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Old 09-13-2009, 09:26 AM   #1
waldmeer
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LP Tanks Refilling - Questions

Have had my 5th wheel for less than a month now. Had motorhomes for more than 20 years but when retired and now full-timing have switched to a 5th wheel.

On the motorhomes I had installed a "Stay-A-While" connection before the LP Regulator. With this I was able to hook up a small 20 LB LP Tank and take it in for refills when needed. WHen we started to travel south for the winter a few years ago I saw so many who had to pack up their motrthome only to go a few miles to get their LP tanks filled and then return and set up all over again. Adding the small tank seemed much better than packing up just to get the LP tank filled.

With the new 5th wheel it has two 40 LB tanks. How heavy are these tanks when filled? I am not sure I can lift them out and back in when filled. My 5'er has an automatic switch over but no meter/gauge to let me know when a tank is empty. SO do both tanks go empty before I know they are empty?

What have some of the other full-timers done regarding the LP tanks?
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Old 09-13-2009, 10:11 AM   #2
Motor31
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You can do the same thing with the trailer as you did with the motorhome if you want to. It will mean having to get the smaller tank filled. The mobile truck propane companies normally do not fill the trailer tanks like they do the motorhomes so you end up pulling the tanks and taking them in to fill.

I just use one tank at a time and fill it. The switch WILL move from an empty tank to the full one but it's an internal movement. The switch will not flop over so you have no visual cue. It is possible to run both tanks dry if you are not monitoring them. One thing you can do to keep from running out is to only open the valve on one tank at a time. When that tank runs dry you have no propane and can then switch manually or fill the empty one while still having one tank full to run on in the mean time. That's what I do.

I do monitor the level closely on the tank in use in the real cold part of the winter. I just get a glass of hot water and pour it down the side of the tank. I then run my hand down the tank to feel where the level of liquid propane is. There will be a noticeable spot where the liquid level is cooler than the now warmed side of the tank.

Figure on about a 50+ pound tank when full. You can simply do it yourself or grab a buddy to help out. Most of us RV'ers are willing to help swap a tank if asked. Get a small roller luggage cart to move the tank around when out of the trailer. It helps I know.
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Old 09-13-2009, 03:33 PM   #3
waldmeer
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Thanks Motor31

Thanks for the reply. Some good suggestions that I will be able to use. I appreciate the suggestions.
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Old 09-13-2009, 08:37 PM   #4
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I have the same size tanks. I weighed mine the first time I filled them and they each weighed 65 lbs. each
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Old 09-14-2009, 10:52 AM   #5
LindaH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Motor31
The switch will not flop over so you have no visual cue.
On every fifth wheel we've had, we DO have a visual clue when one of our tanks is empty: the indicator changes from green to red. When we take the empty tank out to get it refilled, we flip the switch to point at the full tank and the indicator then goes from red to green. We are in the habit of opening the door to the propane tanks every day to check the color of the indicator. Once it turns red, we know we have a tank to fill.
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Old 09-19-2009, 02:10 PM   #6
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Newbie here. LindaH, is the valve on your standby tank closed or open while the first tank is in use? We have the automatic transfer valve and it was my understanding that if the valves on both tanks were open when the first tank runs dry it will automatically switch to the other full tank. I have been checking the black lever thinking it would flip from the tank in use to the standby whenever the first tank ran dry. That apparently is a misconception on my part?
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Old 09-19-2009, 04:53 PM   #7
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propane tanks

The automatic changeover regulator works so that you don't run out of propane when one tank empties. The black lever should always be pointed toward the tank in use--when the tank the lever is pointed to, the indicator in the view sight will turn from green to red. At that point, you change the lever to the second tank. The indicator will go back to green. At this point, you know you have one tank empty and need to get it refilled. After refilling the first tank, reinstall and the lever will be on the second tank. Then you know you have a full tank and one that is being used from. What you don't want to have happen is, when the indicator turns red, you ignore it--you will then run out on BOTH tanks whether or not you move the lever.
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Old 09-19-2009, 05:15 PM   #8
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Thanks Wingnut60. Please correct me if I am wrong but if I understand this correctly the black lever simply switches the red/green indicator from one tank to the other and has nothing to do with the automatic transfer valve or which tank is currently supplying gas to the system.
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Old 09-20-2009, 08:34 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaH
Quote:
Originally Posted by Motor31
The switch will not flop over so you have no visual cue.
On every fifth wheel we've had, we DO have a visual clue when one of our tanks is empty: the indicator changes from green to red. When we take the empty tank out to get it refilled, we flip the switch to point at the full tank and the indicator then goes from red to green. We are in the habit of opening the door to the propane tanks every day to check the color of the indicator. Once it turns red, we know we have a tank to fill.
Linda the quote, which you took out of context, was not about an indicator if the tank is empty. It is about the automatic switch over to the remaining tank. The switch will transfer internally and does not move the external lever to show that you are now drawing from the full tank. At the same time the red indicator also does not change until you manually flip the change over valve. It does not indicate the status of the second tank when it changes internally.

