The propane system is an important part of making your RV comfortable, convenient, and cozy. It allows you to access and operate your gas-fueled appliances, heats up your coach when you’re stopped on a cold night, and heats water for showers and washing up. However, the flammability of propane is not to be taken lightly. You’ve got to respect it and be extra cautious with all of the parts of your RV’s propane system.
That’s why a high-quality RV propane regulator is so critical: it’s the thing that metes out your propane, granting you all those conveniences while keeping you from, you know, blowing up. (Like we said, it’s important!)
So we put together this post with some of the most important things to know about RV propane regulators, starting with nine fast facts and then digging into more detail.
RV Propane Regulator: 9 Things to Know!
Here are some quick, but crucial, facts about your RV propane regulator.
- To regulate the propane pressure, your RV has a two-stage propane regulator. This is a component that fits between the tank to the rest of the system, and it takes the fuel coming out of the tank at a high pressure (or PSI) and brings it down to a manageable flow. The first stage lowers the pressure to around 10 to 15 psi from its much higher number, sometimes 250 or more. Then, the second stage takes it down to around 11 water column inches, which is the right flow for your RV’s appliances.
- The RV propane pressure regulator is considered by many to be the heart of your RV’s propane system. It has a pretty important job, and you can’t fuel your appliances if it’s not working, no matter how much propane is in your tank. The good news is that they’re relatively affordable: you can pick up a new one for around $25. Additionally, it’s fairly easy to install, and the inlet and outlet are different sizes, so you won’t ever mix them up. Therefore, as long as you’re comfortable doing your own RV repairs, it’s not a bad idea to have a spare RV propane regulator. If your two-stage regulator starts to break down, having that extra one can mean the difference between a comfortable camp out and a really chilly night!
- Each stage on a two-stage propane regulator for RV has a vent. The vent on the first stage is quite tiny, often just a small hole. The second stage vent is bigger and more obvious. It’s absolutely essential to keep these vents clean, or the regulator won’t work properly. To help dirt and debris from getting caught in them, the stage two vent must be pointed down. If possible, the stage one vent should point down too.
- You’ve got to keep your RV’s two-stage propane regulator covered. There are plastic covers made specifically for this purpose, and if you bought your RV new, it should already have one. However, if you have an older model RV without a cover, or if your cover is cracked or damaged, you’ll want to get a new one as soon as you can.
- Your RV propane regulator should last a while, but it won’t last forever. It’s a good idea to replace them every ten to 15 years. Even if you’re not experiencing any trouble with your RV’s propane system, the inside parts wear down and wear out after a while. It’s wise to replace an old regulator before something inevitably goes wrong.
- When you fill your RV propane tank (or tanks), turn off the regulator valve. Once the tank is full, don’t forget to turn it back on (or have your service technician turn it back on). If you go to fire up your gas appliances after filling your tank and nothing seems to be working, check the valve — it’s probably in the off position.
- Some RVs have two propane tanks instead of one. RVs with this type of setup will often have an RV automatic dual tank changeover LP propane regulator. To use it properly, make sure both propane tanks are turned on, then switch the lever to one tank. When that tank is empty, just switch the lever to the second tank. Make sure you fill up your empty tank before your spare runs out!
- Propane has a very distinct odor, and if you smell that odor, something is wrong. It could be a problem with your RV propane regulator, or it could be an issue with some other part of your propane system, but whatever it is, you’ll want to find out quickly. As soon as you smell propane, shut off your tanks, turn off your RV’s appliances, extinguish nearby campfires, and get your lit cigarettes far away from your camper. Make sure the interior of your RV is well-ventilated by opening windows and turning on overhead fans. Then, start looking for the problem or take your RV in to be serviced.
- Remember: when it comes to propane, better safe than sorry! The RV propane regulator isn’t a complicated component, and as long as you’re comfortable making repairs, you should be able to resolve any issue that comes up with yours. However, it’s also important to remember that propane is extremely flammable, and you don’t want to take chances. If you’re not sure how to fix your RV propane regulator or any other part of your RV’s propane system, enlist the help of a trusted and experienced RV repair person.
Your RV propane regulator may seem like a small part of your whole home on wheels, especially compared to things like the engine, the transmission, and the interior furniture. However, having your RV propane regulator break while you’re out on a camping trip could make for some pretty rough adventures. Take the time to learn about your propane system and its regulator, including how to recognize problems and how to replace them. This knowledge can make your time spent in your RV with friends and family much more comfortable and practically stress-free.
What is the best RV propane regulator?
On the market for a new RV propane regulator for your rig — or a spare, as we discussed? Here are some of the best options on the market right now.
Flame King Two-Stage RV Propane Regulator with Automatic Changeover
If you’re in a motorcoach or trailer with two tanks, this may be the perfect propane regulator for your RV. The design makes it easy to remove cylinders when they’re empty and reinstall them once they’ve been filled, and it can be purchased with or without the “pigtail” attachments (that is, the hoses that connect the cylinders to the regulator itself).
The Flame King Two-Stage RV Propane Regulator is rated at 190,000 BTUs and is available for less than $40 with the pigtails, or even less without. However, if you have an RV that only works on a single propane thank, this setup won’t be an appropriate solution.
