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Old 10-29-2003, 08:57 PM   #1
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LP Gas Level Indicators

My 2004 Safari 28W doesn't have a LP gas level indicator on the monitor panel like some of the Classic models I've seen. I've been told about magnetic level strips but have heard negative reviews about them. Heard about some type of hot water trick too. What do you guys do; I don't have a good sense yet of how much gas I'm using on weekend trips cuz I'm still on the first tank. Anything aftermarket out there?

Airstream: 2004 Safari 28W
2005 Chevy Suburban 2500 8.1L
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Old 10-29-2003, 09:51 PM   #2
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2018 Interstate Grand Tour Ext
Austin (Hays County) , Texas
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I initially used the stick-on and/or magnetic strips. They work, but they were a pain to bother with and, over time, I just stopped checking levels. When I turn the gas off at the end of a trip, before I turn any valves, I check the red bar on the auto-changeover regulator. If it is red, I switch it over and pull the empty tank off for refill.

Unless you are boondocking in cold weather, there is little need for propane. The refrigerator uses an extremely small amount of gas and the stove uses very little, even on the rare occasions when I use the oven.

I have to fill no more than 2 20# tanks a year, so there is very little value in checking more often or more accurately. Now, with 30# tanks on the new trailer, I will probably find an empty tank about once a year.
John W. Irwin
2018 Interstate GT, "Sabre-Dog V"
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Old 10-29-2003, 10:17 PM   #3
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My experience with my '01 27' Safari was about 1 or 2 tanks a year dependent upon how much spring or fall use. Two things that I did to monitor usage. First I would occasionally check the in use tank after heavy usage. During colder weather there was a very evident moisture line which shows the liquid level in the tank.

The second check in the summer was again a check after heavy tank usage (after showering). You will feel a definate difference in the temperature of various portions of the tank as you move your hand from top to bottom which again clearly defines the level of the liquid.

Finally when a tank runs out, I get it refilled at first opportunity. I have never exhausted my gas supply following this practice.

Jack Canavera
AIR #56
'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 10-30-2003, 06:57 AM   #4
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1994 36' Classic 36
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How does it work?

I have the LP indicator on my control panel but I am curious how this indicator actually senses the status of the LP tanks.

Any takers?
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Old 10-30-2003, 09:03 AM   #5
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1996 30' Excella
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The LP indicator on my trailer works off the gauge on top of the tank. A wire plugs into the gauge which reads out inside. However when the indicator inside says the tank is empty there is still some left in the tank. I always check the indicator on the regulator and only switch the tank after it turns red, and then fill the empty tank.
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Old 10-30-2003, 10:46 AM   #6
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I dont think my 83 Excella has a guage outside of the unit but I will double check.

Any one have a unit a little closer to an '83 with LP indicators?

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Old 10-30-2003, 10:59 AM   #7
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The OPD valves have complicated level sensors a bit as they will not co-exist with float guages used in the past. Now you need two ports on the tank, one for the OPD valve and another for the float guage. The float guage may have a dial for direct reading or a sender for remote reading.

The most reliable means to determine fuel level is to weigh the tank. The tare or empty weight of the tank is stamped on its colar,

The easiest way to manage fuel is to use two tanks and a switching regulator. When one is empty, flip the primary source feed valve then remove and refill the empty tank.

Otherwise, you have to determine fuel level using the heat capacity difference between liquid and gas in the tank. It is easier to heat the tank wall (using sunlight or hot water, for instance) that has gas behind it than it is to heat the tank wall with liquid behind it. So pouring hot water and feeling where the tank wall temperature changes can give you an indication of liquid level. You can also see this as frost dissapears in the cold morning sun.

You can also get some indication by using the fact that the liquid to gas conversion needed as fuel is used will cause cooling. Fire up the water heater, furnace, stove burners, and anything else gas for a few minutes and then feel the tank for a temperature difference at the gas/liquid boundary.

One of these days they might have see through plastic tanks - I wonder how they would look on an Airstream?
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Old 10-30-2003, 11:40 AM   #8
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As a reference on LP usage:

During the months on March & April while using my furnace in northern NM, I was going through a 30# tank a week.

The last time I filled my tank was the 1st of June and haven't needed a refill yet; and this is with showering, cooking and washing dishes daily.

With the auto change-over regulator, just check the indicator every so often and when it turns red, refill at that time. Even if you missed it for a couple of weeks during the warmer months, you still shouldn't run out of gas.

But if you're going to be camping during the cold months when you'll be using your furnace, check the indicator more often. The furnace really is the only gas sucking appliance in the trailer.

Hot water heater: to conserve gas, I turn mine on prior to showering and once it shuts off, I switch off the hot water heater and I'll have enough hot water to shower, shave & was my dishes. Note: while showering, I don't let the water to continually run.
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Old 10-30-2003, 12:39 PM   #9
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Smily asked how the level gauges actually work. I took my old ones to bits when I transferred to OPD valves. They appear to act like fuel gauges in motor vehicles. There is a sealed metal float like a short cigar tube. This floats on the surface of the liquid gas, and is connected to the fitting at the top of the tank by a rigid wire lever which pivots at the top. In the part of the sensor outside the tank is a rheostat, a variable resistance. This is just a coil of wire, along which the top of the pivot lever sweeps. A 12 volt supply is fed to the section of the resistance included in the circuit by the pivoting arm. When the float is at the top, very little of the resistance is included in the circuit, and a comparatively large current flows. When the float is at the bottom of the tank, most of the resistance is included in the circuit, and less current flows. A current measuring device, such as an ammeter, or some LEDs, can then be used to measure and indicate the fullness of the tank. Because the new OPD valves also have a float, and this float uses the place where the level measuring float used to be, we can't use our old floats and gauges with OPD valves in our original aluminium tanks. The latest tanks have OPD valves, and an additional threaded hole off-centre in the top, enabling the use of the original level indicators, while enjoying the benefits of OPD valves, and the new safety flexible pipes, with quick-connects and fire sensor shut-offs. I hope this is reasonably clear, Smily. Nick.
Nick Crowhurst, Excella 25 1988, Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins Diesel. England in summer, USA in winter.
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