Propane System Design Guide for DIY Van Conversion

Last Updated: July 12, 2022

Propane System Design Guide for DIY Van Conversion

Propane-System-DIY-Van-Conversion-Heading-1920

Welcome to our Propane System Design Guide! We personally decided to go with propane in our van because propane packs WAY more energy than a battery: for example, our BBQ tank gives us two months of cooking and hot showers before we have to refill it, while a battery would have to be recharged after only a few hours and would require costly upgrades just to make it work… For full time vanlife like we’re doing, it’s a no brainer. In the following guide, we will build our knowledge so we can design and build a safe propane system. Keep reading!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait-FarOutRide-Isabelle-Antoine-Van

1- Campervan Propane System In A Nutshell

The Atwood range, hot shower, and Propex heater are appliances that run on propane in our van:

1.1- Propane System Diagram

Hover your mouse on components to learn more and click to follow the link!
Tap on components to learn more!

1.2- Items List

ComponentDescriptionQuantityBuy Link
MAIN
Propane TankSee “Propane Tank” section1Amazon
Hose: Acme x 1/4″ Male NPT (1 feet)Propane tank to regulator1Amazon
Regulator: Two Stage, 11 W.C.It’s an horizontal regulator, so it should be horizontal!1Amazon
Elbow: 3/8″ Flare Male x 3/8″ MPTWe used an elbow so the regulator fits into the vented locker.1Amazon
Hose: 3/8″ Flare Female (both sides)Regulator to Bulkhead Union1Amazon
Bulkhead Union Fitting: 3/8″ Flare Male (both sides)This is to go through the vented locker while keeping a tight seal.1Amazon
Swivel: 3/8″ Female Flare (both sides)This is to connect the bulkhead fitting to a cross (or a tee).1Amazon
Cross: 3/8″ Male Flare (all sides)Use this if you have 3 appliances to connect.As RequiredAmazon
Tee: 3/8″ Male Flare (all sides)Use this if you have 2 appliances to connect.Amazon
NoneUse none if you only have 1 appliance to connect. (and delete the Swivel 3/8″ Female Flare as well).N/A
Solenoid Shut Off Valve 12V
Solenoid, 12VTo open/close the propane remotely1Amazon
Push-Button SwitchTo energize the solenoid1Amazon
PigtailTo wire the push-button switch1Amazon
90 Degrees FittingSo the regulator / solenoid assembly fit in the locker1Amazon
MISC: wire, terminal rings, closed end terminals, quick disconnects, silicone…
Low Pressure Gauge
Low Pressure Gauge 15″ WCOur system nominal pressure is 11″ WC, so we chose a gauge that goes up to 15″ WC.1Amazon
Tee, 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″ NPT FemaleTo add a new port for the gauge…1Amazon
3/8″ Flare Female to 1/4″ MPTTo connect to the 3/8″ flared cross and bulkhead fitting2Amazon
1 lb Bottle Adapter (High-Pressure) -Optional-
Tee: 1/4″ FPT x 1/4″ FPT x 1/4″ MPTThis is to split the line coming from the tank into two lines: one going to the regulator (low pressure), one going to the 1 lb bottle adapter (high-pressure).1Amazon
Adapter: 1/4 MPT x 1″-20 Male 1Amazon
Extension Hose: 1″-20 Female to 1″-20 Male 1Amazon
Eccotemp Hot shower (Buy on Amazon)
Gas Valve: 1/2 NPT to 3/8 Flare MaleThis valve connects directly to the Eccotemp.1Amazon
Flexible Copper Tubing: 3/8″ O.D. Length As RequiredAmazon
Flare Nut: 3/8″ O.D.1 side connected to the gas valve, 1 side to the cross.2Amazon
Propex HS2000 Heater (dealer locator)
Flexible Copper Tubing: 1/4″ O.D.The Propex requires 1/4″ O.D. per manual!Length As RequiredAmazon
Flare Nut: 1/4″ O.D. 1Amazon
Reducer: 3/8″ Female Flare to 1/4″ Male FlareThis is to connect the 1/4″ copper tubing the to cross.1Amazon
 Note that the Propex HS2000 includes a compression nut to connect the 1/4″ line to it.  
Atwood Range (Buy on Amazon)
Flexible Copper Tubing: 3/8″ O.D. Length As RequiredAmazon
Flare Nut: 3/8″ O.D. 4Amazon
Gas Valve: 3/8″ Flare Male (both sides) 1Amazon

2- The cost of going all electric (no propane)

2.1- Propane Pros & Cons

Working on it. Coming soon!
Sketchy Clock

2.2- All electric VS propane cost comparison

Working on it. Coming soon!
Sketchy Clock

3.1- What size?

Choosing the right propane tank size totally depends on what appliances you run and what autonomy you want (days/months with no refill). As a rough guideline, and to help you make a decision, here is our usage living full-time in the van:

  • We don’t know the exact consumption of each appliance, but we know that using our Atwood Range every day (oven & stove) and using our  Eccotemp shower every other day or so, our 20 pound propane tank lasts roughly 2 months.
  • We don’t use our Propex heater much (we prefer to use our Webasto Air Top 2000), but the consumption is 1 pound of propane every 3 hours (remember it cycles though, it’s not running full-time). Our autonomy definitely shrinks a lot if we use the Propex.

3.2- Tank Types

3.2.1- Disposable bottle

The 1 pound disposable bottles are OK for occasional camping trips, but expensive and not environmentally friendly in the long run…

Here’s a tip: Any appliance that normally requires small camping propane bottles (camp stove, Mr. Heater Buddy, etc.) can be used with a larger tank (5, 11, 20 pound), thanks to the following adapter. One side connects directly to the propane tank, the other side connects directly to the appliance. No regulator needed. It’s much more economical!

3.2.2- Steel Propane Tank

Also known as a “BBQ Tank”… no explanation needed! OK, here’s a picture just in case…

Propane Tank 20 Pound Steel

They’re easy to find in 5, 11 or 20 pound (or more). Here are some common specifications:

* Note that tanks are not filled to their max capacity; this is to leave room for vapor expansion. For example, a 20 pound tank will generally be filled to approx 18 pound.

** Vertical tanks must not be installed horizontally. If the orientation is not correct liquid propane will be collected instead of vapor (LP gas).

