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Old 07-26-2010, 12:29 PM   #1
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Ran out of propane today

I've been wondering for awhile now just how accurate the propane gauge on the inside panel could be. I check it all the time and it always indicates full, both tanks. I filled it up over a year ago. Used the trailer last summer for several trips. A week in the fall. Three weeks this past spring and now, on the road for the past month or so. Still showing full. We don't travel during cold weather so we are not using the propane hog heater. Anyhow. Last night I couldn't get it to work on gas. We were visiting a relative and I noticed that it wasn't working on gas. So I plugged it in to AC to keep it working while I pulled the gas tank off to check and sure enough they were empty. No big deal. I got them filled today but it, at least, answered my question about how much I could trust the panel gauge. And the answer is " NOT AT ALL ". I don't know any way to check other than taking them off and feeling them or better yet weighing them.
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Old 07-26-2010, 12:59 PM   #2
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How about something like this?

GasWatch Propane Tank Level Indicator - with Leak Detection and Emergency Flow Reduction for your BBQ, RV or Boat's Propane Tank
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:02 PM   #3
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It may be you lost that gauge function when the tanks were upgraded to POL valves required in the late nineties. If there is no wire connection to the tank it is gone.
You can also get a pretty good idea how much gas you have by pouring hot water on the bottle and feeling foe temperature change when you slide your hand across it.

Your change over valve should also indicate when your first tank runs out and it automatically switches to the other.
There should be a lever or switch on the regulator that you switch toward the bottle in use. Leave both bottles on and there is usually some kind of visual indicator that will change from green to red or something similiar when it goes to the second bottle. At that point you can take the first one to be filled.
As far as I know the gas watch thing referenced above is little more than a pressure gauge and when the pressure drops significantly you are nearly out
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:02 PM   #4
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When the primary tank runs out the indicator on the regulator will show red instead of green. Just check the regulator from time to time and you should be fine.
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:39 PM   #5
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Curious. Why would you have both propane tanks open at the same time? I open one - when it runs out I go out and open the other and at my earliest opportunity take the empty one and get it filled. That way I have a full tank at all times. No gauge to worry about and never run out. No other system makes the slightest bit of sense to me. But maybe I'm missing something.
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:48 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Al - K4GLU View Post
Curious. Why would you have both propane tanks open at the same time? I open one - when it runs out I go out and open the other and at my earliest opportunity take the empty one and get it filled. That way I have a full tank at all times. No gauge to worry about and never run out. No other system makes the slightest bit of sense to me. But maybe I'm missing something.
Opening both tanks prevents running out in the middle of the night, while cooking or any other use of propane, but you need to watch the indicator to make sure that you don't run both tanks empty.

Bill
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al - K4GLU View Post
Curious. Why would you have both propane tanks open at the same time? I open one - when it runs out I go out and open the other and at my earliest opportunity take the empty one and get it filled. That way I have a full tank at all times. No gauge to worry about and never run out. No other system makes the slightest bit of sense to me. But maybe I'm missing something.
When one tank empties, it changes to the other and propane "service" is uninterrupted. You don't have to relight everything. When one empties, signaled by the indicator turning red, you do what you do now, go refill at your earliest opportunity.
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al - K4GLU View Post
Curious. Why would you have both propane tanks open at the same time? I open one - when it runs out I go out and open the other and at my earliest opportunity take the empty one and get it filled. That way I have a full tank at all times. No gauge to worry about and never run out. No other system makes the slightest bit of sense to me. But maybe I'm missing something.

Here's your multiple choice question. My propane is Guaranteed to run out when?
  1. I'm covered in soap from head to toe
  2. It's raining cats and dogs outside
  3. It's 3:00 am and COLD and I can't find slippers or head lamp
  4. I'm boondocking and have 20 lbs. of Kansas City steaks in the refrigerator because I'm hosting dinner
  5. some of the above
  6. most of the above
  7. all of the above
With both tanks open it only happens half as often!

And seriously, as your tank nears empty you'll find the flame on your stove and your water heater gets weak. Moral of story... If you fulltime, fill every three months regardless... If you camp periodically, check them every time you pack. No one wants 20 lbs. of rotting meat in the reefer!


