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Old 09-30-2013, 09:39 AM   #1
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Propane Detector

Hi ! Last weekend my wife and I went camping , being a little cold outside that night we decided to run our propane heater for the first time this year in our T2053 . During the night I woke up to a smell what I thought to be from our septic lines or possibly a smell from a mouse nest in the duct work . The smell intensified more when the heater came on . Being really tired after coming home from a huge camper block party I decided to roll over and back to sleep .
The next morning when I went outside to check out the daily weather I realized when re-entering the camper the stench was incredibly strong . I woke up the wife and vented out the camper and started to track down the location of the smell. With little luck , we eat breakfast in the now cold camper. As we sipped our coffee , the stove top blew off and one on the burners ignited . Quickly we moved all bread and cereal boxes we put there for the night as we do not use the stove top burners . The coffee maker was right beside the burners and must have been the ignition scoure . What happened was we must have brushed aside the stove gas valve knob and turned on the burner with no flame during the night when we used the bathroom .
The propane must have been leaking out all night long ,settled to the floor then moved thru the heater duct work without blowing up the camper . If we had decided to head out for breakfast ,close up the camper , we would have come back to a totally destroyed camper . Frankly , we are greatful to be alive !!
With all that said , why did the propane dectector alarm not sound ? I tested the devise this spring and it worked fine . The propane detector is orginal equipment and located on the floor near the intake vent grill near the refrigerator. Thanks for your comments
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Old 09-30-2013, 06:58 PM   #2
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Hi,

The simple answer is the detector is for carbon monoxide. The rotten egg smell added to liquid propane is what is supposed to tip us off that there is a leak. The propane detector is your nose. I understand you were tired, but that smell needed to be investigated, as you found out, luckily with out any harm to life or property. I hope you don't think I am preaching, just trying to educate. Once again, happy that you and family weren't hurt.

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Old 09-30-2013, 07:44 PM   #3
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That thing on the wall, near the floor by the front door, in mine is a gas detector. I have set it off twice by accident with cleaning sprays. I understand they do wear out with time and stop functioning. I heard 10-12 years is the lifespan so maybe mine needs replacing.
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Old 09-30-2013, 11:38 PM   #4
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Thanks Gene

Gene ,
I did take a second look at this devise , yes, it is labeled LP GAS DETECTOR by Atwood . I suspect you are right , that these type of detectors have to be replaced after many years of operation , along with smoke alarms and monoxide detectors as well . Simple fix , just buy a new one . Thanks again for your input .
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Old 10-01-2013, 11:26 AM   #5
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Tested (unintentionally) both the LP gas detector and the smoke alarm, on our last trip. They both work . While wiping the stove, my wife accidentally turned on the gas. I was sitting at the dinette and noticed it not long after it happened. I turned it off, and just as I did the alarm went off. Wow, that would wake anyone up!! The next day, we had a campfire and the wind changed direction and blew smoke in the open door. Yup, the smoke detector went off!
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:01 PM   #6
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HI hburkholder, Does your camper have the standard Atwood propane detector? If so , how old is it . I am thinking my detector is just too old , 1997 , and doesn't read correctly , Richie Rich
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:38 PM   #7
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Hi,

I stand corrected. Still, propane with its odor shouldn't need a detector. Maybe my nose is more finicky than most. Since this is a propane detector, next mod is going to be a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide lacks odor and is deadly in a short amount of time. Apologies again for my error.

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Old 10-01-2013, 07:43 PM   #8
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HiRichie,
Ours is an '04, and I think it is an Atwood, but we don't keep it here at the house, so I can't check. I'm sure it is the original. Since yours is that old,it may need replaced.
Harold
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:45 AM   #9
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Hi joe8grouse ,
I had installed a monoxide detector last year so I knew that was working and not the problem . Having a propane detector that did not sound the alarm I thought it was simply a leak in the sewer system somewhere . I think it was an honest assumption that I could have ruled out those two problems at the time . I will be ordering a new propane gas detector from Atwood , Richie Rich
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Old 10-02-2013, 03:05 PM   #10
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Maybe everyone should intentionally leak off some LP gas to learn that smell. It could save your life.
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Old 10-02-2013, 07:58 PM   #11
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Good thought Jim.

Open a propane tourch near the detector .... unlit of course.

