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Old 12-09-2013, 07:51 PM   #1
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Propane tank & regulator issues

I'm now on my fourth LP regulator and recently had a related bad experience. We were headed out this past weekend with only about a half tank of propane and since we were expecting temps in the mid 30's all weekend decided to stop and have the tank topped off. The fellow at the LP place we stopped at had an attitude and didn't even want to talk about the possibility of an overfilled tank being the cause for the failures ( ruptured diaphrams) of the regulators. He also appeared to be intent on getting as much LP into the tank as possible.

We continued on our 200 mi journey and made camp that evening. Upon trying to heat the motorhome (2013 390RB) with the furnaces I noticed no heat and could hear the ignitors popping, trying to lite the burners. I switched the furnaces off and went to space heaters until I could figure out the problem. One thing I did to diagnose the problem was to light the stove burners. I did get flame there but could not get the hot water heater to work either.

Saturday morning I again attempted to get the furnaces to work without any luck. So I went and checked out the propane tank. I pulled the cover off the regulator and discover it was covered with heavy frost. I had read that frost was not unusual but that a possible cause for my furnaces and hot water heater not working was liquid propane getting into the regulator and freezing it up internally. I also noticed the tank gauge was so far past full that I couldn't see the needle.

Since I could get the kitchen stove to work I burned it for approximately six hours. While it burned I would periodically attempt to get hot water. Turning on the hot water would cause such a demand for propane that the burners on the stove would practically go out until the hot water heater would cycle the gas flow off prior to attempting to light it again. I reasoned that until I could burn off enough propane to relieve the overfilled condition I would not be able to operate the furnaces or hot water heater. Finally after 6 hours of burning the stove I finally could operate all my gas appliances.

I didn't think with an opd protected tank that overfilling was even possible. I thunked wrong!!!! It can and does happen.

Will probably find a different LP provider!!
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Old 12-09-2013, 08:16 PM   #2
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Unscrewing the vent plug defeats the OPD.

Since the installation of the overfill prevention device it is illegal to fill a tank that way.
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Old 12-09-2013, 09:14 PM   #3
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Many years ago, before overfill prevention device (OPD) I used to get 20# liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tanks filled wherever. I happened upon a place where the attendant started filling my tanks, and then took a screwdriver to the vent. I wondered what was going on, until fog started coming out the vent, he closed the tank valve, closed the vent, closed the fill valve, disconnected thee fill hose, then charged me by the gallon, not pound of LPG. Later, I found that this was more accurate than what I had gotten before. The same attendant refused to fill outdated tanks (I got them filled elsewhere until the others caught up). After OPD came in, and I had swapped out my tanks, he informed me that 3 out of 5 OPDs were non-functional, found out by filling the tanks with the vent (actually the full vent) open. So, the full vent does not defeat the OPD, however they (the OPDs) are not failsafe, and there is nothing saying that if the attendant finds a non-functional OPD, they have to condemn and drain the tank, or even report such a failure to the owner, I would believe that the OPD on your coach is not closing its valve. You could replace the OPD or find a knowledgeable attendant to properly fill your tank. You probably also could have opened your full vent until the fog stopped coming out of the vent, BUT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY DANGEROUS.
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Old 12-09-2013, 10:41 PM   #4
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Unscrewing the vent plug defeats the OPD.

Since the installation of the overfill prevention device it is illegal to fill a tank that way.
I dont believe that is true. The OPD is intended to be a last resort to prevent overfilling on tanks that are equipped with it. The vent plug you may be referring to is a bleeder valve and using it is the most accurate and safe way to fill a tank as it begins to vent when the dip tube is at 80% full which is the maximum any propane tank should be filled. That is how the attendant knows when to stop filling. I would not trust any propane filling station or attendant who relies solely on the OPD device which as stated earlier do have a higher failure rate than you would like to think. Also I was not aware that many MH tanks even have an OPD device as is mandated on any new bbq grill type 20lb cylinder you will find nowadays. Either way the safest way to fill a tank is to use the bleeder screw to see when it starts to vent and then stop filling and to not count on the OPD device. Maybe I am confused as to whether this thread is about portable (bbq type tanks) vs DOT fixed tanks that are fixed to our motorhomes. It sounds like the OP was the victim of a filling atendant who just filled the MH tank until it couldnt take anymore without the mandatory process of opening the bleeder valve to indicate when to stop. Very dangerous overfill as there must have been no room for expansion of the LP - good thing this wasnt in hot weather or the emergency safety valve would have opened up and started venting pressure.
And kudos to the place and attendant who refuses to fill any tank that is out of date as it is against the law. You can get an older tank requalified but then it has to be done every 5 years and the date engraved on the tank and is hard to get done most places. For bbq tanks the legal limit is 12 (or maybe in some other states 10) years from the stamped date of manufacture on the tank collar. Any place that uses the bleeder valve screw and checks dates on tanks is a place I would trust - even if it was inconvenient if you find out your tank is old. Also selling propane by the lb is very accurate for portable tanks (of course only if placed on a scale) vs places that meter it by the gallon. Both can be accurate if the place is to be trusted and has been certified by weights and measures. For our fixed MH tanks only by the gallon can be measured and dispensed for filling.
BTW I own a store that also is a filling station and am certified. More than once when traveling and needing propane I have stopped at a place for a propane top off and found a nervous attendant who was untrained and I ended up talking them into letting me fill it myself because even though that employee certainly was supposed to do it they almost obviously didnt even want to do it because they did not know what they were doing when filling a MH tank. Scary!
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Old 12-09-2013, 11:27 PM   #5
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The Truth About Filling 20 LB BBQ Grill Propane Tanks | Web Design Greenville SC