Description Capacity (lb) Capacity (gal) Diameter (in) Height (in) Empty Weight (lb) Full Weight (lb) Buy Link
5 Pound Vertical** 5* 1.2 9 12 10 15 Amazon
11 Pound Vertical 11* 2.6 12.2 12.4 14 25 Amazon
11 Pound Vertical 11* 2.6 9.25 17 14 25 Amazon
20 Pound Vertical 20* 4.6 12.25 17.75 18 38 Amazon
DescriptionDiameter (in)Height (in)Buy Link
5 Pound Vertical**912Amazon
11 Pound Vertical12.212.4Amazon
11 Pound Vertical9.2517Amazon
20 Pound Vertical12.2517.75Amazon

3.2.3- Aluminum Propane Tank

“BBQ Tanks” are also available in aluminum with the following characteristics:

  • Lighter than steel (approximately 3 pounds lighter for 2.6 gallon capacity, 5 pounds lighter for 4.6 gallon capacity)
  • Does not rust
  • Does not spark if ruptured
  • Does not have to be painted
  • More expensive

They’re easy to find in 10 or 20 pound. Here are some common specifications:

* Vertical tanks must not be installed horizontally. If the orientation is not correct liquid propane will be collected instead of vapor (LP gas).

Description Capacity (lb) Capacity (gal) Diameter (in) Height (in) Empty Weight (lb) Full Weight (lb) Buy Link
10 Pound Vertical 10 2.3 10.5 16.4 9.5 19 Amazon
20 Pound Vertical 20 4.6 12.3 20.7 13 32 eBay
DescriptionDiameter (in)Height (in)Buy Link
10 Pound Vertical10.516.4Amazon
20 Pound Vertical12.320.7eBay

3.2.4- Composite (Fiberglass) Propane Tank

Here’s a fancy option to impress your neighbors:

  • Lighter than steel and aluminum
  • See-through (no guesswork to know when to refill)
  • Does not rust
  • DOT approved for US and Canada
  • Must be re-certified every 5 years (from the date of manufacture, not from the purchase date)
  • Because it’s not common, some people reported that it makes it harder to re-fill or re-certify.

They’re easy to find in 11, 17, or 22 pound. Here are some common specifications:

* Vertical tanks must not be installed horizontally. If the orientation is not correct liquid propane will be collected instead of vapor (LP gas).

Description Capacity (lb) Capacity (gal) Diameter (in) Height (in) Empty Weight (lb) Full Weight (lb) Buy Link
11 Pound Vertical 11 12.6 12 15.1 8.6 19 eBay
17 Pound Vertical 17 4 12 18.3 10.2 27 eBay
22 Pound Vertical 22 5.24 12 22.5 12 33 Amazon
DescriptionDiameter (in)Height (in)Buy Link
11 Pound Vertical1215.1eBay
17 Pound Vertical1218.3eBay
22 Pound Vertical1222.5Amazon

3.2.5- Underbody Propane Tank

  • Underbody tanks are either built to ASME or DOT standard. Tanks built to ASME specification don’t require re-certification, as opposed to DOT specs that requires re-certification after 10 years initially and then every 5 years. Therefore, if we were to install an underbody tank, we would choose a tank built to the ASME standard…
  • On a side note: portable tanks (such as BBQ tanks) are all built to the DOT standard because the ASME tanks are designed to be stationary and cannot be transported when full.
  • Make sure to choose a size that will fit into an underbody cavity. Sorry we can’t help with that because we haven’t installed one ourselves, but here is a legit installation write-up on a Ford Transit:  www.fordtransitusaforum.com/170338-post42.html

* ASME tanks don’t require to be re-certified (permanent).

Description Capacity (gal) Diameter (in) Length (in) Empty Weight (lb) Buy Link
7.9 gallon ASME 7.9 10 32 52 Campervan-HQ
11.2 gallon ASME 11.28 12 32 72 Campervan-HQ
16.3 gallon ASME 16.36 14 40 81 Campervan-HQ
DescriptionDiameter (in)Length (in)Buy Link
7.9 gallon ASME1032Campervan-HQ
11.2 gallon ASME1232Campervan-HQ
16.3 gallon ASME1440Campervan-HQ

4- Vented Tank Locker

The pressure inside a tank increases with higher temperature and/or elevation. Too much pressure can also be the result of overfilling the tank. If the pressure becomes too high for the tank’s capacity, excessive pressure will be released through the pressure relief valve. Note that even if the tank’s main valve is completely shut, the pressure relief valve can still release pressure.

Because of the greenhouse effect and because of the change in elevation (when driving), a tank located inside a van is subject to large pressure variation. That’s why we built a vented propane locker to store our propane tank in our van. If the tank was to release pressure, it would be evacuated outside the van!

What about the laws? When transporting a propane tank inside a vehicle, Canadian laws mention that it must be vented (cracked windows or partially opened trunk). We couldn’t find such mention in the USA laws, but there are rumors California laws mention it, too (please tell us if you know where to find such a mention). Law or not, for us it just made sense to build a vented propane locker!

A quick word about the locker access door:

  1. Propane is heavier than air and will “pool” (sink) to the bottom of the locker.
  2. It is REALLY HARD to make an access door that’s 100% sealed.

Because of A+B, the propane locker should be top loading. It’s an extra safety measure to minimize the risk. Indeed, if the access door leaks, propane will leak through the door instead of being evacuated through the vent! We see more and more side-loading propane lockers on YouTube and social networks, and that makes us a bit nervous. Even if it is more convenient, a side-loading propane locker is not ABYC compliant. Vans don’t actually need to comply with ABYC, but we see them as having THE highest safety standards; therefore, we like to stick to them.

5- Regulator

A tank delivers the propane at high pressure (from 100 up to 315 psi depending on temperature and elevation). However, most appliances require low pressure (aka “LP”): 11 Water Column (or 11 W.C.) pressure is the norm in RV systems (11 W.C. = 0.4 PSI). The role of the regulator is to deliver a stable 11 W.C. pressure to the appliances.

5.1- Single Stage Regulator

A single stage regulator reduces the pressure to 11 W.C. in one step. They’re more compact than two stage regulators, but not as accurate and usually not approved for use in RV’s. 

5.2- Two Stage Regulator

A two stage regulator reduces the pressure in two steps. Compared to one stage regulators, they are better at delivering constant 11 W.C. pressure with temperature changes and as the tank pressure declines. Two stage regulators are not significantly more expensive than one stage and are approved for use in RV’s, so that’s what we recommend:

  • Marshall Excelsior MERG-291 (vertical): Buy on Amazon
  • Marshall Excelsior MERG-295 (horizontal with removable POL adapter): Buy on Amazon
  • Marshall Excelsior MERG-298 (horizontal): Buy on Amazon
  • Please AVOID Camco regulators, we had a lot of issues with them (and many people reported that as well)
Propane Regulator Marshall MEGR-298 2 Stages

5.3- High Pressure (No Regulator)

Appliances that use small 1 pound bottles have their own built-in regulator. Camping stoves, Mr. Buddy heaters, Mr Buddy BOSS showers, among others, work with high pressure. They can be hooked to a full-size propane tank (5#, 11#, 20#, etc.) with an adapter:

6.1- Tubing Material

Using flexible (rubber) hoses is not recommended as they are not approved for permanent interior installation (they are approved for marine applications, but that’s a different story). Don’t use them outside either as critters like to chew on them!

