What is the best gas to use in your caravan?
Using bottled liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in a caravan is a convenient way to provide heating and cooking amenities while away. But what is the best gas to use and why?
What’s the choice?
There are two choices
- Propane usually comes in a red cylinder and is a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining.
- Butane is found in the blue bottles and is derived from natural gas.
Both gases are compressed into a liquid before being bottled. They remain in liquid form in their bottles for as long as they are held under sufficient pressure.
What’s the difference?
Propane burns hotter, which means your kettle will boil faster. It is also lighter than butane.
Butane is less toxic than propane and can be stored indoors. It also burns cleaner but propane tends to be cheaper than butane.
Propane can operate in temperatures as low as -46 degrees C meaning it can be used all year round while butane should only be used in spring and summer in temperatures over two degrees C.
Which one should you use?
Opinions differ on the best gas to use. Some choose butane pointing to the fact that it is less toxic and users can normally get more running time out of the same size bottle compared with propane. Other caravanners prefer the versatility of propane and the ability to use it all the year round.
A bit about regulators
According to the Camping and Caravanning Club, caravans made before September 2003, use different regulators depending on the gas to provide the right operating pressures, 28mbar (millibar) for butane and 37mbar for propane.
Since September 2003 a European standard has made the supply pressure the same for both gases throughout the EU at 30mbar. All current UK-built caravans run at this pressure and the 30mbar figure is usually clearly visible in the gas cupboard near to the regulator.
What about safety?
Towergate Insurance recommends a number of steps you can take to ensure the safe use of gas in a caravan.
It say gas appliances should be serviced by dealers on a regular basis and that caravans should have proper ventilation vents that remain unblocked. It also says in modern caravans it is mandatory that carbon monoxide testers are installed.
Visual checks on gas pipes, joints and the regulator connections should ensure the equipment is in good order and safe to use.