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Old 09-08-2015, 10:33 PM   #1
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Driving while running the fridge on propane

I have a question I've been wanting to ask for awhile. When we first bought our trailer I was under the impression that it wasn't safe to travel down the road with propane turned on running the fridge. On my occasional browsing through different threads, though, it seems like some folks do this regularly. We've never done it and just have to cool things back down once we stop and can turn the propane on.

Can anyone share with me whether this is indeed a safe way to travel?

Thank, I appreciate any thoughts!
Lisa
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Old 09-08-2015, 10:47 PM   #2
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Lots of arguments pro and con.
I'm in the middle. I've run with propane on and with it off. You need to turn off open flame ( such as your fridge ) when refueling. I find it a PIA to have to stop prior to the gas station to shut down, then fuel, then stop again to restart. I've found that my fridge ( 5 cu. ft. ) stays cold for hours, if you don't open the door.
You do ( legally ) have to shut off propane on ferries and prior to entering some tunnels.
Some are concerned about escaping propane in the event of an accident, but the propane cylinders today have a safety valve that shuts down the flow when it detects escaping gas.
So, it's up to you.
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Old 09-08-2015, 10:58 PM   #3
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There seems to be two camps on this topic, one that would never do because they think it’s dangerous, the other who do it all the time and see the danger as minimal or none existent. From the comments I’ve read I think it’s split about 50/50. I suggest you do what you’re comfortable with.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:20 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
I've run with propane on and with it off. You need to turn off open flame ( such as your fridge ) when refueling. I find it a PIA to have to stop prior to the gas station to shut down, then fuel, then stop again to restart.
Same here. The amount of pain depends on what is involved in the restarting. In my old trailer, that's relighting a pilot, which is too much of a pain; with a new electronically controlled refrigerator, it's just a button push, so it is just the stop which is the (significant) issue.

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Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
Some are concerned about escaping propane in the event of an accident, but the propane cylinders today have a safety valve that shuts down the flow when it detects escaping gas.
It actually greatly restricts (doesn't entirely shut off) flow if an excessively high flow occurs - the idea is that a ruptured hose will trigger it (and it is located in the fitting on the end of the hose). That does make use on the road safer, but it is not an absolute fix for all possible leaks.

Escape builds the trailers with properly secured propane tanks. Anyone who has changed this - such as by relocating the tank to the storage box and not really clamping it down - might reconsider this before driving with the tank valve open.

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You do ( legally ) have to shut off propane on ferries and prior to entering some tunnels.
... and that means turn off the valve at the tank, not just turn off appliances using propane (just in case anyone didn't already understand that). The excess flow feature is not good enough on a ship or in a tunnel.

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There seems to be two camps on this topic, one that would never do because they think it’s dangerous, the other who do it all the time and see the danger as minimal or none existent.
I'm not sure that anyone thinks that the risk is non-existent, because that doesn't make sense. Operating any vehicle and any use (while driving or not) of a fuel involves risk - I just think that the risk when done properly is reasonable.

I think there's a third camp - those who incorrectly believe that it is illegal, aside from any risk evaluation.

With larger (meaning larger than available in an Escape, but common in larger RVs) refrigerator, DC operation is not available, so being away from shore power for a whole driving day means running it on propane. I'm sure that a lot of RV refrigerators - especially in motorhomes - are run on propane while driving.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:21 PM   #5
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I almost always have it on, as we switch from electric to propane in the drive before leaving, and leave it on until we get home, as we need to run on propane while camping.

I recently saw a thread on another RV site while searching something about propane. I can't remember now what I was searching, and I can't find the thread again. Basically, the OP asked folks to honestly answer a few questions, the first was who ran with propane on, and it was the vast majority. And of those that did, who turned it off when refuelling, and it was pretty mostly those that had a switch to use to do so. Most argued that it is not even posted to turn off propane when refuelling, and to be honest, I don't think I have ever seen a sign saying to do so. Ferries and tunnels requiring it to be off do have signs posted to do so.