Use flexible copper tubing with flared fittings. It’s resistant to vibration and sharp edges, and it doesn’t deteriorate with time (as opposed to rubber hose).

6.2- Tubing Size

It’s important to select the correct tubing diameter to prevent pressure drop. The correct diameter depends on:

  • Max Pressure Drop Acceptable (1/2 W.C. drop is the norm)
  • System Pressure (hint: it’s 11 W.C. for most RV appliances such as the Atwood Range, Propex Heater, Eccotemp Hot Shower, etc)
  • Length of tubing (varies according to your installation)
  • Capacity (BTU/hrs)

Capacity (BTU/hrs) in function of Tubing Length and Outside Diameter for Flexible Copper Tubing at a pressure of 11 W.C:

Copper Tubing O.D. (in)Length of tubing between the regulator and the appliance (feet)
102030
3/849,000 BTU/hrs34,000 BTU/hrs27,000 BTU/hrs
1/2110,000 BTU/hrs76,000 BTU/hrs61,000 BTU/hrs
  • The Atwood Range has a max of 32,000 BTU/hrs (all 3 burners and oven working simultaneously), so we’re allowed 20 feet of 3/8″ O.D. copper tubing.
  • The Eccotemp shower is rated 37,000 BTU/hrs, so we’re allowed about 15 feet of 3/8″ O.D. copper tubing.
  • Bottom line: we will use 3/8″ O.D. copper tubing all over! It should be alright for most van installation…

6.3- Bending Tubing

Bending the tubing by hand is “OK” (but not ideal) for light bends, but it will most likely create “kinks” for anything more than 45 degrees (kinks are bad because they restrict the flow of gas). It can be prevented, you guessed it, by using the proper tool for the job:

7.1- Flared connections

Flared connections are the preferred type, and they are standard in North-America. Flared fittings have a 45 degree chamfer (male or female) that seal the deal. They do not require thread sealant or tape.

Flare-vs-Non-Flare-Fittings

To make a flared connection with copper tubing:

1- Cut the copper tubing with a Tubing Cutter:
Tubing Cutter
2- Insert the Flare Nut into the tubing:

Note: Select the appropriate flare nut according to the tubing O.D.; for example, use 3/8" O.D. flare nut with 3/8" O.D. copper tubing.

3- Form the flange using a Flaring Tool:
Flaring Tool

Note: First make sure the cut is deburred; any burrs that become compressed will leak.

4- Voilà!
Flared Tubing

It should look like this!

7.2- Pipe (NPT) conneCtions

Some appliances or regulators come with NPT connections. NPT fittings don’t have a 45 degree chamfer (see “Not Flared” picture). They require thread sealant (aka “DOPE”, Buy on Amazon) or yellow tape (Buy on Amazon). Do NOT use white Teflon tape! It’s made for water systems, so it will leak gas as it’s not thick enough.

Flare-vs-Non-Flare-Fittings

7.3- Compression fittings with olive

These are NOT common in North-America and should be avoided! They’re mostly designed for liquid or compressed air (not gas). Note that the Propex HS2000 comes with this type of connection; that’s the only place we have one in our system…

1920px-Compression_fitting_isolating_valve_15mm_screwdriver_turn

8.1- Manual valve

For safety sake, we recommended installing a valve (easily accessible) every place the propane line splits to connect to an appliance.

8.2- Solenoid valve

A solenoid shut off valve can be added to the propane system, near the tank, to easily shut the propane OFF when not in use. The solenoid valve is OFF at all times (“normally closed”), but turns ON (open) when it’s energized with 12V. As soon as the 12V is removed, the valve shuts OFF. When energized (ON), a solenoid draws a current of about 1 amp (depending on brand/model). It’s the main inconvenience of the solenoid valve: you need constant electrical power to get propane. But it’s actually meant to be like that; in case of an accident, the electrical power would probably go OFF. It’s a safety feature.

Most solenoid valves are meant to be installed on the low pressure side of the propane system; that is after the regulator. We like the Century Fuel’s AFC-151R solenoid shut off valve because it can take up to 312 PSI, so it can be installed on the high pressure side (before the regulator) as well, and its 1/4″ MPT port fits directly into the inlet of our propane regulator.

READ THIS:

  • Solenoids need constant power to remain ON (open), and, therefore, they get really hot to the touch. They rely on propane flow to cool down, so leaving it ON without using propane will make them even hotter. We get a lot of emails about that… So yeah, it is normal for the solenoid to get very hot!
  • Wiring: there is no polarity. In other words, you can connect the positive (+) and negative (-) to any wire of the solenoid.

9- Pressure Gauge

It’s not mandatory by any means, but a pressure gauge installed on the low pressure side (after the regulator) of the system can be a useful thing: you can quickly tell if your regulator is delivering the correct pressure. Indeed, we had a regulator that failed one day (Camco brand), and we spent hours and hours troubleshooting our Propex heater thinking it was faulty… we have installed that gauge since then:

Note: Always take a reading when at least one appliance is running (dynamic pressure)! Static pressure (no appliance running) will always read higher than 11 WC…

10.1- Checking for leaks

Propane manufacturers add a distinctive skunk or rotten egg smell to propane so you are able to detect right away if there is a major leak. That being said, after installing your propane system, you MUST validate that there are no leaks. To do so, pressurize your system (turn all the valves/solenoid ON) and apply soapy water to each fitting; in other words, on every connection in your system. If there is a leak, you will see bubbles forming.

Propane System Installation Camper Van Conversion (22)

10.2- Gas Detector

Because we turn ON our propane only temporarily for short periods of time (using our solenoid), we personally don’t have a gas detector. However, here’s an option if it makes you feel better:

  • This is to detect un-burned gas/propane; in other words, to detect leaks in your system.
  • Mount it near the floor (because gas/propane is heavier than air, it will collect near the floor).

10.3- Carbon monoxide alarm

We initially had a carbon monoxide alarm without a digital reading, so nothing was telling us that it actually worked… We upgraded for this one for peace of mind:

  • This is to detect carbon monoxide (CO), resulting from propane combustion. 
  • Mount it near the ceiling or floor (because carbon monoxide is almost the same density as air, it will disperse evenly throughout the air in a room).

10.4- Smoke Detector

The first Alert P1010 smoke detector is tiny and blends perfectly with the decor in our van:

  • Mount it near the ceiling.

11.1- Wireless sensor for smartphone

Our propane tank is located inside the locker, so it’s not exactly convenient to check the propane level. Fortunately, we stumbled upon the Mopeka TankCheck Sensor (Buy on Amazon): this neat device allows us to monitor the level of propane from our smartphone. Nice!

