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Is the Propane system worth it for 100% On-grid hookup?


Reaper0351

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I'm currently undergoing a total overhaul and rebuild on a 1973 Layton camper trailer and plan on using it to travel to various states and look at property to throw roots down in. During this time, I will be using campsites to stay in month to month with full service hookup. (Full electric, sewer, water.) That being said, before i go out buying extremely expensive propane system components for the heater, fridge, etc, do I really need the system? I'm on a tight budget and schedule and I feel if I'm on-grid 100% I should only need a basic system going only to the stove/oven. Am I correct to assume that?


In short, the Layton was a total rat's nest and I've had to tear out and throw away almost everything. Instead of replacing the propane appliances with the exception of a new stove since I'll still use propane for cooking, can I simply rewire/plumb it all to just use electric appliances since I'll be on-grid full-time? Thank you very much for your time and answers.

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Most appliances in newer rigs that use propane, also work on electric also, such as the water heater and fridge. You will probably want the propane for both the stove/oven and the rig's heater. You could use portable electric heat in the rig, but it sure is nice, in the event of a power failure, to use the propane heater, which will need 12 volt power to ignite and hold open the valve.

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Why not go all electric and swap the stove for an electric too? You'd probably want a 50 amp service so you could have power for everything but that is a lot less hassle and expense than putting in a propane setup.

 

Maybe a microwave / convection oven and a simple two or three burner cooktop would be less than a full stove and might meet your needs too.

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I agree on the convenience of having propane, I'd love to keep it, but being that my budget is so small with the entire system needing replacement, and almost all of my budget going towards the rest of the camper's remodel, going without propane sure would be nice in the short term. I'll be relying heavily on an electric window mounted AC/Heater combo to cut down on room. I'm really glad that it can be done however. I didn't know if it was feasible to fully convert it to electric or not based on campground utilities. Is there a small electric oven/stove that you would recommend? My old lady needs the ability to bake. Deleting the propane stove isn't totally necessary, that's the only propane item that tested out fine haha. Thank you guys very much. Is there anything else I should be considering for the electrical system? Do I need any specially recommended breakers or whatnot to go in-line for the power supply? Anyone know of any good reference/ help material for rewiring and updating a camper in such a way?

 

Also, as a fallback, in the event of a power failure in the winter I may implement a small squirrel stove and keep it well isolated and vented properly to prevent any risk of fire. Hopefully by then, I'll have the cash to re-install a propane heater. But until then, all my eggs have to go into the electric-everything basket. Thank you guys again for your input. This remodel has been somewhat of a nightmare project.

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Of course, now I just found out about "vent-free propane heaters", More specifically the Blue flame type. These, if worth the money would solve my problem of cost, if i'm able to perma-mount one properly and give me the nice warm and fuzzy if theres a power outage. Does anyone have experience with these heaters? I've read that they operate much like central heating in a house and are very efficient.

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I'd go all electric and induction cooking system. Wish I would have done that when I built my rig 3 years ago. Really was tempted but then thought i "needed" the propane for cooking. I haven't lit the stovetop for over a year have my portable induction plates sitting on top of it.

 

Rod

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I would not put a vent free fireplace in a large home, let alone an enclosed RV. Despite claims of clean burning with the proper adjustment, all burning of carbon fuel produces a bunch of toxic by products, in addition to a lot of water vapor. When an RV furnace kicks on which vents all the combustion products outside, in winter you still need to crack the vents a bit from just breathing showers and cooking. There's a reason code requires outside venting for all gas cooktops.

 

Even catalytic heaters produce CO right at the EPA limits for long term exposure. You'll get plenty of arguments from folks doing that, or believing the Mr.Buddy heater inside. The deaths from CO are on the increase since the vent free alliance got some codes changed with flawed test results.

 

This is one of those things like pulling a 16k pound trailer with too little truck. Just because some crazies do it, and get away with it, it only takes one failure and a crash happens from truck/trailer mechanical/tire failure, or the failure of another one on the road with you.

