We just switched from the good old Calor gas bottle (UK swappable) to a Gaslow refillable system. It uses LPG autogas, the same stuff people run their cars on, but it really is just normal propane. We did this mainly because we couldn't swap Calor bottles in Europe and it seems that every country has it's own, incompatible standard for swappable bottles. With LPG you can fill up pretty much anywhere as long as you've got an adapter (see further down which one to get).
Other advantages include:
- No more bottle swapping - simply fill up at a petrol station which sells LPG. There are plenty around UK and Europe. There's even a locator app.
- Gas level gauge - never run out in the middle of the night.
- Pressure gauge - very useful for testing your gas set up for leaks.
- Cheap gas - half the price of Calor and 6th of Campingaz!
One alternative to consider, which is also available around Europe, is Campingaz. Unfortunately, the biggest bottle they do is only 2.7 kg so not great on a long trip. It’s also a really expensive way to buy gas (roughly 6 times the price of LPG). However, the initial investment is lower and it takes less space so worth considering in some cases.
The best option is an under slung LPG tank as fitted on some Westies. Those are ideal as they don’t take up any space inside the van. But they are as rare as unicorns and ridiculously expensive when you do find one. Gaslow is the next best thing.
The bits you'll need for the complete system are:
- Gaslow cylinder - 6kg or 11kg cylinders available and two can be connected with automatic or manual switch-over if you need the extra capacity. We got a single 6kg as it fits in the cupboard nicely.
- Gaslow propane refillable adapter - needed to connect the cylinder to your existing propane regulator (the red one). If you have a butane regulator (blue one) you’ll also need to get a propane regulator.
Gaslow filler kit - that’s the little socket that goes outside your van and a flexi pipe that connects it to the cylinder. You can get one with 0.6m long pipe or a longer 1.5m
That’s pretty much it. I also got a filler bracket because I didn’t fancy making another hole in the bodywork and decided to mount it on the underside instead. You can also drill a round hole in the bodywork and install the filler this way if you prefer (no need for a bracket in this case).
The filling adapters needed for all of Europe are:
- French/Italian (for France and Italy…)
- Euro/Spanish (Spain)
- Euro adapter (Germany and everywhere else)
The whole kit including all adapters came to £250. We ordered from Hamilton Gas Products and it arrived quickly with straight forward fitting instructions.
Since propane is heavier than air it’s a good idea to have a hole at the bottom of your gas cupboard so that in case of a leak the gas can escape outside. I was being sneaky and used this hole to run the filler pipe from the cylinder through to the outside (saved me some drilling, yay)
The filler bracket, as it came originally, was a bit too long to be mounted to the undercarriage and had to be shortened to get more ground clearance. It now sits slightly higher than the under slung waste tank.
Now that everything’s connected, time to take a deep breath, head to a local LPG garage and fill 'er up. Keep in mind that the cylinder will automatically cut out when it’s 80% full. It’s a safety feature that prevents it from being overfilled.
Another nice feature of this system are the two gauges. The one on the cylinder will show you how much gas you have left. The second (on the regulator adapter thingy) shows the pressure and can be used to test the installation for leaks. Here’s how:
Before you open the gas, the pressure gauge will be red. That means there isn’t any pressure in the pipework. Good.
- When you open the gas valve at the bottle, the gauge will turn green (cool, we have pressure)
- To test for leaks close the gas valve at the bottle again. The pressure gauge should remain green because there is still gas left in the pipework.
- Wait for around 5-10mins and check the gauge again. If it’s still green then everything is tight, if it turns red, the pressure dropped so there must be a leak somewhere.
If you do have a leak, an easy way to find it, is by using a strong soapy solution and applying it to the pipework and all connections (with a brush or something). The escaping gas will make bubbles where it leaks.
That is all there is to it.
DISCLAIMER: Gas can be dangerous so please take care, read the instructions that came with the kit carefully or get a pro to fit it. Here are just my opinions and I hope they will be helpful to someone, but don’t take my word for it as I’m not a gas engineer!