Propane Mod - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-26-2009, 07:50 AM   #1
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Well, I've learned way too much about propane in the last few weeks.

I was thinking about tapping into the low pressure copper line at the rear curb side of the trailer to run a short hose to my stove which is hung on the back rear side of the trailer under the awning. I've been carrying an 11 pound tank and I have to chain it to the trailer. The tank is awkward to stow while travelling.

But, the stove (Coleman grill/stove) takes high pressure propane (from a 1 pound bottle or from an unregulated 11 pound tank) and takes it to a lower pressure through what turns out to be a two part regulation system.

The first part is an arm that attaches to the bottle and then to the stove. I bought another one of the arms (~$15 + S&H) and disabled the regulator. I bought a low pressure regulator with hose (~$25) for the 11 pound tank in order to test if the stove now worked with my modified arm attachment on low pressure before I started slicing and dicing the propane lines on the trailer.

It didn't.

It turns out that there is a second part of the regulation process in the stove. I partially took apart the stove but couldn't get deep enough into the inner workings to find out if I could defeat that safeguard as well.

There are stoves designed from the start for low pressure propane. They are expensive and, frankly, I like my grill/stove. (It's a grill. No! It's a stove. No! It's two things in one!)

Lessons learned: (part one)
- Low pressure propane wants 3/8" ID fittings/tubes ($ spent on fittings before I scrapped this approach).
- There is low pressure propane (0.6 psi or ~11" H20) seen in travel trailer appliances. There is not-so-low pressure propane (0-30 or 0-60 psi) usually used on those cast iron type cookers. And there is high pressure propane straight from the bulk tank (somewhere around 140 psi).

I decided that I was uninterested in running a high pressure line to the back of the trailer. (I had visions of a stone nicking the line…a spark igniting the propane…Castle Pretentious doing a bottle rocket imitation!)

Then I decided that I'd just buy one of those splitters that attaches to the tank before the regulator. Then, in combination with a 15 foot high pressure hose with a high pressure quick connect I can temporarily run the high pressure gas back to the stove/grill. This isn't a permanent set up; it's part of the arrival/site set up routine.

However, store bought splitters are too long and awkward to have on the tanks and then still be able to fit the cover over the tanks. (Splitter w/quick connect and 15' hose with appropriate fittings ~$75) There are cheaper splitters using the 1"-20 bottle fitting and hoses but I wanted a quick connect. I feel quick connect hoses don't trap propane under pressure inside them when the hose is disconnected.

So, I disassembled the store bought splitter and with a combination of tees, elbows and assorted other parts ($$) plus appropriate use of pipe dope I set up a more compact splitter that sort of turns back on itself so that I can connect the quick connect high pressure hose, run it down between the tanks and back to the stove. With everything installed the cover still fits over the whole thing. Out of sight, out of mind. The 15 foot hose reaches the stove easily on my 16 foot trailer.


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After slathering soapy leak detector solution all over every fitting and connection I did some tests and the Coleman runs as designed (or "meets design intent" as we like to say in the auto biz) and it does it with all its safety equipment intact.

Since this fitting is before the auto changeover regulator I've decided to make a second fitting for the other tank so that if the propane runs out in mid meal, all I have to do is move the quick connect. I bought a second splitter but without the hose directly from Sturgis (~$45) for parts and will assemble another one.

Lessons learned: (part two)
- High pressure propane wants 1/4" NPT fittings.
- 1/4" inverted flare fittings are nowhere near the same size fitting as 1/4" NPT ($ for wrong size pigtail fittings).
- The color of the ACME 1-5/16" threaded handle is loosely correlated with the flow capacity it allows ($ for assorted wrong flow specification handles).
- Care should be given that the maximum flow rate handles are at the tanks. Don't choke the flow at the tank and expect to be able to run all the propane appliances at the same time.
- There are high and low pressure quick connects ($). Pay attention.
- There are different types of Teflon tape ($). For critical applications experts recommend the yellow tape if you're going to use tape (it's thicker). In the end I decided to stick with pipe dope.