 

Just Google Chronic CO poisoning. And if your trailer is wood frame, think about pouring all that extra water vapor inside the rig and its cabinets/walls.

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To me, the combination of portable induction cook plates and microwave / convection ovens really gets rid of the need for propane except for heating if you are going to be in cold climates. Down to around freezing, a heat pump will take care of both heating and cooling. My trailer came with an Onan propane fueled generator which has been really handy on the road or for the occasional power failure. If you are going to not travel much, and be on a good stable grid - the need for propane sure isn't worth the hassle IMHO. The weight and space could sure be used for things more important in my life.

 

RV, X2 on the CO and "ventless" propane appliances. I view electricity as much safer if you follow a few simple rules.

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What RV said.....CO is nasty stuff.

 

When I use a gas appliance, any gas appliance, I always have TWO CO detectors running in my living space.

 

I have used a Mr. Buddy during hunting season inside my 5th wheel. But I crack a window and have TWO digital detectors still running. After three or four hours they generally run about 25-35 ppm.

 

I NEVER sleep with any gas heaters running.

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The efficiency of the unvented propane heaters looks great, 100% of the propane turns into heat. The downside is you'll be dead in short order unless you ventilate. Factor in the heat loss for venting and the efficiency is pretty poor. Also add in the cost for a -GOOD- CO detector since the first indication of excessive CO is usually that the neighbors find you dead, if you stay awake you might notice a headache but don't bet your life on that.

 

If you decide to try it read up on CO and decide what PPM levels you are going to feel safe with.

 

Some of use the unvented propane heaters, usually to conserve battery power when boondocking but propane use is high.

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Also if you ever plan to sell the trailer it may make it difficult to find a buyer that shares your same thoughts and wonder why you did not at least rough in for future propane appliances.

 

Have you also done a cost comparison from the propane to electric during usage? Campgrounds typically will charge for electric when doing longer stays.

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My last rig was all electric with a convection/microwave and an induction burner. But, I don't bake. In that rig, however, my furnace was diesel and ran off my fuel tank but I often used a small electric space heater instead when power beyond my solar panels was available. All these electric items will cost you up front money, though, so if your current propane system and stove work well, why would you replace them? I was starting from scratch so going all electric didn't mean disposing of items that worked. Plus induction burners and the cookware they require are not cheap. And all my plumbing was inside the rig itself so I didn't have to worry about freezing plumbing bays.

 

Linda Sand

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Even though we only use propane for our cooktop (we use diesel for heat like sandsys) it is handy to have when we're on a 30A hookup and would like to cook dinner, especially if we're in an area where the A/C is needed. By using the propane cooktop and the microwave/convection oven we can keep the A/C on without issues.

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! Glad to have you here.

 

I will offer a couple of comments to the discussion that I don't believe have been mentioned. First of all is the point that if you stay in campgrounds with a monthly rate, your electricity is billed in addition to the monthly rent. Electricity is only cheap in campgrounds when it is included in the nightly site rent but I have rarely heard of anywhere that includes electricity in their monthly rate and particularly so in winter. Electric heat is not inexpensive. I have seen nothing to indicate where you plan to be in the winter months but an RV can be difficult to keep comfortably warm if weather gets much below freezing, As a result, heating with electric only could be a challenge as portable heaters are limited to 1500 wattes each. That is also 12.5A for each one of them, or if using two of thme on a typical small RV you will have only 6A for all otuer uses, since the small ones come with only a 30A system. You will need to consider some other means of supplying heat abive what a single heater can supply,

 

With a 1973 RV you won't likely recover your total cost of a major remodel so I'd really not consider that into the mix. Build this to suit your needs and budget and deal with what happens to it when the time comes, knowing that it wont be attractive to the typical RV person but might be very attractive to someone four use like a park model,

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Having a backup of propane in our minds is a good thing especially for heat and hot water in the event of a power outage. We just went on a 2.5 week trip with the grandkids and 3 of the days were without shore power due to an electrical issue in the RV. Having the propane hot water heater was really needed.

