to find a place for those tanks, and right now, there isnt one. Building a box under the truck and attaching to the crossmembers wouldnt be hard at all. And there is the issue of the hoses. I have no real experience with running copper or metal lines. Running a flexible metal line wouldnt be a problem, but I am not sure if they make them for LP and if they are acceptable.

Initially I was thinking propane for some sort of heating, as well as a cooktop. Now, with finding an induction coil cooktop, I dont need propane for cooking, it seems a waste to go though all the effort to install tanks for a heating system. I have electric heaters that work great. And it's very rare when my truck wont be near power. The only place I can think where that might happen is if I dont come home to Atlanta after the show, and instead head out to see Slab City. And if I do that, also a temporary situation (I dont see myself living there) I can always pick up a Coleman portable cooktop.
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Old 01-15-2013, 09:14 PM   #20
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I would love to find an affordable horizontal mount lp tank to mount under my truck. After pricing those, they are crazy expensive compared to the same size vertical style.
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