Bottom line? I have a more compact package for grill/stove propane. Between the low pressure propane false start and assorted incorrectly sized handles, and fittings, etc. I'm probably nearing the same money in this project as I would have had in a new low pressure stove. I'm constitutionally unable to return working parts even if they're the wrong size. I might need them for some other project! My pegboard wall in the basement is starting to look like a Mr. Heater brass fittings display. But, the research, testing, trials, purchases and assembly has kept me out of the pool halls during that grim stretch of late winter and I think I can almost see camping season from here!
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Old 03-26-2009, 08:12 AM   #2
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Thank you for sharing your trials and tribulations with the rest of us... perhaps will save some members some money and hairpulling.
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Old 03-26-2009, 09:19 AM   #3
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I did something similar. I built a T fitting using a male and female propane bottle connector with a coupling tapped off between them. I too use a 15-20' hose with a connector to the T on one end, and a coupling that fits the bottle connector on the other end. I have had this for about 8 years now, and love not having to have an extra bottle.

On the new Escape 19 I am getting, I am getting a couple low pressure connectors installed for outside use with my BBQ (and possibly stove), as well as a portable 3way cooler. I will likely still keep the high pressure T just in case I run into the situation Steve has where you can't use the regulated pressure from the trailer, and I understand quite a few of the small BBQ's are like this too. I can just remove the inline regulator on my BBQ and use it on the regulated trailer propane.
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Old 03-26-2009, 01:12 PM   #4
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Talking

Admittedly this may be part of a monopolistic system, but FYI:


Important Propane Tank Information
The propane industry is educated about tanks, proper tank installation, requirements, laws and procedures governing the repair of tanks and systems they service. It is of the utmost importance that unlicensed individuals do not attempt to make repairs or modifications to their propane tanks. Because the laws and safety practices change within the propane industry, tank installation and maintenance should only be performed by those who are familiar with these codes and regulations regarding propane tanks. This cannot be stressed enough. DO NOT MOVE, REPAIR OR MODIFY ANY PART OF A PROPANE TANK OR ANY PART OF THE PROPANE SYTEM.

From: http://www.propane101.com/propanetanks.htm

Will we be able to see the explosion from here like this one?

http://www.break.com/index/tacoma-propane-...-explosion.html

(of course, this occurred with a tank that supposedly was only installed and serviced by licensed individuals...hmmm...carry on Steve and Jim.)
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Old 03-26-2009, 02:28 PM   #5
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Roger, fair enough.

Don't anybody else do this!
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Old 03-26-2009, 03:14 PM   #6
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is that why my colmen stopped working off of my large tank? i got one of those hoses that conects to a regular propane tank and it worked for 2 camping trips but now it wont work. it hisses for a second then stops.
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:08 PM   #7
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I've been carrying an 11 pound tank and I have to chain it to the trailer. The tank is awkward to stow while travelling
Going back to the source of the problem, I'm curious as to whether you considered just getting a 5 pound tank and what was the reasoning for not doing it. We find ours to be easily tucked in a corner, and lasts plenty long enough for our normal use.
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:19 PM   #8
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I don't completely agree with what Roger posted, so I'm going to add my two cents.

First of all, propane can be dangerous, so one must be tidy and careful when installing or using it, and one must educate oneself on how to do that properly. But then there are many things about trailering that are that way. You have to maintain your rig, keep it balanced, hitch it up properly,etc. A failure of any of these components can kill both the operator and others. A tire could explode from putting too much air in, a trailer could come unhitched (one did and killed a colleage of mine who was travelling in a car in the opposite lane), etc.

Now I'm not saying that it's a requirement to work on your own propane system. But I do think that people who are willing to understand how it works and do a careful job of working on the system should be perfectly welcome to do so. It is very important to check your work for leaks, but then it is important to check your system for leaks regardless of whether you have worked on it or not, every so often (in my opinion).