11.2- Tank monitoring for Simarine Pico

We personally use the Simarine Pico to monitor the battery bank (%, solar input, etc.), tank level (fresh, grey, Nature’s Head) & temperatures (in, out, fridge, battery, etc.). It is possible to add the propane tank level with the appropriate sensors.

Sensor for vertical tank

Vertical tanks don't have a provision to add a sensor, but this sensor attaches magnetically to the bottom of a steel tank and makes it possible to read the level of the tank. Note that you must purchase the sensor AND the pre-processor:

Sensor for underbody tank

The ASME Manchester tanks that we recommend have a provision for a level sensor. The sensor output is resistance (not voltage), which can be read by a Simarine module:

12.1- Vented Propane Locker Build

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 calls for (some info here).

A quick word about the locker access door:

  1. Propane is heavier than air and will “pool” (sink) at the bottom of the locker.
  2. It is REALLY HARD to make an access door that’s 100% sealed.

Because of A+B, the propane locker should be top loading. It’s an extra safety measure to minimize the risk. Indeed, if the access door leaks, propane will leak through the door instead of being evacuated through the vent! We see more and more side-loading propane lockers on YouTube and social networks, and that makes us a bit nervous. Even if it is more convenient, a side-loading propane locker is not ABYC compliant. Vans don’t actually need to comply with ABYC, but we see them as having THE highest safety standards; therefore, we like to stick to them.

First of all, here are the dimensions for a few common propane tanks:

Propane Tank Dimensions

DESCRIPTIONSIZEDIAMETERHEIGHT
WORTHINGTON TANK
Steel, Vertical20 lbs12.25in17.75in
Aluminum, Vertical20 lbs12.25in20.6in
MANCHESTER TANK
Steel, Vertical20 lbs12.16in17.56in
Aluminum, Vertical20 lbs12.28in20.7in

And here are the interior dimensions of our propane locker:

Propane-locker-3D-interior-dimensions

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 edges inside the box:

Propane-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(19)

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:

Propane-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(3)

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 it using a 1″-5/8 diameter hole saw (Buy on Amazon):

Propane System Installation Camper Van Conversion (8)
It's a drill.
Propane System Installation Camper Van Conversion (9)
It's a hole.

As usual, we must now sand the bare metal 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 picture sorry, so here is a dancing banana instead:

dancing banana

We then inserted a 1″ (inside diameter) PVC pipe in the hole:

locker-build-van-conversion

And we applied Silicone II (Buy on Amazon) around the pipe inside and outside the van to ensure that no water can ingress in between the floor layers (do not use Silicone I on metal because it’s acidic and might promote rust, while Silicone II, on the other hand, is neutral and safe for metal)!

Propane locker build van conversion
Inside.
Propane-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(20)
Outside.

Marine regulations call for a minimum of ¾” (inside diameter) pipe to ensure proper venting, so we will use that. The ¾” PVC pipe fits very tightly into the locker; we had to use a hammer to put it in place, so it’s not moving from there.

Propane System Installation Camper Van Conversion (18)

Inside the locker, the ¾” PVC pipe protrude from above the surface (about ¼”) and Silicone was applied to ensure a proper seal:

Propane-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(Inside-PVC-Pipe)

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!

Propane-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(pipes)

We added a ¾” PVC elbow to prevent crap from entering the locker. It is simply press-fitted into the ¾” PVC pipe:

Elbow
PVC Elbow

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” to the bottom…

propane locker bulkhead fitting

Oops… we installed the fitting towards the center, and it’s in the way when we remove the tank! We relocated the bulkhead fitting towards the outside shortly after (not shown in the picture).

vented propane locker van build conversion

A rubber washer was installed outside & inside to ensure a good seal:

Propane-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(16)

A self-adhesive neoprene seal (Buy on Amazon) was added on the cover to ensure sealing:

Vented-Propane-Locker-DIY-Cover

And finally, we added latches (Buy on Amazon) so the cover can be easily taken off:

Be aware that screwing parallel through the plywood’s layers is not ideal (the layers could separate under tension); but with the adjustable latches, we can fine-tune the tension to the minimum required. We also pre-drilled the screw holes to minimize the tension in the hole.

DIY-Propane-Locker-Campervan-Vented-Sealed

This is the assembly that’s inside the propane locker:

Camper-Van-Propane-System-Regulator-Solenoid (300px)
Propane Locker Regulator Solenoid Campervan

12.2- Solenoid Valve Installation

There is some propane and electrical work to do. It’s quite simple, let’s do it!

Solenoid Valve Installation Propane Van

Propane.

The solenoid is installed directly into the regulator outlet; we installed a 90° fitting so our assembly fits into the propane locker. (Don’t forget to use yellow tape on the threads!)

Camper-Van-Propane-System-Regulator-Solenoid (300px)
Propane Locker Regulator Solenoid Campervan

Electrical.

We went for a push-button that illuminates when ON; this way, we can’t forget to turn the propane OFF when we’re not using it:

Push-Button-Switch-On-OFF

We located the push-button switch at a visible place and where it’s easy to turn it ON:

propane solenoid switch location

This is how to wire the switch in a way that the LED illuminates only when it’s ON:

We wish we could find a nice bulkhead fitting to go through the 1/2″ plywood, but we couldn’t, so we just routed the wire and added silicone to seal it…

Propane Solenoid Wiring Installation

We used quick-disconnects (Buy on Amazon) for when we need to refill the tank:

Solenoid-Propane-Quick-Disconnects

When the propane is OPEN, it draws 1.2A (solenoid and switch’s LED combined). For cooking or showering, the electrical power consumption is pretty negligible (around 1-2 Ah per day we’re guessing). When using the Propex heater, it’s a different story: if we would run the Propex all day, it would draw 29Ah daily (1.2A x 24h). That’s not negligible anymore, especially in winter when power is more scarce. In our case, we don’t use the Propex much as it is our backup plan (we prefer to use the gasoline Webasto).

propane solenoid and switch current consumption

13- On Second Thought...

  • Overall: The design we came up with works as intended, awesome!
  • Tank size: Our 20lb tank lasts 2 months on average (without using the Propex), that’s plenty! 
  • Regulator: We went through 2 Camco regulators, and after some research, we discovered others are having the same issue. This thing doesn’t last more than a year… So we switched to the Marshall regulator (amzn.to/2U2btBK), and it’s all good now 🙂
  • That’s it for now.

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About-Us-Narrow

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017, we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers, and moved into our self-built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then, and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams, and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

113 thoughts on “Propane System Design Guide for DIY Van Conversion”

  1. Bonjour Antoine,
    Juste une précision, la norme Z 240 canadienne sur les véhicules récréatifs mentionne une ouverture minimum de 3 p2 pour l’évacuation des gaz. Ceci correspond à une ouverture de 2″ de diamètre . De mémoire , la norme américaine emntionne la même chose.

