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Propane Alarm


dmppmp
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I FT in my RV but have enough electrical features that I really don't use any propane (I use heat pump, electric water heater, residential refrigerator, and don't cook on the burners).  Last year I noticed that even though I'd filled my tank a month before and hadn't used any propane, the sensor said the tank was half full. When I had the coach serviced, I ask that they fill my propane tank. They told me it was full, even though the sensor said half full. I know the sensors are sensitive to barometric pressure, so I thought well OK. The sensor still said half full. Then it went down to 1/4 tank. Since it was summer and I don't use much propane, I just let it ride. Then when I got the coached serviced last month, I asked that they fill the tank. Even though I had not used any propane, this time they did have to put propane in the tank, that it was less than half full. 

That's the background. Now the sensor problem. Two days after I'd filled the tank, the area had a bad storm. The power was knocked out and the rain just poured. I started the generator and used that for power. All of sudden, I got an alarm blaring. I thought the first time it went off it was carbon monoxide alarm possibly caused by the generator. It was still pouring, but I shut off the generator, opened 2 vents, turned on the ventilation fans, and the alarm stopped a minute or 2 later.  The RV park was pretty much empty and the office closed, so I didn't have anyone to ask for help or guidance.  After 30 minutes I turned the generator back on.  30 minutes later, alarm again.  This time I looked at the alarm and realized it was the LP gas alarm, not the carbon monoxide. So I started the ventilation fans again and the alarm stopped a minute or 2 later. So I ran the fans for the rest of the night -- no more alarms. The next morning, I turned off the fans, left the vents open. I asked one of the service staff at the RV park for help. He came over and at my insistence, shut off the propane feed altogether.  No alarms for 2 weeks, then out of the blue it happened again last night. I'm at a different park, in a different state, no bad weather. I opened the vents, turned on the fans and the alarm stopped. The propane feed is still shut off and the tank still reads full.  I have not had any alarms in the previous 2 years in the coach until the tank was recently refilled.

What is going on? Should I be worried? Might I have a propane leak?  Is it safe to stay in the coach when the alarms clear?

Thanks for any help

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A propane detector actually detects ALL combustible hydrocarbon gas's, including a dog lying nearby and passing gas. Also, over-charging or bad batteries usually off-gas, this explosive gas also activates a propane detector when exposed.

If the alarm is not sounding you are safe. You will smell the odorant in propane before the detector activates if you nose detects hot bread, etc. a propane detector is not as sensitive as your nose.

 Propane is heavier than air, that's why the detector is near the floor, earlier warning.  When your detector is sounding, open the door to permit propane to "spill" out, then stay out until the alarm silences.

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Welcome to the Escapees Forum!

I agree, get your propane system checked out.  It sounds like you have a leak, possibly in the generator that gets worse when it's running and drawing fuel.

Since you're not using the propane system, turn off the valve at the tank until you can get it checked.

A note about propane and how it's stored.  Propane isn't a compressed gas, it's stored in liquid form in the tank with a vapor bubble on top.  As you draw out the vapor the tank pressure drops a little and more liquid boils into vapor to take it's place. There's a float inside the tank like the one in your car's gas tank that indicates how much liquid propane is in the tank so there's no way barometric pressure can make any difference in the level reading.

Edited by Lou Schneider
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Welcome to the Escapee forums! I'm sorry that it took problems to bring you here, but we are still happy that you have come.

9 hours ago, dmppmp said:

Last year I noticed that even though I'd filled my tank a month before and hadn't used any propane, the sensor said the tank was half full. When I had the coach serviced, I ask that they fill my propane tank. They told me it was full, even though the sensor said half full. I know the sensors are sensitive to barometric pressure, so I thought well OK. The sensor still said half full. Then it went down to 1/4 tank. Since it was summer and I don't use much propane, I just let it ride. Then when I got the coached serviced last month, I asked that they fill the tank. Even though I had not used any propane, this time they did have to put propane in the tank, that it was less than half full. 

 

There are two possibilities which occur to me. The first is that I am wondering if you are reading the propane level inside of the RV or outside, physically at the tank? I am going to guess that you are reading level inside on a remote display. My experience has been that the inside display can need to be adjusted at times to be accurate but there is also a mechanical gauge on the tank which is accurate unless it fails completely and needs to be replaced. I only recall hearing of that 1 or 2 times in 35 years. I am also suspecting that you have a permanently installed propane tank and not removable bottles?

