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Out of Gas

Category: Caravanning
12 Mar 2020
Written by Andy Hits: 2173

2019 saw us with the caravan out on the road twice already before Easter. First in February to a CL near Cambridge.  This was a fairly standard one, with a reasonable sized area of hard standing, but unfortunately the grass being too soft to pitch up on.  But with electric hookups, this was a fairly normal experience for us.

Feeling a bit braver in March, we booked ourselves into a CL not far from Orford and Aldeburgh in Suffolk.  This was as close as we could easily get to the wild camping we had enjoyed in New Zealand with a certified fully self contained motorhome a couple of years back.  The site had fresh water, chemical toilet disposal, plenty of space, and no electric hookups.  Both our 6Kg gas bottles were stowed in the front locker, although one did start of being over half used.  Once we arrived, the fridge was switched over from 12v to battery, along with the heating.  We had a gloriously warm day, and soon had the caravan set up, and could take the dogs for a nice walk.

It was no great surprise when that first bottle ran out during the 2nd day.  I knew that it only had started with a couple of kgs in.  The other was soon attached, and business continued as usual.   Meanwhile in the electrical department, the solar panel was doing a great job.  Even though it was late March, at times the 100w panel was producing over 3 amps, which meant over 36w.  I didn't get to see how much it was producing by mid-day, because the battery seemed always to have recharged from the night before.  I was beginning to feel fairly confident that I'd judged things correctly, and that the spare 12v battery was overkill, and excess ballast.  Perhaps another time we could be less conservative with the lights, and not worry about leaving a light on that was not in use, or maybe even take a mains dvd/tv and run it off the inverter.

Unfortunately, at about 2am on the Saturday morning, the heating and fridge started beeping.  Low gas pressure.  Somehow in the few days we had been there, with a bit of cooking and keeping the fridge ticking over, and the caravan from getting too chilly at night, we had used the 2nd bottle of gas.  My estimates had been that we ought to be able to run for over 2 days on a full bottle, fridge, heating and cooking.
The nice warm duvet on the bed kept the worst of the chill off, perhaps with hind sight, the temperature could have been set a couple of degrees cooler than it was at night, but we never have tended to have an overly hot house!  So there in bed I tried to hatch a plan for where I could easily get a propane refill.  Calor listed a few distributors in the nearby area, and the Ipswich B&Q branch was the one that should open earliest at 7am.  I got up bright and early, and looked at the frost on the car, and set off to call in at some petrol stations en-route, just in case they had gas bottles too.  No luck with that, so I went into the DIY store.

When I got to the customer service desk and asked about calor gas refills, they first asked if I had an agreement with them.  I said, not with you directly, but I do with Calor.  Do you have any red propane bottles?  Unfortunately, Calor don't say which of their products their distributors stock on their website, and B&Q had either patio gas (needing a 27mm clip on adaptor) or Butane, also needing a different pigtail to the propane POL connector on our caravan.  I was also fairly certain they wouldn't have the gas fittings to convert bottles to fit our caravan, so I moved on.

The second place on my list was a nearby branch of Ernest Doe, which I somehow got the idea that it was a "country store".  Thinking it would be some kind of glorified garden centre crossed with a farmers market, I was therefore a little surprised to see a couple of tractors loaded into a trailer in the yard.  Once they were open for the day, I was soon able to get a small 6kg cylinder.  They certainly had a wide range of cylinders, and I declined their offer to pick up one of the 47KG bottles.  Even empty I wouldn't fancy trying to move that much weight!

Full gas bottle in hand, I headed back to the caravan to do my penance for having left a cold caravan, wife and daughter, and cooked a fry up for breakfast with the new gas, while continuing my pondering what to do to avoid such problems in the future.

Not wishing to have an overly heavy nose weight, I had previously wondering about the Flo-gas gaslight cylinders, but didn't fancy ending up with a new set of cylinder agreements with them, as well as having some with Calor, as it all adds up.  I was also aware that a different adaptor would be needed, which would add to complications  I had also been wondering if Calor would take its own Calorlite off death row, but rumours are that they have no plans to make new cylinders for it.  I'd also seen SafeFill but had been put off by the initial outlay of buying a cylinder at over £150 for even a small cylinder.  But I knew it was a better option than some of the dodgy screw in e-bay special adaptors that are available.  LPG is not something to be messed with, and know from personal experience that even with the right precautions, when filling an LPG converted car, its still possible to get a bit of a blast of cold gas come toward your hands, never mind a cylinder rupturing or worse.  These Safefill cylinders have however got the right equipment inside to auto shut off and still leave space inside for expansion. 

Eventually, I bit the bullet, and ordered a refillable cylinder, having checked it would fit in the space the gas locker has.  The front locker has just about enough clearance for their 10kg cylinder, and with a 5kg tare weight, for the same maximum weight, I would get almost double the usable capacity.  Plus it will be easy enough to refill at many LPG stations, with Morrisons being their major partner, which have an lpg station near by.  Being refillable, it also doesn't matter if I've only used half a bottle, I can still refill it before I go, rather than worry if I need the spare bottle or not.  Where as with a normal gas "refill" is a swap of a cylinder and no refund for the unused gas.  This should mean any future trips away worrying about having enough gas will be much less of a problem

The rest of the holiday, might I add was lovely.  Bright sunshine, walks on the beach and around the fields with the dogs, fish and chips in Aldeburgh


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