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Old 10-20-2014, 11:47 PM   #1
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Propane System Design

Well... I have searched pretty extensively, but haven't come up with much. However, I have learned a lot from threads such as SeanF's "Schoolbus Homestead". I am getting ready to plumb in our propane system after we get the spray foam insulation done next week. After a lot of research and decision, we decided to go with a blue flame propane vent-free heater instead of a wood burning stove. Part of this decision was because we will not regularly be in cold areas (and would like to keep our precious space) and we will already be running propane for our hot water heater (Precision Temp RV-550 NSP) and our oven/stove combo.

I am designing a system around using regular 20lb. propane tanks for ease of swapping them out. We are building a custom box to mount underneath the bus to house the tanks, very similar to SeanF's, but with our own twist. I know the pros, cons, and dangers of working with propane. We will be mounting propane detectors and CO Detectors inside the bus to keep us safe. I would like this thread to be free of clutter about the pros and cons of propane... but rather designing and building a system

So far, I have picked up 2 20lb tanks, a 2 stage Mr. Heater Auto-Changeover regulator (http://www.campingworld.com/shopping/it ... ator/24030), and hoses to connect the 2 tanks to the regulator.

From here, I needed to wait and do more research. Does anyone have links about designing a proper propane setup in a RV/Bus/Skoolie? I couldn't seem to find any?

I need to know things like when to use a hard line vs. rubber hoses, fittings, routing, etc. Any skoolie threads you can direct me to or tips on where to start my design?

I also want to take our safety in concern and do everything properly. Any help is much appreciated!

Thanks

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Old 10-21-2014, 09:24 AM   #2
r_w
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Re: Propane System Design

Lines IN the bus, in order of personal preference:

Stainless steel flex line--earthquake rated, easy. I would protect it from rocks and wheelspray outside the bus (conduit or shielded by frame/body). It has pressure losses from the corrugations in longer runs, so check pressure drops and upsize if needed.
Black steel pipe--old school and works. PITA and $$$ to make a bunch of corners. If you do it, use SS flex to connect to the appliances.
Copper--not cheap as it used to be, can work harden and crack from vibrations of the bus, but can run it places the other two won't always fit.
Rubber lines--NO, not in the bus. Too many problems with leaking connectors and short lifespan. I don't even like them between the tanks and regulator, they have gotten so cheap these days.

Routing:
Like everything in a bus or tiny house, shorter the better and the fewer splices the better. If you can keep everything on the same side, that is best. Everything under the bus needs to be protected from rocks, even black pipe in exposed areas.
Shutoff in the main line right after the regulator (with a marked access door like the battery disconnect), and every appliance in the cabinet or outside the bus, depending which is easier access.
Always protect the pipe at penetrations. Grommets, bulkhead fittings, clamps, etc.
I would probably do SS flex with conduit protection under the bus for a small system, and a mix of black steel and flex for a larger system with propane on both sides. But I haven't price shopped them in a long time.

Don't forget a quick-connect somewhere for an outdoor grill or cooktop if you plan an outside kitchen.
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Old 10-21-2014, 09:29 AM   #3
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Re: Propane System Design

Thank you so much! This is priceless info for me. I thought copper was my only option. Interesting to read about black pipe. This gives me some more ground to research from!
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Old 10-21-2014, 04:29 PM   #4
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Re: Propane System Design

Most tabletop type grills have their own regulator. Double regulating is not a good idea. Low Pressure Natural gas hoses are great IF THEY ARE REGULATED. If you try running high pressure propane gas (no regulator) thru the hose, you WILL blow it. Up side of blowing the Nat gas hose and emptying a full 20lb tank is I now know what the interior of a low pressure nat gas hose looks like (they are metal inside). How did this happen? We had two nat gas hoses. One was a high pressure natural gas/propane hose and the other hose was low pressure only. I bought a second low pressure hose and didn't realize it was only low pressure. Explains why it was so cheap. A 12-15 ft high pressure propane/nat gas hose will run you over $35. Non-regulated hoses should be rated about 300psi. The PSI will be imprinted all over the hose although you may need a magnifying glass to read it.
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Old 10-21-2014, 05:47 PM   #5
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Re: Propane System Design

I have 2 20lb tanks for my system I just run 1 regulator off one tank, and used rubber propane hose from there, I have fridge stove hot water and furnace,
I use the other tank for my bbq, or to switch out the other tank if it emptys. been working good so far
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Old 10-21-2014, 10:37 PM   #6
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Re: Propane System Design