The internal switch over operation and tank level indicator are separate functions of the switch.

Bill you are incorrect. The lever does change which tank you can draw from if moved manually. As I stated earlier, it will not show that the switch has moved internally to the full tank if you run the other one dry. For this to happen you have to have the valves on both tanks open. The valve senses the empty tank and internally changes to the full tank. There is no flop of the main valve lever to show the change has occurred. The red indicator also does not change unless you manually flip the lever over.

It is very easy to run both tanks dry in the Winter if you leave both tank top valves open. That is why I only open one valve at a time. When that tank runs dry I manually flip the switch, open the second tank top valve and then go fill the empty tank. This way I keep the second tank in reserve at all times. I normally put the refilled tank in the rear and close the valve so I know I have a completely full tank there and run off of the tank I just opened. This rotates the tanks and propane for our rig. I've run out totally before and Murphy's law says it will happen on a holiday weekend in the middle of the night on the coldest night of the year. Doing it my way means I will only have to fill one tank at a time and will have a full one to draw on in the mean time. I also monitor a tank as it gets low, checking the actual level by the warm water method so I don't get caught by surprise by running out. I have no problem switching manually before the first tank runs completely dry.
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Old 09-20-2009, 02:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Motor31
Linda the quote, which you took out of context, was not about an indicator if the tank is empty. It is about the automatic switch over to the remaining tank. The switch will transfer internally and does not move the external lever to show that you are now drawing from the full tank. At the same time the red indicator also does not change until you manually flip the change over valve. It does not indicate the status of the second tank when it changes internally.
Right, and that's pretty much what I said, just in different words.

If you get in the habit of checking the indicator every day, then once it turns red, you know the one tank is empty and the second tank is full, or nearly so. Now, if you don't check the indicator but, say, once a week, then when you see the indicator is red, you really have no idea WHEN it turned red nor how much propane is remaining in the second tank.
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Old 09-21-2009, 12:46 PM   #11
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Good discussion. Thanks for the clarification, I think I have it now.
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Old 09-21-2009, 11:21 PM   #12
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Now that you have the system figured out something to consider. I have always used my built in yanks as backup and hooked up a 22 gallon tank with its own regulator and used the on board only when traveling or when the 22 gallon went dry. that way it was not an emergency to get tanks filled. This year I will even have 2- 22 gallon tanks. hate to get caught in the cold with out gas, we boondock all winter and propane could be a good drive away

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Old 09-22-2009, 10:07 AM   #13
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propane tanks

Linda,
Sounds like you have it figured out now. Seeing that you have an Excel trailer--we are currently at Mt Views RV Park in Creede, CO. There is a rally for Excel owners from CO and NM here right now--maybe 20-30 units here.
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Old 09-22-2009, 11:01 AM   #14
LindaH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillA
Newbie here. LindaH, is the valve on your standby tank closed or open while the first tank is in use?
We always leave both tanks open. We do a lot of boondocking and if we were to leave one tank closed, then when the tank in use became empty, there'd be no propane to run the refrigerator. If the tank became empty at, say 10 PM after we'd gone to bed, the refrigerator would be without propane for maybe up to 12 hours or more.

I know some people leave the tank not being used closed so they know when they run out of propane, but, as I've mentioned, if you get in the habit of checking the indicator on your propane tanks every single day, you'll know within a 24-hour period, when one goes empty.
Quote:
We have the automatic transfer valve and it was my understanding that if the valves on both tanks were open when the first tank runs dry it will automatically switch to the other full tank.
That's correct. If it doesn't, there's something wrong with your transfer valve.
Quote:
I have been checking the black lever thinking it would flip from the tank in use to the standby whenever the first tank ran dry.
No, the position of the lever doesn't change until you manually change it...only the indicator changes, from green to red. Once you manually change the position of the lever to point to the full tank, the indicator changes from red back to green.
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Old 09-25-2009, 07:55 AM   #15
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You'll soon learn how long a tank last. Then you won't need to check every day. I only check mine every couple of weeks and in 14 years of full time living I've never run out of propane.
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Old 09-27-2009, 09:43 AM   #16
LindaH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rverdlm
You'll soon learn how long a tank last. Then you won't need to check every day. I only check mine every couple of weeks and in 14 years of full time living I've never run out of propane.
We've been fulltiming since 1998 and we STILL check our propane tanks every day. It's just a habit that we've gotten into and it only takes seconds to do, so why not?
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Old 10-03-2009, 06:10 AM   #17
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Marshall also makes a remote change over indicator that I have installed on my last two rigs. It clips over the indicator and then the small panel cna be mounted inside the RV. When the indicator changes to red, a very bright yellow led starts flashing until you manually change the regulator switch to the fresh tank. I have foud this to be a very handy addition as I do not have to keep checking the regulator to see if it has switched.
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