Paula
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Old 07-26-2010, 02:00 PM   #9
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My previous post #3 should have said OPD valves, not POL.


As a tank gets low, usually with in a day or less of running out, particularly an older one you may also notice odor in the trailer sending you for the soapy water to check for leaks. I suspect this is caused by accumulation of the additives that give the gas its smell in the bottom of the tank
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Old 07-26-2010, 10:14 PM   #10
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Thanks for the input. I think I'm tuned in now and have some concept of the usage I can expect in the type of traveling that we do. There are no wires so I guess that throw's the internal gauge out. I will just have to monitor the usage / levels a bit more regularly now. It sure could have happened at a worse time. Actually I did pretty well and discovered it at a time when I had access to shore power to use. Life is good.

Thanks again, in SE Iowa for these couple days. Then heading home
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Old 07-26-2010, 10:37 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by polarlyse View Post
Thanks for the input. I think I'm tuned in now and have some concept of the usage I can expect in the type of traveling that we do. There are no wires so I guess that throw's the internal gauge out. I will just have to monitor the usage / levels a bit more regularly now. It sure could have happened at a worse time. Actually I did pretty well and discovered it at a time when I had access to shore power to use. Life is good.

Thanks again, in SE Iowa for these couple days. Then heading home
The bottles that were compatible with the gauges and the wires for them were missing when I bought my Excella. The levels on the monitor system (the internal gauges) show full all the time on mine too. Since nothing was connected to the tanks, I knew better than to believe them.

I've seen new tanks that have the gauges (40 Lb. (9.4 Gallon) Vertical Aluminum LP Tank) but have not seen the connectors for the wires anywhere. I'm sure that they must be available somewhere, but given the cost of a couple of tanks with the gauges I will not be needing the connectors any time soon.
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Old 07-26-2010, 11:00 PM   #12
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I never run out of propane.

Hi, I started with two full tanks of propane. I turn on both tanks. I turn the lever to one side. When that tank is empty the indicator turns red. Now it is operating on the other tank. This can happen in one trip or take several trips to empty one tank. When at home I will remove the empty tank and have it refilled. Now I turn the lever towards the remaining tank. On real long trips and in real cold weather like my last trip to South Dakota where it reached zero degrees and never got above freezing I had to run my furnace 24 hours a day. This almost drained both tanks in just over one week. Knowing that I was headed for cold territory, I topped off both tanks in my last stop in Wyoming. And on my way out of South Dakota I had to stop and fill both tanks again.
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Old 07-27-2010, 08:52 AM   #13
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I didn't know that the switch indicator turns red and will tell you that you have switched to the second tank. You learn something new every day. And this was today's lesson. I never felt comfortable trusting the inside level indicator but without any other measure I just watched it say "FULL" all the time. I knew that it had to be wrong but short of removing the tanks and weighing I didn't know any other way to tell. So now I have a guide to use and trust and insure that I don't get caught in a bad spot.

Thank you all,
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Old 07-27-2010, 02:49 PM   #14
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I know this is somewhat off topic, but this discussion reminds me of the old Pullman railroad cars. They used a lot of propane (each had a propane-powered electric generator and most also had a propane-powered air conditioner), and they had an interesting propane-handling system. Each car had several 100-pound propane tanks, which were all piped into a single manifold. The gas coming from each tank into the manifold was regulated to a different pressure. For instance, tank 1 would feed in at 40 pounds, tank 2 would be 35 pounds, and so on, in 5 pound increments. There were check valves that would not allow the tanks to receive any gas back from the manifold. All tanks would be open at the same time, which would result in the tanks feeding into the manifold and emptying in succession, beginning with the one that had the highest pressure. There was a pressure gauge on the manifold which was visible from outside the car. Using this, you could tell which tanks were empty and which were full. If the car had six tanks set up as described above, and if the gauge on the manifold said 25 pounds, you'd know that tanks 1, 2, and 3 were empty (since they were regulated to 40, 35, and 30 pounds), that you were now working on tank 4, and that tanks 5 and 6 were still full. It's probably not practical (and maybe illegal) to rig up a similar but scaled-down propane system for an Airstream (and if I tried it, the resulting fireball would be visible for miles), but it's food for thought.

Mike
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