Replacing Propane Detector - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-20-2010, 11:11 PM   #1
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The propane detector in our trailer went off the other day, something I wouldn't want to have happen in a campground or at night! I had to cut the wires to disconnect it.

In my job as a propane technician we have learned that these detectors are to be replaced every 5 years. The 'media' that is used to detect the gas in CO and LP alarms deteriorates over time and 5 years is the recommendation in the industry for replacement. As it turns out ours was just five years old, something I hadn't paid much attention to since we bought the trailer a year ago and it was previously owned.

The upgraded model that I am replacing it with only uses 45ma vs 72ma which means less drain on the battery, a good thing!

Hope this helps others not have the experience of their alarm suddenly going off at an inopportune time!


Mike
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Old 04-21-2010, 08:32 AM   #2
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Name: Darnelle
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I don't believe our Scamp has a detector. Are they the same as the carbon monoxide detectors we have in our home? A 12-volt detector in camper would be perfect. Can you recommend a brand and where and how to install?
Thanks!
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Old 04-21-2010, 09:30 AM   #3
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Most older trailers did not come with propane alarms (also called detectors) but you can certainly add one. The replacement one for our trailer cost $56.

Our Escape came with a Safe T Alert, here is their web site,
SafeTAlert

This seems to be a good brand, the local RV dealer carries the same brand.

There's surface mount, which attaches to the wall, and flush mount, meaning you cut a hole in the wall to mount it. Propane is heavier than air so it must be mounted low in the trailer. Ours is on the bench seat in the dinette, under the bed when the bed is set up.

LP detector is a must, a CO detector, like you have in your home would especially be important in an older trailer that might have an older furnace which could have a crack in the heat exchanger allowing exhaust gases to infiltrate into the trailer. I believe most trailers do not have CO detectors, but others on the forum might have different opinions on this. A CO detector is usually mounted higher. SafeT Alert carries both and has a dual alarm that includes both. It is a matter of personal preference and what you feel comfortable with, whether you have good ventilation, the type of furnace you have, is it direct vented, etc.

You can probably go to the local RV dealer/service center and have them install which ever alarm you decide on for a reasonable cost.
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Old 04-21-2010, 09:45 AM   #4
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Here are some additional links for good information:

On this forum there is a good reply from Peterh on this thread:
How Important is a Propane Alarm?


another discussion can be found here:
Using Your RV Safely
He is mostly referring to larger RVs with separate bedrooms, but still good info
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Old 04-21-2010, 11:29 AM   #5
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Name: Darnelle
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Thank you! I will definitely be adding both alarms. We never sleep with the furnace on due to the fear of leaks or CO2 problems and the alarms will let us do more off-season boondocking. Currently we stick to state parks with electric hook-ups, but really prefer much more solitude and nature.
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Old 04-21-2010, 09:50 PM   #6
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Great idea to install CO, propane, and smoke alarms.

I believe CO alarms have been required to meet RVIA standards for a number of years. Just because your trailer is new, or newer, does not mean you cannot have problems. CO is colorless, odorless, and dangerous. An alarm is inexpensive insurance, in my opinion.

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Old 04-21-2010, 10:22 PM   #7
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Name: Darnelle
Trailer: 13 ft Scamp
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Oh, gosh, yes - adding a smoke alarm to the list! Our "new" Scamp is a 2001, but I find no alarms in it.

I had added a plug-in (110v) smoke/CO detector in our old Scamp. Would like to do more remote camping. Smoke alarms come in disposable battery-operated styles. Do the propane and CO alarms come that way, too? Which is better: wire into 12 volt system, or have disposable battery units?

thank you!

(Whoops! Was writing CO2 when it should be CO. Big difference!)
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Old 04-21-2010, 11:53 PM   #8
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Name: Dana
Trailer: 1973 Compact Jr
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A CO (carbon monoxide) detector is a good idea -- enough so that we bought one for our Compact Jr.

However, it is not real sensitive. So if you find yourself feeling headachy inside the trailer, but not when you are outside, take that as a strong indication that you are getting CO inside the trailer. Just because the alarm has not gone off is no reason to think that there is no carbon monoxide.
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Old 04-22-2010, 10:17 AM   #9
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Name: Terry
Trailer: 1996 Casita Freedom Deluxe 17 ft
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Darnelle, Amazon sells a battery powered smoke/CO detector for about $29. I just put one in my 1996 Casita since it had nothing. I also bought a $50 propane detector but I need to do some modifications before I install it. Propane detectors need 12 volts and they draw from 50 to 75 ma. I need to add some way to disconnect this from the battery when the trailer is stored.
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Old 04-22-2010, 04:04 PM   #10
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Name: Darnelle
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Thank you Terry! That's exactly what I needed to know!
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Old 06-26-2010, 01:19 PM   #11
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Name: Jon
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I work for a major manufacturer of smoke and CO alarms (can't divulge that without getting in trouble with my corporate masters). I will definitely install smoke, CO and propane alarms in my trailer before using it. Not putting these in your rig is a game of Russian roulette. What Mike said about the 5 year replacement interval is exactly right. Gas and CO sensors can go bad with age, even if the rest of the unit's circuitry still works. In homes, the standard recommendation is to replace smoke alarms every 10 years. An RV is generally a dirtier environment than a home, and dirt is what usually makes smoke sensors go bad. Personally (and this is just the opinion of somebody who designs these things), I think the 5-year replacement schedule should also apply to RV smoke alarms. Whatever brand you buy, be sure to look at the labeling and make sure it's approved by UL, ETL, ULC or CSA and that it's approved for use in RVs. The RV approval means that it can handle a wider temperature range and the extra vibration of road travel. And, even if the noise is horrific in a tiny trailer, PUSH THAT TEST BUTTON REGULARLY (and wear ear plugs if you need to).
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