Connecting an RV to External Propane

TheRVgeeks Installation, Miscellaneous, Propane, Winter RVing 14 Comments

As a follow-up to our recent video on wintering in an RV, we found that connecting our rig to a large external propane tank was a little bit more involved than we expected.

If you’re planning to spend the winter in a cold climate, or simply want to avoid running out of propane while parked in one place for an extended period, we offer some useful information based on our recent experience.

We’re using our Extend-a-Stay (also known as a Stay-a-While or an Extend-a-Flow) to connect to a large external propane tank. There’s a fair amount to know about propane, and we are certainly not experts. But we do know more about it today than we did yesterday!

“Inch water column” (also referred to as ” WC or “inches of water”) is a unit of pressure measurement, commonly used for propane and other gases. RV appliances require about 11″ WC, which equals only about 0.4 PSI!

We’ve been RV snowbirds for 8 winters in a row, mostly in the Desert Southwest. This year, for the very first time, we’ll be spending the winter in the RV in a northern location.

Granted, the Lower Mainland of British Columbia isn’t exactly Manitoba when it comes to winter, but we’re far enough up in the mountains to get some freezing temperatures and snow here.

Luckily, Birgit & Greg, whose site we’re using, were nice enough to let us tap into their super-size external propane tank (we’ll be paying for the propane we use, of course).

There are lots of RVers who know way more than we do about RVing in REAL winter deep freeze conditions, but even here in the relatively moderate Fraser Valley, it’s plenty cold enough to use quite a bit of propane.

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Comments 14

  1. Hey guys, I’ve used your site for a lot of advice over the years. Thanks for what you do. I recently had a tank delivered, but where they was able to place it puts means I have to do a 20-25 ft run of line. He didn’t have a regulator on the tank. He said that my RV has a 2 stage regulator and I’d be double regulating.

    My question is, isn’t your regulator a 2 stage as well?How did it run with the stage 1 red regulator for you?

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      Thanks so much, Jim. Glad that we’ve been helpful over the years! Yes… our onboard regulator is a 2-stage regulator, too. But we didn’t have an issue with double-regulation because the red regulator we used on the external tank was still providing a high-enough pressure (10 psi) to satisfy the input requirements for the onboard one. Double regulation is a problem if the first regulator in the stream drops the pressure too low for the input needs of the second one. 10-15psi is MORE then enough pressure to supply as the input to the onboard regulator, but is low enough that it prevents the build up of oil in the line and onboard regulator. With a 20-25′ run like yours, we’d think you’d also want to do the same… drop the pressure at the tank into the 10-15psi range so that won’t happen. Hope this helps!

  2. Hello RVgeeks, First off you guys are an awesome source of information. My wife and I watch your YouTube videos every time they come out. The last one that we used to help us was the replacement of the large air filter on the engine. I pride myself on finding the most affordable place to purchase the items I need and after all my searching I found that the place you suggested was the most affordable. Once again I am researching how to connect an external propane tank and my search returned RVgeeks LOL. I should have just checked with you first. We are in a 2001 Fleetwood Discovery. The propane tank itself is toward the front, middle, underneath the motorhome. The fill is at the back so I suppose I need to get underneath to find a good spot to hook up an external tank. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. Another question relates to the awning and snow. I know to leave one side lower to drain the rain water but with the snow I have been going out and using the windshield cleaning attachment on an extendable pole to pull off the accumulating snow. Is this a good idea? I really like the cold and enjoy sitting outside under the awning especially if it is snowing. We have lights and other items hanging from the awning making difficult to quickly bring in and reset it up so I would like to avoid doing so. I am going to stop here since I am rambling. Enjoy the UK.