GASPRO 5-Foot Two-Stage RV Propane Regulator with Hose
Two-stage regulators result in more consistent gas flow, which is good news for your propane-run appliances. GASPRO’s Two-Stage Propane Regulator with its five-foot connection gives you the room you need to power up not only your RV propane tank, but it can also be used for gas grills, gas stove ranges, hot water heaters, and more.
Fairview High Capacity RV Propane Regulator
If you need a high-capacity RV propane regulator in your rig, this version from Fairview is well-priced and high quality. It’s rated at a whopping 345,000 BTUs per hour, and set at the standard propane low pressure of 11″ water column. It’s also got automatic changeover and capacity for two tanks, so you can use it if your setup is a dually!
What to Look for When Buying an RV Propane Regulator
Even with the list of potential propane regulators above, sometimes, you’re going to be on your own when it comes time to shop for one — for instance, if your existing regulator craps out while you’re on a camping trip, and you can’t wait for shipping from an online vendor. In those scenarios, what should you look for when shopping for an RV propane regulator?
- Price, obviously, is an important purchasing factor for the majority of campers. Fortunately, as discussed above, most RV propane regulators are pretty cheap!
- Material and quality are important to consider since your RV propane regulator is such a critical piece of equipment. You’ll want to look for regulators that are constructed of aluminum, zinc, stainless steel, or brass; some also advertise themselves as “heavy-duty” or feature powdered coating.
- Regulator capacity is an important metric to understand before you buy a regulator of any sort. Capacity is measured in BTUs, or British thermal units; the higher the BTU rating, the more expensive the regulator. (The good news is, most RVs don’t require high-pressure regulators, and anything over about 50,000 BTUs should be acceptable.)
- Your regulator may come with an included protective cover, which can be a huge help in keeping your regulator in proper working order over time.
- If your RV has two propane tanks, you’ll want to look for a regulator that features automatic change-over. That way, you won’t have to worry about manually changing over the regulator; you simply flip the lever from one side to the other.
Types of RV Propane Regulators
It’s important to understand that not every propane regulator on the market will be appropriate for your RV! There are a few different types of RV propane regulators out there, each with different uses. Here’s an overview.
- First-stage propane regulators are the type used with a single cylinder of propane when you’re connecting it to a gas grill or camping stove. They’re also sometimes called low-BTU regulators, or single-stage regulators, and they can deliver propane at a low pressure to a second-stage regulator.
- Second-stage propane regulators are the ones that go between the first-stage regulator and the actual appliance. They also work to cut down the pressure in the tank and ensure the gas pressure won’t overwhelm the appliance it’s being delivered to. These kinds of regulators may be found on commercial or high-end appliances and are generally rated at approximately 175,000 BTUs.
- Integral twin-stage propane regulators are the most common. In fact, this is probably the type you’re dealing with in your RV! They’re also referred to as inline twin stage regulators or dual regulators, and they help you distribute propane amongst multiple appliances.
- High-pressure propane regulators are, as the name suggests, adept at dealing with high gas pressures that need serious regulation. These are generally not used in RVs, or really any consumer appliances for that matter; you’re more likely to encounter them if you’re looking at a commercial fryer.
RV Propane Regulator Troubleshooting
As discussed above, trouble with your RV propane regulator is big trouble that’s worth sorting out as quickly as possible. While we always recommend you seek out professional help immediately if you deem it necessary, there are some minor troubleshooting steps you can take yourself.
If your RV propane regulator is leaking, as evidenced by a smell of gas or hissing sound, try to tighten the fixture. If it won’t stop leaking even when you’ve finger-tightened it as much as possible, the regulator likely needs replacing.
If propane-powered onboard appliances aren’t firing up, keep in mind that the problem could be coming from anywhere along the lines, including your RV propane regulator. If the propane regulator appears to be working, but you still can’t use your heater or stove, you may need to take your RV into the repair shop.
Checking an RV propane regulator’s pressure requires a gas pressure manometer, which is a specialty tool you’re unlikely to have. It’s therefore is best left up to the professionals.
Generally speaking, the easiest, and often cheapest, course of action if you’re having trouble with your RV propane regulator is simply to replace it, given their inexpensive price point.
RV Propane Regulator FAQs
Let’s finish out this article with some answers to your most commonly asked questions about RV propane regulators!
How do you adjust an RV propane regulator?
If you need to adjust your RV propane regulator, remove the cap and notice the adjustment screw underneath. Turning this screw clockwise will increase the outlet pressure, in most cases, but the proper direction of the adjustment will also be marked on the regulator itself.
How do you connect a propane tank to an RV?
Your propane regulator is the exact item that does this job! The regulator, along with a set of hoses, delivers the gas from your tanks to your RV’s appliances.
How do you know if a propane regulator is bad?
If your RV propane regulator is not working, or you hear a consistent hissing noise, it may be bad. Oftentimes, it’s the internal diaphragm that breaks. A professional can confirm that your propane regulator has gone caput with a manometer.
How do you reset a propane regulator on an RV?
Resetting an RV propane regulator is simple. Just ensure all the propane-activated appliances in your RV are off, and then turn the pressure off from the propane tank entirely. Wait a few moments before re-opening the lines and allowing them to become re-pressurized.
How do you install RV propane regulators?
The exact steps for installing your RV propane regulator will vary depending on the type of setup you have and where the propane tanks are stored on your RV. However, this service may be one of the more inexpensive ones to hire out to your local RV repair shop or propane fill-up station.
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