Motorhome gas is used to provide heating, cooking and refrigeration facilities but which is the best gas for motorhomes, how long does it last and are there any motorhome gas regulations you need to comply with? The Van Life Matters motorhome gas guide explains all.
Motorhomes use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), normally kept under pressure in a gas cylinder or underslung gas tank.
LPG is stored as liquid and only becomes gaseous when released and supplied to an appliance – a pressure-reducing regulator normally manages the flow of fuel to the appliance.
Which is the best gas for motorhomes?
Both propane and butane are LPG but each offers slightly different characteristics.
While there is no standardised colour system, butane cylinders tend to be blue, yellow and white while propane is often supplied in red cylinders and sometimes orange.
The number of appliances you have, their gas usage, and the temperature will determine which gas is ideal for you.
Due to its higher supply rate (often referred to as ‘off-take rate’) and ability to operate in sub-zero temperatures, propane gas is better at providing a greater number of appliances at once than butane, which begins to produce less gas below around 4C.
Although you get somewhat more energy from a butane cylinder than a propane one of the same volume, there isn’t much of a benefit to purchasing butane gas now that the pricing of the two gases are so similar.
Motorhome gas regulators
Since September 2003, European standard EN 1949 has made motorhome gas supply pressure the same for both propane and butane at 30mbar.
Until September 2003, motorhomes used a different regulator depending on the gas being – for butane it was 28mbar (millibar) and 37mbar for propane.
Some older motorhomes from continental Europe use different pressures, up to 50mbar.
All modern UK-built motorhome gas systems operate at 30mbar, and this number should be indicated in the gas locker close to the regulator.
Pre-2003 models still need separate motorhome gas regulators depending on the gas used.
Motorhome gas weight
The weight of a gas cylinder should be taken into account when loading your motorhome – it contributes to the payload.
|Supplier||Gas||LPG weight||Total weight||Height||Diameter|
|Campingaz R 907||Butane||2.75 kg||6.5 kg||235 mm||203 mm|
|Calor||Butane||4.5 kg||10.2 kg||340 mm||240 mm|
|Flogas||Butane||4.5 kg||10.7 kg||340 mm||240 mm|
|Calor||Butane||7.0 kg||16.0 kg||495 mm||256 mm|
|Flogas||Butane||7.0 kg||16.0 kg||195 mm||256 mm|
|Flogas Gaslight||Propane||5.0 kg||8.7 kg||393 mm||305 mm|
|Calor||Propane||3.9 kg||9.6 kg||340 mm||240 mm|
|Flogas||Propane||6.0 kg||14.3 kg||495 mm||256 mm|
|Calor||Propane||6.0 kg||15.0 kg||495 mm||256 mm|
|Floga Gaslight||Propane||10.0 kg||15.4 kg||587 mm||305 mm|
Gas regulations for motorhomes
Motorhomes do not currently have the same level of gas regulation as houses but it’s widely recommend that you seek professional help when it comes to motorhome gas servicing and maintenance.
While it’s not regulation, British Standard EN 1949:2011+A1:2013 specifies the requirements for the installation of LPG systems “for habitation purposes in leisure accommodation vehicles”.
Gas Safe states that a person can undertake their own gas work within their own motorhome, provided that it is not intended to be hired out.
If it is intended to be hired out, the UK’s official gas registration body says the person/business undertaking that work must be suitably qualified and registered with Gas Safe.
Can you drive a motorhome with gas on?
There is no legal obligation to turn your gas system off before traveling.
However, it’s widely acknowledged that turning off the gas cylinder before driving is best practice.
Motorhome gas appliances and cylinders can move around during travel, potentially causing gas leaks from strained hoses and connectors.
It’s also much safer to close off gas supply from the cylinder, should the motorhome become involved in a collision.
However, some vehicle manufacturers now state that the gas system can be left switched on while driving – check your vehicle’s handbook or contact your dealership for confirmation before driving with the gas system switched-on.
Finding LPG cylinders
Most camping accessory shops, motorhome dealerships and some garage forecourts stock LPG cylinders.
However, stock of motorhome gas bottles has been somewhat limited in recent months.
