Having an efficient yet safe gas system aboard your campervan has many useful applications. For instance, chances are you’ll want to have a way to prepare hot food in your campervan. If that’s true, then it’s worth noting that the most common fuel type used for cooking aboard a campervan is gas. But it’s not just cooking equipment that uses gas.
From heaters to 3-way refrigerators, gas is the primary source of fuel for many different campervan appliances. When you factor in all the various gas appliances at your disposal, having an onboard gas system becomes a desirable option for your campervan conversion.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about a campervan gas system. You will learn the different methods to safely store gas aboard your campervan. Furthermore, we discuss the best way to efficiently distribute gas around your vehicle. And finally, we will cover the main gas appliances you may likely use aboard a campervan.
To make this article easier to follow, we have broken the campervan gas system into two parts:
- Gas Storage System
- Gas Distribution System
Gas Storage System
The first challenge is storing gas safely aboard your campervan. For this, you have two options:
Replaceable Gas Cylinder Bottle
What is a replaceable gas cylinder bottle?
A replaceable gas Cylinder is a pressure vessel that is designed to store gas under pressure. As the cylinder bottle is classified as a replaceable cylinder, this means it cannot be refiled by the user.
For example, once the gas eventually runs out, you would then exchange your empty gas cylinder with a new one. It’s also worth mentioning that the company you purchased the Replaceable Gas Cylinder from usually owns the cylinder bottle. Most of the time, you actually just rent the gas cylinder, and only pay for the gas inside.
Advantages of a replaceable gas cylinder
Installing a replaceable gas cylinder bottle aboard your campervan is an excellent way of storing gas. Here are the main advantages why you should use a replaceable gas cylinder bottle for your gas storage requirements.
- Super Safe. They’re incredibly safe, very affordable, and come in a range of sizes.
- Low Installation Costs. As you don’t have to install additional parts that are primarily for refillable gas cylinders, costs are kept to a minimum.
- Variety. A replaceable gas cylinder comes in a variety of gas storage capacities. As a result, you should be able to install a replaceable gas cylinder that sufficiently stores enough gas to run your onboard gas appliances.
- Convenience. Simple to replace and swap out. It averagely takes approximately 1 minute to swap out a replaceable gas cylinder tank.
Disadvantages of a replaceable gas cylinder
- Not Travel Friendly. If you plan on doing any international travel for more than 2 weeks, then a replaceable gas cylinder might not be the best option for you. As the gas cylinder is not owned by you, you might find it a challenge to exchanging your empty tank in a foreign country. There is also the problem with non-standard gas fitments. Unfortunately, valve connections on a gas cylinder often don’t follow any type of international standard. For example, a gas cylinder from France might not connect to British fittings.
- Expensive gas. Price of gas (per litre) is more costly compared to the amount you would pay if you were to manually refill the cylinder. In some cases, this can be as much as a 50% increase.
- Cumbersome. Having to disconnect/connect a heavy gas cylinder may prove to be labour intensive.
- Uses internal space. The cylinder is usually stowed inside your campervan. This will inevitably take up some of your valuable interior space.
Method 2 – Refillable gas cylinder
What is a refillable gas cylinder bottle?
Similar to a replaceable gas cylinder, a refillable gas cylinder is a pressure vessel that is designed to store gas under pressure.
The key difference is a refillable gas cylinder can be refilled with gas that is available at an L.P.G. station. For the leisure market, a refillable gas cylinder comes in two variants.
Onboard Refillable Gas Cylinder Bottle
An onboard gas cylinder looks like very similar to a replaceable gas cylinder bottle. But take a look on top of the cylinder, and you will notice an additional gas valve that is primarily for refilling. Just like a replaceable gas cylinder, you store the refillable cylinder bottle inside your campervan.
Underslung Gas Cylinder Tank
As the name states, an underslung gas cylinder tank is installed on the underside of your campervan. Apart from being on its side, an underslung tank works practically the same as an onboard refillable gas cylinder bottle.
One great benefit of an underslung tank over the onboard version is they offer a much higher gas storage capacity. Furthermore, as the cylinder tank is installed on the underside of your vehicle, you won’t have to use any of that valuable interior space.
Are refillable gas cylinders safe?
Refillable gas cylinders are incredibly safe and come with a host of safety features. One feature, in particular, is the addition of an internal cut-off valve.
This works by shutting off the inlet valve as soon as the internal capacity gets to approximately 80% full. This is an excellent safety measure that prevents the user from overfilling the cylinder.
Another brilliant safety feature is a pressure relief valve. These valves are designed to release any build-up of gas if the tank was to exceed a predefined internal pressure.
How do you refill a campervan gas cylinder?
Refilling a refillable gas cylinder will ultimately come down to the type of fill adapter fitted to your gas storage system.
Most underslung cylinder tanks come with an external fill adapter. This is usually installed on the underside of your campervan vehicle body.
Simply attach an L.P.G. refilling nozzle to the external mount and commence refilling.
Onboard Cylinder Bottle
With a cylinder bottle, you typically have two options.
- Direct Fill. Attach an L.P.G. refilling nozzle directly to the fill valve on top of the cylinder bottle.
- Install an external fill point. Similar to the configuration you would find on an underslung tank, this is a specially developed hose and fill adapter that attaches directly to a refillable cylinder bottle. It is then routed to the outside of the vehicle and attached to the underbody. This then allows you to simply connect an L.P.G. filling nozzle to the external fill point and commence refilling.
