One FAQ on the Romahome Facebook group is about Gaslow refillable LPG conversion. Rather than keeping replying and getting my replies lost in Facebook's ephemeral system let's do it here.
Our R20 Brian The Snail came fitted with a 3.9Kg Propane bottle. This is fine and would last us at least a year if we weren't running the fridge off gas (i.e. just using it on hook up). But a few things made me want to convert to a refillable system
Firstly was a thought of doing more wild camping, or at least smaller, more basic sites so that hook-up might not be the norm.
The second reason is perhaps the more important - there is no warning system or fuel gauge on the propane bottle so we could run out of gas without warning and no cuppa!!!!!! An Englishman (and woman) deprived of their cup of tea is not a pretty sight. Of course, bigger vans get round the problem by simply carrying a second cylinder and either have an automatic changeover or simply manually swap when one cylinder empties. So we could simpy carry a spare cylinder but there's not enough external locker space so it would be taking valuable space inside the van - nope! Some people get round the problem by also carrying a small portable stove, the sort that run off small aerosol can type cylinders, but again, anything that takes up space inside our van is a no-no - we need it to be uncluttered if we are going to spend 2 or 3 months away in it.
Finally we had been reading that Propane is hard to find in Europe and so we might want to consider changing to Camping Gaz on any European excursions. Again too much mucking about as I wanted Propane here in the UK because of its superior winter performance.
So, we popped to our local Gaslow supplier and found, to my frustration that a 6Kg cylinder just fails to fit the R20 locker. Really annoying but we settle on a 2.9Kg bottle and a refillable system where the filler is directly connected to the bottle. To my surprise the supplier suggested this is a simply self-install exercise, so we left with a bottle (filled, of course), a self-fill adapter and a new hose. Our existing Propane regulator was fine for LPG (I think I remember that correctly, that it didnt need changing). Oh, the other thing we left with was a much emptier wallet!
Fitting was almost a doddle, the new hose is stiff and to route it to the bottle involved tortuous bending so we popped back to the supplier and bought a right angle coupler to fit to the bottle, this made the hose fit so much neater and with less twisting.
Most forecourts don't like self-fill and will actively stop you doing so - this is because many folks try to fill standard gas bottles without the 80% safety cutoff othat is built into Gaslow. Gaslow do produce a list of self-fill friendly places but we found a couple of these closed when we were in the need of gas, so after a year of self-fill we aded the extra convenience (and additional cost) of adding a proper external fill point. Easiest way to preserve the van integrity was to have it mounted in the external locker door. Now one thing I'd be uncomfortable with was taking a whacking great big hole saw to my van so we booked an appointment at our local Gaslow supplier to have one of their mechanics do it. And a good job was done too, the filler cap fits neatly in the door and a new, expensive, high-pressure hose connects this to the fill point on the bottle.
So, now the van has a proper external fill point just like an LPG car or a van with an underslung tank. It can easily be filled at any LPG supplying service station.
Thoughts, it was expensive. We probably will take several years to break even, if at all! But for us we feel it worth it. The gauge on the bottle is easy to read and gives us an instant check on gas level so we can fill in plenty of time for that desperate cuppa. We've filled in Ireland and have adaptors to allow us to fill anywhere in Europe.
- Fillable from any LPG supplier
- Readily available on the continent
- Decent fuel guage to keep you informed of gas level
- Ridiculously cheap to refill
- There's a worldwide FillLPG Android app listing LPG filling stations
- 2.9Kg a bit small - it has to be over half empty before taking the minimum 2l fill
- Filling can be a bit daunting the first couple of times untill you get used to it
- Will LPG become harder to get as electric cars become the norm?
- The hose means the locker door doesn't drop down fully, just to 90deg or so
- It's almost embarassing paying a couple of quid or so for a fill!
For us, we thought the expese well worth while, it's much easier to ensure we don't run out of gas. Remember we NEED that cuppa!