Treating gas with respect
Hardly a week goes by without the story on this newsletter of a motorhome fire. Whereas in some cases the cause is unclear, gas is usually the reason. Lets have a look at what we can do to prevent gas accidents - most of this is straightforward common sense.
Gas used for cooking and heating in a motorhome is made up of propane and or butane depending on the country where it is bought - different countries use different proportions. Furthermore, one can often just buy propane or just butane depending on requirements.
The most efficient way to use gas is to get refillable tanks which can be bought for less than EUR200. The advantage is that with refillable tanks one does not have to carry a spare, there is no lugging heavy gas bottles around and one simply drives up to the LPG at a petrol station and fills up. The cost of LPG is much lower at a petrol station and this will in time recover the cost of the refillable tank. Theoretically some petrol stations refuse to allow tanks to be filled although this appears to be a minority and in any case should only refer to non refillable bottles.
Gas is safe if treated with respect as well as being relatively cheap and environmentally friendly.
Tanks need to be stored upright in dry, well-ventilated areas of the van. Being kept dry is particularly important for metal tanks as they can rust. This is not a problem shared by tanks made from plastic composites which generally tend not only to be lighter but also tougher and more likely to survive an impact without significant gas escape.
The easiest way to tell if you have a gas leak is to regularly smell the gas cabinet in your motorhome.
If you have returnable bottles, you do not want to build up a collection of them. Gas will always remain in the empties and this can leak - and gas could build up from several leaks. So take them back and exchange them for full bottles. Gas is is heavier than air so it will gather in low areas. Propane and butane can cause asphixiation in high enough concentrations so it is a good idea to have a gas alarm - or maybe even two!