    Reply
  2. I am going to be installing my gas box soon and am thinking of doing it in that rear passenger corner as well. One thing I’ve noticed is that it is adjacent to the exhaust and I’m a bit concerned about drilling a hole right there even if it’s all properly sealed to not get into the van itself. Have you run into any issues with the placement of the gas box where you put it?

    Reply
  3. Greetings,
    I am having a problem with low flow in my propane system. It worked great until I refilled the tank. Now I don’t have enough flow to run more than one stover burner or appliance. Looking online I find that new equipment has a safety valve that reduces the flow in the event of a cut line or other high flow failure mode. I tried the suggested fix…turning the tank off, waiting a few minutes, then turning it back on very slowly to get the gas lines up to pressure without excessive flow. This works, except, if I forget to turn on the propane solenoid and try to use a gas appliance, it evacuates the lines. Then when the solenoid switch is turned on, you get a high flow condition that trips the valve again. I was surprised not to see any other comments about this. Any thoughts? Did you run in to this problem?

    Reply
      • I have more info. I talked to both the tank and regulator manufacturers. Neither tank nor regulator has excess flow protection. However, the hose that I am using to connect the tank to the solenoid does have excess flow protection. Further, I had a cheaper hose originally, that leaked after a short period of time. That hose must not have excess flow protection (doesn’t say specifically on Amazon where I bought it), which is why I did not run in to this before. I assume that you do not have excess flow protection anywhere in your system.

        Reply
  4. Hello there,

    So the regulator you link (MEGR-298) has been unavailable for a long time. We purchased what we thought was a 298 but is actually a MEGR-295HP, is this useable or do we need to find something else to work? Thanks!

    Reply
  5. I think that you should note that single-stage regulators are not approved for RV use per NFPA 1192, which is great to read through for anyone considering propane for their van conversion.

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  6. Hi there!
    Thanks so much for posting all that you do! I’ve been using your guides a lot as I built my tiny truck home. I am puzzled by something here: you say you used copper pipe for connecting the tank but it looks like there are flexible black hoses on the tank in a few of the photos? And it also doesn’t really make sense to me why it would be contra-indicated to use flex connectors in a vehicle – you’d think that would be safer if some movement happens? Anyway, I wondered if you had any input about that. I’m about to install one and would definitely prefer to use a flexible hose (which does seem to be a popular option on Amazon).

    Reply
    • They talk about referencing ABYC in parts of the article, but then use copper tubing. Boats use flexible rubber/thermoplastic hose to route propane because solid tubing can fatigue over time. If your hose is attached properly to the walls of the van and they remain visible for inspection down the road, then flexible hose is by far the easier and cheaper option.

      Reply
  7. I had bought the camco regulator as well before you had your issues. It just started failing after 3 years of light use but it is exposed under the vehicle where it gets hit with road wash and salt. Trying to upgrade to the marshal but it looks like everyone is sold out right now! Do’h! Thanks for these great resources!

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  8. Where is a good place to get a new propane tank purged before filling? Everything I’ve seen online says to go to your local certified propane dealer, but when I look at their websites they don’t mention purging as a service offered.

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  9. Hi, we’ve used your website a ton for our build and it’s my favorite one out there! I recommend it to others all the time. I wanted to alert you that the carbon monoxide detector you recommended isn’t rated for an RV due to the temperature extremes. Amazon says that the one you posted is only rated for 40-100 degrees F. I talked to one of the reps at First Alert and he told me that at high temps you’d see in a van, the interior components can actually melt! We ended up getting both a CO and smoke detector here.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BHVV5NN?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2_dt_b_product_details
    I know, they don’t have any digital readout, but they do have a test button and low battery chirp. And if yours melted, the digital readout would likely not function. But thought I’d let you know in case you were unaware of this issue. Thanks for listening!

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  10. Your website has been a life saver! My husband and I have just retired and decided a camper van is our best option for all the traveling we want to do. Aside from being crazy expensive, the campers we looked at don’t really have the layout we want, so we’re doing our won conversion. Your detailed info with diagrams and product sources answered SO many questions for us. My husband is VERY handy (he’s built houses and remodeled old homes) but I was still a bit nervous about a DIY van conversion. I feel much more confident after reading about your project. Thanks so much for all the info. Happy traveling 🙂

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  11. When shopping for solenoid valves I noticed a comment that if you want to leave the solenoid open for extended periods (for example running the Propex heater overnight) it is better to get a motorized ball valve. Leaving the solenoid open for long periods of time reduces service life and also uses electricity holding it open. The ball valve however, moves open, then shuts off, and when switched in the other direction moves to closed and shuts off, zero electricity used except when opening and closing. Opinions on this?

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  12. Hi there,

    I’m curious about the MLV layer placed underneath the propane locker. Can you explain why that’s necessary?

    Thanks!

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  13. I’m building my propane locker same as yours and mounting it in the same place. Any chance of getting the dimensions of where you drilled the holes in both the van floor and the locker? It’s hard to judge from the pics. Love your website, constantly referring to it for ideas and info. thanks

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  14. Need to run lines from my undermount tank to a Truma heater and Dometic cook top. Dometic already has a regulator, Truma does not. What are my options?

    A: Run two lines from the tank under the van, one with regulator right after tank to Truma, one without to Dometic.
    B: Run one line from the tank under the van and install a regulator right after a T going to Truma and the other side of the T without regulator going to Dometic.

    The tank is mounted in the back of the van (Transit LWB) and I would have app a 5ft run underneath the van and then penetrate through the flooring into my cabinetry where I would install a T.
    Any other suggestions?
    Your LPG section is an amazing resource, as is your whole website! 😉

    Reply
  15. Hello. Great info here, thank you. Question: If I plan to always turn my propane tank on and off by the knob on the tank will I still need a solenoid? Or is that mainly a convenience thing? Hope to hear from you.

    Reply
    • The solenoid is useful to turn the propane ON/OFF remotely. If you can easily access your tank, you probably don’t need the solenoid!

      Cheers,
      antoine

      Reply
  16. Hi Antoine,
    Great site – thank you!
    Re: hot water, could the Eccotemp supply hot water for both the kitchen sink and rear shower by:

    freshwater tank through pump/accumulator to Eccotemp then out to split:
    zone 1 = shower
    zone 2 = sink
    Do you think any other modifications would be necessary (additional pump, etc.)? Thanks for your thoughts on this!

    Reply
  17. First of all, thank you for the detail of your build! You have really changed the game of DIY camper vans. On the solenoid, since it has no polarity are your wires tied into one disconnect (combine pos/neg at the terminal)? And that is the case on each side?