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      Hey Kirk,

      First… thanks so much for the kind words. It’s always great to hear and we’re thrilled that we’ve been helpful! On the propane front, it’s definitely going to be more of a challenge since your propane tank is located in a more inaccessible spot. But all the connections should be the same/similar to what we used… so once you get in there to look, you should find that it will work as planned. Lastly… the awning. The official word, of course, is that you shouldn’t leave it out if it’s snowing. The weight of the snow can cause damage to the roller, arms, and fabric. That said… we all have to weigh the risks against the rewards… so, by being cautious and making sure you keep the snow from accumulating too much, it shouldn’t cause any trouble. We’d just worry about leaving it out overnight, when the snow could build up quickly while you’re peacefully sleeping. It’s a risk… so as long as you’re aware of the danger and keep up with it, you should be alright. It could just be a gamble if the snow picks up fast enough that you need to retract the awning… and in the cold, the springs & fabric could make that a bit more difficult.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Pingback: RV Snowbird Fail! Managing Short RV Trips To Cold Climates - RVgeeks

  4. Hi RVGeeks! New RV’er…just picking up a great condition 1999 37s Pace Arrow next week. Love your videos! Extremely helpful.
    So I saw your video on “Connecting an RV to External Propane”….and thought…”Wow that’s a lot of work!”
    Being that I always look for simplified systems I noted another possible solution but then thought…”I must be missing a piece of information”. Would be interested in whether the below would have worked for you? If so it might be a more elegant solution.

    Could you have put the extend-a-stay on the other side (right side) of your RV’s regulator and then just removed the regulator on your gas grill?”
    I do understand that would limit you to using the gas grill only when connected to your RV…and that may have been the deciding factor for your extend-a-stay connection preference. However wouldn’t that have solved all the other issues you brought up in this video?

    Namely couldn’t you then have left the original, low pressure regulator on the outboard park tank in place?….being that it was already low pressure (9.5-13 WC) there wouldn’t be the oil build up in your long line. Also having the “extend-a-stay” connected to the right side of the regulator of your RV, the pressure wouldn’t be double regulated….therefore correct for your internal systems? At least I think it would be correct…possibly the length of your hose would drop the pressure too far.

    Also, I’m not so sure why you had to do all those additional coupler size transfer fittings after the first run of hose off the extend-a-stay….couldn’t you just have tossed that short 3 foot hose that came with the extend-a-stay and used just the longer, after-market hoses running from the outboard tank? From the video it looks like the standard male fitting on the aftermarket hoses would directly connect to the extend-a-stay’s port.

    1. Post

      Hi Nick! The reason we went the route we did (removing the old 11″ water column regulator from the big tank and replacing it with a higher flow (15 PSI) unit) is because our extend-a-stay was already mounted on the RV and we didn’t want to move it. Part of the reason for leaving it where we have it (upstream of the RVs whole-house regulator) is that it allows us to connect to ANY external tank… even a little portable tank… in a pinch, with no additional regulation.

      Regarding the 3-foot hose that comes on the extend-a-stay… it may look like a standard fitting, but it’s not. So we’d still have to use an adapter even if we chucked it.

    1. Post

      Awesome question! That would indeed be optimal, eliminating the long hose and therefore the need for the extra regulator on the big external tank. Unfortunately, the tank in this case was enormous and very heavy, so we had no space for it or the ability to place it next to the RV’s on-board tank.

      1. Thanks guys – that answered my question. I just had a 500 pound tank installed, placed within the run of the original Extend-A-Stay hose. The technician didn’t add a regulator at the big tank and didn’t have any issues using the extend-a-stay hose so I assumed it was OK but I wanted to double check. I have used the 20 pound tanks for 3 winters this way but this year work took me to central PA for the winter (I need a better agent) so I am going to use some serious propane.

        One thing I wanted to tell you about the Extend-A-Stay, the first one I had was working great then I started smelling propane near the tank. Of course I checked all the connections and did the soapy water test – nothing. Finally in frustration I soaked the whole set up with soapy water and heard bubbles, but didn’t see bubbles. Further checking revealed pin holes in the back side of the casting. Replaced the T and this one has worked great.

        1. Post

          Glad you’re all set up to stay warm this winter, Bill! And thanks for the heads up about the pin-hole Leakes on the Extend-A-Stay. Never would have assumed that something like that could happen to something cast from brass! Live and learn… and now maybe we’ll be prepared to help someone who has a similar situation to what you described! Happy New Year!

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