Why is My RV Propane Detector Alarm Going Off?
An RV propane detector is a must-have safety feature for every RV camper. Installed correctly and properly serviced, this simple and inexpensive propane monitoring device can save your life, your loved ones, your pets, and even your RV. So, when your RV propane detector goes off, you have a right to be concerned.
In this post, we will discuss why RV propane alarms go off, the dangers of propane leaks, what to do when you get a propane alert, how you can stop the propane sensor from giving false alarms, and how to decide it’s time to replace the device. This guide will ultimately make your RV camping trips safer and worry-free.
What Is an RV Propane Detector?
Put simply, an RV propane alarm is a sensor installed in RVs to warn of propane leaks, also known as liquified petroleum(LP). When a leak is detected, the device lets off a loud noise and has a light that turns red to warn everyone inside the camper of the fact that there’s an LP gas leak. Sometimes, the alarm also picks up other natural or explosive gases.
Notably, don’t confuse a propane sensor with a carbon monoxide(CO) detector. They are totally different devices, although some sensors have dual functions. A CO sensor’s job is to monitor the colorless, odorless, tasteless, and toxic carbon monoxide. In its natural form, propane gas is colorless and odorless. However, manufacturers add a strong sulfuric smell (rotten eggs smell) to help you detect a leak occurs.
How Does an RV Propane Detector Alarm Work?
RV Propane detectors are usually mounted low on the walls of your camper, somewhere close to the floor. That’s because propane gas is heavier than air, and it will settle at the lowest possible level. The propane detector is hard-wired into your RV’s 12V power supply to ensure it’s always on and operational.
Most propane detectors have a mute and a reset/test button. The mute button is used to quiet the alarm for a brief period so you can concentrate on finding and solving the leak. The reset button reboots the alarm after it has been set off. After a reset, there should be a steady green light on the device.
Why You Need an RV Propane Detector Alarm
An RV propane detector is an essential safety component in any vehicle that carries propane. But why is it important? Here are a few reasons why every RV should have a properly working propane detector:
- Early Detection of Gas Leaks – A propane detector helps you pick up even a small leak that you can’t detect through smell. This helps you avert danger sooner. Note that not everyone may have a nose that’s sensitive enough to detect the rotten-egg propane smell.
- To Avert Explosive Danger – A propane monitor helps you avert explosions that can cause serious harm to your family and damage to your RV. The LP gas is highly flammable, and even the smallest spark, such as from plugging in or switching on a light, can start a fire or cause an explosion if there is a leak in your RV.
- Helps You Avoid Inhaling Poisonous Gas – Explosion and fire aren’t the only issues associated with propane leaks. At a minimum, inhaling propane from a leak can make you cough or become dizzy and nauseous. Prolonged exposure, such as when you’re asleep, can cause suffocation, coma, or even death.
First Things to Do When the RV Propane Detector Goes Off
Every time an RV propane detector goes off, it should be treated as a leak. Propane gas can leak from heaters, stoves, refrigerators, water heaters, or from any appliance that uses propane for energy. In addition, it can leak from any connector on the propane system or from any damaged part in the lines that feed propane to these appliances. If your LP alarm goes off, spring into action and do the following:
Extinguish All Flames and Sparks in the Area
The first thing you need to do when the propane alarm goes off is to extinguish all flames. Quickly put out any open flames or smoking materials, whether in cooking equipment, candles, or cigarettes. Don’t switch on or off the lights and discontinue operating any appliances or electronics. Also, don’t use your home telephone or phone because the smallest spark could trigger a fire or explosion.
Turn Off Your RV’s Propane Supply
Next, head to where your propane tanks are located (usually in front of the trailer in most Airstreams). Access the valve on the top of the propane tank and turn the handwheel or knob clockwise (to the right) all the way to stop the flow of gas.
Open All the Windows
Open as many windows as possible, preferably from the outside if you can. But if you actually smelled gas, don’t go back in to open windows. Instead, leave your RV entry door wide open. This will allow some of the built-up gas to escape from your rig, reducing the risk of fire or explosions. Do not re-enter the camper to get any possessions, as inhaling the gas can make you dizzy or cause heart failure.
Vacate the RV
Once you have evacuated the RV, keep your distance from it and wait to see if the alarm will go quiet. If it goes silent after a while, that’s a sure sign that your RV has a propane leak. You’ll need to solve the leak problem yourself or call a certified RV technician or propane tank expert to stop the leak and fix the issue so it won’t happen again.
