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Six Tips to Power your RV with Propane

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Getting ready to hit the road? Here’s what you need to start using propane in your camper -- from cooking and cooling to staying well-stocked and safe all summer.

RV season is here. Whether you’re a veteran road tripper or a camping newbie, you probably know that nothing happens without fuel. Not only the gas that keeps you on the road, but the stuff that powers your stove, fridge, water heater, grill, and more. If you’re considering propane, you probably have some questions. Here are the top 6 FAQs about RVing with propane, answered.

  1. What can I use propane for when I go camping?
    Mounted propane tanks can power appliances and features, including the air conditioner, water heater, stove, furnace, and fridge. At campsites, a portable propane tank has multiple uses: fire pit, turkey frying, brewing, tailgating, etc.. A generator connected to a propane tank can fire up your camping stove or heat your tent.
  2. How is propane different from other fuels?
    When it comes to camping, propane comes with plenty of advantages: It’s typically less expensive and burns more cleanly than other options, like diesel or methylated spirits. Propane is widely available wherever you travel, and it burns hotter and lasts longer than many other fuel sources. Propane has advantages when compared to solar options. Solar panels are an eco-friendly option, but they may require considerable planning and expense to install. Solar can also be problematic at times when you are off-grid, as you could encounter challenges if you camp in shaded areas or use a solar powered generator. If it’s a bit of freedom you are after, propane is one of the best options to consider.
  3. How much propane do I need for my trip?
    The amount of propane you’ll need depends on the length of your trip and what you plan to do while traveling. If you’re taking a small camper out for a long weekend of backpacking by day and grilling at night, your propane usage will be minimal. If you plan to go full-on nomad, with regular access to refrigeration, cooking, and hot showers all summer, you’ll go through tanks more quickly.

    Propane tanks for travel come in a few sizes and types:

    • Portable tanks, now a common sight in the post-COVID era, power heat lamps, grills, and other outdoor appliances. They serve a similar function in your camper. A 20-pound portable tank holds about 4.5 gallons of liquid propane. When full, it weighs about 36 pounds. (Yes, you read that right: a 20-pound tank weighs 36 pounds. That’s because the tank itself weighs about 16 pounds.) One full tank gives you about 10 to 11 hours’ worth of use. A great option for larger motor homes and longer-term use is a 33-pound portable tank, which holds 8 gallons of liquid propane and provides about 16 hours of use.
    • ASME tanks, found in Class C and above motorhomes, are mounted to the RV itself and aren’t removable. Their capacity is based on the power needs of the camper – these tanks (so named because they’re approved by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) range from 20 pounds to 100 pounds or more.
    • DOT cylinders are the smaller cousins of ASME tanks. A small camper may have a single 20-pound cylinder, while a luxury motorhome might hold several, offering well over 100 pounds of propane.
      How does that translate into actual travel time? With average use of your appliances, a 20-pound propane tank should last you about a week.
  4. How long does propane last if it’s just sitting in the tank? Can I use last year’s propane for this year’s trip?

    Short answer: Yes. With proper storage and maintenance, liquid propane can be stored in the portable tank for quite a while. But that comes with some caveats:

  5. Is propane easy to find on the road? Where can I refill my propane tank?
    You can find propane at locations throughout North America. When planning your trip or looking for fuel on the road, use our refill locator to find convenient stations along your route where you can refill or exchange your tank. When refilling an ASME or DOT tank, you’ll often drive to a station just as you would fill up your gasoline tank.
  6. Can I just fill several propane tanks at the beginning of my trip, store them in the RV, and use them as I go?

    It’s true -- you can go through a 20-pound propane tank pretty quickly if you’re glamping in style. This is especially true if you’re traveling during the hottest and coldest months and you’re powering an air conditioner or a heater. And maybe you don’t want to stop to exchange tanks every day or two. Totally understandable. It is not uncommon for RVers to carry an extra tank.

    However. Safety always comes first. And the more tanks you carry, the greater the risk of accident and injury. It also adds unnecessary clutter to already limited storage space, so the best balance between convenience and safety is to keep any extra tanks to a minimum and remember these points:

    • Propane is stored under pressure. Left to sit inside a parked, sun-drenched cab, a tank can leak gas into the atmosphere. If you ever smell propane, turn off the gas supply valve on your cylinder or container if you are able and it is safe to do so, immediately put out all smoking materials, pilot lights and other open flames. Do not operate lights, appliances, or cell phones. Open all doors and other ventilated openings. Immediately evacuate your RV and contact emergency services to check it out. Before you restart or use any of your propane appliances, have a qualified service technician inspect your entire system.
    • Propane is flammable, and those tanks are heavy. If you have the misfortune of being in an accident, an incorrectly secured spare puts you at risk of serious injury or death from impact or explosion.
    • We recommend carrying a spare propane tank locked in a cabinet designed for this purpose. You can secure these to a rack on the top of the RV. Never use your propane systems when driving, and never use, store or transport tanks inside the vehicle Read more about RV propane safety..
Hit the road

With just a little preparation, you can make your next adventure safe, convenient, and comfortable. Then you can ride off into the sunset (or forest, or mountains) with confidence.

Find your nearest click here to view ur Amerigas locationsAmerigas location to buy, refill, or exchange a tank for your RV.

Read More about portable propane.