Caravanners are generally divided on the issue of whether to use electricity or gas to power their caravan appliances. But there’s certainly no denying that gas systems make your caravan way more self-sufficient by reducing its dependence on an external power source. A number of caravan owners prefer to carry backup gas cylinders, just in case finding a powered site at a caravan park becomes too much of a task. Installing a gas system in your caravan comes with several safety requirements, and should only be done by a qualified professional. However, every caravan owner should be aware of the basic principles and precautions to be taken while installing a gas system, so let’s take a quick tour of the same.
The gas cylinder
Correct installation of the gas cylinder is a crucial first step in setting up your caravan’s gas system. The gas cylinder should be installed outside the caravan, or placed in a separate cylinder bin with a vent. On no account should this bin be used for additional storage purposes, and on no account should cylinders be placed inside your caravan. LPG gas is odourless, and as such a leakage can be extremely dangerous. The usual practice is to mount the cylinder in front of the caravan, on its A-frame, facing the towing vehicle.
Regulator and pigtail
The regulator should be fixed adjacent to the cylinder, in a vertical orientation with its vent pointing downwards, and slightly higher than the top of the cylinder. This is to ensure LPG does not trickle into the regulator via the connecting pigtail. Note that the outlet pressure of the regulator should be less than 3kPa.
The size of the copper pipe you purchase depends on the size of your caravan, as well as the number of appliances that the gas system will have to power. A professional gas fitter will be able to make a precise recommendation, but to get a general idea, large caravans usually need 3/8” pipes, while smaller caravans (less than 6m long) can make do with 5/16” pipes.
While installing the copper pipe, care should be taken that it is well protected from the elements, and well supported by means of rust-proof metal clips. These clips should be fixed at regular intervals, typically every 600mm of horizontal length of the pipe. Also ensure that the pipe doesn’t span for more than 1250mm vertically, and more than 150mm on any side of a turn or change in orientation. Keep all joineries easily accessible, while making sure that they don’t coincide with sleeping areas.
Configuring individual appliances
Every gas powered appliance in your caravan should have its own shut-off valve. This valve should be clearly visible and accessible. Each appliance should be connected to the main copper pipe running along the exterior of your caravan, by means of a branch pipe that enters your caravan right where the appliance is located. Avoid using flexible hoses, as they’re not the safest and have a relatively shorter lifespan. In addition to this, ensure that your gas powered appliances are securely fastened to the fixed surfaces of your caravan, to avoid movements that can weaken the junctions or joineries.
Every gas powered appliance has its own ventilation requirement (usually met by most modern designs). In addition to this, your caravan will also need some basic ventilation, which depends on its size and the total gas consumed by all its appliances. Consult your gas fitter to confirm that this ventilation requirement is met by your caravan. This is both a safety precaution and a legal requirement.
The above information should make your caravan’s gas system installation a little easier. Remember, though, that this is not a go-ahead for you to attempt the installation yourself. Hire a professional to ensure that you’re adhering to all legal and safety criteria, and get fuelled up for a safe and comfortable caravanning holiday!