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Old 01-08-2012, 07:27 PM   #1
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Propane tank switchover didn't indicate...

For the last few weeks, I've been keeping the camper warm via the furnace - we used the camper over Christmas, and we're going to Disney soon, so I decided to save the trouble of winterizing and just keep it warm, with thermostat at its lowest setting of ~50 degrees.

This gave me the first chance to check the automatic switchover functionality of the propane tee. It worked - that is, it automatically switched to the other tank when the first was empty - but the red indicator didn't show up. Anything I should look at on it?
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Old 01-08-2012, 08:15 PM   #2
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Paula

The red indicator will show up when your Second tank is empty - or your first tank is empty and the valve on the second is OFF.

If it switched over, go ahead and fill the first one.
During winter I carry two spare 20 lb tanks, just in case. Why is it that the second tank always goes empty at 3:00 am?

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Old 01-08-2012, 08:22 PM   #3
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We have 2 tanks and have never run out of propane. We leave both tanks on...then we check the indicator regularly... when it's red, we turn the handle toward the opposite tank that it's then drawing on. The indicator will turn green immediately when we turn it to the fresh tank. Take the empty tank off, get it filled, re-install it and turn it on...and when the other tank indicates red, repeat, filling the other tank...
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Old 01-08-2012, 09:16 PM   #4
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Both of the regulators we have had on our Bambi have functioned the same way. With valves on both tanks open, the tank selected for supply will empty first and, when it is empty, the switchover is automatic and the top 1/2 of the indicator red. The bottom 1/2 is still green.

Switching over to the second, full tank brings the indicator back to completely green. The indicator goes to completely red when both valves are open and both tanks are empty.

We found out to watch for the half-red indicator the hard way ... by running completely out of propane in the cold. Sometimes you need to look closely at the indicator to see that it is 1/2 red.

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Old 01-08-2012, 10:45 PM   #5
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Marshall Brass makes a remote changeover indicator for its auto regulators. When it switches, a LED flashes on the inside of the trailer. I've had one for about a year now, much easier to spot. Of course, you do have to remember to watch its batteries. When the LED looks anemic flashing, time to check.
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Old 01-09-2012, 05:54 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Foiled Again View Post
The red indicator will show up when your Second tank is empty - or your first tank is empty and the valve on the second is OFF.

If it switched over, go ahead and fill the first one.
During winter I carry two spare 20 lb tanks, just in case. Why is it that the second tank always goes empty at 3:00 am?
Okay, TBRich's description of how it works is how I understood it - your description makes it sound like it won't turn red until both are empty (which is kind of a useless thing to indicate...).

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Originally Posted by TBRich View Post
We have 2 tanks and have never run out of propane. We leave both tanks on...then we check the indicator regularly... when it's red, we turn the handle toward the opposite tank that it's then drawing on. The indicator will turn green immediately when we turn it to the fresh tank. Take the empty tank off, get it filled, re-install it and turn it on...and when the other tank indicates red, repeat, filling the other tank...
In any case, I saw no red or green at all... from the directions on the regulator, I think it should turn red when it flips to the second tank. I'll try to remember to take a picture of the regulator this week.

This isn't a huge deal for me, since both tanks have gauges, so it's easy enough to monitor what's going on even without the red indicator. But it'd be nice to have it working.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vswingfield View Post
Marshall Brass makes a remote changeover indicator for its auto regulators. When it switches, a LED flashes on the inside of the trailer. I've had one for about a year now, much easier to spot. Of course, you do have to remember to watch its batteries. When the LED looks anemic flashing, time to check.
That looks interesting, but I'm not sure I need to go that far (plus I'm not sure if I have a compatible model).
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:03 AM   #7
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Hi Skater

The red will only indicate when the tank pointed to by the lever is empty. So once you flip the lever the indicator will show green again.

You can check it by closing the tank vale on the tank "pointed to" and running the furnace for a minute or two to burn off the propane in the lines.

If it doesn't turn red, it's shot, and you need a new one. They're cheap, and the manufacturers recommend replacement after 15 years anyway so you're past due.
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer
Hi Skater

The red will only indicate when the tank pointed to by the lever is empty. So once you flip the lever the indicator will show green again.

You can check it by closing the tank vale on the tank "pointed to" and running the furnace for a minute or two to burn off the propane in the lines.

