An alternative to exchangeable cylinders are ‘user-refillable’ cylinders or tanks. These are sometimes found on motorhomes, and less commonly on caravans. In principal, these appear to be a good idea, as they can be refilled at petrol stations selling ‘Autogas’ for LPG-powered cars, which is cheaper than ‘cylinder’ gas.
However, the equipment is often quite expensive to buy so it really only suits those who will use quite a lot of gas during a season. Some filling stations are reluctant to allow user-refilling, especially of cylinders which cannot be refilled in situ by means of external filler. We advise against user-owned, portable LPG cylinders refilling at Autogas refuelling sites.
We also discourage the practice of using a large free-standing propane cylinder outside the caravan is not recommended for safety and security reasons.
Because of its highly flammable nature when mixed with air, certain basic safety guidelines should be followed whenever dealing with LPG. LPG is non-toxic and has no smell - the characteristic gas smell is added to help detect any leaks.
Leakages are most likely to occur at connection points such as the regulator, valve or flexible hose.
Gas hoses will inevitably deteriorate with age, so they should be inspected for wear and damage and replaced from time to time. Low pressure hoses are most vulnerable, and should be changed every three years.
If a leak is suspected, never look for it with a naked flame. The best method is to brush a solution of washing up liquid over the suspect area or use a gas leak detector spray; any leak should show by bubbles or foam appearing in the liquid or spray at the source. Your caravan or motorhome should have ample ventilation holes through the floor.
Calor issues the following advice regarding leaks from cylinders, hoses or cylinder valves:
- open all door and windows
- do not use naked flame or smoke
- do not turn electrical equipment on or off
- attempt to stop the leak by closing the valve and replacing the bung or cap
- if the leak cannot be stopped, the cylinder should be carefully removed to a well-ventilated open space, clear of drains, buildings, sources of ignition and other LPG cylinders
- the cylinder should, if possible, be marked ‘faulty’ and left with the leak (usually at the valve) uppermost
- contact your local supplier to arrange collection of the cylinder
Never attempt to dismantle or repair a defective cylinder valve.
Regulators would normally be expected to give many years’ service, but if exposed to extreme conditions (for example if water condenses inside then freezes) they can fail. If travelling overseas for long periods and reliant on gas, it’s wise to carry a spare regulator, as it may not be possible to get a UK-specification replacement quickly.
In previous years, however, many Club members have reported failures of bulkhead-mounted regulators, due to blockage by a yellow, oily fluid. Once contaminated in this way, the regular must be replaced.
Changeover valves allow two cylinders to be connected to the gas system at once. Some systems allow manual changeover from one cylinder to the other, but most change automatically as the first cylinder becomes empty. This reduces the risk of running out of gas on a cold, wet night. Make sure any chosen valve is compatible with your regulator before buying.
Patio gas is simply LPG (propane) sold for use with barbeques and patio heaters etc. Most cylinders use a 27mm clip-on connection. You will need a suitable regulator or connecting hose/adapter, and should check the cylinder dimensions are suitable for your gas locker.
Leak detectors and alarms
LPG leaks are usually self-apparent due to the pungent odorant added to the gas. Various electronic devices are also available to warn of leaks. Similar devices are also available to detect carbon monoxide (CO). While dangerous levels of CO are very rare in caravans and motorhomes, this is a risk if an appliance is malfunctioning.
The gas system and appliances must be kept in good working order for safe and reliable functioning. An annual service carried out by an Approved Workshop will include a functional and safety check, but will not generally cover detailed appliance servicing. Owners should arrange this separately, based on the usage the appliance gets, or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Gas Safe registration (the body which has replaced CORGI) is not required unless the vehicle is going to be hired out, and such registration does not necessarily indicate competence with caravan LPG installations.
CITO (the Caravan Industry Training Organisation) specifies that the minimum competency requirement for work to be carried out on trailer caravans and motorhomes is an ACoPs (Approved Code of Practice) qualification (this is a requirement for membership of the Approved Workshop Scheme). ACoPs is a minimum standard and can be used as a ‘stepping stone’ to advance to ACS (Accredited Certification Scheme) level.
The Club does not recommend DIY servicing and maintenance for gas equipment.
As part of our caravanning guide, we've put together some recommendations for using gas barbecues:
- Don’t cook or barbecue in an awning, tent or garden gazebo unless it has been specifically designed to include a cooking area.
- Make sure the cylinder is securely restrained in an upright position during transport.
- Position the cylinder and barbecue so neither is likely to topple over.
- Place the barbecue well away from the caravan.
- Check the gas hose and regulator condition regularly and replace the hose every two to three years, or sooner if deterioration is apparent.
Where gas barbecues are supplied from a gas outlet on the side of the caravan or motorhome:
- Check the location of the gas outlet and the hose length attached to the barbecue are sufficient to allow adequate separation of the barbecue from any flammable structure.
- Ensure the gas hose is in good condition, especially where it attaches to the caravan outlet.
- Ensure the gas hose is not a trip hazard.
- Do not join lengths of gas hose together.
- The isolating valve for the gas outlet should be automatic so that gas cannot be released when a hose is not connected. However, check the isolating valve is fully off whenever the barbecue is not in use.
Using gas abroad
If travelling abroad, alternative local suppliers are available, but you will probably need an alternative regulator or connecting hose/adapter. Campingaz are the only UK supplier to also have outlets in Europe selling the same specification of cylinder.
Never attempt to have Calor or other cylinders not designed for user-refilling refilled abroad.