We get asked this question a lot at Caravan Advisor! Today’s bumper post covers absolutely everything you need to know about gas for your caravan, along with some essential maintenance and safety tips. So grab yourself a brew and get stuck in!
Gas bottles are essential in caravans because they provide fuel for heating, cooking, and water heaters, but you will use less gas if you have an electric hook-up.
Unfortunately, however, it is not always possible to completely stop using gas. To preserve space you should instead opt for lighter, smaller-sized gas bottles.
What Size Gas Bottle Do I Need For My Caravan?
The amount of gas used in your caravan will likely determine the size of the gas bottles you buy. You will use more gas if you plan to travel in winter, heat the caravan, and cook with the main oven and all four gas rings. It is possible to calculate how much gas you use each day.
It can be difficult to work out how much you will use – but an average touring caravan will consume between 0.8 and 1.5kg of gas per day.
LPG can be used in caravans and motorhomes to provide heating, cooking, and refrigeration. It is also independent of site supplies.
LPG is usually supplied in a pressurized cylinder. The fuel inside is kept under pressure as a liquid. Once the fuel is released, it becomes gaseous. The pressure required to supply LPG to appliances must be at the right pressure.
This can usually be achieved using a pressure-reducing regulator, which supplies gas at the same pressure as the system. Propane and butane are the two main gases used. They are both LPG products but have slightly different characteristics.
Cylinders And Regulators
Although larger cylinders are suitable for caravan and motorhome use, they can be found in many sizes and colours, depending on their source. However, the two Calor types that predominate are red cylinders containing propane or blue cylinders filled with butane.
Caravans and motorhomes had different regulators until September 2003, depending on the gas being used. For propane, it was 28mbar (millibar), and for butane, it was 37mbar.
Some units in continental Europe use higher pressures than others, as high as 50mbar.
A European standard (EN 499) has established a 30mbar supply pressure for both gasses in the EU. It was adopted in September 2003. Pre-2003 units required different regulators depending upon the gas used. However, all current UK-built caravans operate at 30mbar. This figure should be noted in the gas locker close to the regulator.
This table lists the most common types of cylinders found in the UK, along with their dimensions and weights. You may find other makes in different parts of the UK. However, you won’t always be able to exchange them outside the country. You can find larger sizes, but they are only for domestic use.
The ideal storage place for cylinders is in the gas locker. Gas cylinders should always be transported in a vertical position. If they are left down on their sides, liquid LPG may escape from the valve – something you definitely don’t want happening!
Gas Bottle Weight Matters
The chart below shows that some cylinders are very heavy and must be considered when loading a caravan/motorhome. The noseweight of most gas lockers is affected by their location in caravans. Gas cylinders, and any other items you add, are included in the user’s payload.
|Supplier||Gas Type||LPG Weight (kg)||Total Weight (approx kg)||Height (mm)||Diameter (mm)|
A high noseweight will generally improve stability. However, there are certain limits set by caravan and tow car manufacturers that should not be exceeded.
Two full 6kg Calor Calor cylinders can add nearly 28kg to your noseweight!
If you have to transport the cylinders somewhere else, this should be considered a problem.
Although we would never recommend that you carry gas cylinders in your car, they can be secured and kept upright if really needed. You can also use Gaslight composite cylinders from Flogas (formerly BP Gaslight).
The UK chose to use bulkhead-mounted regulators instead of the cylinder-mounted versions when the new regulators were introduced.
These regulators can be used anywhere in Europe, provided a local cylinder is connected to the existing regulator via a flexible high-pressure pipe or a pigtail with the appropriate adaptor.
Which Gas Should I Be Using?
The number of appliances, gas requirements, and temperature will affect which gas is best for you.
Because of its higher off-take rate propane gas can supply more appliances simultaneously and can be used at sub-zero temperatures – so are great for winter caravanning. Butane gas produces less gas at temperatures below 4C.
The prices of both gases are very similar, so there is little benefit to buying butane. However, you get slightly more energy from a butane-filled cylinder than a propane cylinder of the same volume. If you’re a warm-weather caravanner, however, butane will work fine.
Using Caravan Gas Overseas
Calor Gas is still the preferred choice for many campers in the UK. However, it is not available in mainland Europe, so there are other options.