Here's an older thread with some good information: http://www.skoolie.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=569
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Old 10-22-2014, 09:17 AM   #7
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Re: Propane System Design

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazty
Here's an older thread with some good information: http://www.skoolie.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=569
Thanks Jazty! Didn't find that one in my search
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Old 10-23-2014, 04:00 PM   #8
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Re: Propane System Design

Quote:
Originally Posted by gbstewart
I have 2 20lb tanks for my system I just run 1 regulator off one tank, and used rubber propane hose from there, I have fridge stove hot water and furnace,
I use the other tank for my bbq, or to switch out the other tank if it emptys. been working good so far
gbstewart
My system is similar to GB's. Two 20lb tanks live under the bed in a sealed box that's vented through the floor. Propane is heavier than air so vents go in the bottom of the box. A two-stage regulator attaches to a long rubber low pressure hose that runs to a gas manifold in the kitchen area (all propane hoses run inside the shell). I had a lot of that split plastic wire conduit left over when I stripped out my wiring and used it to wrap the propane hoses for some extra protection. More rubber hoses run from the manifold to the appliances. I also put in a good propane alarm just in case.

Regardless of the piping you use watch out for sharp edges when going through floors and walls and support the pipe so vibration is minimized. The chosen pipe material probably matters less than how it's installed.

The propane alarm should be considered mandatory in my opinion.
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Old 10-23-2014, 06:59 PM   #9
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Re: Propane System Design

Thanks for the tips Roach! You aren't too far away from us over there near Detroit!
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Old 10-24-2014, 12:15 PM   #10
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Re: Propane System Design

Quote:
Originally Posted by roach711
... Regardless of the piping you use watch out for sharp edges when going through floors and walls and support the pipe so vibration is minimized. The chosen pipe material probably matters less than how it's installed... The propane alarm should be considered mandatory in my opinion.
Like I posted to you on facebook (but will post it here again for others) we used PVC fittings as bushings. The hole in the fitting is big enough to allow the piping to go thru it. We just drilled a hole big enough for the PVC fitting to fit thru. We use a can of great foam to fill any excess space around anything that we run thru our floor then cut flush if needed after it dries. Very good method to keep bugs and critters out of the bus.
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Old 05-07-2018, 02:25 PM   #11
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Hey i know this is an older thread but maybe some of you are still out there?
I am working on the propane problem solving right now and had some questions about running the rubber low pressure hose. We have located our "Campchef" brand propane stove above our luggage compartment as to plumb propane up through the compartment from a horizontal tank to the stove. This will be our ONLY propane utility in the bus. The hole cut is 3 1/2" as to allow extra room to use pvc pipe as a protective shell for the rubber hose that would run from the tank to the stove, protecting from cut metal floor, rodents, and making a tighter fit to reduce drafting.
However, the hose we have has a regulator at the stove end, not the propane tank end. Does that mean that it is a high pressure hose and we should be locating the regulator (maybe with a gas shutoff) in the compartment with the tank and only run low pressure hose up into the bus to the stove? Many other people vehemently suggest use of black steel pipe or copper but it SEEMS like many people are just using low pressure rubber extender hoses like one would get for a bbq. is that the case?


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Old 05-07-2018, 03:01 PM   #12
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Ours has the regulator at the tank and low pressure rubber from there to the appliances. 6 years now and no problems with the original setup. The only leak we had was a bad rubber gasket on a 20lb tank we'd swapped out at the local hardware store.

Your tanks are pressurized up to 250 psi and the regulator knocks that down to .5 psi. Low pressure hoses should be used only on the low pressure side of the regulator.
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:09 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lornaschinske View Post
Most tabletop type grills have their own regulator. Double regulating is not a good idea.
Can someone explain why double regulating is not a good idea? Thanks.
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:24 PM   #14
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I'm planning on using this 29.3 gallon unit from Flame King. I saved one in my eBay watch list and saw the price fluctuate by $100 over a month or so. Last month they were up to $550. Right now they are down to $450, time to buy.
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Old 02-10-2019, 02:39 PM   #15
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Be aware that a vent-free propane heater will put lots of moisture in the air.

That can be a big problem when living in a small space in cold weather.

I tried an Olympic catalytic heater. It made plenty of heat but the moisture was a problem.

I will not be using it in my current build. If I can remember where I put it..... You can have it.

I would definitely recommend a vented heater.
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