664940_300x300.jpgYour propane tank should similar to this one and the mechanical gauge is located just below and slightly left of the yellow cover for the propane fill connection. Your inside level is made by an electric sensor that is attached to the mechanical one and you should still be able to read the one on the tank. Propane does not just disappear but has to have gone somewhere so if you lost that much propane, it must be leaking someplace in the system.  This leads me to believe that you do have an alarm condition from your propane alarm. I will also guess that like so many of us, your RV uses one of those alarms that detects both propane and also CO? I am not wild about those either and since my RV has one I am about to change it out to 2 separate alarm devices, just to eliminate any doubt of what the alarm is. 

8 hours ago, Lou Schneider said:

I agree, get your propane system checked out.  It sounds like you have a leak, possibly in the generator that gets worse when it's running and drawing fuel.

I absolutely agree with what Lou has posted and his explanation, Does your generator burn propane by chance? If so that may quite possibly be where your lost propane has gone. If you were to tell us a little bit more about your RV it might help us to help you, 

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  As LP gas is so hazardous, I also recommend you have a dealer run a leak test. It's  not expensive and may prevent a tragedy. The constant shock and vibration when driving bumpy roads and the temperature swings can cause a problem even in a well designed and built system.  For my own use  in the meantime I carry a bottle of that spray on leak detector. Of course, a low mounted LP Gas detector is a MUST in my opinion and your nose is the other method of detection in which case if it ever "activates" lol go to the tank and turn off the main valve.     

CAUTION If an LP Alarm sounded or I smelled or even suspected the presence of LP Gas, I would NOT start a vent fan and I would NOT start flipping switches and I would NOT do anything else that could create a spark. I would open the doors and exit and be sure the main valve at the tank was off.

In my 47 + continuous years as an RV owner and past dealer, I have experienced many especially remote level indicators aren't always real accurate or dependable 

KEEP SAFE

Best wishes and God Bless

John T

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for all the advice. Here are some of the facts that I didn't think to report earlier:

1. The generator was not running when the most recent alarm sounded so I was pretty sure it was not carbon monoxide.  I do have a separate CO monitor with my smoke alarm in the ceiling, in the same room as the combined LP gas/CO monitor. The ceiling monitor never rang. I purchased and installed my smoke alarm/CO monitor after I purchased the RV.

2. Because the first time the alarm sounded, the generator had been running, I went straight to carbon monoxide, I didn't smell propane so didn't think about propane or sparks and turned the fan on. Thanks for the warning not to do that again.  

3. My generator uses gasoline, not propane.  

4. I do have a dog, but every time the alarm sounded, he had been with me in a different room than the monitor and, over the past 10 years has not had gas problems.  My house batteries are stored not far from the propane/CO floor monitor.

5.  The propane system has been turned off since the 1st set of alarms sounded 2 weeks ago.

6.  I did have the system checked a year ago when I first thought the gas went faster than it should and got negative results.

7. I've used the interior level indicator, never the one at the tank, so I'll check that before I refill the tank or if I see suspect readings in the future.

That said, it was awhile ago that the system was checked for leaks, so I have made an appointment to get the propane system checked again. Maybe since I've had alarms, they'll take me more seriously now.  I'll ask about the possibility of off-gassing from the batteries at the same time.  

Thanks again. It was great to have you all come at the problem from different angles.

Oct 1 Update: Well Camping World was NOT helpful. They said, "Yep, you have a leak. We CAN"T fix it. Call Amerigas. That will be $75".  They could have told me they don't fix leaks when I made the appointment!  I've called Amerigas, the national office referred me to their local retailer, regardless of my needs. The local retailer can't fix it, referred me first to a RV sales place (like CampingWorld !!) and then Ferrellgas.  Ferrellgas can't fix it. I've googled "propane gas repair" and have left messages at 2 possible repair places for my location or itinerary. I'm waiting for responses. My RV park has called their mobile RV repair service to see if that service can refer me to someone who can help.  The RV park gets their gas from out of state so don't think their propane service can help. I'm currently in the very SW corner of VA heading toward Gatlingburg. I guess I'll just keep trying.

My RV park found someone who agreed to fix my tank.  But in my calling around, I did find out some good info.  Fleetwood told me if I couldn't get it fixed, to ask the propane service companies if they could "evacuate" my tank. I did call Camping World back and they said they weren't certified so they couldn't evacuate the tank. but I could.  If they weren't certified, how did they think I was certified??  But some of the larger propane suppliers could evacuate the tank, even if they couldn't fix it, so it is a question to ask, if you are in a similar situation.

The other good info I found was that Surburban Propane was the absolutely most professional and helpful of the propane suppliers/servicers I called (and I called most of the national brands).  So if you ever need to fix a tank and are trying to find someone, start there.

Edited by dmppmp
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