Updated: 4 days ago
If you eat cooked food, enjoy warm showers, or want to keep the frostbite at bay during the winter months, a campervan gas system is for you! By this I mean, nearly everyone needs gas in their campervan 🔥; at the very least for the stove!
In this guide you will learn everything you could ever was to know about a campervan gas installation. We will review a mega-detailed campervan plumbing diagram, learn about campervan gas lockers, campervan gas bottles, gas regulations, and much more! I promise you'll learn a lot.
I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for many years, I'm the author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. Now let's jump in a look at the best van insulation!
Note: Items linked in this guide are paid affiliate links. By using these links, you are helping me to continue writing free educational van conversion content! You can find the full list of van conversion supplies here.
Note: Did you know you can to grab yourself a free wiring diagram by signing up to The Van Conversion Newsletter? 🙂
The information provided in this guide is provided solely as a high-level resource for information - and not as a single source of truth. I am not a certified gas fitter, nor do I hold myself out to be. The information provided below is a collection of publicly available information that I have consolidated - while I have done my utmost to provide the correct information, there may be mistakes in this information. For this reason I encourage you to get a certified technician (with minimum CITO ACOPS/STGW qualification in the UK) to do your campervan gas installation, or at the very least to review and test it. This guide gives you the basics of gas plumbing and simply shows you how I did my campervan gas installation.
Campervan gas regulations and safety standards
Throughout this guide to campervan gas installations, we will be referencing the gas safety standards recommended by the British Standards Institution - the national standards body of the United Kingdom and arguably the best standards institution globally.
Specifically we will be referencing the Specification for the installation of LPG systems for habitation purposes in leisure accommodation vehicles and accommodation purposes in other vehicles [BS EN 1949:2021 - TC] as our source of truth.
Giving credit where credit is due, I would like to give special thanks to Greg Virgoe who has gone in-depth into LPG standards for campervans, doing a lot of heavy-lifting for the self-build community.
Now then... LET'S GO!
What is a campervan gas system, and why do you need one?
For most vandwellers a campervan gas installation is going to be vital to a successful and comfortable build. The following are appliances that you can run via gas:
Gas water heater (for taps and shower)
Gas heater (eg. Propex)
Yes, you could have an electric version of all of these... but I'm afraid unless you've got an onboard nuclear reactor, you won't be able to power them!
A campervan gas installation provides an efficient and cheap way to run many appliances that make a campervan feel like home!
Theoretically, a campervan gas system is quite simple (especially when compared to a campervan electrical system). Gas is stored in a gas bottle, and runs via pipes to the appliances mentioned above. Throughout this guide we will be going in depth into each part of the system.
Campervan Gas Diagram
The diagram below shows "the ultimate" campervan gas installation. It contains all the bells and whistles - needless to say, you don't need everything shown! Throughout this guide we will explore every component of the diagram - focussing on the gaslow system (campervan gas bottle).
Campervan gas bottles: Refillable vs. Replaceable
There are two types of campervan gas bottles: refillable and replaceable.
Replaceable campervan gas bottles
Replaceable campervan gas bottles are designed to be removed from the campervan gas installation and replaced when all the gas is used up. You can buy replaceable gas bottles from many places, including fuel stations or DIY shops. Some of the well-known brands are Calor, flogas, and campingaz.
When you are replacing a campervan gas bottle, you hand in the empty gas bottle and obtain a full bottle.
Cheap to install
Convenient to install
More expensive ongoing costs (than refillable)
Cumbersome when replacing the bottle
Not optimal for long van expeditions
There can also be an issue with different gas regulations per country. Some countries may require you show them a vehicle gas certification of compliance before you can purchase a replaceable campervan gas cylinder.
Refillable campervan gas bottles
Refillable campervan gas bottles are permanent installations. They are not supposed to be removed from the campervan gas system, but instead are refueled via a villing point in the side of the van. You can refill a gas bottle at many fuel stations around the world (with LPG - Liquid Petroleum Gas). You can find an LPG filling station with MyLPG.eu (they also have a mobile app!).
The Gaslow system is one of the most popular setups for refillable campervan gas bottles + appliances. It is what I personally used for my campervan gas installation
Other popular brands for refillable campervan gas bottles are: Alugas, Gasit, and Autogas.
