Life doesn’t come with a guarantee, no matter how your propane supply is affixed to your vehicle there is a higher danger of fire or explosion. By its own nature any flammable gas is potential for disaster, it’s all a matter of minimizing your risk.
Many Van Dwellers, RV’ers, and Outdoor Enthusiasts alike make use of propane as a source of heating, cooking, even refrigeration in their mobile lifestyle. Propane is a versatile fuel that is easily portable and readily available. With exchange programs in place at a wide variety of retail outlets you can trade in your empty 20# (5 gallon) tank for a full one and be on your way once again.
There is almost as many places to have your existing tank refilled as most any RV dealer, fuel supplier, and many campgrounds and resorts offer this service at a dramatically reduced price compared to a tank swapping service.
The real debate is where to store your portable tank while traveling, or living in the confined area of your van. Conventional wisdom would indicate keeping the tank “Inside” the living space is a real danger for a number of reasons. There is the risk that the valve on the tank may leak and allow raw gas into your living space replacing oxygen and creating an asphyxiation situation.
As the gas within the tank is under high pressure a regulator is required to reduce the pressure to the level used by appliances. This regulator contains a rubber diaphragm that will wear out over time. When the rubber fails, gas will leak into the interior of your van. A regulator approaching 10 years in age is apt to fail without warning at any time. If it happens while your sleeping your likely to wake up dead, if you get my drift.
The obvious cure to this situation is to store the tank “Outside” of your vehicle. Where… becomes the next concern. One idea that some will consider is mounting it on a hitch platform on the rear of the vehicle. Not the best answer to the problem. Yes it is outside and under normal conditions is much safer then having the tank inside with the occupants, but now it’s a hazard in the event of a rear end collision.
One way to somewhat lessen this risk is to build a sturdy enclosure on that hitch platform that will contain the propane tank. Bringing a portable generator along on your travels is a common practice and many times a rear platform is used for such additional equipment. If the compartment is built solidly it can offer a small amount of protection to the propane tank as well.
Of course mounting any equipment on the exterior of your Stealth Van Dwelling will send up a red flag that your living in it. If maintaining your ability to blend into your surroundings is paramount, consider smaller propane bottles and throw away canisters as a safer option to the larger capacity tanks.
When its all said and done, there is only one way of carrying propane on your vehicle that is accepted by the Dept. of Transportation. That being a horizontal tank permanently mounted to the frame rails on the side of your vehicle. A DOT certified tank designed for use on motor vehicles.
What ever method you chose, be very cautious with how you handle propane an accident can be easily fatal.