    Reply
    • Not sure what you are meaning by “wires tied into one disconnect” but you should never combine pos/neg at any point in your circuitry… that is a short circuit.

      “No polarity” just means that it doesn’t matter which wire of the solenoid connects to + and -. You can connect either wire to either terminal, just as long as they are appropriately separated wired like all your other electronics 🙂

      Reply
  18. Hello happy couple:
    I was looking at your LPG connections; very nice! Could it be possible to go from the LPG tank, through the bulkhead connection, at full LPG tank pressure and place the regulator attached to the wall or other structure? I am planning in using an outdoor stove which needs unregulated supply, and would be better to have the possibility of placing a Tee in a place more accessible.

    Thanks for any input.

    Reply
    • I just read the National Fire Prevention Assoc code for RVs: bad idea. All propane inside an RV is to be LOW PRESSURE.

      Post a reply to myself in case someone has the same “brilliant” idea.

      Reply
  19. I built a wicked cool camper in 2017, but just stumbled across your site when researching heaters. I’m blown away on how much work and detail you guys have put into this website. Amazing!!! Having been on a couple of open ended, multi-year travel adventures myself, I know how addictive that kind of freedom is. To my questions…I almost ordered the Webasto heater (size, quality, already given fuel supply from the huge gas tank) but then decided on the Propex since the Webasto seems more high maintenance and especially because it seems to struggle with elevation. Even if “adjusted for elevation” it is only good for a few thousand feet. Have you guys used it much above 6000 feet?
    Also, the low gas pressure in the US (11″ water column) seems to be lower than what the Propex specifications say (30 mbar = 12+” water column). Wondering if you know if there is a modification for the Propex heaters sold in the US or if the lower pressure causes reduced heating performance? Thanks. Happy travels!!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words 🙂

      I believe the Propex sold IN the US are adjusted for 11 WC, so there is nothing to do.

      The new Espar heaters have built-in altitude sensor, I think we would go with that if we had to start over!

      Reply
  20. This was a well-presented article, and it addresses a similar problem we are trying to solve on our van. After looking at the propane water heater, as best as I can tell the 20# propane tank connects directly to the heater. You have this running through the regulator, and then to the water heater. Did you remove an internal regulator on the water heater? Thank you.

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  21. What a great collection of details!

    I am in the process of rebuilding a gooseneck toy hauler (originally a horse trailer). I will be using manhy of your good ideas.

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  22. Hi,

    I was wondering why there wasn’t a shut-off valve on the Propex, as you have them on the lines to the range and H2O heater?

    Thank you for all the helpful information and very thorough write-up!

    Reply
  23. I followed your diagram to a tee, with the exception of using rubber propane hoses with 3/8 female flare ends. I felt better about its flexibility than the danger of bending copper lines accidentally over time… I’m a little (a lot) heavy handed. Otherwise, your directions are killer. I built the locker with the vent the same way and it works perfectly!

    Reply
  24. Bonjour
    Votre site est vraiment bien fait, une belle source d’inspiration. Pour le propane, mon assureur exige que ce soit fait par un professionnel certifié. Vous n’avez pas eu ce genre d’exigence pour assurer votre véhicule?

    Reply
      • Après vérification avec mon assureur, le système au propane devait être vérifié par un professionnel s’il était permanent. Donc, si je deconnectais la bonbonne lorsque je conduisais, mon assureur considère que je transporte une bonbonne ce qui est légal. Un peu contraignant pout un fulltime, mais pas si pire quelques semaines/fin de semaines par année !

        Reply
  25. Thanks so much for making all of this content! It’s so helpful! I started to build out my propane system, but I can’t find a flare cross anywhere. Would it work to use 2 Ts instead? I’m connecting a propex, a water heater, and a wedgwood oven/stove. I wasn’t sure if using Ts would impact flow or something?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  26. Are there regulations prohibiting running propane systems near ac/dc lines in a van? How far does the external propane vent need to be from the Van exhaust?

    Reply
  27. Hey there! I bought the 1 inch PVC pipe and 3/4 in pvc pipe and for some reason they arent fitting together! the 3/4 is too big to fit into the 1 in pipe. any ideas? thank you

    Reply
    • Its 1 and 1/4 pvc.
      -Hole saw 1.625
      -Inside 1 inch pvc would be overall 1.315
      -Inside 1 1/4 pvc would be overall 1.66

      Or so i am guessing, did not do it yet.

      Reply
  28. Do you need a copper gasket where you have 2 brass flare fittings directly connected (ex bulkhead fitting to the hose inside the locker)? It seems like the brass would not compress as easily as the copper and may not make a great seal.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  29. Hey! Thank you so much for this detailed description. I have two dumb questions for you on the addition of high pressure for the replacement of 1lb tanks.
    1. With the hose you have identified, how do you envision getting that in/out of the sealed locker since it has pre-assembled fittings on either end?
    2. Do you need a shut-off valve at some point in that line? Or does it not release propane until connected to a stove/appliance?
    Hope you all are well.

    Reply
    • Two stage regulator are better at delivering a precise and constant pressure. Propex manual asks for a two-stage regulator. If you don’t have a Propex, a single stage might be alright.

      Cheers

      Reply
  30. Hi! I am only using a camp chef oven with propane, and since it has a built in regulator I will just be using the flexible tubing. How would you go about installing the solenoid with flexible tubing?

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  31. Is there a reason your cross fitting is right at the locker? Have a propex heater, and a propane stove. Could I not run 3/8 all the way to the stove with the 1/4 on a T in the middle of the run going to the heater?

    Reply
  32. Hi Isabelle and Antoine,
    Thanks for the detailed and beautifully presented write up. We have just bought a Vanagon and the propane system (whilst much simpler than yours) needs some love. You have collected a bunch of useful information here that I could not find elsewhere. Thanks for sharing. Much appreciated.
    Neil

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  33. Currently going through my design process and stuck on electrical vs gas. I hate the idea of having a huge propane tank in my van, for safety, but understand it has it’s pros. At the top it says you’re still working on that section. Would love to hear your two cents.

    Reply
  34. Thank you for that beautiful web site! When the section about propane vs all electric section will be up. I want to build in december so i have to decide what kind of power system I want ! 🙂 Have a nice day !

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  35. Using the same compressible rubber gasket encased in a plastic nut – the same ones that are used in the plastic RV roof flanges That you can run cables through – are really good solution to running your solenoid wire out from the box!

    Reply
  36. Thank you for the useful propane system guide.
    One minor detail: at https://faroutride.com/propane-system/ item 10.2- GAS DETECTOR it reads: “Mount it near the floor (because gas/propane is lighter than air, it will collect near the floor)”, but it should say “heavier than air” (that is the reason why gas/propane acumulates near the floor).