Regulations for refillable campervan gas bottle
According to BS EN 1949:2021, a certified refillable campervan gas bottle must have the following:
A level gauge
An automatic refill cut-off at not at not more than 80% (as the gas expands when warm)
A manual shut-off valve
A pressure release valve
An overflow regulator
A shut-off valve on top of the cylinder when refueling
The Gaslow system abides by all of these gas regulations.
Cheaper ongoing costs (LPG is hella-cheap)
No lifting and reinstalling the gas bottle every time you need a fill
Some bottles can be underslung to the van - bigger + they save you space inside!
High upfront cost
More technical installation (this guide will help though! 😄)
NOTE: You cannot lay a gas cylinder on it's side - it must be installed upright!
Campervan Gas: Propane vs Butane vs LPG
When using a refillable campervan gas bottle we have the choice to choose between: Propane, Butane, and "Patio gas".
Should I use a propane or butane campervan gas bottle?
Here's all you need to know:
Use butane for the warm months - it is more efficient, but doesn't work below 0°C.
Use propane during the cold months - it works below 0°C!
What is patio gas?
Patio gas is the same a propane with one important difference: it takes a clip-on regulator, whereas a propane gas bottle takes a screw-on regulator. Do not use patio gas in a campervan! It is not safe.
What is LPG?
When using refillable campervan gas bottles, we normally don't have the luxury of choosing what fuel we get. Instead we refuel at a filling station with LPG. Again, reference the fantastic MyLPG.eu.
LPG stands for Liquid Petroleum Gas, it contains a mixture of hydrocarbon gases, specifically propane, propylene, butylene, isobutane and n-butane. It is often referred to as autogas.
It is non-toxic, non-corrosive, and has a high octane rating (102–108 RON). It burns more cleanly than petrol and is free of many particulates.
How to refill a gas cylinder
How to refill a replaceable Campervan gas bottle
If you have a replaceable campervan gas bottle, you refill by unscrewing the empty bottle (Shut off the gas supply valve first!), handing it into a filling station, getting a full bottle, and screwing that into the campervan gas installation.
A refill for a 5kg replaceable campervan gas bottle will cost about €30. It costs about 6X more than the refillable LPG gas bottle equivalent.
How to refill a refillable Campervan gas bottle
You refill a refillable campervan gas bottle with LPG from a filling station.
From personal experience, a refill of my gaslow system (11kg campervan gas bottle) costs ~10€. Dead cheap!
How long does a campervan gas bottle last?
This entirely comes down to how many gas appliances you have, what season it is, and how much time you spend in the campervan.
With that being said, here are some rough guidelines for an 11kg refillable campervan gas bottle under full-time van-living conditions:
Scenario 1: Gas stove only
If you are only using a gas stove, an 11kg refillable campervan gas bottle will last ~6 months.
Scenario 2: LPG heater (eg. Propex) only
If you are using an LPG heater a lot (eg. where I live it is frequently -10°C or lower in winter), you can burn through an 11kg bottle in as little as 3-4 weeks (this is under the most intense usage). If you are using the heater on a less frequent bases, it will last much longer.
Scenario 3: Tankless Water heater (Shower & hot taps) only
If you are showering most days (that's luxurious for vanlife) & being frivolous with hot water from the taps, you will burn through an 11kg bottle in 1 month.
Scenario 4: 3-way absorption fridge only
A typical absorption fridge will burn through an 11kg campervan gas bottle in 1 month.
Using the figures above, you can do your own estimations for how often you will need to refill your specific campervan gas installation.
Campervan gas bottle adapters (READ THIS!)
It's quite annoying, but different countries use different LPG connectors at LPG filling stations. There are four types of LPG connectors you need to know about:
Dish connector (most common)
Acme connector (pretty common)
Bayonet connector (a few countries)
Euroconnector (Portugal & Spain)
Luckily there's an easy and elegant solution! Buy a refill adapter set. It is a really easy way to switch between any LPG connector in a flash.
For the country-by-country breakdown of LPG connector ports, you can read this article.
