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Old 02-24-2013, 12:28 AM   #1
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Default Propane Generator Question

Hello All!
Last weekend I took my PW Plateau out for a day trip - it needed to be driven as it had been parked since the end of December and the generator needed "exercise" (I'd run it for about 30 min in Dec - no load b/c the only way I can put a load on it is to run the AC and it's cold enough out there!) I drove out to WV - about 3 hours each way and on the way back stopped in a "scenic overlook" to run the generator and heat up dinner in the microwave. It took the generator a little extra time to come on, but I expected that b/c I hadn't used the propane system since Dec. Once it came on it ran just fine - I let it run a few minutes as I got dinner ready to go in the microwave. I heated my soup for 2 mins, stirred it and put it back in for 2 more min. When the microwave cut off the 2nd time the generator "hiccuped" - it sounded like it was going to cut off, but it didn't. It straightened itself out and kept running. I left it running while I ate - all told it ran about 30 mins. I wasn't sure what was up with the hiccup but since it ran fine after I wasn't too worried...I'd watch and see if it did it again the next time. When I was ready to depart I turned the generator off and jumped out of the van to shut the propane off and while I was out of the van I smelled propane. I'd just shut down the generator though...and I was on the side of the van where the generator exhaust is. So that's my question...is it at all normal to smell propane after running the generator? I've never noticed it before, but I've also never stood in that spot after running the generator... I was alone in the scenic overlook (it was just a big parking lot so no reason for most people to stop) so it couldn't have been someone else!

Before I ran the generator the propane gauge was reading 2/3. It was still at 2/3 after. When I got home it said Full. So that doesn't make much sense. Esp considering that it was below freezing outside.

I switched the propane off and drove home w/o incident. I don't think there's a leak in the tank, but could there be a leak between the tank and the generator? Would it still have run?

Thanks!
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Old 02-24-2013, 01:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

Re: the propane generator taking a little extra time to start - I often light the stove top first when I haven't used propane in a while. It seems to get the gas flowing. Then I'll shut off the stove top and then start my fridge for example.

Re: the monitor gauge discrepancy - when liquid levels are right at the 1/3, 2/3 or Full levels the reported level will fluctuate between the actual level and the next higher level. It could be caused by a slight tilt of your van where parked or even a change in temperature. If yours is fluctuating between 2/3 and Full you are just at the low point of the Full level now. With a little more propane use it will consistently show 2/3 until it reaches the next threshold. (Edited to make it clearer)

Re: propane smell - I think the generator would still run if there was a small leak.

Onan only says this in the manual:

Quote:
If you smell gas, close the LPG container shutoff valve and have the genset serviced before using it again.
It could be something as simple as a dirty air filter causing the generator to run rich (the ratio of propane to air being on the high side).

I'll let someone who has a Propane Generator comment on whether or not smelling propane after running and shutting down the generator is normal.
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Old 02-26-2013, 05:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

Hi teachergal, I just had my gen set installed a few weeks ago. So I have only ran it once. I am scheduled to run it again this week-end, (once a month 30 minutes) As far as a load, I am in Toronto so it is cold here as well. My plan is to run a small electric heater for a load during the winter. I will run it this week end and let you know if I get a smell. I have the same van as you so it should be the same.

rick
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

I had a faint smell of propane coming from underneath my B. I turn my propane on and off via a valve on my Great West Van. As I remember my 2005 Pleasure-way Sprinter the propane was turned on and off via a switch. I never fully understood how that worked. I was told the valve should always be completely closed or completely open or a leak could develop if only partially open. The valve handle turns a few turns total. That turned out to not be my leak. What it was was a faulty regulator and I had it replaced. I was glad of that because the regulator was beyond the tank > valve > Regulator. Otherwise to replace the valve the propane would have had to have been bled to the atmosphere and that's a lengthy process.
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Old 02-27-2013, 12:16 AM   #5
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

I'm working on making an appointment to take it in - better safe than sorry!

Rick...I'd def be interested to see if you smell propane with yours! I've had my rig almost a year now and I've run the generator on a number of occasions but usually not for long (well there was one hot night at wal-mart I ran it for almost 8 hours), and I've always just turned it off and gone about my business.

It did just occur to me to bring an appliance with me to plug in in order to put a load on the gen set...next time! Either that or I'll cook rice or something in the microwave!

Davydd, my PW has a switch in the utility panel. I don't get how it works either. I thought that it also had a screw valve where they fill it that you can screw open or closed but when I pulled the yellow cover off by the fill spot I discovered that it's just the valve to put gas on. The only way to control it is with the switch.... I'm wondering how that works on ferries and stuff when they want it "turned off at the tank"?

This was def faint...it didn't scream "emergency situation" to me...although I was a bit nervous driving for the 1st few miles, but I knew the propane was as "off" as I could get it and if there's a leak, I doubt that it's in the tank since the tank is still reading Full - 2/3 full... I supposed I could have picked up road debris that caused a leak that day...I guess I should go over and check it!
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Old 02-27-2013, 04:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

I rhink the propane switch operates a Solenoid switch which closes the valve. Not sure where it closes it. I will look under the van this weekend to see it there is a manual valve as well. I was under there before looking at the hook for the gen set but didnot pay enough attention to see if there is a manual valve.

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Old 03-08-2013, 05:07 PM   #7
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

I ran the generator this week end. I did not get a propane smell. I could smell the exhaust when it was running. I looked under the van. There appears to be a small valve below the Solenoid to shut off the tank. You have to crawl under the van to do it. I have a couple of pictures but I do not know how to attach them to the post.

