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Using Your RV : Tips & tricks

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Understanding your propane regulator

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If your RV is anything other than a motorhome, chances are good it has an automatic changeover regulator. We say that, as motorhomes come equipped with a single propane tank; all others commonly have two removable LP cylinders. Note, we use the terms "LP" and "propane" interchangeably.

Having two removable containers is really a blessing. If one goes "dry," it's a quick and easy step to take the empty out for a refill, leaving the other container with the rig, keeping stuff like the refrigerator operating. No need to move the RV to refuel the propane.

What makes this setup work so well is an automatic changeover regulator. The LP regulator reduces the pressure of the propane stored in the tank to a level your appliances can safely use. An automatic changeover regulator allows you to disconnect either one of the LP containers, while keeping the other propane container "on line." And it does so automatically, so if one goes empty, the other simply steps in and takes over the job without you having to get involved.

Lever shows left tank; flag says "full"
Pictured are two common changeover regulators. They all have a sight glass, which indicates whether the container is full or empty, and a way of directing the flow of LP, be it a knob or lever. Here's how it all works:

Pointer says right tank; red flag says "empty"
When you have your LP containers filled, and are in camp, open the valves on both LP bottles. Regardless of which way the knob or lever points, the sight glass will indicate a "full" tank. In the case of the lever-type regulator shown, the lever points to the tank being checked--in this case, the left tank. Once the left tank empties out, the regulator will automatically begin to draw from the right tank.

On this regulator, a silver flag is "full" indicator
The next regulator pictured shows the right hand tank is being checked. One photo, with a silver flag shown in the sight glass, indicates the tank is OK. But the next photo shows a red flag in the sight glass--the right tank is now empty. You'll have to learn what color means what on your own regulator.

How do you change out an empty bottle? Once the flag in the sight glass shows you have an empty, TURN the lever (or the pointer knob) of the regulator toward the "full" bottle. Then TURN OFF the empty container supply valve, and you can then safely remove the empty container by disconnecting the rubber "pigtail" or connector hose. If you don't FIRST change the regulator pointer, when you disconnect the empty cylinder, you may find LP rushing out of the pigtail.

When you bring the refilled cylinder back, slip it into place, connect up the pigtail, and open the supply valve. Just leave the lever or pointer on the regulator pointed at the other cylinder; it will "flag you" when it's empty.

These automatic changeover regulators are not only useful in keeping you in gas, they can also tell you if there's a leak in your RV propane system. Here's how to tell:

With all propane appliances in the RV turned off, and no pilot lights left lit (or turned on), turn off the gas valves on your propane containers. At this point, the regulator sight glass flag should show "full." If within a few minutes (or even a few hours) the sight glass flag should show "empty," it's a safe bet there's an LP leak somewhere in your system. Get your system checked.

All photos, R&T DeMaris

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