I have heard hair spray will set them off but since I don't have enough hair to spray I can rule that one out as a test.
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Old 10-02-2013, 11:25 PM   #12
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Gene,
Did use my unlit propane torch to test alarm and it did turn on . Held it short of close to the detector and gave it a small sample . Thought all was well and unit was working . It could be the sensor in the detector is worn out after many years in use . Maybe not as sensitive as it was when new . The paperwork did not mention about replacing unit after a certain length of time but doing that for sure .
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:51 PM   #13
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another thought

Quote:
The propane detector is orginal equipment and located on the floor near the intake vent grill near the refrigerator
I wonder if the LP was being pulled past the detector by the heater. LP gas is heavier than air and settles on the floor so the detector is located there. The detector is supposed to trigger when the concentration gets up to 10% of the amount needed to ignite / explode. Could the heater vent intake created an air flow that created a "micro climate" of good air next to the hole for the detector inlet. ???

Also very glad that you and your family made it through this safely.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:34 PM   #14
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Gene,
Other than the detector not functioning properly , I would say your insight to a possible explanation to why the propane gas detector did not sound is more than interesting , in fact , very thoughtful . Just think ,,,,the stove leaks raw unburnt propane gas , it travels down to the floor where it gets sucked into the heater vent before it even reaches the detector which is located a few inches past the vent . But it gets better,,,(what I did not mention in my original post) we left a window open that night, purely by accident , by the dinette table , which is closer to the detector than the heater vent . Imagine this,,, as the gas was being pulled into the vent from the left , from the right , fresh air is pulled in accross the detector from the open window . Maybe just enough fresh air to prevent the higher concentration of gas to sound the alarm . Even though there was a very good chance there was very high concentrations of gas in the cabin ,none of that was actually presented to the hole for the detector inlet. As you say " micro climate" of good air , very viable.
Frankly , without a doubt , I believe your post fully explains what happened to me. Very ingenious
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:04 PM   #15
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The window being open, esp. at night; cool air will drop as well compared to warm air, is indeed a possible factor. I believe the mixture wasn't right and the ignition point wasn't in the right place at that time. The next day things changed.

I'll have to check, but I'm sure these things are dated. I know one of my detectors is. which one/s (smoke/fire, carbon monoxide or the LP) I can't remember, but the instructions had a place to make a note of date of purchase and the units have a date of manufacture on the under side.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:30 PM   #16
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RichieRich,

Thank you for sharing this. It is something we should all check and something I do not recall us talking a lot on. We can all learn from this and glad everything came out OK

Since your post I have been hunting on the Atwood site

LP Gas Detectors - Atwood Mobile

Reading the Protector series manuals I cannot find any date of expiration. However they now have a LP and Carbon Monoxide unit and in that unit they say 7 years. However the 7 years may be driven by the CO part of the system. As I know my CO detectors have a life date on them. I bought the combo fire and CO detectors which I think are 5 years.

My LP unit is approaching 10 years. Atwood is a stand up service company. They have helped me on a Hydroflame unit before. I will call them in the near future and see if I can get an answer on this. I'm out of the office for the next week so it night be a bit. I'll report back anything I can find out. If anyone else finds out something, let us know.

The LP detector should and needs to work. If the gas is leaking and your not in the camper, you want it sounding "before" you attempt to go in, after you shut down the gas and let it sit for a while.

Thanks again

John
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:47 PM   #17
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My three units are new and stand alone, in that they are not original equipment to the trailer.

The grand kids set off the smoke detector by just doing toast. That works.

I had a bad experience years ago with carbon monoxide in a tent and me, my pregnant wife and dog were very lucky that I woke up with a head ache.

I am glad you and family were fortunate.
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Old 10-03-2013, 11:21 PM   #18
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Hi JohnB , thanks for your comments. I would sure appreciate any information you might share with me . I have not been able to find any info on how long an Atwood propane detector would last . I suspect the unit has some type of sensor made from a material that could degrade over time . Richie Rich
ps: thanks for the link
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Old 10-08-2013, 07:39 AM   #19
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Hi John B ,
Thanks for the link to the Atwood LP Detector . I did buy the new one ,have some new information I like to share with you and all the other members who responded to my post. The manual now mentions the detector will have a life span of 7 years (+ or -) 128 days after it has been powered up. This represents the operating life of the sensor used to detect LP gas. After 7 years , the sensor is no longer reliable and the detector must be replaced . The detector comes with a " End of Life Mode" that flashes a yellow LED and chirp every 30 seconds . Richie Rich
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Old 10-08-2013, 08:04 AM   #20
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HI Bunjin ,
You must have a newer style LP detector than I had ,I just bought a new one and it has the manufactures date on the back side of the device . It also comes with a decal to fill in the purchase date and replace date for you can stick in a visible location as a reminder. The install manual does make several references on the device lifespan .
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