Propane Detector Problem & Troubleshooting (warning: very long initial posting) - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 08-31-2010, 02:45 PM   #1
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Propane Detector Problem & Troubleshooting (warning: very long initial posting)

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie
What about the propane detector? Your story stopped with what sounds like a difficult replacement.
So, as mentioned in the MaxxFan thread, the malfunctioning MaxxFan drained the battery which I believe set off the Propane Detector due to low voltage. The initial problem is that even though that's what I thought and it seemed most plausible, I needed to make sure that it wasn't sounding due to an actual propane leak (even though the tanks were off and had been for weeks) or due to the detector picking up some other gas (e.g. batteries off-gassing due to potential dead cells due to their running so low). In reading the detector's manual, it indicated that fluctuating/low voltage could cause problems. However, the manual said that the indicator light should display yellow whereas I was observing a "red" (indicating an alarm event) and the alarm was sounding (I could hear it inside my house). The alarm would go off when running 12v and also when plugged into a/c, even with the 12v isolator switch "off", b/c the convertor would still power it

The batteries seemed to be holding their charge per the voltage readout on the solar charge controller & double checking with a volt-meter. Next I made sure that there was the right level of distilled water in each cell. They were a smidgen low but still fine - although I went ahead and topped them off for good measure.

On the propane leak front, I double & triple checked that the tanks were indeed off. I also made sure that the furnace thermostat was in the "off" position as well as all the stove controls. I also made sure that the hot water heater switch was turned off.

Next, I did some web research similar to what I did for my MaxxFan problem & found that these detectors are recommended to be replaced every five years and that it's prudent to find the Production Date of your detector even when you buy a new trailer b/c the life span is supposed to be 5 yrs from the production date. I also found that it is fairly common for propane detectors to malfunction prior to 5 years (typically sensor going bad). Since our trailer hatched in late Sept '09, I figured it would be covered by warranty. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to help b/c I needed to get it fixed asap so we wouldn't have to cancel a camping trip that we've had planned for a long time over Labor Day weekend. At this point, I decided that I'd just buy a replacement, install it, and we'd be ready to go. Easier said than done.

First problem is that you can't just find an RV propane detector at your corner store, Walmart, HomeDepot, etc. For that matter, you can't find one at just any RV shop. The couple that are in Austin don't carry them but rather have to order them - which wouldn't meet the quick time frame I needed. So after a lot of calling around, I finally found an RV dealer in Buda that had one in stock. So after a 40 mile round trip, I came home with the replacement detector (the exact same model as the original - Safe T Alert 30-442) for a tidy sum of $82.80.

Upon removing the original detector, I located the production date on its back panel. It read Sept 2008 which means it failed in less than 2 yrs (if the battery drain wasn't actually the cause - no way to know for sure). Installing the new detector was fairly simple. First I removed the two faceplate screws and pulled the unit out of the wall. First minor problem, I couldn't reach where the unit's wires were originally "connected" to the trailer's wiring so I had to snip the wires close to where they went inside the detector compartment. This meant that there would now be two "connectors" per + & - wire but no big deal. I hooked up the wires and remounted it in the wall & was ready to test it with power. Upon powering up, the new alarm immediately displayed the red "alarm" indicator light and started sounding again. This was totally unexpected and made me rethink whether or not I was wrong and that there was potentially a bigger problem of some sort of gas leak that I should be worried about.

I retested & rechecked everything that I did to test the situation with the first unit and just couldn't think of what it could be. I even used a voltmeter to test the power at the wiring that I had connected to the new detector. The battery & voltage still didn't seem to be the problem. I went back to the web and found some posting that suggested strange remedies to "clean/reset" the detector's sensor that the posters said had worked for them (even though they didn't make much sense to me). I figured what the heck, I'll try anything at this point. None of the suggestions worked. So I was back to fearing a gas leak of some sort even though that still didn't make sense & my gut was telling me wasn't the problem. Finally, I had an epiphany! Maybe the new detector was faulty straight out of the box - a lemon. I could test that theory & simultaneously rule out a gas leak by wiring the detector to my car battery out in the open air. I did so & the alarm immediately triggered & sounded. For good measure, I took it up to a store that sells new 12v deep cycle batteries and hooked it up to them & once again, the new detector sounded the alarm. So....

I did the 40 mile round trip to the RV store and exchanged the alarm for another new one. This time I heeded a big lesson learned: Donít assume that a brand new propane detector will work properly. Immediately test the detector before leaving the store (could've saved me a lengthy trip) and before introducing other potential variables such as trailer gases, electrical issues, etc that are hard and time-consuming to eliminate as being the problem. I went out to the parking lot, opened the box & hooked the new detector #2 to my car battery & "Voila!" the beautiful sound of silence and a "Green - good to go" indicator light.

