We can smell propane fumes around our RV. How can we find out where it is coming from?

RV dealers can do a leak test on a complete propane system by connecting a device called a manometer to an outlet in the stove or at the rear of the refrigerator. The gas is turned on at the cylinders and a reading is taken with the manometer. The standard is 11 inches of water column. Then the gas valves are shut off at the cylinders and a reading is taken after a period of time. If pressure doesn’t stay up at 11 inches of water column during the test, that indicates a leak. All connections are then checked with a leak test solution that bubbles when propane escapes.

Whenever propane cylinders are filled by more than 80 percent, the gas inside can expand from the heat of the sun. If the pressure gets too high, a safety valve on the top of the cylinder will normally vent the excess pressure to the outside air, and this protects the tank. It only takes a small amount of propane to cause a big smell. Propane cylinders are painted a light color and have a vinyl cover over them to shield them from the sun’s heat.If a cylinder is overfilled, you can bring the pressure down in hot weather by spraying it with a cold water hose. After they have stopped venting, excess propane can be burned off with the hot water heater or furnace.

It is also quite common for the diaphragm in the gas regulator to crack and leak small amounts of propane. The regulator vent must point downwards to the ground so that any moisture developing from the damp air moving in and out of diaphragm area can drain out easily. The flow of propane cools the air and condenses the moisture in the air into water. This water can actually freeze and crack the diaphragm, causing a leak.

If you hear a slight hissing at the regulator, place your thumb over the vent hole and listen for the hissing to stop, which would indicate the regulator is broken and needs to be changed.

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