We have a 3 burner stove top but rarely use it. We cook either on the grill or a toaster oven. We bake cakes, biscuits, pizza, etc with no problem. It's not a big one but it works well. We usually take it out side and cook our meals under the awning..

 

I would think you could find some of the items at a used RV or Mobile Home store front, or possibly craigslist.

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Hi Folks

 

I must have missed it somewhere, but I have NOT seen any comments about having to completely change the wireing in a 1973 RV.

 

I would think that a wiring change would be REQUIRED before installing the electric appliance/systems being mentioned.

 

Thoughts/comments??

 

Dave O

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I must have missed it somewhere, but I have NOT seen any comments about having to completely change the wireing in a 1973 RV.

I suspect that most are figuring as I did that since the entire RV is being rebuilt from what he called a "rat's nest" to livable condition that this does include new wiring. But if it has copper wire and has not been damaged, it could still be used, but should clearly be inspected to be sure that all is in good condition.

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Thank you all for your thoughts, and comments. Yes the wiring is completely shot. Mice appeared to have gnawed on almost every wire straight at the main harness. and in other areas along it. Honestly, I'll be lucky if I'm able to reuse the siding and windows. Haha I guess you can beat free after all. I've been reading about the CO problems with ventless systems and was prepared to take steps to ensure safety as always, but I failed to think about the efficiency I'd lose with venting it appropriately. I guess this project is turning into a damned-if-i-do, damned-if-i-don't one. I was also concerned about my electricity bill coming in every month. None of the sites I've mapped out to my knowledge include it in their monthly rate. And a few even charge $100 and up just for the hooked up service, not to mention, whatever the bill would be per month. I can't imagine campgrounds give as decent of a rate as a standard city utility service as they will want to make money off of everything they possibly can.

 

I'll be traveling and staying around VA, NC, and GA. As those states are fairly 2nd Amendment friendly, with GA being the best. I'll be researching everything I can during my stays in each state including their homesteading laws and anything else I can think up in relation to buying that type of land to put roots down in. That being said, even in the south, winters can get pretty uncomfortable and usually trade snow for ice storms. So heating is going to be an issue regardless. And I highly doubt I'll find a ground among any that look kindly upon myself bringing in my own firewood in enough quantity to keep us warm to be burned in a squirrel stove.

 

I'm at a loss here guys. I don't really know what I should be doing. With a budget of less than $4000 my options are truly limited. I'm lucky to have pretty decent carpentry and mechanical knowledge, and have an all tradesman friend-base to help with the plumbing and electrical. But I've estimated the cost of the remodel and basic amenities alone to be about $3500 by themselves. That of course is including a new electric stove, sink basin, full shower, water tanks, pump, all the material to install them, and re-wire/plumb, etc.

 

I'm using whatever free material I can that I actually trust to do it as well such as using Pallet wood for the walls and ceiling, Hardwood floor from a home remodel, and pallet wood to make up all the cabinets, drawers, and butcher-block style counter top.

 

Anyone have experience down in those states and going solely electric? I wish I had the money for a solar set-up to assist, but I feel that won't be coming until I've built my first cabin and cleared enough wood for a tiny solar farm. Which, for the term I plan on being in the camper, it doesn't seem like a wise investment anyway.

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With two Induction cooktops, and residential fridge, we've been pretty much propane free for a few years now. I can't remember the last time we lit off the stove. We did use the propane furnace on one particular cold night last winter, but that's pretty much it. If not boondocking I say go with all electric.