In the vein of being honest, I very rarely (okay, pretty much never) turn off my fridge when refuelling, partially because I never actually think about it.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:30 PM   #6
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Mine's usually on from departure to return, except for ferries.

But, because I think this question has come up several times, second time this week? I did a little searching. Sure lots of opinions out there

I did notice, on the Canadian Propane Assoc. website, that they state that it's required by most provinces that the appliances be turned off while refueling Further research required

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Old 09-08-2015, 11:33 PM   #7
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I do the same as others have mentioned, propane on before leaving home and off upon return to home. Have never shut off while refuelling (have never seen any signs at gas stations requiring that this be done), but I do turn off the propane before getting on a ferry.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:38 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Ron in BC View Post
I did notice, on the Canadian Propane Assoc. website, that they state that it's required by most provinces that the appliances be turned off while refueling Further research required
The research has been done.

That site is mostly based on opinion, and is not at all based on the law. I am sure you remember the thread from many years ago (it has been linked to a few times in past years), where I reported most of the results I got from the each Provincial and Territorial, and the National Department of Transport, asking if using propane appliances in trailers was allowed while under way, and every last one said it was fully legal unless posted otherwise.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:40 PM   #9
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OK, I found something of the TranBC, Minister of Transportion.. website.

Appliances "should" be turned off.... Well, it doesn't say "shall" so it looks like I don't have to change my ways.

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Old 09-08-2015, 11:44 PM   #10
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There is a sign at all gas stations saying that there should be no open flame within "X" number of metres or feet. The fridge is an open flame .........

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Old 09-08-2015, 11:47 PM   #11
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Hi: All...Must admit I never have shut the valves at the propane tanks off while travelling. Have tried running the refer on 12V w/ solar panel but not as good as propane. I have put a piece of furnace filter material on the inside of the lower vent door and that seems to have a positive affect on the flame out problem.
The only signs I've seen at filling stations has to do with cell phones.
I guess when its my turn to go...I'll go out with a bang!!! Alf
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:48 PM   #12
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Where do you see these signs, Barry. I must be blind, and I fuel up a few times a week.

I just checked on the Shell site, and they only make mention of turning your vehicle off, and no smoking within 7.5 metres

Quote:
Safety Basics
At Shell we know the importance of the fuel that keeps your vehicle running. Most people just couldn't manage without it!

But gasoline and other fuels can also be extremely hazardous unless properly and safely handled. Accidents can happen. Accidents have happened. We don't want them to happen to you.

So please review our booklet, “Shell Helps with Gasoline Safety”

Shell provides safety training for its Retailers and Attendants, and our stations are designed with safety in mind. Our safety procedures are verified by independent inspections at least once a year.

But we also need your help and your co-operation, if we are to prevent accidents which might involve other customers, our neighbours, our staff - or you.

Your part in accident prevention involves following a few simple rules whenever you're close to a gasoline pump or other source of fuel. The first two rules are also the law.

-Don't smoke within 7.5 metres (25 feet) of a gasoline pump (3 metres or 10 feet in Ontario).
-Don't leave your vehicle engine running when refueling.
-Don't jam the pump nozzle open when you're refueling at a self-serve.
-Don't allow children to play around pump islands - or to hold or activate the pump nozzle.
-Use only approved containers to carry fuel.
-Treat all fuels with respect. Store them in approved. containers, in clean, well-ventilated places. Handle them with great care and use them only as motor fuel.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:56 PM   #13
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I suppose its possible for gasoline fumes to be ignited by the tiny flame inside the back of the fridge compartment, but I think such a scenario is far fetched. That would have to be one heavy concentration of fumes - more than you could stand being there and pumping gas. We usually don't bother shutting off the propane lines either when refueling, and in many cases the trailer is quite a distance away from the pump anyway.
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Old 09-09-2015, 12:00 AM   #14
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As explained in earlier posts, the fuel station requirement is to turn off sources of ignition (such as the flame in the refrigerator), not the propane supply valve - the first two items in Jim's list from Shell are ignition sources. I routinely fill at Costco, and they have signage about static charges. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the specific list varies by retailer, and by province/state. The risk is lighting up spilled gasoline - leaked propane is not any more of a concern than anywhere else.