What side does your exhaust come out?

Rick
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:36 PM   #8
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

Thanks for the info Rick!

I took my van over to the local RV place today and had them look it over.
They couldn't find a leak anywhere - they tested all the connections and everything. The guy I talked to said: "It's not unusual to smell propane after running the generator" So there we have it.

It was right after I turned the generator off - and I was on the same side of the coach as the exhaust (driver side - in back, behind the back wheels). I suppose now I need to go run it, turn it off, jump outside and see if I can smell propane. My guess is that as long as I'm looking for it, I won't.

They also found nothing wrong with my LP detector - it's false alarms are just that. Apparently, it's common for the detectors to go off for a minute or 2 after the battery is reconnected as a way of resetting themselves. As far as the other alarms I was getting I think they have to do with other stuff - the shower, the 1st time running the heater...
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:46 PM   #9
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

Markopolo, if I'm turning the fridge on after having it off for any length of time, I usually have to light the stove 1st and then turn the fridge on - and it sometimes still takes 2-3x for the fridge to light. I thought of that when I started the generator but I was already holding the button down and I figured it would get the propane up soon enough and it did! I wonder if running the generator for a few minutes might be a better way to get the gas flowing??? Of course I'm usually parked at my house (a townhouse) when I'm getting the fridge up and running and I worry about the noise of the generator in the neighborhood, especially b/c I'm technically not allowed to have the RV there at all, luckily my neighbors "get it" and it's never there for more than 12 hours.
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Old 03-09-2013, 04:27 AM   #10
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

Hi Teachergal,

You say you never have your Plateau where you live for more than 12 hours. Do you rent a spot for it elsewhere.? As mentioned on my thread about choosing which brand of Class B to buy, we are not perfectly happy about where we have to park our new rig when we get it--which should be, wow, TOMORROW!

We chose the Great West Legend SE over the Plateau (the Plateau was originally our top choice before examining a Great West in person). The Plateau is a GREAT rig. The Great West is, too, though. A lot of our decision had to do with big company vs. small company. Many of your comments were instrumental in our ability to evaluate the units.

Thanks for all your comments.

............Rocky
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Old 03-13-2013, 10:31 PM   #11
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

Hi Teachergal, thanks for the update. In regard to the parking, a lot depends on your neighbors and the by-laws. Mine stays right in the driveway and we use it as a 2nd car. We have not had a problem so far but some bylaws say if it has a stove and fridge it is an Rv. Seems kind of dumb with a b B though as I could by a passenger van of the same size and not have a problem.
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Old 03-13-2013, 11:40 PM   #12
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Default Re: Propane Generator Question

Rok,
Congratulations on the purchase! I hope you are enjoying those wonderful 1st few days when you are learning so much about it and giddy with excitement that you actually own it!

My HOA states that you are not allowed to park RVs, boats or commercial vehicles in my development. This is not heavily enforced - there are 2 people nearby who drive commercial vehicles with logos all over them and there's an empty boat trailer parked on the street and someone a few streets over has a class B parked in their driveway (it looks like a RT built on a chevy/ford chassis, but it's a different brand, I can't remember what it is...I need to knock on their door and introduce myself!) so I *could* ignore the rule like the others seem to do, however, I live in a townhouse and while I have 2 parking spaces that are mine and I only need, so it would seem that I could just park it at home. However, my van is 24Ft long and is longer than the parking spot - if I back it in all the way it blocks the sidewalk (which is illegal and the neighbor could have it towed), if I pull it out so it doesn't block the sidewalk it sticks out and I worry someone will hit it, also, the parking spots are small and when I drive the RV to my house I like to park it in both spots so the neighbors can get to their cars. Also, I'm still learning to back it in - I can get it into 1 parking spot, however I haven't really worked on backing it in when there are cars on both sides!

So, it works better for me to store it in a nearby RV/Boat storage location. I pay $75 a month and it's in a secure lot - there are a LOT of RVs and boats - including 3 other (that I've seen) Class B's - 2 RTs and a Leisure Travel. I have a key card to get in, however they do turn off the gate at night, but so far that hasn't been a problem. The storage place is about 5 miles away so I could walk if I ever needed to - only problem with that is that I can only drive one car at a time! The one problem that I've had is that my spot is between 2 boats and it's VERY tight when both boats are in. Back in July I discovered a large scratch on one side of my van - my best guess is that the boat hit it when they were taking the boat out. I have no proof though. It doesn't bother me too much...the RV is gonna get scratched/dented...it's just cosmetic!

When I'm using the RV - going camping, taking it in for service, just driving it for the heck of it, I go and trade my regular car for the RV and leave my regular car in the spot. I will then bring the RV home and load, put water on (yay for a water spigot on the front of the house!), and then park it overnight so I can leave in the morning - if it's a school day I leave by 6:30 so the RV isn't much trouble for the neighbors. When I return from I trip I sometimes unload then go switch the cars right away, sometimes if I get home late (and can't get into the storage yard) I take it back in the morning.

Another plus of the storage area is that they have a dump station right there that I can use for free! That's a big plus because I can wait and dump right before I put it away. There's also a large empty parking lot right next door and when I need to do work on the RV I can take the RV there and crawl under it, drain the tanks, whatever, so that's nice!

Every time I bring the RV back I put it in "storage mode" - shades down, battery disconnected, propane off, fridge open, etc... I do make sure I go over and drive it and run the generator at least once a month, but that usually works out b/c I take it out on weekends a lot.
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