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Old 05-19-2007, 04:48 PM   #1
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How long will my refrigerator run on propane?

Hello everybody.

I boondock, have 2 - 17lb. tanks. How long will they supply propane for the refrigerator before dry? Hours? Days?

Thanks.
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Old 05-19-2007, 06:29 PM   #2
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Re: How long will my refrigerator run on propane?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wcoleman
Hello everybody.

I boondock, have 2 - 17lb. tanks. How long will they supply propane for the refrigerator before dry? Hours? Days?

Thanks.
More like weeks if that is the only gas you use. We dry camp for two full weeks every year at Fish Creek Ponds near Tupper Lake, NY, and with full tanks to start, we don't worry about running out UNLESS we run into a real cold spell and have to use the space heater a lot.

The hot water heater and refrigerator will go a long, long time on two full tanks, especially if the hot water is used just for dishes and occasional hand washing. If you take daily showers in the trailer, you'll use more gas. Cooking in the trailer is a variable as well, but the space heater is the real wild card.

We normally carry 4 or 5 of the 20 pound gas bottles, using one of them for a separate outdoors kitchen that includes running one or two propane lanterns in the evening. Again, starting with a full bottle, it runs the outdoor kitchen and lanterns for the full two weeks with plenty usually left over at the end of the trip. Obviously, that also cuts back the gas useage for cooking from the trailer gas bottles.

The other two bottles are spares. One gets a soldering torch on 16 ft. of hose attached, and is used just to start campfires. Since that doesn't use an appreciable amount of gas over a two week period, that bottle obviously remains available as a nearly full spare at all times.

Propane refills are outrageously expensive in the Adirondacks where we camp, so we prefer to fill up at our local BJ's or U-Haul (best prices around) in advance, rather than dig into our spending cash while actually on vacation.

As always, you mileage will vary. May I suggest that you keep a little log of your useage so that you'll have a better idea of what works for you.
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Old 05-19-2007, 09:40 PM   #3
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Thanks

That makes sense as it looks like very little is burning! Is refilling better than exchange? Do they short you on the exchange whereby the Uhaul fills it fuller?

Thanks for the reply.
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Old 05-20-2007, 08:29 AM   #4
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refilling is normally cheaper,exchanges on a 20lb tank range from $20 to $30 around here, refill is $12 and $15 for my 30lb rv tanks.
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Old 05-20-2007, 08:32 AM   #5
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Re: Thanks

Refills are generally quite a bit cheaper than exchanges, but that's dependent on where you get your refills. For example, if you refill at in the middle of tourist country, you may pay more for that refill than for an exchange at a discount store back home.

By law, they all have to fill them to the rated weight on the tank, so there's no advantage there.

One easy way to insure that you have plenty of gas for boondocking is to upgrade to 30# tanks on the trailer, and then take one or both of your old 20's along as spares.
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Old 05-20-2007, 08:46 AM   #6
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Thanks for the replies

I like the upgrade to 30# idea, with a 17lb as spare.
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Old 05-20-2007, 06:49 PM   #7
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I may be too nit-picky, but I prefer to keep filling the matched set of bottles that came with my Sunline. Some of those mismatched bottles at the various exchange places are awfully ratty looking. It just doesn't feel right to trade a new bottle for one that's been beat up.
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Old 05-20-2007, 07:59 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al in PA
I may be too nit-picky, but I prefer to keep filling the matched set of bottles that came with my Sunline. Some of those mismatched bottles at the various exchange places are awfully ratty looking. It just doesn't feel right to trade a new bottle for one that's been beat up.
Can't disagree with your thinking there, Al! I like knowing exactly what condition my bottles are in at all times and owning them is the best way to do that.

Here's a little hint for everyone: Propane tanks have to be recertified when they are 12 years old. The production date is stamped on the upper collar of the tank along with a lot of other info. A bottle made this month will be stamped 05-07. It will expire in May of 2019. If you buy a new bottle, make sure that it has a reasonably current date stamp. No sense paying your good money for a tank that has less than its full life ahead of it.

Places that refill propane tanks are required by federal law to check that date, and they will not refill a tank that is not currently certified. If you have an expired tank in good condition, take it to a welding supply house, or propane distributor to have it recertified. Especially on the 20 pounders, the price of re-certification may not be worth it. A phone call to them will let you know how much they charge. If the tank isn't in good shape, there will be extra charges to make worthy of certification. I haven't had to have any of my tanks recertified yet so I can't tell you what re-certification costs in western New York at the moment.

Old style tanks that do not have the OPD (overfill prevention device) can not be refilled by your local propane seller. However, some exchange dealers will take your old tank and give you one that has an OPD. Expect to pay for this through the nose. My local grocery store has a propane exchange service, and they just posted a notice that they will no longer accept the old style tanks for exchange.

As always, your mileage may vary....
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Old 05-20-2007, 09:58 PM   #9
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Hi Wayne,

I upgraded to 30 lb. tanks on both of my '94's (swapped the tanks from one to the other). I can usually run about a week or so with the refer, furnace (in 30 degree weather at night), and WH, and still have gas to spare. We don't take showers very often though. Since we are on state land, there is no easy access to water, so conserving is a must. I never took any extra tanks with me, besides the little canisters, until recent years. Now, we take along a small (I think 10 lb.) tank to run a lantern and stove. The lantern is mounted on a distribution tree and gives us a place to put the lantern!