The "Propane 101" is written as an educational site, but if you look closely it is written by propane dealers. So they may have an interest in only dealers working on your system. Not that there is not good information there, but I just want to point that out clearly.

"Designed by propane dealers so that current and potential users of propane gas may better understanding what propane is and what it does."

The video shows an explosion of a propane tank (or tanks?) at a commercial foundry, so to my mind that doesn't mean that we can't be safe in working on the propane systems of our campers. I didn't see where they said why it exploded.

Yes, propane is explosive and can be dangerous. But then gasoline is also dangerous, gas stations have exploded, and yet I have still rebuilt a carburetor. I work carefully, and respect that fact that gasoline vapors can be dangerous.

So, I just wanted to say that I think people should know the dangers of propane, but not in a "Do not go near this dangerous item as it is very complicated" sort of a way.

Raya
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:25 PM   #9
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I am working on the same scenario as Steve, and need only one more fitting to finish.
mine also will be before the quick change regulator, but will be done with the 1 inch standard disposable type fitting. I had it all working before with a 6 foot hose, but now will be switching to a 25 foot hose so I can move my portable kitchen where it suits me best.

Curtis, you probably got a chunk of dirt trapped in the regulator of the coleman, it happened to my stove as well, but I was able to clear the regulator by blowing backwards through the regulator arm assembly.
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:41 PM   #10
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Going back to the source of the problem, I'm curious as to whether you considered just getting a 5 pound tank and what was the reasoning for not doing it. We find ours to be easily tucked in a corner, and lasts plenty long enough for our normal use.
Yes, I considered the 5 pounder but thought the 11 pound tank was more stable since it was wider.

Curiously, although I have a pick up truck, I'm limited in lockable storage to behind the front row seats. My bed is open because I sometimes carry an ATV. The tank rides in the half cab and seems to take up more space than it's size because I can't pile anything on it and I like to keep it fairly close to the floor for to minimize it possibly rolling about.

Many, if not all of my mods are for fairly frivolous reasons. This is another one of them. It's a convenience more than a necessity. I expect my next tow will be a Ford Flex and I'll be back to having scads of storage like I did when I towed with an Explorer. But I'll stick with this new arrangment if it continues to work out.

I've found those plastic thread protectors in a variety of sizes at the hardware store so I always cover the ends of all of my hoses to keep debris out. That might be the source of Curtis' problem.
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:46 PM   #11
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And I take Roger's reservations to heart. In my defense, I know how anal I can be on engineering projects, thus the often over researching over buying over doing... But as has been pointed out I've taken care and I believe I have the tools (both mechanical and experience) to do this. But it's not for everyone. Anyhoo, I've tested the heck out of it and I believe I've taken appropriate care with a dangerous gas.
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Old 03-26-2009, 04:47 PM   #12
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yea there was some crud in there. i just blew them all out and now it works fine...thanks again.
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Old 03-26-2009, 05:10 PM   #13
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Roger, fair enough.

Don't anybody else do this!
Yep, 'cept you n' me.

How propane (and natural gas) works is quite simple, even the pressure regulation. If, and only if, you have a good working knowledge of it, then you can safely work on it. I always test my connections for leaks.

What I mentioned doing could easily be done by many propane shops, or BBQ stores if you are not willing AND ABLE to do it yourself.
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Old 03-26-2009, 05:18 PM   #14
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Going back to the source of the problem, I'm curious as to whether you considered just getting a 5 pound tank and what was the reasoning for not doing it. We find ours to be easily tucked in a corner, and lasts plenty long enough for our normal use.
Daniel, I used to always use a separate small bottle, but found I was running out after not too long using my 30,000 portable BBQ. I ended up hooking up to one of the tanks on the trailer to finish off a meal. This is why I went to working from the tanks off the trailer as a solution. I try to eliminate as much as possible where I can from the cargo, so I can replace it with other stuff I think I will need.
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