What about travelling abroad with a refillable gas cylinder?
As you are not having to change the gas cylinder every time you run out of the gas, you now don’t have to worry about exchanging your cylinder. However, you now face a few more issues.
Problem 1 – L.P.G. Nozzle Fitments
The nozzle connection used at an L.P.G. station to fill a vehicles L.P.G. tank will vary depending on the county you are in.
- 28 European nations use a Dish Nozzle Connector.
- 12 European nations use an ACME Nozzle Connector.
- The final 4 European nations use either a Euroconnector and/or Bayonet Nozzle Connector.
North America & Australia
- All three nations use an ACME Nozzle Connector.
Thankfully, a way to get around this is to purchase an L.P.G. fill point adaptor. These adaptors connect to your campervans gas fill point and allow you to safely attach any type of nozzle connector.
Problem 2 – L.P.G. Gas Cylinder Refilling Laws
The laws on refilling gas cylinders vary depending on the country you are in.
As this is a bit of a minefield, and rules are constantly changing, here’s an extremely brief oversight to challenges you may face when travelling with a refillable gas cylinder abroad.
- In certain countries, it is not permissible to direct fill your gas cylinder bottle. However, using an external fill hose is permitted.
- In certain countries, it is illegal to fill any type of gas cylinder bottle.
- In certain countries, the public isn’t allowed to fill a gas cylinder bottle. This filling process must be carried out by a professional technician.
Thankfully, this only affects a small number of countries. If you would like to find out more information, check out this great webpage over at mylpg.com
Advantages of a refillable gas cylinder
- Very safe. Every single gas cylinder, when manufactured, must pass a set of safety tests. Furthermore, each cylinder typically comes with additional safety features built-in.
- Lower Priced Gas. Gas at an L.P.G. fuel station is typically sold several times cheaper than the cumulative cost of renting/exchanging a replaceable gas cylinder bottle.
- Travel friendly. Straightforward to refill, especially when travelling abroad.
- Huge Variety. Both the onboard cylinder bottle and the underslung tank come in a wide variety of size and storage capacity configurations.
- Space Saving (underslung). If you choose to install an underslung gas cylinder, you will not have to use any interior space.
- No Heavy Lifting. As you’re not replacing the gas cylinder every time you run out of gas, you won’t need to disconnect/connect the gas cylinder bottle.
Disadvantages of a refillable gas cylinder
- High Cost Of Installation. Initial costs can be high compared to the costs of a replaceable gas cylinder system.
- Refilling Rules and Regulations. Certain countries don’t allow L.P.G. stations to ‘direct fill’ a gas cylinder bottle. This means you’ll have to fit an external fill hose.
Gas Distribution System
Now you know how to safely store gas aboard your campervan, the next task is to install a system to safely distribute the gas for each individual appliance.
Listed below are all the necessary parts you need to safely distribute gas around your campervan.
Low-Pressure Gas Regulator
The internal pressure of a full gas cylinder can reach up to 9 bar (130 P.S.I). If you were to then connect your gas appliances directly to your gas cylinder, the operational pressure would be far too high. This is where a gas regulator comes in.
A gas regulator is a control valve that reduces the input pressure of the gas to the desired value at its output. A low-pressure regulator reduces the pressure of your gas system to approximately 37 mbar.
A gas manifold is a device that evenly distributes individual gas supplies to each appliance. This makes running multiple gases feeds a simple process.
Another excellent feature of a gas manifold is the ability to shut off a single gas supply feed. Typically, you would install the gas manifold directly after your gas regulator.
High-Pressure L.P.G. Hose
Gas Safety Equipment
Carbon Monoxide Alarm
One of the dangers of burning natural gas aboard a campervan is the build-up of carbon monoxide gas. Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas that in high doses can quickly kill.
Furthermore, It is near impossible to identify without the use of the correct detection equipment. Not only should your campervan have proper ventilation, but it’s also imperative that you install a high-quality carbon monoxide detector.
Drop Out Vent
As L.P.G is heavier than air, if you were unfortunate to get a gas leak, the gas would first accumulate at floor level. L.P.G. is known as a ‘pooling’ gas – which simply means it behaves like a puddle of water.
The more gas that leaks, the bigger the ‘pool’ would become. To help disperse the gas, you can install drop out vents. These are specially developed vents that allow gas to escape through the floor to the exterior of your campervan. Consequently, these vents should hopefully prevent any build-up of flammable gas.
Gas Safety Locker (Bottle Only)
One of the most common places you can get a gas leak on your gas system is at the gas cylinder bottle connection point. One method to add a little extra safety is by installing a gas safety locker. This is a specially fabricated air-tight metal container that are purposely made to houses a gas cylinder bottle.
Typically, a gas safety locker is manufactured from steel then finished in a tough powder-coat. You access the locker via a removable front panel that is generally held in place by a twist-latch. Once the front panel is locked in place, the metal case becomes air-tight, preventing any gas entering your vehicle interior.
As a result, If you were unfortunate to get a leak from your gas cylinder, the gas would now safely exit the locker via a vent to the exterior of your campervan.
Gas Warning Stickers
Some people choose to display a sticker on the rear of their campervan, stating the vehicle is carrying compressed and flammable gas. Depending on the country you are travelling, this might be a legal requirement.
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