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Old 06-30-2012, 06:57 PM   #1
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Propane System Safety

I need opinions.

In the February issue of the FMCA magazine it talks about propane system safety. It lists eleven items among which are things like:

--> Inspect and clean the pressure regulator once per camping season

--> Annually have a certified technician perform a timed drop test on the entire propane system and have the regulator pressure adjusted to 11.0 water column inches.

Do people actually do this? Is it really necessary?
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Old 06-30-2012, 07:46 PM   #2
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I have my own meter and when I use it I can see the bleed down if it becomes excessive. Setting the 11" of pressure is very easy and I've found some regulators tend to wander a bit on the setting. I've found it down to 9" after multiple checks at 11". Reset and no further issues, but food heats notably faster.
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:45 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pigman1 View Post
I have my own meter and when I use it I can see the bleed down if it becomes excessive. Setting the 11" of pressure is very easy and I've found some regulators tend to wander a bit on the setting. I've found it down to 9" after multiple checks at 11". Reset and no further issues, but food heats notably faster.
Educate me, please. What kind of meter do I need to do this, how do I use the meter, and how do I adjust the pressure?
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Old 07-01-2012, 09:44 PM   #4
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First, with safety in mind, if you have never worked on NG or Propane system, don't make you coach the first project unless you feel comfortable doing it. Make sure you use a propane detector after you finish, not just the "soap bubble test", as a propane detector, can detect PPM down to .1, and that low of a leak might not even show up on the soap bubble test. That piece of equipment can be had through Granger’s for around 100 dollars.

Second, there is a process to checking that 11" WC number, it's not as easy as just hooking up a pressure gauge and testing it, one thing maybe not mentioned is that you have a 50% load on the system while setting that regulator, and that takes the plumbing arrangement shown in the article. I have the magazine, but have not read the article.

Three - If you use your coach a lot, then I would not worry about this test for 5-10 years from date of putting coach into service, and only then if I noticed that my furnace or water heater was dropping out, the stove was not working like it used to, or I had to open the system for some other reason, then I would have the test done. Although the article was written by Gary Bunzer, an expert in the RV industry, I don't recommend you take this on, since from your comments, you don't even know what kind of guage is needed. If you don't know, don't learn the hard way with a fire or explosion. Propane expands 270 times from it's liquid state to a gas.

Our coach (although in body shop still) is 5 years old, and we only have one propane device, the stove, and it works just fine, and I won't open that system unless there is a problem and I have lots of experience on Propane and Nat Gas. I have used RV's 20 years old and never had a problem with the regulator, and if I suspected a regulator was not operating correctly (adjustment is ok if it's 5 years old or newer, older than that, no the rubber in the diaphrams is old and won't take it as well) I would just purchase a new one and install it myself. There are o-rings/diaphragms and springs inside which don't lend them to repair. A new regulator is not expensive. The adjustment mentioned is also a doable thing if you have the test gear, and it tests out of range and you follow the correct procedure.

FWIW – The DOT/NFPA/ICC (Department of Transportation/National Fire Protection Association/Interstate Commerce Commission) are the big boys who regulate propane cylinders/tanks and gas safety, and the states get into it as well. Some states require a license to even put gas into a tank (FL Comes to mind). Some changes have taken place on regulators and you need to make sure you put the latest model back on, if you change it which might be way different for your coach.

FWIW#2 - If for some reason you do this job, and have a propane fire, the first question out of the insurance company’s mouth is who worked on the system the last time and when? If the repair/test was done by a “master certified RV technician” then they will most likely go talk to them, if you did it, the situation changes some. You will have to prove you did not make a mistake, and cause the problem, remember it’s all about the money nowadays.
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:54 PM   #5
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All - The original poster said the article was in the FMCA Magazine, the article I'm quoting is in the Good Sam June-July 2012 Magazine. FMCA would never tell you to check your own propane system that would be irresponsible.

Second, Gary Bunzer who wrote the article for GS, never said for you to do it, he said use a Master Certified or Certified Tech for this work. Propane systems can kill you, injure you, and or cause a fire which will ruin your whole day.

Only unless you have been trained in NG/LPG systems, should you attempt any work on the system. Even if you have been trained, how current are you? Remember, some states require (the state you are in at the time, not the state you are registered to vote in) law apply at the time you have the work done, or attempt to do it yourself.

Be safe, let the pro's do some of your work for you, we know the dangers and hazards in doing it.
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Old 07-02-2012, 12:27 AM   #6
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Completely agree with 'OLD Rver'. Also as he pointed out, the article was educational and information and not intended as DIY primer. As such it was good for education even though one should not tackle such testing and repair themselves.
As to the original question, I doubt very many people actually have the test done annually, it at all. If I thought I had a problem with the regulator, I am sufficiently knowledgeable and comfortable replacing the regulator, as stated they are relatively inexpensive. Now when it comes to doing a pressure drop test and/or adjusting the existing regulator, then it is off to the certified technician. They have the tools and training.
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Old 07-02-2012, 01:14 AM   #7
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I have my system checked every year
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Old 07-02-2012, 10:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gator67 View Post
Educate me, please. What kind of meter do I need to do this, how do I use the meter, and how do I adjust the pressure?
If you do not know, and have never worked on or used this type of meter I'd rather not tell you.. Seek professional help till you understand how it's done.

It is nothing more than a length of tubing, some water and a ruler.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gator67 View Post
Educate me, please. What kind of meter do I need to do this, how do I use the meter, and how do I adjust the pressure?
If you're comfortable working around propane systems, it's quite easy. I ordered my gauge on line for about $39 but I found one here Gas Pressure Test Kit - General Tools - Mfg# GPK015 after a quick check. I'm sure others are available. Here's a site on adjusting the regulator. How to Adjust a 2-Stage Regulator With Propane | eHow.com The caps you remove to get at the adjusting screw can be pot metal or plastic and are usually pointing up, 3/4" in diameter or so. I've seen common screws and Allen wrenches needed to adjust. After adjusting, I run appliances while checking pressure drop. All appliances have a standard port to connect the gauge but I added a "T" and plug at the output side of the regulator so I didn't have to keep hopping around. When setting just be super careful, but this is NOT rocket science. Any reasonably handy shade tree mech can do it. Of course, leak check all joints when done. I feel gasoline is much more dangerous than LP as long as common precautions are taken.
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Old 07-02-2012, 05:16 PM   #10
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I've never had mine checked.
I always light the burner on the stove first after I turn on the propane.
If the flame looks good then I go with it.
If its a foot tall then you got a problem.
That is definitely not the correct way but its my way.
I have replace one regulator in 25 years.
You do whatever is comfortable for you.
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Old 07-03-2012, 02:06 AM   #11
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I have it checked by a professional every second year. Seems a bit overdone to have it checked every season.
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