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Lots to Learn with new RV


catrobin

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I picked up my first ever RV yesterday. I thought after being on these forums for the past few years and learning a lot from many here, plus reading a lot, that it would be a piece of cake. After a two hour orientation, I was overwhelmed with all the information, and when to use propane, batteries, electricity, generator, etc. I guess one main question: is it safe to travel with the propane on because isn't that the only way to run the refrigerator when traveling, and I will want to turn it on the night before I leave for a trip. The good thing is I drove it home on the freeway for over an hour and that went well.

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This is one of those things that people debate from both sides, mostly with safety reasons for running with it off. We've done it both ways, 1) cool down the frig, load it with cold stuff and give it time to get cold again, then travel with propane off and frig closed or 2) cool down frig, load with cool stuff and leave propane on. I basically decide based on how long we will be traveling to our destination. For a few hours, I do the first with no problem. The frig basically becomes a big cooler. For a longer trip, I do the latter. I don't like the propane open while underway, but sometimes it's really the only option.

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I will never travel with the propane on, but then again my fridge is residential and runs from the inverter while we are under way.

 

As a long time firefighter, I saw the results of several RVs that were traveling with the propane on. When they catch on fire, the propane just fuels the fire. In these conditions the people in the RVs barely made it out in a couple of cases. It's not worth it.

 

Most modern refers/freezers will maintain the cold for many hours as long as the doors remain closed.

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While most safety folks will tell you that you should never drive with propane on, I know more than one firefighter who does so, as I do in most cases. The fact is that your propane system has a safety valve that is designed to stop the flow if propane in the event that a line should ever rupture, exactly the same as is required on on propane powered motor vehicles, which would not work if they were to follow the "turn it off" theory. Back a few years ago, I sat in a propane safety seminar at a Good Sam rally where a licensed propane tech/insurance investigator made the statement that he had never heard of a single fire in an RV that was caused by the use of propane while traveling. There are lots of anecdotal stories around about that happening, but in reality it is a very rare thing. RV fires are disastrous in most cases and the absorption refrigerator is one of the more common causes of the fires, but not due to the propane issue, rather due to over heating problems. There is now a product which both Mark Nemeth and I use and Mark even recommends its use in "RV Boot Camp" classes. It is called the ARPrv and if you investigate them, you will find that many refrigerator cooling unit re-builders are now using it also. Not only does this dramatically lower any risk of failure, it even shuts off the refrigerator before anything reaches the temperature of flammability and should be used even if running it on electricity.

 

At the same time there is some additional risk in using propane, just as there is risk in doing most things which we choose to do. We have friends who never travel with propane on but yet allow the grandchildren and adults to move about inside of their motorhome while traveling, in spite of the fact that seat-belts use related stories are easily documented. Some of us choose to do things with a bit more risk, like skydiving or even hiking alone, while others do not. This is really no different. For me, I take the precautions to lower the risk as much as reasonably possible, then operate our refrigerator in hot weather while traveling. We must each make the choice that is most comfortable for ourselves. There is no right or wrong in this decision.

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We were in the leave the propane on camp since we figured food poisoning was a bigger risk than a propane fire. We were frequently putting restaurant leftovers in our fridge so wanted to be sure they cooled down quickly.

 

Linda Sand

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With a gas engine RV and a big sheet metal or plastic tank full of gasoline, this presents a huge safety hazard. I would not worry about a tankof propane being open for the frig to operate.

 

Also, there are propane fueled vehicles and they have to have the tank on in order to operate.

 

The insurance industry and its team of legal eagles have taken the ultra safe route and are telling folks to shut it off for safety.

 

Ken

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I personally was incident commander at 2 RV fires that WERE being fueled by the propane system. Kirk, you're saying it cannot happen is BS because it can. I saw it myself!

 

Remember that propane systems, as any other system on your coach, can fail unexpectedly. It just makes sense to me to not take the chance. There are many older, low end RVs in service that have not had proper maintenance over the years. This can lead to failure.

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Catrobin, I would highly recommend the Escapee's RV Boot Camp. You will learn quite a bit in that 3 day course. We just got home from the one held at the Escapee's Raccoon Valley RV Park. We got to meet Mark Nemeth in person, along with several other skilled instructors. The topics covered included just about anything RV related that you would need to know. And you will meet a lot of new friends among the attendees.

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Propane systems can have two different kind of tanks, removable bottle and permanently mounted tank like in the typical motorhome.

 

The auto shut off systems are different which is the issue with what happens like in an accident. Propane is a bit more combustive than gasoline.

 

When we had a motorhome with an RV refrigerator, we carried several blue ice modules and move some of them into the refrigerator section while traveling. We did not travel with propane on. Saw too many videos on RV fires.

 

One of the advantages of our household refrigerator is that it runs fine while traveling.

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We do not travel with propane on. The frig keep things frozen/cold for several hours at a time if the doors are not opened several times. We do turn it on when we take a lunch break 1/2 hr - 1 hr time if traveling a long distance or more than 5-6 hours in a day.

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I personally was incident commander at 2 RV fires that WERE being fueled by the propane system. Kirk, you're saying it cannot happen is BS because it can. I saw it myself!