1. You will need enough gas to last you for the duration of your stay. Two 6kg propane cylinders are sufficient for most people to use for a 2 to 3-week summer stay at a site with an electric hook-up.
Crossing providers have LPG limits. Check their website to see current limits.
2. Campingaz is a popular gas you can use. It’s widely available across the European continent. Use the store locator tool to visit their website.
3. Buy a bottle, regulator, or adaptor in the country where you are staying. When purchasing a cylinder in Spain, you will need to provide a gas safety certificate from the local authority.
After that, it is just a simple exchange process like in the UK. The local campsite staff will be able to tell you where to locate a local workshop. France has a wide selection of bottles.
4. Install a refillable system or a self-refillable container. Many countries
Europe has a large network of LPG and Autogas filling stations at fuel forecourts. It’s worth noting that there are four types of connectors and not all countries use the same bayonet-type as the UK.
Check with your supplier to see what adaptors you might need. Propane is the predominant gas used.
Tunnels And Ferry Crossings
Vehicles with removable cylinders may use UK tunnels, provided that the gas valve is closed. However, there may be limits on how much gas can be carried. This limit is usually higher than what would be allowed for caravans or motorhomes. Eurotunnel trains are not allowed to transport vehicles that are propelled by LPG or any other compressed gas.
Similar rules apply to roll-on-roll-off ferries. However, there are variations in continental Europe and the UK. Check with your ferry operator. The number of cylinders that you have must be declared to the ferry company and the ship’s officers.
There must be no more than three – two in the case of some operators. All cylinders must be secure against movement and turned off at the valve.
Eurotunnel allows 50kg of gas to be transported with portable cylinders and 47 kg when a fixed installation is turned off or isolated.
You should check with your tour operator if you have a motorhome that has a fixed LPG tank.
How Much Gas Do I Need?
The ambient temperature, number of gas appliances being used, power, and length of time they are being used will all affect the amount of gas required. Most people don’t bother to figure this stuff out. They just use the gas until it runs dry and then change the tank.
Many people consume between 0.8 to 1.5kg of gas each day. This is an average of 1.2kg. You will need less gas to heat the warmer weather. If you have an electric hook-up that can provide electricity for heating, cooking, and refrigeration, the gas supply can last longer.
Cylinders can run out of gas at the most inconvenient of times, so it is important to be aware of when your gas is low! Some cylinders have an indicator or translucent cover that allows you to see the contents.
Most steel cylinders don’t have any means to reveal the contents. However, after-market devices like Truma’s Gas Level Check can give an indication. A pricey bit of kit but really worth it.
Many other gas indicator brands are emerging, but the Truma Level Check gas indicator stands out as one of the clear leaders, having won numerous industry awards for its performance.
The indication is designed to work with both all-steel and aluminium LPG cylinders, which should cover the majority of caravan owners.
For the reading to be accurate, the cylinders must have a diameter of between 200 and 250mm.
It contains an LED indicator that turns green if there is gas remaining in the cylinder and red if there is none.
Once you’ve completed measuring, the LED screen will switch off automatically.
This is a simple product that does the job well while also being durable and long-lasting. It also has a flashlight built in.
Our advice is to grab one while you can as they regularly go out of stock!
To find out how full the cylinders are, you can weigh them on a bathroom scale and then use the total weight figures from the table. You can also buy gaslow and Truma changeover valves that will automatically change your cylinders if there are two of you.
However, they need to be monitored, or you’ll end up with two empty ones.
It is even more important to make sure that the gas you use will be able to supply all of the appliances you wish to use at the same time.
You Might Be Interested In: The Most Reliable Gas Bottle Level Indicators: Our Picks
A 6kg propane cylinder can take up to 0.8kg of propane per hour. This is enough to power a space heater, refrigerator, water heater, and cooker.
However, if you use these items along with the grill and four gas rings simultaneously, the cylinder might not be able to handle the demand.
This can cause appliances to stop working efficiently or even malfunction and may result in them going out. To prevent unburnt gas from getting into your living space, a flame failure device must be installed.
This problem is rare in practice unless the cylinder size is smaller (e.g., a 3.9kg propane tank with a maximum off-take limit of 0.5kg/hr) and if you are using butane gas under near-freezing conditions.
Refillable Caravan Gas Cylinders
Although it may seem like a good idea to refill an existing cylinder instead of replacing it, there are legal, safety, and practical issues. This can only be done by LPG depots that have been approved.