If it doesn't turn red, it's shot, and you need a new one. They're cheap, and the manufacturers recommend replacement after 15 years anyway so you're past due.
I think the indicator moves when the pressure of the tank selected as primary drops below a predetermined value. The ones on my prior trailers went completely red. This one moves into the red, but when viewed from slightly above ( with the tank cover lid open ) a lot of the green remains visible. The switchover is correct so I assumed the indicator was sticking or wasn't adjusted correctly during assembly. I will check to see if it does go completely red using Jammer's suggestion. It may be that they are just "cheap."
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Old 01-09-2012, 09:09 AM   #9
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I had one on my old SOB which stuck once. Tapped it and it immediately went all red while lever pointed to empty tank. Only happened that once.
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Old 01-09-2012, 09:13 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
Hi Skater

The red will only indicate when the tank pointed to by the lever is empty. So once you flip the lever the indicator will show green again.

You can check it by closing the tank vale on the tank "pointed to" and running the furnace for a minute or two to burn off the propane in the lines.

If it doesn't turn red, it's shot, and you need a new one. They're cheap, and the manufacturers recommend replacement after 15 years anyway so you're past due.
Sounds good. I did tap mine a couple times and saw no red. The hoses going to the tanks are kind of brittle, too, so it's probably not a bad idea to just replace all three pieces.
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Old 01-09-2012, 09:32 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skater View Post
...

This isn't a huge deal for me, since both tanks have gauges, so it's easy enough to monitor what's going on even without the red indicator. But it'd be nice to have it working.

...

That looks interesting, but I'm not sure I need to go that far (plus I'm not sure if I have a compatible model).
My Excella has the readouts in the control panel, but none of the tanks I have have the gauges. I decided that the LED indicator was a much less expensive proposition than two new tanks with gauges. Plus, the warning is automatic. Doesn't depend on me remembering to check.

It's been a very long time since I've had another switching regulator other than a Marshall, so mine have been compatible. The one that was on my Trade Wind was another design, but I replaced it with a Marshall sometime in the 1980s shortly after I bought it.
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:32 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by vswingfield View Post
My Excella has the readouts in the control panel, but none of the tanks I have have the gauges. I decided that the LED indicator was a much less expensive proposition than two new tanks with gauges. Plus, the warning is automatic. Doesn't depend on me remembering to check.
Yeah, I have the LED readout, too. I think, from my days as a B190 owner, I'm already trained to be very, very mindful of the amount of propane aboard, because the last thing I wanted to do with the motorhome was get set up somewhere then realize I was out. You have NO idea how much I prefer having tanks I can remove and easily get refilled, versus driving the whole camper somewhere.

Quote:
It's been a very long time since I've had another switching regulator other than a Marshall, so mine have been compatible. The one that was on my Trade Wind was another design, but I replaced it with a Marshall sometime in the 1980s shortly after I bought it.
I'm not sure what brand mine is, but I can tell you that it didn't match anything I saw during a quick search online. Mine is a dark gray plastic with a large arrow-knob. The ones I saw online were mostly chrome made by Camco I think. I know those would work but I kind of like the OE one better.
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:54 PM   #13
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One time I got to thinking that it had been a long time since the indicator turned red, so I took the tanks loose and gave them a lift. The one that the lever was point to was empty, and the other wasn't very heavy, and the indicator was still green. After filling the empty tank, I checked the operation of the changeover valve, as described above, and found that it never went to red. I replaced it for about $30.00

They don't last forever.
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Old 01-10-2012, 07:02 AM   #14
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Well, I'd planned to look at the valve more closely, in the 50 degree weather we were supposed to have yesterday. But instead we had snow. This also used much more propane than I'd planned, so I might get to test that switchover again this week before we leave on our trip...

My lesson learned: Next time, I'll just winterize it again. We were camping in it over Christmas, and we're going to Florida (leaving in a couple days), so I decided that I'd just keep the furnace on, at a low level, for the three weeks or so. Unfortunately, I've spent far more time worrying about it and checking it (not to mention refilling the propane tank) than I would've just winterizing it.
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:19 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vswingfield View Post
Marshall Brass makes a remote changeover indicator for its auto regulators. When it switches, a LED flashes on the inside of the trailer. I've had one for about a year now, much easier to spot. Of course, you do have to remember to watch its batteries. When the LED looks anemic flashing, time to check.
I installed one last summer in our TT, and I love it. It is good to know the instant the changeover happens rather than having to continually check the regulator.
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Old 01-10-2012, 10:12 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skater View Post
My lesson learned: Next time, I'll just winterize it again. We were camping in it over Christmas, and we're going to Florida (leaving in a couple days), so I decided that I'd just keep the furnace on, at a low level, for the three weeks or so. Unfortunately, I've spent far more time worrying about it and checking it (not to mention refilling the propane tank) than I would've just winterizing it.
Depending on your storage situation, consider
a) Electric heat
b) A (possibly larger) propane tank at your storage location so you can keep your travel tanks full.