At the same time there is some additional risk in using propane, just as there is risk in doing most things which we choose to do. We have friends who never travel with propane on but yet allow the grandchildren and adults to move about inside of their motorhome while traveling, in spite of the fact that seat-belts use related stories are easily documented. Some of us choose to do things with a bit more risk, like skydiving or even hiking alone, while others do not. This is really no different. For me, I take the precautions to lower the risk as much as reasonably possible, then operate our refrigerator in hot weather while traveling. We must each make the choice that is most comfortable for ourselves. There is no right or wrong in this decision.

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My propane is on 24/7 except when being refilled once a year.

And one other time in KY or Tn. when a sign said to turn it off, before going through the upcoming tunnel.

 

When traveling the frig is on propane unless it gets to hot and I run the roof AC's on the generator.

Or every 4-5 hours I may run the generator for a short time to power a 1.5 cu ft 120V only freezer.

It doesn't like my Inverter power. :(

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I personally was incident commander at 2 RV fires that WERE being fueled by the propane system. Kirk, you're saying it cannot happen is BS because it can. I saw it myself!

 

Remember that propane systems, as any other system on your coach, can fail unexpectedly. It just makes sense to me to not take the chance. There are many older, low end RVs in service that have not had proper maintenance over the years. This can lead to failure.

Once an RV fire is enveloping the unit it should not surprise anyone that the propane tank and lines will be compromised. As will the gas tank and any other flammables on board. The chance of propane being the CAUSE of the fire is minimum, zero, of course not but to be truly safe, leave the unit parked, stay in your house and maybe don't get out of bed lest bad things happen. :rolleyes:

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Absolutely agree with Mike57 and Medico.

 

We took a beginners' RV symposium eight years ago. A fire marshal really pushed turning off the propane when traveling. He emphasized it is not the fridge that is the problem but the fact that the propane is on and a severe accident may likely cause rupture a propane line. The comparison of gasoline tanks with propane tanks is not a proper one. Gasoline/diesel will just pool while propane will be a gas and spread across the ground looking for a spark.

 

A cold and filled fridge will keep things frozen/cold for 8 hours. You can turn on the fridge when you stop during the day.

 

We have not used the propane on travel days for last six years since we have sufficient solar to run the Dometic.

 

Reed and Elaine

 

We have been down to Yucatan three times and there are some "interesting" roads. It is butane once you get below the border.

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Get your frig temp down to operating temperature. Secure any power and of course propane to the frig so its completely off. Now time how long it takes for the temp to rise to unacceptable levels. My guess is probably around 4 hours or more. You can even stretch it a bit more by taking one of those freezer packs and putting it on the top shelf of the refrigerator once you do shut down.

 

Point is, unless you are driving for a very long time at each stretch, your refer will probably remain cool without having to be running all the time so play it safe and go ahead and turn off the propane. If you do drive for extended times each day, when you take a break for lunch/dinner, turn the gas back on and let it do some cooling before hitting the road again.

 

Personally, when we had a propane refer we actually never thought about it and usually kept the tank on. Now that we have a residential, the problem is non existent. Our propane is usually turned on sometime around the middle of October and then back off around April/May depending on where we are and if we need other than electric heat.

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Propane fires used to be a lot bigger problem as the tanks would supply a lot of propane to the fire, today with the flow limiters built into the portable tanks (no clue about motorhome DOT tanks) the amount of propane flowing from a broken line is much reduced.

 

Try it yourself sometime, turn off your propane, turn on all your stove burners, let them burn until there is no propane left. If your stove doesn't have automatic igniters have someone ready to manually light the burners so you don't build up un-burned propane inside. Now open the propane valve as fast as possible so that the flow reduction device is triggered and see just how small a flame you get at your stove. It is even easier to test if you have a BBQ or other outside appliance fed from the RV tanks.

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Propane fires used to be a lot bigger problem as the tanks would supply a lot of propane to the fire, today with the flow limiters built into the portable tanks (no clue about motorhome DOT tanks) the amount of propane flowing from a broken line is much reduced.

DOT tanks have had the stop flow valves since the 50's. They also have a higher standard for several other safety perimeters because of their use in motor vehicles as fuel tanks.

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Now I have a lot of good ideas. Mark, I like the blue ice suggestion. Biker56, I never thought about running the generator instead of propane to power the refrigerator. Sounds like getting it cold, then maybe adding blue ice until the destination will keep the food cold. Thanks for all the tips.

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I never thought about running the generator instead of propane to power the refrigerator.

One thing that you will probably find also is that when traveling in very hot weather, you will probably discover that you want to operate your generator set on the highway in order to operate the roof a/c units because the typical dash a/c was never intended to cool the volume of space that an RV contains. As a result, most of us at times will do this and of course, that also means the refrigerator and other appliances have a ready source of electrical power. An on-board generator usually will burn about 1/2 gallon of fuel per hour in typical use so it isn't a major impact upon fuel mileage of the RV. While I never operated mine just to power the refrigerator, it could be done.

 

I would point out one other issue in the "propane wars" that many do not consider and that is the fact that if you ever travel with your RV in the dead of winter through northern climates, as we have, it is important to keep the furnace operating in order to have heat in the "wet bays" where the water lines are to prevent their freezing on the road. In come configurations there is also a danger of the water heater freezing up while traveling in cold. For most of us, that also requires the use of propane while traveling.

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