Components of a campervan gas installation
In this guide to campervan gas installation we will be focussing on the refillable Gaslow system. Though the same process is used for any campervan gas installation. Let's examine some of the key components/parts of a campervan gas installation...
High pressure gas hose (Pigtail hose)
There are two side of a campervan gas installation: a high pressure side and a low pressure side.
The high pressure side is everything before the regulator - ie. filling point, gas bottle, and any hoses/connectors. The high pressure side can have pressure of well over 10bar hundred bar. The pressure inside the campervan gas bottle can increase quite dramatically when it is warm.
The low pressure side is everything after the regulator - ie. copper piping, heater, stove, etc. The regulator brings the pressure down to 30mbar (millibars).
Any appliance, pipe, or connector on the high pressure side of the system must be rated for high pressure! For this reason, we use high pressure gas hose (flexible braided hose) as our pipe of choice on this side of the system.
A high pressure gas hose is used to connect our gas filling point to our campervan gas bottle, and to connect our campervan gas bottle to the regulator.
How to install/use a high pressure gas hose
Once a high pressure hose is installed, it should not be removed! It has a rubber O-ring inside, which after tightening becomes deformed. If you do need to remove the hose for whatever reason - make sure you replace the O-ring (you can them buy online or in a DIY store).
As mentioned, a high pressure hose connects the refill point to the campervan gas bottle and the gas bottle to the regulator. When tightening a high pressure hose, the airtight seal comes from the rubber O-ring inside. You can tighten the connection using a pipe wrench. You should not need any pipe dope (jointing compound) or gas PTFE tape to make a secure seal.
Comment from Gaslow: "Although you can certainly fit them without any sealing compound, some dealers like to use a paste (jointing compound) just for peace of mind which is absolutely fine. As long as it isn't PTFE tape the installation is fine".
According to BS EN 1949:2021, a campervan gas installation must use gas-safe non-flexible piping. In practice what this means is that we should use copper pipe rather than rubber pipe for our gas system. This may surprise you, as most people actually use rubber pipe in their campervan; but that is not optimal.
The only time you can use a flexible pipe is for moveable appliances (like a portable stove). Rubber pipe must be replaced every 5 years.
How to cut copper pipe
A copper pipe is cut using a pipe cutters. Simply place the pipe into the pipe cutters and tighten the pipe cutter so that the roller is gently pressing against the pipe. You can then twist the pipe cutters around the pipe until the pipe falls apart.
How to bend a copper pipe
In a campervan gas system (or any gas system for that matter), it is best to keep joints to a minimum. For this reason, when navigating a bend we should bend the pipe rather than using an elbow joint. Copper is a metal that is very easily bent.
The quick-and-dirty method to bend copper pipe is to bend it very, very carefully over your knee. However you must be careful with this method, it is easy to kink the metal and hard to get it totally right.
Instead, I recommend using a pipe-bending tool - they are very cheap and allow you to do a kickass job! You can bend the pipe to whatever precise angle you want!
What diameter pipe should I use for a campervan gas installation?
8mm copper pipe is generally used for campervan gas installations. Consequently 8mm pipe fittings should also be used (discussed next).
P-clips are used to secure pipe in place once it is installed. This is particularly important in campervans where the shaking can cause the pipes to jiggle. It is imperative that you secure copper pipe in place with rubber p-clips.
Gas pipe fittings
A gas pipe fitting connects a length of pipe to something else (eg. a heater or even another pipe).
NOTE: Keep the number of joints in your system to a minimum! A joint is a weak point in the system. In many countries you are not allowed any joints outside the gas locker. In which case you will need to use a pipe bending tool to navigate the copper pipe to each appliance.
According to BS EN 1949:2021, the following gas fittings are permitted in a campervan gas installation:
Cutting ring type fitting
Capillary type fitting
Flared type fitting
Threaded fitting for nozzle
For the sake of a campervan gas installation we will just focus on flared and compression fittings.
There are three parts to a brass compression fitting connection: The nut, the thread (body of the fitting), and the ferrule/olive.
There are three compression fittings that we should draw our attention to:
Straight/union/coupling compression fittings
Elbow compression fittings
Tee compression fittings
A straight fitting is commonly used to connect a pipe to an appliance.
