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Our Outdoors RV 21RBS trailer came equipped with two 30lb (~7 gallon) propane tanks on the tongue. We have some dual-fuel appliances in the RV that can use either AC electricity or propane - the fridge and water heater. There are others that are propane only - the furnace, stove and oven. We also have a Blackstone 17" griddle that runs on propane.
We do have some ability to cook with electricity - we have a microwave, an electric kettle and an Instant Pot.
But overall, particularly in cold weather when we need to run the furnace, propane is a critical resource for us. Life could become very difficult very quickly if our propane system stopped working.
What is a propane regulator?
A key part of this system is the propane regulator. This regulates the high pressure gas coming directly from the propane cylinders (around ~150psi depending on temperature) into the low pressure supply (around ~0.5psi) that the appliances in the RV use. The propane regulator is located right next to our tanks - mounted on a bracket on the threaded rod between them.
But if this regulator breaks, we're stuck - everything that needs propane would stop working.
Some propane regulators have a feature known as auto-switchover. If you have two tanks, as well as being able to manually turn a lever to select which tank to draw propane from, the auto-switchover feature will automatically switch to the other tank when the selected tank runs out. Very useful at 2am in the morning when your first propane tank runs out and you need the heating on!
The auto-switchover on ours had always been a little flaky. The dial to indicate whether there was still gas in the tank or not wouldn't always show correctly, and the auto-switchover didn't always switch over when it should.
Lastly, regulators have a limit on how much propane they can regulate. If you turn on too many appliances at once, there may not be enough flow to run them all at full power. We had noticed that if the furnace or water heater were running, our stove burners wouldn't operate at full output.
Why upgrade your propane regulator?
So we decided to upgrade our regulator. We wanted a propane regulator that:
- has an auto-switchover that works reliably every time;
- is durable enough to last years and survive full-time use;
- has enough capacity to run multiple propane appliances at full power simultaneously in our RV.
After some research (inspired and informed by members of the Outdoors RV Owners group on Facebook), we chose to go with the Marshall Excelsior MEGR-253H 2-Stage Regulator. The H on the model name indicates it's a high capacity regulator - it has almost 50% higher output than the standard MEGR-253 model.
At the same time, I wanted to upgrade the regulator hoses too. While ours were still working OK, the Meter Star 18" Stainless Braided Propane Hose Connectors were higher quality and would last longer. Each hose also has an integrated gauge to help approximate the remaining propane level.
Our original regulator has an NPT fitting for the hoses, but the new regulator uses flared fittings so the hoses needed switching anyway. But it's important to make sure that the regulator and hoses share the same fitting type.
It's worth mentioning that after the upgrade, I've kept all the old parts as spares in case something ever breaks in future when we're camping in the middle of nowhere!
Despite the significant work we've previously done on our RV's electrical system, I was nervous about working with propane. Electricity is something I feel comfortable with, but propane is scary!
After several months of research and consideration - and some reassurance from friends - I finally felt comfortable taking on the project. In hindsight, it was nowhere near as bad as I had feared. Take your time, check your work and nothing is beyond the realms of DIY here.
Disclaimer: I am not a qualified propane technician and this installation is based on my own research. This blog post is for informational purposes only and anything you do is at your own risk. You should do your own research and if at any point you don't feel confident then STOP and consult a qualified professional.
Disconnect the propane
Before I started any work, I turned off both propane cylinders, disconnected them and physically removed them from the trailer and the working area. I turned off our fridge (which was running on propane) and ran the stove to burn off any residual gas in the lines.
Removing the old regulator
Since we were replacing both the connector hoses and regulator, there was no need to disconnect the hoses from the regulator. Instead, I unscrewed the regulator from its mounting bracket, and then used a crescent wrench to disconnect the regulator from the low pressure supply line on the trailer.
With the assembly freed, I removed the male-to-male adapter from the existing regulator. I applied some Rectorseal T Plus 2 Pipe Thread Sealant to the male pipe thread fitting and screwed it into the new regulator. I prefer pipe sealant (also called dope) to tape as it's easier to apply and I find it easier to get a good seal.
Attaching the new hose connectors
I screwed the new hose connectors onto the regulator. With the regulator and hoses assembled, I then reattached it to the flared fitting on the low pressure supply line.
Installing the mounting bracket
The new regulator is somewhat larger than the old one so I couldn't reuse the existing mounting bracket. And while it has screw holes on the back, these aren't threaded. To get around this, I bought a painted steel L-bracket at a local hardware store and drilled some holes to align with those on the regulator. Using self tapping screws I secured the bracket to the existing threaded rod.
You can also buy a mounting bracket designed to fit this regulator which, if I had realized my old one wouldn't work, I would have purchased as well!
Testing for leaks
Lastly, I connected the propane cylinders and turned them on. I tested the entire system by spraying some soapy water on to check for leaks. No leaks to be found!
With everything connected and working, I tested the stove inside to check for gas flow (yup!) and turned the fridge back on.
New regulator installed! I took my time since I hadn't worked with propane before so I was double and triple checking every step, but it really was straightforward. The whole process was quick and simple with only basic tools needed.
It's been 6 months since we installed the new propane regulator - so what do we think?
Well, it works! The auto-switchover has reliably worked every time - in freezing conditions during winter and the desert highs above 90°F. Manual switchover is simple and straightforward.
I've definitely noticed an improvement in gas flow. We can now happily run the furnace, propane water heater and still have full output on the stove - something we definitely couldn't do before. That alone makes this upgrade worthwhile to me.
The gauges are about as reliable as I expected - if it's green then gas is flowing, below that and be prepared to imminently run out. In hot weather it reads higher than in cold weather (presumably due to the gas pressure increasing).
Only time will tell whether the new components have the durability I hope they do. But they feel much more solid and better made than the previous parts, so I'm remaining cautiously optimistic. Plus, we've still got the old parts as spares in case something goes wrong!
Overall, this mod may not revolutionize your RVing experience, but the extra propane flow is nice and the peace of mind that we have a quality regulator is appreciated.
If you tend to camp close to town where you could easily pick up parts and replace a regulator, then maybe replacing yours or carrying spares isn't necessary. But as full-timers who regularly boondock in the middle of nowhere, we ask our RV to work hard every day, and everything we can do to improve quality helps in its own little way.