Techno Tom Bedworth

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Fed up with the cost of regular gas bottles? How about an alternative that's much cheaper in the long run? Here's how to make the change in your motorhome

There are a few reasons to say goodbye to traditional exchange gas bottles and, for us, top of the list is pure convenience.

No lugging them around when swapping over: you just need to refill at a normal petrol station with an LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) pump.

The second reason is minimising weight and cost (after you have recovered from the initial investment): LPG at the pump is never more (and often less) than half the cost of gas in exchange bottles.

The third consideration is the ability to keep an eye on the level of gas in your bottle via a remote display. Handy!

A propane or butane gas bottle?

LPG in the UK is propane, the same as in Calor’s red bottles. On the Continent they tend to blend propane with butane (Calor blue bottles) in the summer.

All of your gas equipment will run off either, or a blend, without needing any change to your 30 millibar regulator.

However, be aware that if you venture to frozen climates in your motorhome you’ll need to use propane, because butane stops evaporating at around freezing point – propane will come out as gas, but the butane will remain as liquid.

Weighty matters

A 13kg (which indicates its capacity) Calor bottle weighs 26.2kg when full, and a Gaslow steel refillable 11kg bottle is 22kg when full.

An empty Alugas 14kg bottle comes in at 7.5kg, and the 11kg variant at 6.6kg (but they’re pricier than steel variants).

So, two empty Alugas bottles weigh about the same as one empty Calor 13kg bottle.

You need to add to this the weight of the LPG, which is close to half the mass of an equivalent volume of water.

So, for mental arithmetic, two litres of LPG weighs 1kg.

What you’ll need

Before ordering any parts, carefully measure your gas locker’s width, height and depth, and the height of the gas locker door, to check that the bottles will fit.

We worked out that, after unbolting the top shroud from a 14kg Alugas bottle, we could get two in our locker with ease.

Autogas 2000 in Thirsk offers a twin 14kg kit for £631.89. The kit comprises:

  • 2 x Alugas 14kg MV cyls
  • 1 x 1.5m filler hose
  • 1 x 0.5 filler hose
  • 1 x filler hose ‘T’ piece
  • 1 x complete round Dutch/UK Bayonet Filler
  • 2 x W20 Pigtail (to connect cylinder to regulator, on a post-2002 ’van)
  • 1 x W20 T Piece (Pigtail to Reg)
  • Filler mounting plate (remind them of this item when you order)
      

Tools required – spanners:

  • 10mm for top shrouds
  • 22mm for bottle input hoses
  • 19mm for output from valve
  • 29mm – bottle output pigtails
      

The motorhome gas-bottle locker was supplied with a Truma Duo Control combined 30mb regulator and change-over valve, and was fitted with two ‘pigtails’ to suit two exchange propane gas bottles.

The first job was to replace them with the pair of pigtails from the kit, because the refillable bottle threads are different.

The top shrouds were removed after undoing some M6 nuts and bolts.

The ‘T’ piece from the kit was fitted to one bottle’s filling point, and the short hose supplied used to connect the ‘T’ piece to the filling point on the other bottle.

The long high-pressure hose was connected to the last port on the ‘T’ piece, and routed via two gas drops through some corrugated plastic conduit for extra mechanical protection, ready to be connected to the filling point by the skirt of the vehicle.

The gas bottle inlets include one-way valves, so gas should not escape from them.

The new pigtails were connected to the bottle outlets.

The filling point consists of a couple of plastic mouldings and a brass fitting, and it’s held together with stainless steel self-tapping screws.

Autogas 2000 also supplied a plated steel mounting plate for the filling point, and I attached this immediately behind a rear-wheel mudflap support plate, with an angle bracket against the skirt.

The advantage here is that there’s no cutting holes in the ’van’s body.

There are four ways you can fit the brass bit, so work this out first.

Get proper gas leak detecting fluid for later, but don’t use washing-up liquid – it corrodes the brass.

The fuel level gauges can be replaced by another that includes an electric sensor for connection to a remote display, which takes very little electrical power.

I had a change-over switch to monitor one bottle at a time.

Testing

Once at the filling station, the cap was removed, the nozzle inserted and rotated 90 degrees, and the lever pulled to lock in position.

I pressed the button on the LPG pump and filling commenced.

I stopped after a couple of litres and pulled away from the pumps, having cleared it with the garage staff.

I used my leak-detecting fluid on all joints; all was good.

If you are travelling around Europe, get a set of filling adapters for other countries.

A set of three is all that’s needed; they simply screw on, and cost about £20.

The specification of our gas cylinder

  • Volume: 33.3 litres
  • LPG working capacity: 14kg at the limited 80% full
  • Empty weight of valved cylinder: 7.5kg
  • Height with shroud: 700mm
  • Diameter: 300mm
  • Cylinder standard: TUV approved and Pi marked and EN13110, R6701 Multivalve