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Old 11-28-2009, 12:45 PM   #1
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I have no clue about propane...Help Me!!!! for my lovely bus Victoria, I bought a $100 popup camper on craigslist to use for parts. It has a working range and furnace, both of which run off of propane. I have never even used a gas grill!!! Now it's getting time that I really need to pull these parts, but the propane in the popup camper is still connected, although the seller said the tank was empty. How can I safely remove the stovetop and furnace without getting hurt?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Nicholas Virgil
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Old 11-28-2009, 02:13 PM   #2
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Re: I have no clue about propane...Help Me!!!!

I could be wrong, but there should be some disconnect fittings near both the propane tank, the range and the furnace. Unscrew those items to disconnect them from the main propane line. If you're really paranoid about the gas, then unhook the tank first and leave the valve open for a couple of hours to ensure the gas is out of the system. Then unhook the range and furnace and move them to Victoria.

Good luck!
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Old 11-28-2009, 02:27 PM   #3
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Re: I have no clue about propane...Help Me!!!!

No sweat!

It'll only require a couple of pipe wrenches and a few hand tools to disassemle the current setup.

Just disconnect the empty tank(s), open the valves on the stove to clear whatever residual propane is in the lines, and you won't have any problems with the removal. It's just plumbing, basically. (Plumbing that can kill you or burn up your bus if you don't do it right, but it's not hard to work with.) Run your lines using regular black iron pipe (I used 1/2" pipe in mine, I think); use YELLOW (gas) teflon tape for the joints (available at most hardware stores that sell black iron pipe); and use one of those home-style flexible gas lines for connecting water heaters, stoves, dryers, etc. to house gas lines. It says DO NOT USE IN RVs on the flexible pipe connection piece, but I've never had a problem with it -- you pays your money and you takes your chances -- I think the issue is vibration cracking the flexible steel line, but I drive rarely, so it's not an issue for me (I have decided). You can shut the gas off to the stove at the TANK before you drive, then pressurize the system when you are set up somewhere, and then check for any damage to the flexible line. It's overkill, IMHO. If you do much driving, just make sure to secure the flexible line so that it does not vibrate. Maybe use some of those screw-down zip-ties every six inches or so (the whole flexible part on mine is just 18" long).

There's probably some expensive "RV rated" stuff like this at an RV dealership (shoot you can scrounge it from the camper installation!)

I have some information about how I installed an RV range in my bus on my pages in the Gallery. It has worked flawlessly for 5 years.

All you need for the plumbing are a couple of small pipe wrenches; yellow teflon tape for the joints; a tape measure; the right amount of black iron pipe and fittings (Ells, Tees, whatever your plan calls for); a replacement regulator for a gas grill (hooks to you LP tank); and the flexible stove connection. (Plus some brass fittings that will match the stove connection to the fittings on your range -- just have to see exactly what you have to figure out what you need.)

If you work with black iron pipe, you can get your pieces cut and threaded at the hardware store (usually) or by a plumber. Or you can just buy stock lengths and make the installation fit your needs somehow without cutting it. Nipples are used to join the joints that join pipe sections together at the fittings (ells or tees, or unions. They are just short pieces of pipe that are threaded on both ends.The nipple sizes for black iron pipe start at "close" (which means that the nipple is so short as to not add any length to the joined pieces, and go up to 12" by 1/2" increments, so you can generally make a length of pipe come out within 1/2" of what you need (E.G. Need 11' 8 1/2" piece of pipe = 10' length + coupling + 12" nipple + coupling + 8 1/2" section = 11' 8 1/2" -- [edited bad math] -- actually, each coupling adds about one pipe diameter to the length of the set-up, so you have to take that into account -- it's mostly trial and error, lay it out close, hook it up, see what you got, diddle it until it fits.)

I don't mean to minimize the safety aspects of this. Vibration does crack fittings, and a cracked LP fitting can kill in a few ways. BUT -- this ain't rocket science, just basic plumbing.

Check out my installation pages for pics.

Have fun.
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Old 11-28-2009, 02:57 PM   #4
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Re: I have no clue about propane...Help Me!!!!

Actually, now that I think about it, it might be worth it to try to salvage as much of the current (camper) installation as possible, at least at the stove hook-up end.

Do be careful working with the LP. Shut the tank off, and disconnect it -- that way no more LP can come INTO the line. You wan't a low pressure regulator for most LP ranges -- IIRC, I'm using one that is 1/2# of pressure on the low pressure side (side going into the stove -- the high pressure side is -you guessed it!- the TANK). Some regulators that you can get at the hardware store are for different applications, and have higher output pressures on the low pressure side. I just bought a replacement regulator at Lowes' about 6 months ago, and it cost well under $20. It was the cheapie replacement regulator for gas grills. Mine has about an 18" hose, but they come with shorter or longer ones. Shoot --- TAKE THE REGULATOR FROM THE CURRENT SET-UP! I'm such a dunce.

Just don't have any source of spark or flame when you do this. I got to thinking about it, and just opening the stove burners really won't drain the lines of gasseous propane (it's LP liquid propane in the tank, and it is gasseous after the regulator.) Propane gas is heavier than air. Your tank is lower (probably) than your stove, which means that all the gas in the line between the stove and the tank is lower than the stove. If you open the burners on the stove (after disconnecting the tank from the regulator), the pressurized gas in the line will vent -- but only until the remaining gas is at atmospheric pressure! MOST of the gasseous propane will leave because it is at higher pressure than atmospheric, but it will leave the line full of gaseous propane *at* atmospheric pressure. This won't be much gas in the line. You might just try lighting the burners to burn it off.

To be positive the line is empty, Take the regulator off the LINE (after you disconnect it from the tank) and open the burners, and blow air through the line for a while. That will positively purge the line.

Again, not trying to de-emphasize or diminish the hazards involved, but figure out how much volume the gas line holds between your tank and your stove -- it won't be much. Even if it did ignite, it would be a minimal hazard -- maybe a "pop", but not a gi-normous fireball consuming your garage and house. Of course, yes, it might start a fire when it "popped," but it's not going to be like an acetelyne torche going full blast on your livingroom floor. What I really mean to say is, be careful, but not paranoid/frightened to do this job. Just get some wrenches and go at it after you disconnect everything. You'll be fine!
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Old 11-28-2009, 11:24 PM   #5
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Re: I have no clue about propane...Help Me!!!!

I've run my own propane lines in two homes, and it's not rocket science. I used soft copper lines instead of black pipe.

The point about the regulators - the vapor boiled off from the liquid in the tank could be 100-200 psi when not being used. The tank pressure depends on the temperature in the tank and how fast you are drawing vapor versus how fast the liquid can boil. The gas in the plumbing lines is measured in "water column inches" and should be much less than 2 psi. Like the name implies, there is water in a clear u-shaped measuring hose or pipe, and the higher the pressure in the lines, the more it can lift water against the force of gravity. You only need to get into this if you are calibrating a regulator.

Often, the regulation is two-stage. There is a main step-down regulator between the tank and the piping system, and then each stove or other appliance may have its own regulator to step down further to its own working pressure. Just don't forget the main regulator when you transfer the system from the camper.

Also, it would be a good idea to have an individual shut-off on the feed to each appliance, so one appliance could be removed for service without shutting down you whole system.
Someone said "Making good decisions comes from experience, experience comes from bad decisions." I say there are three kinds of people: those who learn from their mistakes, those who learn from the mistakes of others, and those who never learn.
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Old 11-29-2009, 03:48 PM   #6
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Re: I have no clue about propane...Help Me!!!!

And, uh, dont forget to check each and every connection with soapy water while the lines are pressurized.
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