PRVS15 Callout RVDocGreetings to all in the Great Northwest! As we begin to feel the chill in the air as fall approaches, we still have time to enjoy our RVs! Ah, such is the life of the RVer. Regardless of the season, we do seem to take advantage of all that the RVing lifestyle provides, right?

I’d like to bring to mind something you may have overlooked last spring; your onboard safety equipment. If you have not changed the batteries in your safety devices lately, now is the time. Additionally, be sure to test them! Here’s the scoop on each one.

Propane Gas Detector

gas detectorManufactured with varying levels of sophistication, some propane gas detectors may be equipped with a 12-volt DC solenoid valve that shuts the gas flow off at the tank when propane is detected at the sensor. They will all emit an audible alarm when propane gas is detected in the air inside the RV. All propane gas detectors, like most “sensor” type devices, have a limited life expectancy. RV propane detectors must be listed for RV use and built to the specifications of UL 1484. They should be mounted close to the floor since propane is heavier than air.

Propane gas detectors can be periodically tested by opening the valve on an inexpensive butane cigarette lighter near the sensor port on the detector. Do not ignite the flame on the lighter, but simply open the lighter’s valve, releasing some of the butane. The alarm should sound within a couple of seconds. Test the detector at least twice per year in this manner.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

carbon detectCarbon monoxide (CO), a poisonous gas produced primarily by incomplete combustion of any fossil-based fuel in an appliance or engine, is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the US. It is colorless, tasteless and odorless, making it easy for an individual or a pet to be easily overcome without much advance warning. In or near a recreation vehicle, CO can originate from a motorhome engine, any of the four propane-burning appliances, gas fireplaces, charcoal grills and RV generators.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions when replacing or installing the CO monitor. Some suggest mounting on a wall about five feet up from the floor; or at eye level. Since CO is slightly lighter than air it will likely mix with all the air inside the coach. Most all RV CO detectors are battery powered so remember to replace its battery twice a year. UL 2034 is the governing document for CO monitors. Keep in mind, they must also be specifically listed for use in an RV.

prop carb detIn some instances, the RV may be equipped with a combination propane and carbon monoxide detector; one that can sniff both gases. Because of the nature of the two gases, it is recommended that this type of detector be mounted closer to the floor since the CO, as mentioned above, will likely mix with all the air inside the RV, while propane gas will always gather at floor level first.

Smoke Alarm

smoke alarmEvery RV should be equipped with at least one smoke alarm. The smoke alarm should be battery powered in case of a power outage in the middle of the night and mounted on the ceiling. If your RV has a separate bedroom (one partitioned by some type of door or divider), it is a code requirement that it be equipped with smoke alarm. Personally, I’d suggest two or perhaps three smoke alarms inside a typical RV.

Most all smoke alarms today use an ionization chamber and a source of ionizing radiation to detect smoke. Like all other RV listed components, smoke detectors should abide by UL 217.

The ionization chamber, by the way, incorporates airflow slots that are prone to gathering dust. As part of an annual maintenance program for the electronic safety devices, it is recommended to remove the outside cap of the smoke alarm and carefully wipe away any dust that may inhibit air into and through the ionization chamber cover. Do not remove the cover of the chamber; just carefully remove all remnants of dust.

Sensor-Equipped Detector Maintenance

All the devices listed above contain some form of electronic circuitry and a sensor of some type and the basic maintenance required by these devices is relatively simple for all RVers to perform. All battery-powered devices should have new batteries installed at the beginning and in the middle of each camping season. It is also advisable to carry spare batteries during lengthy RVing excursions, just in case. All the detectors mentioned above will come equipped with a test function; typically a simple push of a button will let the user know the horn is still in operating condition. Test each of the devices prior to a trip and once each week during every RV excursion.

elec.detNever paint an electronic detector or use cleaning agents, waxes or polish on them. Simply keep them free from dust and other airborne contaminants.

As mentioned, most safety devices are stamped or otherwise labeled with a suggested replacement date, or at least a date of manufacture. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s suggested replacement date. It’s simply not worth the risk of a device malfunctioning in order to gain a few more months’ use. Consider it cheap insurance!

Fire Extinguishers

fire extIt’s been said you can’t have too many fire extinguishers on board as you travel, but most experts agree the minimum number should be three. Most RV manufacturers will mount one near the entry door of the coach. In addition, it is recommended to keep one in the bedroom area and have one accessible from outside the RV, such as in a storage compartment, perhaps near the generator or the motorhome engine, if so equipped.

All fire extinguishers require periodic inspections to be sure they are fully charged and in proper working condition. If any doubt exists, always have them inspected by a professional fire safety company. Fire extinguishers can and do leak pressure over time.

Non-Technical Safety Equipment

Safety flares, traffic cones, triangles, warning lamps, and similar devices are also important to consider when traveling in an RV in case of an on-the-road breakdown. RV accessory stores and certainly online venues, will offer an assortment of these non-technical safety devices, so take a casual stroll down that aisle the next time you visit your local dealer to see which devices best fit your mode of RVing. Remember, RVing is more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle!


Author: Gary BunzerEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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