Is your RV propane alarm waking you up at night? Is it squealing seemingly randomly, but you think maybe there’s a pattern you aren’t seeing?
RV propane detectors are easily triggered and damaged by aerosol sprays, powders, cleaning supplies, weather fluctuations, and your grey/black tank maintenance.
This is dangerous, as the alarm won’t work when you need it or you may ignore a real alarm believing it is false. Follow these tips to prevent propane alarm damage and to replace your propane alarm if needed.
What Should I Do If My Propane Alarm Sounds?
You must always take it seriously when your propane alarm sounds, even if you think it may be a false alarm.
- Exit your RV immediately
- Open any windows you can open without wasting even one second on your way out. Leave the door open.
- Turn off your propane supply at the tank
- The knob will be on the top of portable tanks or in the propane door on a motorhome.
- Also confirm your vehicle, any vehicles around the RV, and your generator are off and not spewing gas or diesel exhaust
- Wait for the alarm to cease
- If there is indeed a propane leak, these steps should be enough to silence the alarm temporarily. Do not re-enter your RV until a professional has identified and repaired the source of the leak and gives you the all-clear to re-enter.
- When in doubt, call a professional
- The advice below only applies after you have confirmed that there is no leak of propane, carbon monoxide, or any other safety issue.
What Do I Do If It Is Not A Propane Leak?
If there is no leak in your propane system, here troubleshooting steps to determine why you might be hearing the alarm:
First, try to determine if there is a pattern to when the alarm sounds.
Some example patterns include:
- At night when sleeping
- Only when the HVAC/furnace goes on, or off
- During or after dumping your black or grey tanks
- At certain temperatures or temperature changes
Not having luck determining a pattern? Try eliminating some variables, such as making sure not to change the climate controls around the same time as dumping the tanks.
It is also possible that there is no pattern you can discern. But don’t worry if you determine that there may be no pattern. That is also helpful for diagnosing.
Unfortunately, the most likely result no matter what you determine below is that you will need to replace your propane alarm. If so, use the tips below to make sure you don’t inadvertently damage the new one.
Here’s the one we use:
Dirt, Debris, and Dust
Just like any electronics, the daily wear-and-tear of indoor/outdoor life in an RV can damage the sensitive propane sensor.
This is a likely explanation if your alarm triggers and you can’t determine any
To help mitigate potential damage:
- Clean your detector at least once a week with a soft-brush attachment on a vacuum.
- Wipe down the propane detector with a barely-damp paper or cloth towel, making sure there is no water dripping into the unit.
- Test your propane detector weekly by following the instructions on the front, usually pushing and holding the button.
Sprays, Aerosols, and Powders
Many of the items we use without thinking twice in a conventional home can cause damage to the systems in an RV. They can get into the fine sensors of your propane detector and trigger false alarms.
If your alarm sounds when there is little movement in the RV, at night when you are sleeping, or as the temperature cools, this may be your first troubleshooting step. Sometimes these aerosols and powders can be in the air invisible and thin enough, but settle as air flow or temperature reduces
Some examples of items causing this are:
- Sunscreen aerosol (push-and-hold) sprays
- Hair aerosol sprays
- Spray powders such as canned aerosol baby powder, talk, or gold bond
- Applying baby, talk, or gold bond powder
- Cleaning sprays, such as Lysol aerosol (typically a spray foam such as Scrubbing Bubbles won’t cause this problem, but you should still avoid them in your RV for many other reasons)
- Deodorant aerosol sprays
If you must use any of these items, step outside or into a bathhouse to use them. Or, ideally, switch your products to these safer alternatives.
Here’s what you can use instead:
- Cream or non-aerosol (push-push-push mist) sunscreen
- Solid hair products or non-aerosol hair spray
- Cream or gel alternatives to powders
- Spray-bottle cleaning products
- Solid or gel deodorant
Unfortunately, if the damage has been done by these aerosols or powders, you may have no other option but to replace the alarm unit as the sensor is likely too damaged.
Check and see if your alarm is under warranty with your RV manufacturer or extended warranty provider. If it’s not, check out these options:
Grey or Black Tank Fumes
Taking proper care of your black and grey sewage tanks is imperative to a successful and happy RV life. There are endless reasons that you must prioritize proper care of your tanks.
If your alarm sounds during or shortly after using the tanks, whether draining or filling or even holding the flush pedal too long, the vacuum effect from the external air can cause fumes to be sucked out and this can cause the alarms.
In this case, the invisible and (sometimes even surprisingly odorless) fumes that can leak out can trigger the sensitive sensors in your propane detector.
To mitigate this as a cause,
- Check visually for any cracks in the seals around the toilet, sink drains, shower drains, external tanks, dump ports, etc.
- Visually check if your exhaust flume on the roof isn’t blocked
- Run a bit of of water regularly down every drain so that they don’t dry out and allow fumes to come back up
- Make sure your bathroom exhaust fan and any other fans that suck air out of the RV such as a MaxxAir are turned off before flushing the toilet
- Run water down the sinks while you are draining your grey tank
This caused some alarms for us at the beginning of our trip, but with a little search we discovered The Unique Method.
Follow this method using the Unique products and you will, in general, be much happier with your tanks in general.
Dawn Dish Soap in the grey tank will also help trap and break down some of the oils to avoid fumes.
If you don’t have one, install a black tank plumbing vent to your black tank exhaust on the roof
Your propane alarm may be triggering for reasons including contamination from the outdoor elements, aerosols or powders, or fumes from your sewage tanks. Always prioritize safety and assume it is a true alarm until you determine otherwise. Then, follow these steps to troubleshoot and replace your propane detector.
How did you solve your propane alarm sound woes? Are you still having this problem? Let us know in the comments below or DM us on Instagram.