I agree, I don't like tank exchanges either. At Traverse Bay RV (where I'm at in the summer quite a bit), they only allow gas fires- no wood. I know, I don't like it either, but rules are rules. Anyway, we have a gas fire pit that runs off a 20 lb. tank hidden in the bushes. The park used to do exchanges of tanks, but now they only do refills. Of course I got stuck with a crappy old tank now!

I can't really help you as to prices around here because all of our tanks were filled last fall before storage and my 30 lb.ers are sitting in a shed waiting for another trailer to be mounted on .

Jon
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Old 05-22-2007, 10:11 PM   #10
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We have two of the 30#tanks on our 2499 and in this warm weather, we have gone for two full months now with the Refer running non-stop and the water heater only being turned on for showers.

Now when we had to run the heater in the colder weather, we would only make it a few weeks before they would run out. So if the main question is how long do they last? Dont worry as long as the weather is warm outside, you should be able to go all summer long. In the winter time, plan on refilling every few weeks, but then who wants to RV in the winter??

Isnt that why our Sunlines have wheels?!?!

Pat
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Old 05-23-2007, 07:55 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the informative replies...

I decided to purchase a 40# tank, it holds roughly 8 gal. of propnae. It is the biggest size that will fit in the tank rack, and I'm thinking about buying another 40# tank. With two 40# tanks, I think it is actually possible to go over a year with out refilling, with moderate heater usage in the winter!
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Old 06-02-2007, 01:06 PM   #12
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I don't understand how you could run the frig for 2 weeks on propane. Unless you have several batteries, you would drain the battery and the refrig would not work. We aren't boondockers, but during a hurricane when we lost power for a week, the refrig ran for about 3 days and then the battery went dead. How can you stretch it to weeks?
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Old 06-02-2007, 01:22 PM   #13
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If you are running off your battery you need to make sure that the heat strip is off this will run your battery down very quick. It is a little switch inside your door.
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Old 06-02-2007, 02:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flaguy
I don't understand how you could run the frig for 2 weeks on propane. Unless you have several batteries, you would drain the battery and the refrig would not work. We aren't boondockers, but during a hurricane when we lost power for a week, the refrig ran for about 3 days and then the battery went dead. How can you stretch it to weeks?
Several things:

First, as Greg says, make sure the heat strip is turned off. This feature prevents your refrigerator from "sweating" in humid weather by gently warming the frame around the doors. Nice feature if you are plugged into 30 amp service, but it is a real 12vdc hog when you're running on just the trailer battery. On my fridge, the switch is a rocker switch located on the upper frame. You have to open the freezer door to get at the switch.

Your fridge will still use a very small amount of electricity to drive the thermostat and electronics, and over time, that will begin to draw down the battery. Realistically, interior lights (including the one in the fridge) will draw down even more.

Second, we have several methods of recharging our trailer batteries. We have a small Honda generator, and in the NY State Park campgrounds where we go, there are 5 hours a day where we can run the generator. That will keep the trailer batteries pretty well charged, even if we only run the generator for an hour or two a day. And that is just with the built-in charger in the Sunline. If we hooked up the heavy duty battery charger to the generator, we could shorten the charge time even more.

Solar panel systems will also keep your battery charged, and in a pinch you could always recharge the trailer from your tow vehicle or any auto just using a set of jumper cables.

Bottom line is that the battery won't last forever and needs to be recharged. How long between charges, and how much of a charge is needed is heavily dependent on how much 12vdc you use in between charges.

There are some neat tricks to lowering your 12vdc useage. Here are some of them:

1. Remove the lightbulb from the refrigerator. It's not essential.
2. Pull the fuse from the propane sensor alarm circuit. (This assumes decent ventilation of the interior of the trailer to prevent build up of propane if there is a leak.) Might not be a good idea in colder weather. That one's a judgement call, but it will help.
3. Pull the fuse from the radio/stereo. Even when it is off, it draws a bit of current. Use a portable radio instead.
4. Shut off the power to your pump panel when not in use. Again, a tiny draw but every bit helps.
5. Change out some of the interior light bulbs. The fixtures have high intensity bulbs in them, and you can put in lower current "marker light" bulbs which draw much less juice. They give enough light for most purposes, but you might want to leave one brighter bulb in the fixture over your bed or easy chair for reading a good book. In all the double light fixtures in our trailer, we have one bright bulb and one dim one. When we dry camp, we use only the dimmer bulbs.
6. Or, don't use the lights at all. We keep a nice selection of candles in our rig. Oil lamps are good, too.
7. Rather than use the outside 12v lights, we have a "power stick" for a 20# propane tank, and put a propane lantern on top of that. That gives enough light to see all over the campsite. That 20 pounder also runs our outdoor kitchen.
8. As mentioned above, make sure the heat strip on the refrigerator is off.

So, for dry camping, it is a combination of lowering your 12v useage and keeping the batteries charged. We camp for two full weeks at a time in campgrounds with no hookups, and never run the batteries all the way down.

In a crisis situation like your recent hurricane, you could conceiveably be very comfortable in your trailer for many weeks on end, if you ration your 12v use and remember to recharge the batteries from time to time.
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