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RV Propane Safety

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We hope you’re enjoying the summer as much as all of us at AmeriGas are (we’ve definitely been doing our fair share of grilling)! If you’re thinking about doing some camping or taking a trip to the great outdoors in your RV, please be sure to keep safety in mind.

RV Propane Systems
The propane system on an RV provides heat and hot water, power for the stove and refrigerator, and fuel for barbecue grills or other small appliances. There are two basic types of propane containers and systems: Department of Transportation (DOT) cylinders and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) tanks. Travel trailers, folding camping trailers, and fifth-wheel units use two movable DOT cylinders, which are positioned vertically upright and mounted to the outside front or back of the RV. Motor homes use a single, permanently installed ASME tank, positioned horizontally, and located underneath the cabin, near the entryway. Regardless of container type, all refilling, repair, or replacement must be done by certified service technicians.

While you may do touchups to your RV from time to time, do not paint propane cylinders, valves, or mounting hardware. This may mask important service issues, affect valves, or result in system failure.

Make sure your system is inspected at least annually by a certified service technician. They are trained to detect incorrect tank pressure, leaks, or other potential hazards, and address them properly. Do not connect your propane piping to another gas source or attempt to repair any propane-related component yourself.

Before You Go
In addition to checking your propane fuel gauge, you’ll want to follow these quick steps:

Check exterior vents and clear any debris, sticks, dust, twigs, insects, or other items that may restrict venting.
Inspect propane cylinders and holding mechanisms for any signs of rust, corrosion, fatigue, or wear and tear. For ASME tanks, check the brackets and mounting hardware, as well. Have a certified service technician check out any issues.
Inspect connections leading to your propane appliances for frays or damage.
Make sure your RV has at least one Class BC fire extinguisher and operational propane, carbon monoxide, and smoke detectors. If you need to replace or install a new detector, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding installation, location and maintenance. EXIT THE VEHICLE IMMEDIATELY IF ANY OF THESE DETECTORS GO OFF.

On the Road
Most RV refrigerators can keep food/beverages cold during several hours of travel without a power source. It is recommended that propane systems be turned off while driving. Other safety tips while traveling:

Shut off propane supply valves, pilot lights, ignitors, and appliances, and have everybody exit the vehicle during refueling.
Do not use range burners for heat, or any appliances for means other than their intended use.
Extinguish all smoking materials any time you are near tanks, filling stations, or other equipment where gasoline or propane may be present.
Turn off propane supply valves before entering tunnels or enclosed areas. Be sure to follow any postings around restricted areas, such as military bases.

At the Campground
Open a window and turn on your exhaust fan when using your stove.
Portable fuel-burning equipment including wood, charcoal, and propane grills and stoves should not be used inside the RV or near the entryway. The use of this equipment inside an RV can cause fires or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Keep your vehicle a safe distance away from any heat source, such as grills or fire pits. Keep propane tanks and cylinders at least 10 feet away from heat sources.
Any time you use portable propane appliances, such as generators or heaters, it’s important to provide for ventilation. Follow all appliance manufacturer safety instructions.

If You Smell Gas
It is not “normal” for propane systems to leak. If you detect a leak—or sense a propane odor (rotten egg smell)—have it checked out immediately.

Immediately put out all smoking materials, pilot lights, and other open flames. Do not operate lights, appliances, or cell phones. Flames or sparks from these sources can trigger an explosion or fire.
If you are able to, safely turn off the gas supply valve on your cylinder or container.
Open all doors and other ventilating openings.
Immediately leave the area and call 911 or the local fire department.
Before you restart or use any of your propane appliances, have a qualified service technician inspect your entire system.

A special thanks to the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) for this safety information, which can also be found in this RV Safety brochure that you can print and bring on the road with you.