    Best regards,
    A/P Daniel F. Larrosa
    Montevideo – Uruguay

    Reply
  37. Did you consider a solenoid switch with some sort of auto shut-off after a delay? I am sure I’d forget to turn the propane switch off at some point and aside from being less safe it would put extra load on the battery. I think it might be a good idea but can’t find any products that seem to do just this. A mechanical knob switch like some people have for bathroom fans might work but I like the rocker switch and light, and am also thinking there might be a reason this is not done.

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  38. Hi

    I am building out a 2019 Ford Transit just like your unit. I have used your electrical diagram extensively as well as the propane diagram. I paid for both and have bought everything through the Amazon links. Thanks so much. You are a great resource. Did you use a 120 volt fuse block to distribute your power from the inverter to your receptacles/loads? If so can you give me a link? I have a 2200 watt inverter that powers a 1800 watt induction cooktop and a couple receptacles for the laptop and misc. small appliances? Thanks so much Tim

    Reply
    • We only installed one 120V outlet, so we didn’t use a distribution panel; we kept things simple:

      We bought an heavy-duty extension cord (such as https://amzn.to/2T86Bgf) and plugged it into the inverter outlet. Then we cut the other end of the extension cord and connected it to a 120V outlet (https://amzn.to/2XpFgoe). We didn’t add a fuse/breaker, as we rely on the one built-in inside the inverter. That’s it! If you do this, just make sure to choose an extension cable and an outlet that are rated for higher current than your inverter max current (10A vs 15A vs 20A, etc).

      Have a good day!

      Reply
  39. Hey! Thanks again!..Wondering how you lined up the PVC pipe from the locker to the PVC pipe thru the floor? Dont want to wing it when cutting thru the floor haha

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  40. Ive followed your guide pretty much to the tee, other then some elbows.. ive bought the recommended solonoid, I bought the recommended 2 stage regulator, and I bought the recommended pressure gauge. I then cross branch off to an oven, a Girard water heater and a suburban furnace. I completed all of my connections and was in the stage of leak testing the system and noticed my pressure gauge was reading 15+” so I’m wondering how to test if my regulator is supplying too much propane, or if my gauge is mis reading. What do you suggest my next move is?

    Reply
    • Is your ready static? It is normal to read 15+ when you’re not using any appliance. So make sure to run at least run something (like the furnace) and THEN take your reading.

      Let me know,
      antoine

      Reply
      • I tried running my stove because it has an additional little regulator in it and I left like that would combat against too much pressure. The pressure gauge went from 1/4inch from the pin (past 15″) and when I opened up a burner and lit it, there was only a second of dropped pressure (still over 15″) but then went right back up to well over 15″. I tried this with one, then two, then all three burners and the same thing happened. I don’t want to test it on the furnace because it says on it 10WC and on my water heater it says 14WC MAX. Is there any potential that these appliances could be damaged but having this amount of pressure? Any suggestions? Is it the regulator? I bought the one you suggest in your blog post but other then it stating it’s “ideally suited for high demand RV, outdoor appliances, cabins, seasonal homes, gas fire places, water heaters, ranges or other moderate to low demand domestic home installations.” I don’t see it stating the WCs anywhere. What do you think?

        Reply
  41. have you heard of using a new gas flex connection kit for connect to propane tanks? I wondered if this was just as quality of an option as doing copper tubing.

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  42. Antoine,
    Thanks for your diagrams of which I have purchased three. I purchased a Propex HS 2211 and am studying your diagram as I prepare to install it. The HS 2211 (like the HS 2000) specifies a 5/16″ pipe but allows you to use 1/4″ “with an adaptor”. I am having troubling finding a 3/8″ to 5/16″ reducer so I will use a 1/4″ pipe as you did. Can you tell me what adaptor you had to use to connect the 1/4″ pipe into the Propex heater?

    Reply
  43. Hi Antoine,
    As always, I love your detailed post! I have a question…

    I’m using a Camp Chef camping stove rated at max 40,000 BTU/hr. But it normally runs off of 1lb cylinders. I see you have an adapter hose that goes straight to the propane box, but that wouldn’t work in my setup because the propane is going to be stored too far away (I have a bus conversion, not a van conversion). Am I able to run high pressure propane through copper tubing to add a connection closer to my stove that I can connect to? And if so, does the formula for calculating what size tubing change if I’m using high pressure? If I can’t run high pressure through copper tubing, is there a safe way to get the propane to my stove, or do I need to rework my entire plan to get the propane locker closer to the stove? Also, why is a rubber tube acceptable when using an adapter, but not for everything else?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  44. Hi Guys,

    I am a little curious why you do not include or have a propane alarm. It’s pretty standard on RV insulations, and I don’t think it uses too much power, less than 100 mA or something like that. Would have warned you of your propane incident, where the knob was bumped.

    Or is it in some other category and I just missed it!

    You have power to that side one the van, you could just use the live lead for the propane solenoid. Actually, you could even control it with that switch, as the propane is unlikely to alarm when the tank is shut off.

    The other thing, did you mention how you did your copper tubing bends? I am filling mine with salt…

    Cheers,

    Don

    Reply
  45. Addendum to previous post: If you are using the cool Ulincos switch that Antoine suggested, you need a larger amp bulb, like an old incandescent brake light or rear light bulb, which draw about 2 amps at a full 12V I think. The small amp bulbs won’t allow enuf current to activate the blue light in the Ulincos switch. (but if you wish to save your battery…)

    The voltage drop over the brake light (in series with the solenoid) is about 2.5 V, so the real amps in this case is less than 0.5 A. And the voltage across the solenoid is about 9 or 10 volts, which is why it doesnt heat up.

    Reply
    • Hey Don, do you have any advice for how to get one of these bulbs mounted and connected to the circuit? Are there some out there with spade connectors? Or do you have a stand-alone socket for one of these bulbs that can then be wired in? Thanks!

      Reply
      • I found a single bulb holder for a normal old fashion 12V rear brake light.
        Alas, I have not really been happy with any solution for covering bulb. It’s getting hard to find something what with LED everything taking over. Right now, the bulb sets in the little hole at the bottom of the back door frame, not really in the way of anything.

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  46. For all who worry about the solenoid getting warm or hot: put a 12 V incandescent light in series (not parallel!) with the solenoid, a little dash light is best. Incandescent lights have almost no resistance when cool, so when you flip on the solenoid, you have full voltage to pull the solenoid switch open. Then, when the light gets hot, the light becomes a resistor and the voltage to the solenoid is dropped; that’s okay, it doesn’t need full voltage to remain open. And your solenoid will stay cool as a cucumber.

