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Old 12-27-2019, 10:35 AM   #1
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Does an empty LP tank stink inside camper?

Hi, we are new to RVing.
When we run out of propane at night, we are awoken by a propane smell before it gets cold in the camper. I leave the door open to let it air out while I go outside and change the tank.
The furnace kicks back on and the smell goes away. Is this normal? I've been told empty tanks stink, but why is the smell inside the camper? None of our appliances have a pilot light that stay on. Thanks
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Old 12-27-2019, 10:44 AM   #2
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Just a guess, but I'm thinking when the furnace gas flow is too low to sustain a flame, and the ignitor fails to relight after some period of time, there is a time when some gas is coming through (very little) but isn't burning before the controls shut the gas valve. A little mercaptan goes a looong way toward stinking up a closed space.
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Old 12-27-2019, 10:57 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KanzKran View Post
Just a guess, but I'm thinking when the furnace gas flow is too low to sustain a flame, and the ignitor fails to relight after some period of time, there is a time when some gas is coming through (very little) but isn't burning before the controls shut the gas valve. A little mercaptan goes a looong way toward stinking up a closed space.
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Old 12-27-2019, 11:38 AM   #4
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The odorant tends to precipitate to the bottom of the tank, so as the propane level goes down the concentration of odorant gets greater. As you draw off the last of the propane you'll be getting more odorant...
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Old 12-27-2019, 11:50 AM   #5
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As an aside, be sure your propane detector is working and up to date. We don't know the age of your RV so this may or may not be a concern. Detectors do "wear out" and become less sensitive with age.

Depending on the location of the detector in the RV and the concentration of gas from the furnace, it's not at all clear if the detector should have sounded. Probably not if, as suspected, the odor was due to short cycling of the re-ignition sequence. In our rig, the detector is near the floor, on the wall that houses the furnace and refrigerator--very close to two major gas appliances.
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Old 12-27-2019, 12:00 PM   #6
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That makes sense, but shouldn't the odor be trapped in the heat exchanger and vented to the outside?
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Old 12-27-2019, 12:11 PM   #7
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Just goes to show how air tight these RVs are!
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Old 12-27-2019, 12:12 PM   #8
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That makes sense, but shouldn't the odor be trapped in the heat exchanger and vented to the outside?
Yes, it should.


Part of the difficulty in diagnosing this problem is you have not identified the type of RV. I just checked your profile and found that you have a trailer/fifth wheel. That would make me think that the location of your sleeping area relative to the tank location is playing a part in this, and possibly the tank regulator/switch-over system is where the problem lies.


If you can detail just where the tanks are and exactly from where in the RV the smell emanates, we can help pin point the problem area. Propane is heavier than air so it will not rise into the RV without directed air flow.
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Old 12-27-2019, 12:59 PM   #9
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The tanks are stored in the front, underneath the sleeping area and at floor level with the rest of the trailer. Hard to tell where the smell is coming from. I've sniffed around the oven and the floor vents, but it's not any stronger in one spot.
You may be right about the switchover system not working property. If both tanks are hooked up and the valves open, and the switchover turned to the right, both tanks will run empty.
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Old 12-27-2019, 01:36 PM   #10
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Do you have a pilot flame for the cook top or oven? You will get more odder when the tank runs out of gas.
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Old 12-27-2019, 04:02 PM   #11
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No pilot lights on the stove. Light with a match.
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Old 12-28-2019, 07:21 AM   #12
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If you smell propane you should have the propane system pressure tested.
I recently purchased a sniffer and found three leaks. Two that the soapy solution didn't find. Click image for larger version

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Old 12-28-2019, 08:24 AM   #13
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You should have dual tanks. If so, you shouldn't be running out of propane unless you intentionally let both tanks run out. It should have a valve that switches from the empty tank to the full one automatically. This way you can remove the empty tank to get it refilled. This way you don't lose heat, or any function of the propane system. If you don't have one of these valves with your dual tank system, you should get one. Cheers. Here is a short video explaining how it works.

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Old 12-28-2019, 08:39 AM   #14
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Make sure your propane 'sniffer' is close to the floor and working properly.
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