I drove back home & installed new detector #2 in Grasshopper and once again, "Voila!" the beautiful sound of silence and a "Green - good to go" indicator light. So it's properly working again & our upcoming camping trip is saved.

Another lesson learned: If my propane alarm goes off in the future, I will first quickly make sure the propane tanks are off or turn them off immediately if they weren't. After doing some quick cursory looking/testing for gas leaks and battery/voltage issues, I won't waste anymore time racking my brain looking for the problem inside the trailer. Since these detectors do fail, I will uninstall the detector and hook it up to a properly working and charged 12v battery outside of the trailer to test the detector to test whether or not the detector itself is the problem. This is easy to do and would've saved me a lot of problem-solving brain power, needless worry of a gas leak, time & effort.

Due to some bad luck combined with my inexperience in dealing with propane detectors, what could've been a relatively simple/easy problem to diagnose and fix instead turned into a time-consuming pain-in-the-butt. Hopefully the rest of you can benefit from reading about what I experienced and learned from this should you find yourself with the same problem.
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Old 08-31-2010, 03:18 PM   #2
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Re: Propane Detector Problem & Troubleshooting (warning: very long initial posting)

Thank You!

Another terrific post, not only presenting the problem, but how to avoid the blind alleys to reach the solution.

baglo
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Old 08-31-2010, 04:34 PM   #3
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Re: Propane Detector Problem & Troubleshooting (warning: very long initial posting)

Great explaination! Thanks!
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Old 08-31-2010, 06:48 PM   #4
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Re: Propane Detector Problem & Troubleshooting (warning: very long initial posting)

Very useful explanation, Brad. I can confirm that the propane detectors can be problematic. I had one go bad a few years ago in our Rialta, it decided to go off about 2am for no apparent reason - no leak, battery fine, etc. The first time I wrote it off to just a quirk, but then it would do it at odd times in most any situation. I replaced it and all was fine.
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Old 08-31-2010, 07:02 PM   #5
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Re: Propane Detector Problem & Troubleshooting (warning: very long initial posting)

Sounds (no pun intended) familiar. At the Merritt Escape Rally, our LP detector went off several times one night. We were not using any propane as there was shore power was used.

Not until the Oregon Gathering at Bandon did the detector cause another sleepless night. It went off about every 20 minutes or so for a 3 hour period. I almost ripped it off the wall, but ended up pulling a towel over it to muffle the sound until the unit decided to ceased giving false alarms. Again, no propane was in use as shore power was used.

I talked with Tammy the next day about it. She got Reace's tool bag out and lent mea square-head driver so I could remove the detector and cut the wires. Tammy imagined that the detector was defected and, blessed her heart, send a new detector to me under warranty the following week.

The new detector has not given any false alarms (yet?). However it apparently gives off a high pitch noise that my son can hear but, fortunately, I can't. This was mentioned at http://escapeforum.org/index.php?topic=1288.0
Sounds (no pun intended) familiar. At the Merritt Escape Rally, our LP detector went off several times one night. We were not using any propane as there was shore power was used.

Not until the Oregon Gathering at Bandon did the detector cause another sleepless night. It went off about every 20 minutes or so for a 3 hour period. I almost ripped it off the wall, but ended up pulling a towel over it to muffle the sound until the unit decided to ceased giving false alarms. Again, no propane was in use as shore power was used.

I talked with Tammy the next day about it. She got Reace's tool bag out and lent mea square-head driver so I could remove the detector and cut the wires. Tammy imagined that the detector was defected and, blessed her heart, send a new detector to me under warranty the following week.

The new detector has not given any false alarms (yet?). However it apparently gives off a high pitch noise that my son can hear but, fortunately, I can't. This was mentioned at http://escapeforum.org/index.php?topic=1288.0

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Old 09-05-2010, 03:47 PM   #6
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Re: Propane Detector Problem & Troubleshooting (warning: very long initial posting)

Thanks so much for the heads up! I'm sure it will save many others (not only Escape owners) a lot of grief.
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Old 09-07-2010, 01:02 AM   #7
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Re: Propane Detector Problem & Troubleshooting (warning: very long initial posting)

Hi: All... Our problem is the "Toast Detector". Seems it figures the toast is done before we or the toaster knows it is!!! Solution...put a sock on it. LITERALLY. Alf
escape artist N.S. of Lake Erie
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