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. Haha I guess you can beat free after all. I've been reading about the CO problems with ventless systems and was prepared to take steps to ensure safety as always, but I failed to think about the efficiency I'd lose with venting it appropriately. I guess this project is turning into a damned-if-i-do, damned-if-i-don't one. I was also concerned about my electricity bill coming in every month. None of the sites I've mapped out to my knowledge include it in their monthly rate. And a few even charge $100 and up just for the hooked up service, not to mention, whatever the bill would be per month. I can't imagine campgrounds give as decent of a rate as a standard city utility service as they will want to make money off of everything they possibly can.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

I'm at a loss here guys. I don't really know what I should be doing. With a budget of less than $4000 my options are truly limited. I'm lucky to have pretty decent carpentry and mechanical knowledge, and have an all tradesman friend-base to help with the plumbing and electrical. But I've estimated the cost of the remodel and basic amenities alone to be about $3500 by themselves. That of course is including a new electric stove, sink basin, full shower, water tanks, pump, all the material to install them, and re-wire/plumb, etc.

Let me say that the danger of an un-vented propane heater can be and often is, over stated. It is foolish to ignore the problem but used properly a quality propane heater that isn't vented can be very safe. I would never use one without both a working CO alarm and a propane alarm, but they have been in use for many years with no problems if used properly. Our present home has a propane fireplace that is stand alone in the room and has no vent. It is common in rural areas because these heaters do not require electrical power in order to operate so places where power loss is a common problem in winter has a very high percentage of them in use. The catalytic type of propane heaters are in very common use in the RV community that spend most winters in the dry camping areas provided by the Bureau of Land Management. The catch is that the best ones are not very cheap to buy. With most things, the cheapest one is very rarely the most for the money spent!

 

On the budget issue, I am wondering if you are not discovering the reason that most old, tired, RVs get left behind for a newer one? Have you looked around to see what you would have to pay for a travel trailer of similar size that was 10 - 15 years old but in usable condition? I have known more than one person who chose to restore an older travel trailer and most of them do spend more in doing so than the trailer would bring if sold. If you have not yet spent significant amounts on this project, I really think that you need to shop the older RVs to see what they cost in comparison. Most of those will have a few things that need attention, but you have a total rebuilding project. If you look at Craig's list you can find trailers like this 1979 with many working appliances for less than you are spending on this restoration.

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I looked extremely hard through craigslist and the hunter classifieds in my area for in the very least donor trailers. In all honesty, the 20' Layton I have isn't even nearly ideal as I have 2 large dogs and my girl. But, the price was right and I thought with all my carpentry knowledge it wouldn't be that hard of a project to take on. Which, structurally it isn't, but appliance wise, it's getting pretty stressful. My lease is up at the MD property here in may. So I need to be done whatever it is that I'm going to do by then. I have found other trailers for under my project budget that are much larger and in various conditions from very poor to deceivingly clean. And while the appliances did work, once I did the numbers for the remodeling of those said trailers I was well over budget. Nobody is selling anything truly worthwhile in my budget which I admit is really small. I might have better luck in the winter after hunting season when everyone is trying to sell to recoup the cost of their heating bills. It's supposed to be a bad one this year.

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Your latest brings up another point. No RV is easily kept heated to comfortable levels for our normal lifestyles in extreme cold and yours will be a major problem unless you also add a lot of insulation. Even the highest quality RVs have less insulation value than most modern homes. An RV that is sealed up tight against cold weather also has serious problems with condensation due to the living activities of those inside which put the same moisture as in a house into a far smaller volume of air. Your windows will sweat so much that water will become a problem with two dogs and two people in a trailer that small, no matter how well you insulate it. I hate to be one to suggest this isn't going to work, but I just do not see how it can, at least not in any level of comfort. You may be able to survive a winter in it, but survival is what the experience will be and it won't be pleasant. :unsure:

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In y'all's experience if I was able to get something working do you believe $1000 per month is enough to sustain a camper at most grounds month to month? This is a rough estimate on the low end after I've paid my other bills and factored for groceries and other expenses not grounds related.

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If you mean $1000/month for park rent, heat, and electricity, then part of the question is the amount of your park rental cost and that you should be able to determine by calling the parks in that area. I can't find where you mention your location but I believe that it was in New Jersey? If so, look at a few campgrounds there to see what their monthly cost is. Go to the site RV Park Reviews and pick out some possible parks and see what they have by way of monthly rates.

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