I agree that the refrigerator burner is low-risk source of ignition... but surely so is a mobile phone!

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The only signs I've seen at filling stations has to do with cell phones.
Alf, did you mean perhaps that those are the only signs you've noticed?
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Old 09-09-2015, 12:01 AM   #15
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Our local stations have symbols of which one is a flame with an X through it.

I always travel with the fridge on propane but do turn it off when refueling though never have when going through a tunnel. My thought is it only takes someone to over fill a tank near me and the fumes from the spill to reach my fridge ........

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Old 09-09-2015, 12:08 AM   #16
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I never travel with the propane on - my old trailer had a 3 way fridge which I ran on 12V while driving. My new unit (not an Escape) does not have 12V, it's a larger Dometic fridge with separate freezer door above and I cool it down a day or so before I leave and the fridge only warms up about 4 degrees C after towing for 5+ hours (this includes stopping for a lunch & opening fridge). Most people I know run with the propane on - I came across a motor home accident a few years ago that had burnt to the ground. The fire department said that had the propane been turned off, it would have been only minor damage, but because the propane was on & the line ruptured, it just fed the minor fire (no injuries to the couple on board). Since that time I've never travelled with the propane turned on. Also as mentioned an open flame at gas stations is a no-no & the fridge when running has an open flame. My two cents - although we don't have pennies any more.

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Old 09-09-2015, 12:11 AM   #17
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I suppose its possible for gasoline fumes to be ignited by the tiny flame inside the back of the fridge compartment, but I think such a scenario is far fetched. That would have to be one heavy concentration of fumes - more than you could stand being there and pumping gas. We usually don't bother shutting off the propane lines either when refueling, and in many cases the trailer is quite a distance away from the pump anyway.
I agree I think the concentration would have to be pretty heavy but I think that the rules are there in case of a fuel spill.

I the 70's when I worked for the local Co-op the guys filling the bulk gas trucks used to stand on the overhead walkway filling their trucks from an overhead 3 or 4 inch hose .......... while smoking. The place is still there though I often wonder how.

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Old 09-09-2015, 12:22 AM   #18
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I agree that the refrigerator burner is low-risk source of ignition... but surely so is a mobile phone!
Agree. The mobile phone thing has actually been proven false many times. Myth busters did a show on it once, where they created a chamber with highly concentrated gas fumes, and they tried several different types of cell phones inside it to see if they could get ignition. Nope. They even tried raw fuel hitting the phones when they were on a call. Nope. Those signs make me laugh, because a cell phone is simply not a source of ignition at a gas station. Now static electricity? That can actually cause a fire in low humidity locations like Colorado.
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Old 09-09-2015, 02:58 AM   #19
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I'm not sure that anyone thinks that the risk is non-existent, because that doesn't make sense. Operating any vehicle and any use (while driving or not) of a fuel involves risk - I just think that the risk when done properly is reasonable.
I agree with you Brian that there is a risk and that the risk is reasonable, but there are people out there who feel that there is no risk. This is a quote from a popular RV website


“Many RVers can see no danger in running the refrigerator on propane while on the road. They say they have traveled for years with no problems whatsoever. They point to the safety of propane powered vehicles and argue that we travel with tanks full of gasoline which is much more dangerous.”


The whole point of my post was to show the two polar opinions of this topic and that Lisa should do what she is most comfortable with.
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Old 09-09-2015, 09:24 AM   #20
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Laws like this will be State by State here in the United States. Start taking a look at propane exchanges for instance while at service stations. In NJ they need to be X amount of feet from a doorway or window that opens and have impact protection. Head over to PA, and it's a whole different ballpark.
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