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j...N1lepQmPmiVTRA

This is a OSHA PowerPoint Module on filling propane bottles. You actually CAN fill a 20 pound bottle "by volume" (using the vent method). There are restrictions though and you should be aware of them.

Thank you for making me check. It is not DoT recommended to fill the tanks "by volume" commercially, or be allowed to be transported commercially.

Filling for a private individual who will transport the tank in his private vehicle, it is allowed. Commercial use tanks (like pre-filled ones sold at Costco or Lowes) must be sold by TARE weight.

New day; learned something new.
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Old 12-10-2013, 12:04 AM   #6
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All true but also the quoted section of the OSHA manual you are referring to only covers portable "bottles" and should not be confused with a tank that is horizontally mounted and kind of permanantly mounted or otherwise somehow affixed to a motorhome. There is an entirely separate part of the training manual for motorhome tanks for which the bleeder screw vent method is pretty much mandatory. Good points also though in your first link about the truth about 20lb bottles - few consumers are aware that a lot of cylinder exchange places only provide 15 to 17 lbs whereas a filling station can fill it to a capacity of 20 lbs often for even a better price. Believe it or not some places even charge a flat rate for a 20 cylinder fill whether it came in empty or not which is in my opinion a very dishonest practice vs charging by the pound or by the gallon for how much propane was dispensed! Be careful - there are lots of places that take advantage of the fact that many consumers are either uninformed, unaware (since you cant really see what or how much goes into your tank vs what you are paying for) or are even a little afraid of propane in general and end up victimized by misleadong, untrained or even unscrupulous propane suppliers.
It seems like the OP was unfortunate to have his MH tank overfilled by an irresponsible (or even grossly negligent!) filling attendant and am just glad that it didnt cause him more harm or danger.
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Old 12-10-2013, 12:13 AM   #7
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Wish I had a thanks button for mjracsj sharing of information.
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Old 12-10-2013, 12:19 AM   #8
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I certainly have learned more than I have shared regarding so many other Berkshire and motorhome owners' issues on this forum!
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Old 12-10-2013, 01:21 AM   #9
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Since there appears to be some confusion I was talking about the propane tank on my motorhome.

It states on the tank that it is equipped with an OPD.

The attendant went through the motion of opening the bleeder valve at the very last instance before he shut off the tank and there was a fog of propane that came from it.

The really scary part of this is that this is an Allgas Propane distributor with 4 or 5 trucks that fill residential tanks. The attendant was one of truck drivers.
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Old 12-10-2013, 03:46 AM   #10
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You should always open the bleeder screw when filling a tank when the vapor starts to come out you shut the gas off and tighten the screw. most refill stations have a meter for gals on it. at least all the ones I have been to. it falls under weights and measures law. Hell I had to meter freon in a/c units to be able to charge by the pound with freon when I was in business, and that started in the 80's late.
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Old 12-10-2013, 05:11 AM   #11
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Like I said:
The attendant went through the motion of opening the bleeder valve at the very last instance before he shut off the tank and there was a fog of propane that came from it.

It was already overfilled by then. I understand that the valve should be opened when filling but it should be opened long before he did it.

You need to read entire thread!
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Old 12-10-2013, 05:36 AM   #12
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Quote:
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Like I said:
The attendant went through the motion of opening the bleeder valve at the very last instance before he shut off the tank and there was a fog of propane that came from it.

It was already overfilled by then. I understand that the valve should be opened when filling but it should be opened long before he did it.