Reasons Why Your RV Propane Detector Alarm Gives False Alarms
RV propane detector alarms are quite sensitive, and they do go off falsely. So, why is my RV propane alarm going off randomly? Apart from propane leaks, there are many reasons that could cause the RV LP detector to sound the alarm. Here are a few:
- Cooking spray
- Hair spray
- Bug spray
- Air freshener sprays
- Aerosol sunscreen
- Cleaning products and chemicals
- New or dirty rugs putting off some gases
- New paint
- Pet or human farts
- Dirty propane detector with pet hair, dust, and debris
- Expired propane sensor may emit an end-of-life alarm that has a different beep
- Loss of power in the RV due to low batteries may cause the alarm to produce a slow beep
How to Test a Propane Detector
Not sure whether the LP monitor is actually working? Use these steps to verify whether it’s working.
- Push the Test Button – Most LP alarms come with a test button at the front cover that you can press to verify the unit is functioning correctly. Press and hold the test button for 1 second and look for an indicator light or sound that signifies the unit is working properly. Testing needs to be done weekly, even in detectors that don’t have a history of going off randomly.
- Test the Sensor Using a Flick Lighter – If you want a more reassuring method, hold a Bic or flick-type lighter near the sensor. Extinguish the flame while still engaging the trigger, so the gas comes out. If the detector sounds the alarm, it’s functioning well. An unlit propane torch can also perform this test.
What to Do if the Propane Alarm Keeps Going Off and There is No Propane Leak
Certainly, it’s annoying to have an LP alarm that gets triggered without a solid reason. To keep your family safe, don’t wait to the point where it becomes normal for your detector to go off randomly and you just ignore the issue by muting it. Here’s how to troubleshoot RV propane detector false alarms and fix the issue.
- Vacuum Clean it – Dirt, dust, and debris can collect in the vents of your propane detector and affect its performance. Using the soft brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner, blow the detector cover. Do this regularly to ensure the sensor performs optimally.
- Wipe the Cover – Use a clean and moist cloth to wipe the front part of the detector, then dry it with a lint-free cloth.
- Reset RV Propane Detector – Your RV propane alarm will have a test or reset button. Holding this button for a few seconds will reset and silence the alarm after it has been set off. There should be a steady green light and no beep when it is reset and in operation mode. If there’s still gas present in the camper, then the LED will be red until the gas clears. If the alarm goes silent but then starts chirping again, then it could be a failed or weak power source. If the alarm continually goes off after several resets, your unit could be defective.
- Check the LP Detector Fuse – Consult your owner’s manual or RV technician to find the propane detector’s fuse location. On some Airstream trailers, the 1 amp fuse is usually in a busbar near one of the front corners, under the bed. Pull it out, test it on a multimeter and change it if it’s damaged. A blown fuse will cause the detector to produce a slow beep.
- Keep the Intake Clear – Check whether there’s anything blocking the LP detector and remove it. It could be furniture, drapes, storage bins, or clutter standing in the way.
- Avoid Using Strong Chemicals – Don’t use any chemicals or solvents directly on or near the detector, and don’t direct sprays towards the detector’s location.
- Improve Ventilation – Enhance the air quality in your RV by opening windows and overhead vents when cooking. Further, run the bathroom exhaust fan, consider installing ceiling fans, and clean or replace your old carpet.
When Should You Replace an RV Propane Detector?
Wondering when to replace an RV propane detector. Here are scenarios that indicate you need
a new LP detector.
- When it Expires – The average RV propane detector lifespan is 5-7 years. When it reaches the 5th-year mark, get a new device even if the current one seems okay.
- Gives Too Many False Alarms – Frequent false alarms, even when your RV’s propane valves are shut off and no sprays have been used, may be an indicator that your detector has run its course and needs to be replaced.
- Fails Tests – Of course, if the RV propane detector fails all tests and a technician verifies that your propane connections aren’t leaking, you’ll need to consider a replacement.
Travel Safe With a Functional RV Propane Detector
When it comes to RV safety, your propane detector is your first line of defense against fire hazards. Whenever the alarm goes off, always assume it’s a serious safety issue. Evacuate, shut off the valve on the tank, and air the RV.
From here, you can figure out where the leak is coming from, whether you need to call in a pro to fix the issue, or if you’re dealing with a false alarm. And to avoid random warnings, be proactive in maintaining the detector.
Also remember to check to see if your RV propane tank certification is up to date.