As modest people, we have modest needs for propane. Here are the appliances we own that runs on propane:
Added December 2017 and not shown in this picture: Propex HS2000 propane air heater
We learnt a few things in the installation process:
1- High Pressure VS Low Pressure
Some stuff requires high pressure while some other stuff requires low pressure of propane… now, how do we know which ones? Everything that requires a 1 pound disposable propane tank (the small green ones) is high pressure; there is no regulator between the propane tank and the inlet. Other stuff is low pressure; a regulator is required between the propane tank and the inlet. To make things more complicated, there are different low pressure regulators: the most commons seems to be 11 inches of water column (this is what our Atwood Range requires. And, yes, “inches of water column” is a pressure unit! Here is an article about that). This means that we need at least two outlet on our propane tank: one with high pressure (no regulator), one other for low pressure (with regulator).
2- Disposable Propane Tank
The small green camping disposable propane tank. They run out of propane just by looking at them (slight exaggeration). It’s not very environmental friendly and it’s expensive in the long run. The good news is: they can be replace by a bigger tank with the proper adapter! Sweet! Let’s do that then!
3- Flared VS Not-Flared Fittings
We used two types of fittings: flared or not. The flared fittings have a 45 degree chamfer (male or female) that seal the deal. The flared fittings are meant to be removable and they do not requires thread sealant. The non-flared fittings are meant to be permanent and they requires thread sealant. In the end, we’re glad we went to our local propane shop and had all our hose/fittings/regulator/etc assembled by them (except for the flared ones, since they are removable).
4- Copper Tubing VS Flexible Hose
Boat uses flexible hose (more resistant to corrosion and vibration) while RV uses copper tubing (more resistant to critters & impacts?). Since we only have a short run from our tank to our Atwood range, we used flexible hose for simplicity sake. Near the range, we used copper tubing for obvious reasons (heat).
5- Propane Tank Storage
First of all, why did we choose to use a BBQ style propane tank? For convenience, that’s why! Many people will install a propane tank under the vehicle: that’s fine as it save some space inside the vehicle, but these tanks need to be refilled at propane filling station specially equipped. We wanted to have the convenience of refilling our tank at Costco (or whatever) or be able to swap it at a convenience store.
At Faroutride we play hard, but we play by the rules! The transportation of propane tanks (except the small green ones) inside vehicles is heavily regulated. Laws will vary by country/states/provinces; in addition, there are additional restrictions for tunnels/ferries/bridges! As we are writing these lines, we have not found a single source online for all the regulations by country/states/etc. Google is your friend here! Let’s just say that, to make things right, a propane tank should be located either outside the vehicle or inside the vehicle; if it’s inside, it should be stored in a vented propane locker. Why is that? You see, every propane tank (except the green ones) has a safety relief valve. Excessive pressure (created either by overfill, rise in temperature or rise in elevation) inside the tank will be evacuated through this valve. Really? Just watch the following video. According to the narrator and to the description, the rise in temperature and overfilling created too much pressure on MARCH 14th:
March 14th or not, temperatures (greenhouse effect) and pressure (change in elevation while driving) varies a LOT in the van; we need to store our tank in a vented propane locker. (if you’re still not convinced, we heard that under California laws, the authorities can tow the vehicle if the propane is not stored properly. To be confirmed.).
TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: 40 hours (approximately)
TOTAL COST : ~1000$ USD (that price includes the 600$ Atwood Range, but excludes all other portable appliances)
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- Wedgewood (Atwood) Vision 17″, 3 burners & oven, with Piezo (Buy from Amazon)
- Mr Heater BOSS XCW20 Portable Shower (Buy from Amazon)
- Mr Heater Buddy Portable Radiant Heater (as a safety backup) (Buy from Amazon)
- Primus Stove (for outdoor cooking) (Buy from Amazon)
//DISCLOSURE: The material is listed below, however we strongly advise to buy from your local propane shop and have everything assembled by them. This is what we did and once installed in the van, we checked all the connection for leaks using soapy water. Explosion are for kittens, not for your van. Also, we did our best but there might be some mistakes… double check that everything make sense! //
- Propane Tank, 20 Pound Steel BBQ-Style (Buy from Amazon)
- Propane Hose Connector (ACME x 1/4 NPT male), 12″ (Buy from Amazon)
- Brass Tee (3 Ports: 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″ NPT female) (Buy from Amazon)
- Brass Fitting 1/4″ x 1/4″ NPT male (Buy from Amazon)
- Low Pressure Regulator, Single-Stage (Buy from Amazon)
- Brass Fitting, 1/4″ NPT Male x 1″-20 Male (Buy from Amazon)