You cannot refill a conventional cylinder yourself. Some cylinders can be filled by the user. The Gaslow and Gas It systems allow refilling at fuel stations from the Autogas pump.
This system requires a special cylinder that has a steel pipe connected to an automobile-type filler.
This is attached to the unit’s body and can accept the LPG delivery tube at fuel stations. For filling in continental Europe, adapters will be required as with LPG-powered vehicles.
Autogas availability varies across the continent. Safefill is a portable system that can be filled at numerous Autogas retailers.
Every system should include an inbuilt cut-off system to ensure that the cylinder is not filled more than 80 per cent. This is necessary to allow enough space for LPG expansion.
You must remember that you are operating a fuel delivery system at high pressure. Therefore, it is essential to take care. Please read the instructions carefully.
Caution: When travelling in Europe, some caravanners told us that they were offered refilling services for their conventional UK-based cylinders.
This practice is not recommended by the Club as it could lead to overfilling, which can pose a serious risk to your safety.
Fixed On-Board Tanks
Larger motorhomes are more likely to have fixed tanks that can be filled at LPG fuel stations. These tanks usually hold more gas than can fit in removable cylinders, making them ideal for continental touring.
However, there is a weight penalty, and additional weight can reduce your vehicle’s payload. Be aware of tanks that are too low and ensure that they are properly fitted and have adequate clearance. An NCC code of practice for fixed installations is something that any professional installer should follow.
Gas Supply Hoses
Gas supply hoses can deteriorate with time and use. They should be replaced every five years and more often in high-use situations.
UK hoses are marked with the date of manufacture. Hoses should be regularly inspected for wear and damage.
You must ensure that all hose clamps work properly and that the hoses have been placed to not be damaged by loose or other equipment.
A few caravans come with an external gas port that can be used to heat a barbecue. This is a convenient feature, but it is important that you take extra precautions when using this device. Safety reasons: It is not recommended that you use an external gas cylinder to provide gas to your caravan via this port.
Cooking that involves a naked flame should be done in an area protected from flammable materials. We feel that no barbecue should ever be used with the caravan supply or its own cylinder.
This is because of issues of ventilation, carbon monoxide accumulation, smoke inhalation, and fire safety.
The supply hose should be kept out of reach of people and pets. It should also not be left in an area that is likely to be used. Gas barbecues can consume a lot of gas, so it is good not to use other gas appliances simultaneously.
This information should be found in your caravan manual.
Caravan Gas Maintenance And Safety
LPG appliances and fittings must be maintained and checked regularly to ensure safety and reliability.
As part of the habitation service, the gas system should be inspected annually by a qualified individual. This service can be provided by an Approved Workshop.
It involves a gas leak test (gas-tight), let-by testing of the main valve, and a test to ensure that the regulator locks out at the correct pressure. The appliance function can also be checked.
For specific care, maintenance, and service requirements for your appliance, consult you manufacturer’s instruction manuals.
LPG should always be handled with care. LPG is not toxic and will only ignite if there is enough air. However, it can also be highly flammable.
- Before you travel, make sure to turn off the gas valve.
- To find a leak, never use a naked flame. The gas has a pungent smell that makes it easy for you to spot any leaks. Use a liquid detergent to clean all pipes joints. The gas will bubble past any leaks.
- You should isolate the source, preferably in its cylinder. Then, seek professional assistance. If there was an internal leak, you should open all windows.
- You should make sure that floor vents are not blocked. Gas is heavier than air and can pool on the floor.
- Be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning – see www.myccc.co.uk/cosafety.
- Fit a CO2 alarm.
- Before you travel, always turn off the gas in a standard cylinder.
- Do not smoke while changing cartridges or cylinders.
- Check that all vents are free of obstructions.
- Before lighting, place gas appliances out of reach from flammable materials and do not move them once they are lit.
- Make sure you have a fire blanket or extinguisher that is suitable for your needs. Also, be familiar with how to use it.
- Install a fire alarm
You should ensure that you have enough gas for your needs. Consider the size of your caravan and how much gas you plan to use. It might be worth having a spare, but it should not exceed the main cylinder.
This will ensure that the nose weight does not increase. You can check with the caravan site to find out if refills are available and if their gas mains are available.