You need to read entire thread!
I read the entire thread I was agreeing with you. I stand and make sure they do it myself.
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Old 12-10-2013, 09:02 AM   #13
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They are also supposed to ask you to turn off all pilot lights and make sure nobody is in the MH during filling. This should include them asking you to turn off your fridge while you are there if it is in LP mode. Anyplace that doesn't bother with these details is being lazy with your safety.
To the OP I got what you were explaining and just wanted to make sure the thread didn't confuse your issue with what people see when their bbq type tank is filled. I am glad things were not more serious for you and you eventually ended up ok I hope.
I'm curious if the filling attendant who caused your problem even bothered to mention these other safety precautions given his attitude toward you when you mentioned your concern about overfilling.
When I or any of my employees fill a MH at our LP station sometimes the owner of the coach is surprised when we ask that all pilot lights or flames be turned off and to have everyone out of the coach as they often say "well no place else ever makes me do that." Again, scary! Not trying to alarm anyone either but there are a few key precautions and procedures that go a long way in making sure the MH is filled properly and safely. Unfortunately it sounds like we MH owners should have to be aware of them and at least familiar with the procedure since some filling places don't seem to care very much. I am sure this is not the norm but a little awareness can help us look after ourselves. Many LP filling stations see relatively few motorhomes (thus tending to have an attendant on any given day who is not as familiar with them as they should be) and do mostly bbq tanks. Since the introduction of the OPD some filling attendants have become lazy about the whole procedure as they mostly fill bbq tanks and figure it is no big deal just filling it until the OPD stops it. I wonder if some even know what they are doing at all beyond that.
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Old 12-10-2013, 09:19 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by NV245 View Post
Wish I had a thanks button for mjracsj sharing of information.
I sent him a pair for both of us.
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Old 12-10-2013, 09:32 AM   #15
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FYI
DOT Cylinder (portable bottle) requalification Codes
12 years after intial date of maufacture
5 years after external visual inspection (there will be an E stamped after date EX 0512E)
7 years after modified hydrotest (S ater date)

Also DOT requires the inspector to have a RIN # (requalifiers inspection number) that will be placed or stamped on the cylinder.

Since the RIN # requires the inspector to keep records FOREVER or till the end of time (which ever comes first) most refillers and some LP Gas Dealer will not requal cylinders.

Hope this helps
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Old 12-10-2013, 10:40 AM   #16
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When I had a new propane tank put in at my home I asked a lot of questions because our old one was so outdated. The tech told me that all tanks are filled only to 80% capacity for safety reasons. One time I took a 20 lb tank to have it filled and the guy filling it made the overfill activate. He said they were supposed to test them every time they filled them, don't know if this was just their policy or a New York state thing. Seems like a good idea to test them. Frost on the regulator, I had that happen in the summer before and was told it was probably very humid that day propane is very cold causing the regulator to freeze up, don't know if that is your problem. I would go to a propane company and ask some questions about this freeze up and your opd I'm sure someone there could give you the info you need.
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Old 12-10-2013, 12:42 PM   #17
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Frost on a reguluator can be caused by High Demand along with high humidity, undersized regulator, Blocked vent on a regulator, water in the gas (called a freeze up) and liquid carry over from an overfilled tank. Usally a freeze up or liquid carry over will cause the regulator to vent. Regulator are designed to not allow more than 2 psi downstream in the event of a failure. Also liquid carry over would also frost the offending tank valve and pigtail. As stated earlier filling by volume with the bleeder open is the best way to keep from overfilling any tank. OPD valves in cylinders and auto stop valves in motor home tanks can fail open or closed.

Hope this helps

Hope this helps
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Old 12-10-2013, 01:28 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gasman6674 View Post
Frost on a reguluator can be caused by High Demand along with high humidity, undersized regulator, Blocked vent on a regulator, water in the gas (called a freeze up) and liquid carry over from an overfilled tank. Usally a freeze up or liquid carry over will cause the regulator to vent. Regulator are designed to not allow more than 2 psi downstream in the event of a failure. Also liquid carry over would also frost the offending tank valve and pigtail. As stated earlier filling by volume with the bleeder open is the best way to keep from overfilling any tank. OPD valves in cylinders and auto stop valves in motor home tanks can fail open or closed.

Hope this helps

Hope this helps
I noted the article said to fill with the bleeder open ONLY until vapor is seen. Most guys I have seen wait till liquid comes out. Is that overfilled?
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Old 12-10-2013, 01:40 PM   #19
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No Sir
That is the correct way. When you open the bleeder you will always get vapor but when the liquid level gets to the bottom of the tube it will "change" to a white fog (expanding liquid) thats when the tank is 80% full. Most of the time (but not all) a functioning OPD will shut it off before it get to 80%.
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Old 12-10-2013, 02:03 PM   #20
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No Sir
That is the correct way. When you open the bleeder you will always get vapor but when the liquid level gets to the bottom of the tube it will "change" to a white fog (expanding liquid) thats when the tank is 80% full. Most of the time (but not all) a functioning OPD will shut it off before it get to 80%.
Thanks.
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