Your RV adventure isn’t complete without a healthy propane system to support it. And we get it – there’s a lot that goes into understanding how all the parts fit together! That’s why RVT.com has put together a handy two-part guide. In Propane Tanks Part I, we discussed tank types, how to refill or exchange them and how to check your fuel levels. Now in Part II, RVT will dive deeper into usage and maintenance.

How Much Propane Do You Need?

Propane usage depends on a number of factors, including the size of your new travel trailer or other RV, what you’re using it for, and for how long. Generally speaking, a 20 lb. tank should last about a week with normal usage (i.e., you’re not constantly cranking the heat in the middle of a frozen tundra).

Fuel output is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). To calculate fuel usage:

  1. Multiply the number of gallons in your tank by 91,502 (the number of BTUs in one gallon of propane) to find your tank BTUs.
  2. Add up all of your appliance BTU usage.
  3. Divide your tank BTUs by your appliance BTU usage to find the total hours of fuel you’ll get from your tank.

Pro tip: Camping in cold weather? Make sure your bottles are full to ensure furnace vaporization works properly and efficiently.

Adding Portable Tanks to a Permanent System 

As we mentioned in Part I, tanks approved by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) require taking your used fifth wheel camper or other RV to the refueling station — which can be a pain if you’ve already set up camp and want to stay awhile. But what if you have an ASME tank system and burn through your propane faster than planned? Don’t worry, all isn’t lost – you can add portable propane tanks to your ASME system.

To do this, you’ll need a few items in addition to the extra DOT tanks. If you don’t have one already, purchase a pressure regulator to help ensure proper fuel flow during use. You’ll need an adapter to connect your tank to the RV propane lines as well as a new hose. You can buy adapter kits that often include a new hose, but check the length to ensure it will give the range and flexibility of positioning you need. To install your tank, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the propane at the main valve.
  2. Disconnect the pressure regulator from the existing tank and install the adapter between the regulator and the existing tank.
  3. Attach the new external tank to the adapter using the new hose. 
  4. Open the propane valve.
  5. Check for leaky hoses by spraying soapy water on the hoses and joints. Bubbles will appear over any leak.

It’s also worth mentioning that some RV parks will offer a propane refill service for your refillable tanks. If you’re worried about losing fuel, it might be best to utilize these kinds of parks.

Propane System Maintenance

It’s never fun when your refrigerator stops cooling or you don’t have hot water for a shower, but there are a few things you can do when performing annual maintenance to help keep this from happening in your new Class C RV or other motorhome.

As creepy as it sounds, spiders and insects love the funky smell of propane and are notorious for making small spaces in their homes. To combat the critters, remove the appliance access panels to clean out any debris or spider webs once a year (more frequently if you’re RVing for long periods of time). Insect maintenance aside, you also want to check the propane lines, burn chambers, and gas valves for leaks or debris. If needed, clean the burner tubes with a pipe cleaner or compressed air. You can also get a propane leak test performed by your local RV dealer’s maintenance department (check your service agreement – it might be free!).

For safety, make sure your propane detectors are up to date and have enough battery power. Check them periodically, and remember to replace them after 5-7 years. 

Propane Tank Disposal  

Propane tanks will last for a long time if used and stored properly, but all good things must come to an end. When your propane tank either fails a DOT safety inspection or gets damaged, it’s important to dispose of your tank safely as it may still contain some propane. It’s never a good idea to drop them in the trash as this could become a hazard for your waste management team.  Your local propane supplier or hazardous waste disposal site should be able to take care of it, but call ahead just to make sure.

With routine maintenance and an understanding of how your propane systems work, your RV adventures can be as comfortable as they are memorable. And if you’re looking for your next motorhome or camper, be sure to browse all the available inventory available for sale on RVT.com.

By Audrey Somero

Share this article: