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Old 11-14-2013, 07:20 AM   #1
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Turning off refrigerator before fueling TV

I've been reading several posts recently that talk about turning off the refrigerator before fueling the TV. This is something we have never done and I am wondering if this is something the more experienced Airstreamers do consistently?
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Old 11-14-2013, 07:25 AM   #2
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I do not turn off Lucy's refrigerator (running on LP) while fueling my tow vehicle, and have not ever done so.

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Old 11-14-2013, 07:31 AM   #3
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Old 11-14-2013, 07:34 AM   #4
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:00 AM   #5
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Nope. That's not to say I shouldn't. Just seems like over worry.
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:04 AM   #6
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No doubt I should …………..…… but I never have!

I suppose I could rationalize it by saying that diesel is not very volatile - but then I suppose there are a lot of folks filling up with gas all around me!

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Old 11-14-2013, 08:05 AM   #7
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The theory is that your pilot light (or spark ignitor) could ignite gasoline vapors.

But that bumps up against something called the Lower Explosive Limit. The ambient air in a service station, assuming you don't have spilled fuel puddling under your trailer, will usually not have enough fuel mixed in the air for your trailer to accidentally ignite the vapor.

It would be different if you had a motorhome and your fridge was just a couple of feet from the fuel filler opening. Most spark-ignited vapors you read about are right by the gas pump, not thirty feet back from it.

But if you pull up to the second pump in line, so that your trailer is alongside the first pump, then someone else fueling at that pump on the opposite side could be releasing enough vapors for your pilot light or spark ignitor to light up.

I worked in my dad's service station back in the 70's. I witnessed a fire at a fuel pump set off by static electricity. But conditions have to be just right for such a thing to happen, which is why you seldom read or hear about it happening.

So, a commonsense approach seems best. When you get out of your vehicle to fuel up, sniff the air— back by your trailer's propane appliances, not by your own gas tank. If you smell gasoline fumes, consider shutting off your fridge and/or water heater for the duration. If you don't smell fumes, there's probably not enough of a concentration of vapors to ignite, and you don't need to worry about it.
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:54 AM   #8
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I often do if I will be refueling among the gas pumps where a spill or overflow from an adjacent gasser might run under my Airstream. I don't turn it off if I am out at diesel pump away from gas pumps.
I am not concerned about vapors from fueling. I am concerned about serious vapors from spills. I was raised in the oil patch in NM and witnessed some major conflagrations.
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Old 11-14-2013, 09:02 AM   #9
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I've moderated my approach over the years. When I first started towing, I always shut the fridge down. Now I try to be a little observant regarding the conditions when I shut down. First I try to position my trailer at an end site if possible. If I'm not at and end site, I always shut down. I also note the position of the trailer relative to the pumps. Sometimes based on pump occupancy my trailer is hanging out in an area with no pumps. I don't consider that hazardous unless the wind direction is blowing from the pumps out to the trailer. If my trailer is sitting on and end island next to a pump I'll again note wind direction. If the wind is absent or blowing from the pump towards the trailer, I'll shut down. Finally I don't pull next to any RV refueling. I just don't know how they treat fueling situations so I always assume that me fueling next to them can cause a hazardous situation due to the fact that their fridge is lit.

Technically you have an open flame in a tight compartment with natural ventilation which draws air into the area with the flame. I'd rather not guess as to whether the concentration of air/fumes is enough to cause a flash. The fact that for most of us it's a simple push a button to turn fridge off and on.

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Old 11-14-2013, 09:17 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by jcanavera View Post

Technically you have an open flame in a tight compartment with natural ventilation which draws air into the area with the flame. I'd rather not guess as to whether the concentration of air/fumes is enough to cause a flash. The fact that for most of us it's a simple push a button to turn fridge off and on.

Jack
Gasoline and propane safety is another of those volatile (yes, pun intended) subjects and tends to polarise people's opinions.

What Jack says is correct and I'm fairly certain that gas stations don't allow open flames within their boundaries. That said, on a number of occasions I've seen people standing around smoking under a gas station canopy and as the site operator hasn't thrown the main isolator switch on the pumps then I assume that the regulations are not that well observed. In the UK I've seen gas station operators isolate all the pumps simply because someone has been using a cell phone under the canopy.

Personally, I fully understand that the chances of a propane or gasoline mishap is very, very small, but I travel with the propane off anyway; my call, my peace of mind.
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Old 11-14-2013, 09:54 AM   #11
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It would take the perfect storm to ignite gas fumes unless there was some sort of spill onto the side of your fridge vent. The flame is fully enclosed in a metal box. I would be more concerned if you had a really short trailer and the fridge was on the same side you fill from. With my 31 ft trailer the fridge is about 20 ft away from where I am pumping. Now if you were fueling indoors then I would be more concerned.

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Old 11-14-2013, 09:57 AM   #12
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The PO of my trailer told me that he always turned off the propane when underway and recommended I do the same. Seemed to make sense given that the propane lines run under the belly. The recent Tesla fires caused by running over metal objects has reinforced that thought. Or is it being overly cautious? I'll be on a 4-month trek soon and it would be nice to keep the food cold.

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Old 11-14-2013, 10:07 AM   #13
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It is not practical to run with the propane off. Gas fridges take about a day to cool down so if you turn of the gas while traveling you can't put anything in the fridge and then the fridge becomes useless unless you travel and then stay somewhere for a month and then the day it takes for the fridge to warm up does not matter much. The propane system is something you need to inspect often for leaks. It has to be a pretty big leak for a long time to amount to much. Pressures downstream from the regulator are very small. Pipes are outside so that any gas leaks can dissipate. It is a good idea to have a propane detector. Propane trapped inside your trailer is a hazard.

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Old 11-14-2013, 10:09 AM   #14
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Makes sense, thanks Perry.

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Old 11-14-2013, 10:22 AM   #15
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It is not practical to run with the propane off. Gas fridges take about a day to cool down so if you turn of the gas while traveling you can't put anything in the fridge and then the fridge becomes useless unless you travel and then stay somewhere for a month and then the day it takes for the fridge to warm up does not matter much. The propane system is something you need to inspect often for leaks. It has to be a pretty big leak for a long time to amount to much. Pressures downstream from the regulator are very small. Pipes are outside so that any gas leaks can dissipate. It is a good idea to have a propane detector. Propane trapped inside your trailer is a hazard.

Perry
We don't have any problem with the practicalities of driving with the propane off, Perry. The fridge and freezer are cold before we start and usually full with stuff; if we're on a long day's drive then we throw a bag of ice in one or both. Both the fridge and the freezer stay cold for long periods of time, especially if you don't open them during the drive. We power everything up as soon as we arrive at our destination and everything's fine. It's just a different approach, is all.
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Old 11-14-2013, 10:27 AM   #16
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How many true accounts can be found of a RV blowing up a gas station?

The searches I completed lead to nothing more than the same speculation and personal opinions found here.


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Old 11-14-2013, 10:48 AM   #17
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The PO of my trailer told me that he always turned off the propane when underway and recommended I do the same. Seemed to make sense given that the propane lines run under the belly. The recent Tesla fires caused by running over metal objects has reinforced that thought.
The Tesla fires are not a good basis for comparison. Yes, your propane lines run under the trailer where they're exposed, but even if you ran over something— such as high-centering the trailer on a railroad crossing— and tore the propane line completely loose, that's still not certain to cause a fire. The concentration of propane in the air has to be between the upper and lower flammable limits (2.1% to 10.1%). Below 2.1% and the mixture is too lean to burn, above 10.1% and it's too rich to burn. And there has to be a spark or flame source to ignite it. With a broken propane line waving around under your trailer, with nothing to trap the vapor (which is heavier than air) the chances of having the right concentration are too low to matter.

It ain't like the movies, where shooting a gas tank or propane tank always causes an explosion. Ask any pilot who has ever been shot at in wartime, and took a hit to a fuel tank, and still flew home. A leak is always a leak, but it's not always a fire.
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Old 11-14-2013, 10:52 AM   #18
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How many true accounts can be found of a RV blowing up a gas station?
None. The vapors that get ignited are outside the vehicle, coming off the fuel nozzle. The RV won't blow up unless propane vapors inside are ignited. At most, the RV will get scorched before the fire can be extinguished. But the people doing the fueling can be hurt if gasoline vapors catch fire.
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:23 AM   #19
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We don't have any problem with the practicalities of driving with the propane off, Perry. The fridge and freezer are cold before we start and usually full with stuff; if we're on a long day's drive then we throw a bag of ice in one or both. Both the fridge and the freezer stay cold for long periods of time, especially if you don't open them during the drive. We power everything up as soon as we arrive at our destination and everything's fine. It's just a different approach, is all.
I suspect that this is a regional difference. Down here in the latitudes where Perry lives and where I do, the fridge won't stay cold enough inside in a day's drive in the summer unless everything in it started out frozen. This time of year, I could easily get away with what you describe, but with my fiddly old fully-manual fridge it's more trouble than it's worth, I like to keep it cold once I chill it down.

I'm avoiding this question entirely on the 28' trailer, I'm going to use a Danfoss-based 12v fridge. I'm doing that for better cooling capacity at 100F though, not to avoid having the propane on when traveling.
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:30 AM   #20
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There are many people in the broader RV community who believe it is best practice to run with propane off or to turn off propane appliances while refueling. Among experienced, traveling RVers (that is, not including people who mostly stay at a seasonal site), about 90% of people will leave the propane on while on the highway if it makes sense to do so (fridge, etc).

Fires at gas pumps are extremely rare. I tried to find some statistics, and as near as I can determine, it's around 10 fires per year nationwide. Nearly all of them fit pretty neatly into one of two categories:

1) Fire caused by static discharge when filling a portable container in an ungrounded location, such as a pickup bed with a bedliner or a carpeted trunk.

2) Fire caused by static discharge under extraordinary dry, desert like conditions, where the driver leaves the refueling point for a period of time and then causes a static discharge when contacting the nozzle while fuel is still flowing.

Gasoline vapors are much heavier than air and sink to the ground. You can stand in a puddle of gasoline and smoke a cigarette and the gasoline won't ignite unless you drop the cigarette. The prohibition on smoking near gas pumps is because of the hazard when a fuel spill is combined with a dropped cigarette or match.

Cars are full of ignition sources. Essentially any switch or DC motor will produce sparks. The starter motor produces sparks. The window motors produce sparks. Etc. But the statistics show that there aren't any fires from them.

Everyone has to decide for themselves but it's a hassle to shut off the fridge before refueling and then turn it back on.
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