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Old 03-21-2010, 08:39 PM   #1
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Gauges on Propane Tanks

So I left the valves open the last trip and my propane had leaked the full tanks down causing us to run out at about midnight in 38 degree weather. So the question is how o you tell what levels are in the tanks? Nothing on the control panel. no gauges on the tanks so short of taking them off and weighing shaking etc, how do I know?
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Old 03-21-2010, 08:55 PM   #2
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Propane

More importantly.... Find the leaks! This is a Explosion waiting to happen! Propane will seek the lowest level and if it builds up just one spark and BOOM! Fix it NOW!!!! Ed
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Old 03-21-2010, 08:59 PM   #3
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We had a color-change strip we had stuck on the side of our 20# tanks. Pour very warm water over the side of the tank, it would change color at the propane's liquid level. So we could tell how much we had.

Our 30# tanks have a gauge tapped into the top. Not super accurate but gives us a pretty good idea of level. And we often find ourselves telling the propane fill person, "No, it's not full when the gauge says it is." We'd be missing between a gallon or a half-gallon, and some of these guys charge by the tank regardless of how much they put in.

Camping World sells in-line gauges that will give you an indication of the amount of gas in your tank(s). I think they cost approx $20 each. We think it's a big help to see what our level is, helps us plan for refilling at convenient and economical time.

Jim
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Old 03-21-2010, 09:59 PM   #4
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LP Tanks

Thanks for the advice. Running out of propane on a freezing night isn't any fun.
And I'll track down the leak, could have been the pilot on the stove, tanks weren't empty after trailer was sitting nearly three weeks but I was't sure if the smell inside was from the toilet or elsewhere, actually propane is odorless. Could have been the fridge was running on propane off the 12v battery as the switch was probably left on.
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Old 03-22-2010, 04:31 AM   #5
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Actually you can feel the hieght of the liquid level in the tank with just your hand when the tank is cold. The liquid has higher thermal capacity and will feel colder than the area where just gas is behind the steel. The strips work better.

I do have one of those gauges. It works only fairly well. It measures the pressure and will only start to drop rapidly only when the tank is almost empty.

The best way is to loosen the tie down and whirl the tank. The liquid will slosh around and with experience you can guess the weight and amount of liquid left.
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Old 03-22-2010, 05:32 AM   #6
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A propane system should not leak, at all.

I don't find that the inline gauges are much help.

The Hot Water Trick is what I use if I really want to know and it's inconvenient to weigh the tank. Run some hot water down the side of the tank then feel for the temperature transition point, since the steel will remain warm above the propane level but not below.

Or you can retrofit tanks with gauges. Vintage Trailer Supply has them.
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Old 03-22-2010, 06:39 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichHog View Post
. . .I was't sure if the smell inside was from the toilet or elsewhere, actually propane is odorless.
Propane may be odorless, buy any propane you purchase has been odorized pretty significantly. You will smell the rotten garlic smell in your trailer if the stove pilot light blows out, or you have a leak inside the cabin anywhere.

Yeah, it smells kinda like an open black tank, I guess.

Three years ago we were on our way to Vancouver, BC, and I smelled propane pretty strong in the galley. Turned off propane, got my wrenches out, took the piping out from under the oven. Tightened the joints, put it back in and tightened snugly.

Turned on the propane, drank a tall cold one, walked back into the trailer, and smelled that propane perfume again. Stuck my nose under the oven, no smell. Walked back and forth sniffing, and opened the pantry. Whoof! Strong propane smell -- it was a not so fresh prematurely rotting garlic bunch.

We don't pack fresh garlic -- the minced stuff in the glass jars seals well and works just fine for our steaks and stuff. Still check the piping regularly but no more "leaks".

Good luck,
Jim
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Old 03-22-2010, 08:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamStreamr View Post
Camping World sells in-line gauges that will give you an indication of the amount of gas in your tank(s). I think they cost approx $20 each. We think it's a big help to see what our level is, helps us plan for refilling at convenient and economical time.

Jim
These only tell you the pressure in the tank. They will usually read ok right up until you are nearly empty. The gauges in the tank are the best option. They read liquid level. Not completely accurate but they do work.
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Old 03-22-2010, 08:49 AM   #9
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Quote:
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Propane may be odorless, buy any propane you purchase has been odorized pretty significantly. You will smell the rotten garlic smell in your trailer if the stove pilot light blows out, or you have a leak inside the cabin anywhere.

Yeah, it smells kinda like an open black tank, I guess.

Three years ago we were on our way to Vancouver, BC, and I smelled propane pretty strong in the galley. Turned off propane, got my wrenches out, took the piping out from under the oven. Tightened the joints, put it back in and tightened snugly.

Turned on the propane, drank a tall cold one, walked back into the trailer, and smelled that propane perfume again. Stuck my nose under the oven, no smell. Walked back and forth sniffing, and opened the pantry. Whoof! Strong propane smell -- it was a not so fresh prematurely rotting garlic bunch.

We don't pack fresh garlic -- the minced stuff in the glass jars seals well and works just fine for our steaks and stuff. Still check the piping regularly but no more "leaks".

Good luck,
Jim
Good story Jim, got my morning chuckle out of that one.
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Old 03-22-2010, 10:05 PM   #10
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Propane Levels

So it sounds like the sum of all these tips are needed to keep from running out of propane on a cold night. Gauges only work right before you run dry. Hot water a good test as long as the water heater has propane. Practice my discernment and after time I too can tell by running my hand across the tanks. When in doubt disconnect everything and shake. Oh yes and keep the Garlic in a sealed jar, Is that about it? When in doubt fill it up anyways,
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Old 03-24-2010, 07:28 PM   #11
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Yeah, that's about it. Our in-tank gauges are okay, pretty good for a rough indicator of propane level. Caressing our tanks is pretty nice, but my arms and hands tend to start looking like a sheet metal worker's unless I get the cover off first. Garlic in the jar is not as good as fresh, but is a lot better than interrupting a perfectly good afternoon chasing after the wrong smeller.

One other good measure we always follow -- only run one tank at a time, keep the other one piped but valved off. You really do want to know, even at night, when you have run the first tank down. It takes seconds to switch over and you're back in biz. And you're aware you only have two or three weeks, or whatever your customary rate of usage, to refill the first bottle. Hasn't failed us yet.

Jim
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Old 03-24-2010, 09:33 PM   #12
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I've been waiting for this response from someone, but do you not have an automatic changeover regulator like this? When one tank runs empty, it signals red and you know it has switched to the other tank. Flip the selector and refill the empty one. When that tank runs dry, repeat. These regulators only run one tank at a time, but switch automatically. All you have to do is look every now and then to see if it has changed from green to red in the indicator.
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Old 03-25-2010, 07:27 AM   #13
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Propane Tanks

Good thought Jim on the switch over. I automatically turn both tanks on so if I just turn one on at least that way if one runs dry at midnight I'll know the other if full. Now that I think about it I'm sure I left the pilot light on in the Magic Chef and that over about 3 weeks could have used up some of the gas, also possibly the fridge was on the auto mode so it would of run long as the battery had charge. The smell in the trailer was probably just the exhaust fumes since she was all sealed up. Goes to show that a checklist when packing up is always a good tool to make sure that things are actually turned off.
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Old 03-25-2010, 07:31 AM   #14
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Propane Tanks

Good link Vaughan. I do have a switchover valve but the red plastic tab broke off so it's hard to know which tank is active. Probably worth the money for a new one.
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