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Troubleshooting: RV Propane Detector Keeps Going Off

Liquid propane is essential for many RV owners who wish to power a propane furnace, water heater, or fridge. Like a home, this also means that a colorless, odorless gas is moving through pipes and hoses within your hose that could leak. Since LP gas is combustible, an RV owner should have a detector that sniffs out propane before even you notice it.

But LP detectors and smoke alarms can go off for no reason, right? And it’s really annoying! We can help you decipher what your RV propane detector going off really means, what to do about it, and when to actually get worried.

RV propane detectors normally go off when they are starting to get low on battery or lifespan. You should, however, treat your RV propane detectors beeping as an attempt to alert you to an actual problem.

What if my propane detector goes off?

The first action is to take is a self check. Exposure to propane is not good for the human body. Propane is heavier than air and will displace and replace the oxygen in your lungs. Put simply but rather grimly – propane can suffocate you. Propane can indeed be deadly.

We hope you are reading this in preparation for a potential propane leak, but you should check yourself for the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Coughing
  • Abnormal heartbeat

These are signs of low level exposure. Signs of moderate exposure get a bit worse:

  • Pain or numbness in limbs
  • Convulsions
  • Close to lose of conciousnses

Note that exposure worse than the items listed above generally involve heart failure and asphyxiation. 

That said, if you feel ANY of the above symptoms, get out of your RV. These symptoms, unless present by coincidence, means you are already feeling the effects of propane. You need to get outside of your RV and get some fresh air.

You’ll also want to turn off your propane tanks once you are physically able to do so. 

It’s also very important to not light a match or use anything that could cause a spark.

What if I don’t have any symptoms and my LP gas detector is going off in my RV?

The hope here is that your LP gas detector is going off for no reason but to warn you that it’s dying. 

The first thing you should do if you feel physically OK is to check to see if the gas detector has any warnings – assuming it has a screen or some lights. This is a moment when having your manual might come in handy, especially if you have a very basic detector that doesn’t communicate specifically.

Check for smells in your RV

Propane is naturally colorless and odorless, but manufacturers also put a smell of rotten eggs into your propane mix to ensure you can smell it when it’s leaking. Use your nose and take a sniff. You might also have time to track down the source of the smell and turn off propane to particular appliances.

No smell and feel fine? Your LP gas detector might be going off because it’s dying.

Beeping is one way that the detectors communicate that their battery is dying, or that their actual detecting ability is fading away. Some detectors will beep more often or faster as the battery drains or the detector reaches the end of it’s life.

Batteries

The batteries in an LP gas detector don’t last forever. They should last a least a few years before dying though. Many of them take a simple AA or AAA battery though some take the less convenient to find watch battery. Sliding the cover off the back of the detector will reveal the old battery, which can be replaced. 

If the detector still goes off after replacing the battery, there may by other problems. If your LP detector doesn’t use batteries and is plugged into an outlet, this is not a problem.

End of sensor life

The detector uses a sensor to sniff our propane leaks. This sensor also doesn’t last forever. In some cases, you can replace the sensor though with many detectors, buying a new one is an easier option. 

Tech support

Your LP gas detector could be screaming for another reason. Try to look up the tech support phone for your detector. If you don’t detect any weird smells and feel fine, it’s ok to make the call from your RV while you are guided through pushing buttons on the detector with customer service.

This is especially true if you recently bought your detector or it has some extras – new detectors shouldn’t beep for no reason, and adding more electronics raises the potential for problems.

Looking for leaks

Meanwhile, you can also check for leaks within your RV, especially if you feel well and aren’t sure if anything is actually leaking. The following are signs of leaks.

  • Rotten egg smell, as mentioned
  • A hissing sound from an appliance
  • Flame colors within your water heater or furnace that are not blue, but yellow
  • Dead plants (this doesn’t happen that quickly)

If you can’t identify the source of a sound or smell, try turning all your appliances off. Air out your RV to get rid of the smell, then try to turn them on by one.

For safety’s sake

We said it above, but we’ll say it again. Even if you aren’t sure if there is a leak, do not light a match, try to turn on the stove, or use a lighter. Propane is highly explosive and invisible. You could cause a big explosion in your RV.

Conclusion

Waking up, or just hearing your gas detector beep can be a little scary. You aren’t sure why it’s going off, but a propane leak has potential to be harmful. Stay calm, check yourself and others for symptoms and take our advice. You should also be thankful that technology is available to add that bad smell and the detector itself – whether or not you have a leak!

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