The Mechanic – Issue 151 – Camping gas

The temperatures have been below freezing lately; not the ideal camping environment! As spring approaches, the campervans start to come out of hibernation, the the temperatures can still get low at night and that means heating. There are gas heaters on the market and these are becoming more affordable. Gas is also used for cooking in many campervans, so it’s time to talk gas safety! Types of Gas Let’s start by looking at the different types of gas available in the UK and beyond. All European countries have their own gas bottle suppliers and each of these have their own regulators and adaptors. Campingaz is available all through Europe in small bottles which is great for quick trips or for solo travellers. We (Editors) use campingaz 907 bottles as they’re fairly readily available in the UK and abroad and they fit nicely in the cupboard under our storage trunk! LPG (or Liquid Petroleum Gas) is the most common kind used in campervans and motor homes and it comes in two types; Propane and Butane. Without going into the differences between them in chemical structure, here are the main differences:
Propane • Usually used in vehicles where multiple appliances will be running off it. • Ideal for cold climates as it operates
down to -40°C! • It’s much lighter and less dense than Butane.

Butane • Operates more efficiently than Propane. • It’s denser than propane, so a bottle of the same size will hold more gas. • Butane can’t be used at temperatures below 0°C (It cools down to a liquid state). Different appliances may need one or the other of the main LPGs to operate effectively, so it’s always worth checking that before you buy. Gas Safety Rules • The standard that applies to campervans is BS EN 1949: 2001 + A1:2013. If you ever want more information, it is worth looking that up. • There isn’t the same level of regulations for fitting gas and gas appliances to motor homes and campervans as there is to houses, but would still recommend that anyone installing an appliance is registered. • If you’re installing gas appliances into your campervan, the British Standard isn’t mandatory, unless you’re going to be hiring that vehicle out. • If you are going to be hiring, ensuring that everything is compliant with the law is down to you, just as it would be if you owned a house or flat that you were renting out. • You’re allowed to undertake work yourself if you’re not a registered gas engineer, as long as you’re competent. (The definition of competence is vague, but you’ve got to ask yourself whether you’d be happy to undertake the work and have the responsibility on your shoulders).

There’s a lot that could potentially go wrong, and the stakes are certainly high, so it may well be worth getting a registered engineer to fit it. • Registered gas engineers can charge anywhere between £30 and £100 an hour, but it’s worth looking around in your area if and when you need one. Top Tips for Gas Safety • Ensure the gas is turned off before you travel. • If you’re using your vehicle for work purposes and carrying compressed gas, you must show a sticker to alert people. • If you’re not using your vehicle for work, but still carry compressed gas, it is advised to have a warning sticker displayed whilst carrying the gas. • Unless your campervan or motor home has a rotating rooftop device, you’re limited to carrying two 10 litre bottles of gas in the UK. • All flammable gasses must be carried upright at all times. • Make sure you’ve got a Carbon Monoxide alarm. They might not be stylish, but they’re potentially lifesaving.

Note that LPG gasses are heavier than air, so will form a ‘puddle’ on the ground in the event of a leak. • Floor vents must be kept clear. • If parked up in snow/mud/etc then ensure that the vents aren’t blocked. • Changing the bottle is the most dangerous time, always make sure that you know how to remove and fit the regulator and keep well away from naked flames when changing the bottle. • Don’t use a naked flame to look for a leak (sounds obvious!) and check for pipe leaks by using water and washing up liquid solution, bubbles will appear at a leak. • Make sure you have a fire blanket and/or fire extinguisher, as well as a fire alarm. • If you’ve got an older VW it is recommended to carry an extinguisher any way, in case of a dreaded engine fire. Can you really have too many extinguishers in an old VW? The rules and tips for gas safety aren’t complicated and if you keep to them, the use of gas in your campervan is perfectly safe and an excellent resource. Enjoy your campers this spring!