Winterizing and de-winterizing is time consuming to do well. It's easy to make expensive mistakes.
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Old 01-10-2012, 11:20 AM   #17
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Quote:
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Depending on your storage situation, consider
a) Electric heat
b) A (possibly larger) propane tank at your storage location so you can keep your travel tanks full.

Winterizing and de-winterizing is time consuming to do well. It's easy to make expensive mistakes.
Electric heat was a possibility but I wanted to be sure the tanks got heat, too, which is why I stuck with the furnace (remember, I wasn't keeping it at a 70 degrees - I was keeping it above freezing).

I considered the larger propane tank option, but for ~3 weeks, it didn't seem worth the hassle.

When I winterize, I just blow out the lines really well, and I don't bother with the pink stuff any more (well, it's in the traps and gray/black tanks, but not in the fresh system). I got tired of smelling it well into the camping season when I did use the antifreeze. It's especially bad if you don't flush the water heater well enough! (The B190 did not have a bypass, and I couldn't install one easily because it had that gray '90s-era plastic tubing.)

Because we camp over Christmas, I'm already used to winterizing twice a year - once around Thanksgiving usually, then again after Christmas. I did this with the B190 for two or three years. I've only winterized the trailer once so far, but now that I've done it and figured out where the drains are (the manual is wrong...), I'm fairly sure I can do it inside of a couple hours, including the time getting all of the freezable supplies out of the camper. De-winterizing, when you don't use the antifreeze, is just a matter of re-loading the freezable supplies. (Obviously I don't need the antifreeze for our winters. If I was farther north or something, then I'd use the antifreeze.)

Conversely, I've spent more time than that checking the propane levels and going inside to verify the thermometer readings (lowest is 28.9 degrees, right under the water heater) and spot checking the temperature. And just in general worrying about it when we had a cold snap, like last week when it was down to 17 degrees one night. Add in the time I've spent getting propane refilled, and it's like, "Ah."

Additionally, because yesterday was much colder than predicted, we used a lot more propane than I expected - I thought we'd have 1.5 tanks or so when we left, but now I think I'm going to want to fill a tank before we hit the road, so that's one more thing to take care of.
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Old 01-10-2012, 07:44 PM   #18
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I've never had the furnace on anything as long as that. Do you get 3 weeks out of a pair of tanks in Maryland? I'm guessing 30-lounders?
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Old 01-10-2012, 09:15 PM   #19
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I can go through a pair of tanks in three days if the weather isn't unseasonably warm (as it is now).

Hence the suggestion that maybe getting the local propane dealer to bring out a couple of 100# tanks might be the cheapest and least hassle. The ones around here do that routinely for construction and don't charge for the tanks themselves, just the propane.
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Old 01-11-2012, 05:50 AM   #20
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I've never had the furnace on anything as long as that. Do you get 3 weeks out of a pair of tanks in Maryland? I'm guessing 30-lounders?
Yes, these are 30 lb tanks.

Here's the story: We were camping over Christmas, and both tanks were full when we started. The left tank was nearly empty at the end of that weekend, and I set the thermostat to its lowest setting, ~50 degrees, when we got home.

I filled the left tank one day that week (probably Thursday or Friday - I don't remember). I filled the right tank Sunday. Last night, the left tank was down almost halfway again.

So at this point, ignoring the time we were actually using the camper, we've used about 1.5 tanks of propane since December 26th. This included a cold snap of a couple days, including one night where it was down to 17 degrees. It also included two days over the weekend where it was up to 60 degrees (the truck and trailer got washed...not something I expected to do in JANUARY!). The rest has been fairly seasonable for the DC area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
I can go through a pair of tanks in three days if the weather isn't unseasonably warm (as it is now).

Hence the suggestion that maybe getting the local propane dealer to bring out a couple of 100# tanks might be the cheapest and least hassle. The ones around here do that routinely for construction and don't charge for the tanks themselves, just the propane.
Yep, this probably would've been the best solution, if I did want to keep it warm - and one 100lb tank probably would've done it, too. If this situation comes up again, I'll probably just winterize it, though.
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