Citing high demand and supply chain problems, Calor Gas halted online sales of canisters on its own website earlier this year to prioritise supply for its nationwide network of retailers.
Motorhome owners are best advised to use the free-to-use Camping-Gas online directory to find a local retailer and then calling to ensure they have stock to avoid a wasted journey.
Ferry crossings and tunnels
Motorhomes carrying removeable gas cylinders can use UK tunnels, provided the cylinder valve is turned-off, but there may be a limit on the amount of gas that can be carried.
Most UK and continental Europe ferries have similar rules – always check before travel.
NEED TO KNOW: Any vehicle propelled by LPG or other compressed gas are not permitted on Eurotunnel trains. Some tunnels and ferries in the UK and continental Europe may limit the amount of gas that is stored in motorhomes with a fixed LPG tank - check with the operator.
How long does gas last in a motorhome?
Motorhome gas usage depends on temperature, the number of appliances using gas and the amount of power they require.
To give you a rough idea as to how long the gas will last in your motorhome, most owners tend to find they consume between 0.8 and 1.5kg of gas per day.
If you’re on a campsite with electric hook-up, it’s always worth conserving gas and using electricity to power heating, cooking appliances and refrigeration where possible.
Although most steel gas cylinders have no visual means of measuring the contents, digital gas level indictors are available to purchase.
Alternatively, you can give the cylinder a shake to determine how much is left or put it on some scales.
You can also extend the time between changes by using a motorhome gas changeover valve, which automatically changes cylinders if you have more than one onboard.
What size gas cylinder do I need for a motorhome?
You need to ensure that you have enough gas to supply all appliances – the more you have on at once, the quicker you’ll use up the gas.
A single 6kg propane gas cylinder has a maximum supply rate (off-take rate) of up to about 0.8kg per hour – enough for a cooker, space heater, fridge and water heater.
If you also want to use the grill and gas rings at the same time as all of your other appliances, a 6kg bottle is unlikely to cope.
If you’re using too many appliances for your supply of gas, you’ll find some may not be operating efficiently and may even go out – a flame failure device should always be installed to stop unburned gas from entering the living space.
While conventional gas cylinders cannot be refilled, some are designed to be refilled at authorised LPG depots.
Gaslow, Safefill and Gas It make refillable cylinders which can be refilled using the LPG nozzle at a filling station.
NEED TO KNOW: You'll need adapters for refilling gas cylinders in continental Europe
An inbuilt cut-off switch which limits the volume to no more than 80 per cent full, avoids over-filling and allows sufficient space for LPG expansion.
These specially designed cylinders also feature an overpressure release valve and contents gauge.
Fixed motorhome gas tanks
Larger motorhomes are more likely to have a fixed LPG tank that can be filled at a fuel station and holds considerably more gas than can be stored in a cylinder.
However, a bigger tank means more gas and increased weight, reducing the available payload.
Always ensure tanks are in good, safe condition (particularly under-slung tanks) and have been fitted to a good standard.
Motorhome gas system maintenance
All LPG appliances and fittings should be checked and serviced on a regular basis to ensure safe and reliable operation.
A professional habitation service usually includes a motorhome gas check by a suitably qualified person.
During the gas service, a manometer test gauge is used to check for gas leaks and all gas appliances are inspected for correct operation.
Owners should also regularly check gas hoses for deterioration.
It’s widely recommended that motorhome gas hoses are replaced at least every five years – UK-supplied gas hoses are marked with a date of manufacture.
You should also regularly inspect all hose clamps and ensure hoses cannot be knocked by anything.
Motorhome gas safety
Gas is highly flammable the appropriate safety precautions should always be followed.
- Ensure your gas system is properly maintained and serviced
- Always turn off the gas in your motorhome at the cylinder before any travel.
- Fit a carbon monoxide alarm
- Fit a fire alarm
- Have a fire blanket and/or fire extinguisher within easy reach
- Ensure all ventilation spaces are clear of obstructions
- Never smoke when changing cylinders or refilling
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Van Life Matters newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest UK Van Life news, tips and advice.