    In terms of power use, I think the light/solenoid uses less power than running the solenoid by itself. (Based on first principles; I haven’t actually checked.)

    I put my light outside the locker at the back of the van so when I want to play with the propane, I can see if the switch is on or off.

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  47. To respond to Richard….
    I found a really nice bulkhead fitting on Amazon that allows you to pass a hose through it: Trident Marine 1438-8439 L.P. Gas Straight Thru Fitting, 1/2″

    Also, a question: I am routing my Propex heater duct through the kitchen cabinet, right alongside of my 10 gal plastic fresh water tank. Form your experience, does the duct get hot enough to warm up that cabinet enough to prevent my water from freezing? If not, what are you guys using to keep water from freezing?

    Thanks again for all you’ve shared with everyone!

    Reply
  48. Hi A,

    I haven’t checked through the comments carefully, but I am pretty sure you used a 1 1/4″ pipe (ID) in the floor not a 1″. You haf to hammer a 3/4″ pipe into a 1″ and the 1″ pipe sometimes split. In any case, it does not go in easily. Furthermore, a 1″ pipe would fall right out of a 1 5/8″ hole, but you said you had to force it a little. A 1 1/4″ pipe has an OD of 1.66″, and that would sort of fit. You should measure it if it’s not too wet.

    -d

    PS, liked your new van drawings!

    Reply
  49. I purchased the same solenoid. Does your solenoid get extremely warm/hot to the touch? I installed mine today and turned it on and within a minute it was really warm/hot. I’ve never done this before and just curious is this is normal. Thanks.

    Reply
  50. I’ve been using a camping stove instead of an atwood range or similar. If I want to add the optional hose to replace disposable 1lb tanks, how would I get the hose out of the gas locker? Is there a second bulkhead missing from the diagram for this?

    Reply
    • Because we used the high-pressure hose only for our showers (Mr. Heater aquacube at first, we then changed for the Eccotemp which is low-pressure), we just removed the locker cover when using it. Your situation is a bit different, I guess you need high-pressure at all time so removing the cover is not an option; I don’t know if there’s a bulkhead fitting that you can install… or maybe use copper tubing similar to the low-pressure?

      Reply
  51. I almost went with a propane tank mounted under my transit. (and may still have to). Reading your build of the propane locker with good venting and a well sealed box gave me pause to consider the same. The tank is definitely cheaper and the area where the undermount tank would have gone is still itching to have a grey water tank installed there instead. I am sold on its safety and it does make things a lot simpler. When you refill your tank do you have to remove it from the box each time? If so what do you think of those tank exchanges that stores like LOWES has? I am inclined to keep my own tank but was curious what you thought of those. ( Its quick, easy, and convenient but you keep getting a stranger’s tank…). Here is my special problem and I would value your opinion. I imagine you have to remove your tank for each refill. Although my garage is large enough to fit the propane locker, its not tall enough to lift out the tank. Where you have 40″ from floor to bed beam, I have 20″. My van is the medium high one. Obviously our bikes are not stored in the garage. Our garage height was determined by comfort in bed, ability to slip a kayak under the bed and what space we needed for battery bank, water tanks, ec. etc. So here is the dilemma. Instead of the propane locker having a removable top, mine would have to have a removable side. I would be able to slide the tank out for refilling. I would still have the adhesive neoprene seal, and four or six pull tight latches. So my question is: since propane is heavier than air, with your TOP being removable, were you confident with the neoprene seal because the propane would not build up there but would gather on the floor and out the vent? In my situation, (removable side piece) the neoprene seal would go down to the floor level. Is that seal good enough ? what do you think? My other options are back to the undermount propane tank, or fashioning a hatch cover under the mattress. Of course this means a not so convenient refilling situation (move bedding, mattress((we use a heavy futon)), hatch removal, all the disconnections etc etc.). So Antoine, Isabel, do have time to venture an opinion? Would love to hear it. Rich and Charlotte.

    Reply
    • Hi Richard,
      – Yes, we have to remove the tank each time (once every two month). We don’t mind it since is not frequent.
      – Exchanging a bottle is generally much more expensive than a refill but it would work.
      – I wouldn’t recommend a propane locker with a side-door, since it relies on a perfect seal. There’s a reason why all the marine propane locker have the door on top (propane is heavier than air and sink at the bottom)…

      Good luck!
      Antoine

      Reply
  52. Greetings! Thanks for the extensive write-up. I’m buying the propane diagram for sure?

    I’m heavily modifying a Sprinter based motorhome (2006 Itaska Navion 23J) for international travel. Since I’ve eliminated some propane hogs (refrigerator, generator & furnace), I want to remove the existing LP system and install a simple, 20# bottle and system like you did. This mod will save weight and greatly facilitate LP procurement, since my current ACME 1 3/4″ fill valve isn’t common abroad. I still have a water heater, cooktop and outside grill quick connect hookup. I also have an LP conversion dual fuel kit on my Honda 2000 gas generator, but won’t be using that much.

    Question: After being on the road 2 years, what would you do differently on propane design? Or, have you incorporated these thoughts into the diagram currently on the site? Thanks so much.

    John

    Reply
    • Hi John,
      The solenoid is something we added later on and, as you know, we incorporated it to our diagram. So yeah, the diagram is how we would build our propane system if we had to start over.

      The downside with our system is that the propane tank uses a considerable amount of space inside the van… there’s no perfect solution, it’s all about finding the best compromise 🙂

      Hope that helps,
      Antoine

      Reply
      • Thanks Antoine,

        Your comment does help. I’m a cold weather traveler. Locating the gas bottle/regulator inside the heated envelope is a benefit that partially offsets the downside of reduced storage. More and more and especially in South America, propane comes mixed with butane. Butane is no friend of cold temperatures, so I like the bottle and regulator inside.

        Thanks and good luck.

        John

        Reply
  53. Hi there! Just want to say thanks for all the awesome tutorials, I have learned so much from your posts! Quick question about the hose adapter. I am going to use a “bbq” propane tank for my camp stove and tankless water heater (similar to your water heater). Is it as simple as tank > hose > valve > water heater? Do I need a regulator? Thanks so much!

    Robyn

    Reply
    • You most likely need a regulator. Check the owner manual to find out what’s the pressure required for your water heater; if it’s 11WC, you need a regulator.
      So it should look like: tank > regulator > hose > valve > water heater.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  54. Wow. Awesome website and I visit it often. I’m currently working on my propane systems so, here I am tonight reading it for ideas. I also read some of the comments and wanted to share an article from the marine application regarding the solenoid placed inside the propane locker, https://www.westmarine.com/WestAdvisor/Safe-Propane-Installations. I hope this helps others too who have valid concerns of where to place the solenoid and the issue of an electrical item inside the propane locker. Thanks for sharing your amazing website and content.

    Reply

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