- Brass Fitting, 3/8″ NPT Male x 3/8″ NPT Male Flare (Buy from Amazon)
- Bulkhead Union, 3/8″ x 3/8″ NPT Male Flare (Couldn’t find online… similar to item 31 here)
- 1′ Propane Hose, 3/8″ x 3/8 Female Flare (Only 3′ length is available on Amazon)
- Propane Hose 3/8″ Female Flare, 12 feet (check your own required lenght!) (Buy from Amazon)
- Copper Tubing & Fittings to connect to Atwood Oven (Sourced from our local propane shop)
- 12′ Propane Hose, 1″-20 Male x 1″-20 Female (Buy from Amazon)
- Pull Latches (Buy from Amazon)
- Neoprene Rubber Seal, Self-Adhesive, 1″ wide x 1/4″ thick (You should get the 1/8″ thick! Buy from Amazon)
- TiteBond III Wood Glue (Buy from Amazon)
- Thread Sealant (Buy from Amazon)
- Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Buy from Amazon)
- Propane Gas Detector/Alarm, 12V (Buy from Amazon)
- Nothing funky
- Sink & Stove Cabinet
- A whole lot of other things too
We mentioned earlier that propane might escape from the propane tank from the safety relief valve. This propane has to go somewhere: outside the van sounds about right. To achieve that, we built a sealed box that is vented through the floor with the lid on top (propane is heavier than air). We did not come up with this, this is what marine regulation asks for (some info here). Here is how it goes:
First of all, here are the dimensions of a 20 pounds propane tank (think BBQ):
Steel Vertical Propane Cylinders
We designed our propane locker to allow for ¼” of clearance around the tank:
We won’t go into the box fabrication details, but let’s just say that the cuts should be perfectly straight to have a good seal! All the edges of the box are glued together; this should seal the deal, but just to make sure, we also applied silicone on all edge inside the box.
We first checked that the propane locker would fit. To clear the aluminum nose stair, we raised the locker with 1/8″ thick MLV leftover we had handy:
We now have to make a hole in the floor. We want that hole to be sealed; if we ever have a water spill we don’t want water to ingress in between the layers of our floor.
We drilled using a 1″-5/8 diameter hole saw (http://amzn.to/2svpoQk):
As usual, we must now sand the metal rough edges and apply primer + paint + clearcoat; this is to prevent rust. (we went to an auto parts shop and they prepared paint that matches the color of our van). No pictures here 🙁
We then inserted a 1″ (inside diameter) PVC pipe in the hole:
And we applied Silicone II (http://amzn.to/2tz1YP5) onto the floor and under the van, to ensure that no water can ingress in between the floor layers (do not use Silicone I on metal! See http://faroutride.com/van-conversion-resources/#Silicone_Sealant):
The marine regulations ask for a minimum of ¾” (inside diameter) pipe to ensure a proper venting, so we will use that. The ¾” PVC pipe fit very tightly into the locker; we had to use a hammer to put it in place so it’s not moving from there.
Inside the locker, the ¾” PVC pipe protrude from above the surface (about ¼”) and Silicone was applied to ensure a proper sealing:
Here is the oddly satisfying part: the ¾” PVC Pipe (fixed to the locker) fit nicely inside the 1″ PVC pipe (fixed to the floor), so the propane locker can be removed / re-installed as needed!
We added a ¾” PVC elbow to prevent crap from entering the locker:
We’re not done with that box yet. We now have to add the bulkhead union fitting. As extra safety, the fitting should be installed near the TOP of the locker! Propane is heavier than air and will “sink” at the bottom…
A self-adhesive neoprene seal (http://amzn.to/2spTk5z) was added on the cover to ensure sealing:
And finally, we added latches (http://amzn.to/2sqBVJN) so the cover can be easily taken off:
It’s now time to make all the connections!
Before we start, remember that most of the connections should be located INSIDE the propane locker! Because leaks happens. This means that we need to open the locker to use the high-pressure hose (for the Mr Heater shower, the Mr Heater Buddy or the Primus stove).
From the propane locker, the low pressure hose runs all the way to the copper tubing near the Atwood range. We installed a valve between the flexible and copper tubing, for easy access in case of emergency.
The copper tubing runs in the back of the Atwood and it’s connected here:
Any appliance that normally requires a small green camping 1# propane tank can be fed using our high pressure hose; it’s much cheaper, eco friendly and convenient!
Remember to check all the connections for leaks using soapy water!
Monitoring the Propane Level
Our propane tank being located into the locker, it’s not exactly convenient to check the propane level. Fortunately we stumble upon the Mopeka TankCheck Sensor: this neat device allows to monitor the level of propane from our smartphone. Nice!
ON SECOND THOUGHT
On December 2017 we added a Propex HS2000 propane space heater. Here is the installation article:
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Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine, a couple dreaming of being on the move and we’re seeking for the ride of our life. We bought a Ford Transit van, converted it to a campervan, sold our house, quit our jobs and hit the road full-time to make our dream a reality. We are sharing this in hope of inspiring and helping others to follow their dreams too!
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