An elbow fitting (90 degrees) is used to navigate bends or to connect a pipe to an appliance in a tight space.
A tee fitting is commonly used to send a pipe in two seperate directions.
Any of the fittings above can also be reducer fitting, that means the thread on each side of the fitting will be a different diameter. This can be useful when attaching pipe to an appliance and the diameters of each are different (ie. the appliance does not take an 8mm fitting)
How to use a compression fitting
Unscrew the nut from the compression fitting - be careful of the ferrule/olive inside!
Slide the nut over the copper pipe
Slide the ferrule/olive over the copper pipe
Rub some pipe dope (jointing compound) on the olive
Hand-tighten the nut onto the fitting (with the olive inside).
After the nut is hand-tight, do another 1.5 turn with a pipe wrench to secure it in place. Make sure not to overtighten and warp the threads!
Note: Two spanners/wrenches are often used (going in opposite directions) when tightening pipe nuts. Try tightening a nut with one spanner and you'll understand why!
How to connect a compression fitting / copper pipe to an appliance (eg. propex heater)
While copper pipe slots into one side of a compression fitting, the other side of a compression fitting may be used to connect to an appliance (eg. propex heater). In this case you do not need the nut/olive on the other side of the fitting. Instead, apply some jointing compound (or gas-safe PTFE tape) to the male threads of the fitting and screw it into the female thread of the appliance. Hand-tighten the joint followed by some further (gentle) tightening with a spanner/wrench.
Whilst compression fittings are more common in Europe, flared fittings are more common in North America.
A flare fitting has two parts: the flare nut and the flare fitting itself
In a flared connection, the copper pipe is bent/flared at a 45 degree angle to make a sealed connection with the flare fitting. Not jointing compound or PTFE tape is needed for this type of fitting.
How to use a flare fitting
Place the flare nut on the copper pipe
Place the flaring clamp 1/8" from the end of the copper pipe and tighten it down firmly until the clamp is flush together
Place flaring tool over the end of the copper pipe and tighten it into the pipe until it cannot turn any more - this flares the pipe.
Screw the flare nut into the flare fitting, tighten with a spanner, and the joint is good to go!
Here is a great video showing you how to use a flare fitting.
Because rubber pipe is so common in campervans I am going to discuss barbed fittings here. However I do not endorse the use of rubber pipe in campervan gas installations.
Barbed fittings are used to connect rubber pipe to something else. Commonly we would use a barb-thread fitting to connect rubber hose to an appliance like a heater.
With some twisting, the barb fitting should slot inside the rubber pipe. If you're having a really hard time pushing the barb into the pipe, you can dip the rubber pipe in some warm water for a few seconds to loosen it up. The barb should then easily slip inside.
After the barbed fitting is inside the pipe, tighten a hose clip (jubilee clip) over the connection to seal the deal.
The BS EN 1949:2021 standards state that each appliance must have a dedicated isolation valve; a way to switch off the gas feed to said appliance. To achieve this, you can valve each feed individually. However, the more efficient way to do this is with a gas manifold, which is one unit with many valves (The gas manifold from the Gaslow system is shown below).
A gas regulator reduces the high pressure in the campervan gas bottle to low pressure (LP) that is useable by the rest of the gas system. It is a vital part of the system. In a campervan we need to reduce the gas pressure down to 30mbars (or 11WC for North America).
There are two types of regulators: Single stage regulators and two stage regulators.
A single stage regulator reduces pressure to 30mbars in one step. They’re more compact & cheaper than two stage regulators, but not as accurate. Single stage regulators are normally bottle-mounted - they are for temporary installations and not to be used in campervans.
Instead, it is recommended to use a two stage regulator which reduces the pressure in two steps. They are better at delivering constant pressure as the tank pressure declines and temperature fluctuates. Two stage regulators are normally bulkhead regulators - they are mounted on the side of the gas locker rather than on top of campervan gas bottle.
What is a bulkhead regulator?
If you were to use a a single stage, bottle-mounted regulator, you would need to have a different regulator depending on whether you are using a propane or butane tank. A propane regulator must lower the pressure to 37mbars (14WC), whereas a butane regulator must lower the pressure to 28mbars (11WC).
Prior to 2003, this was simply how things were done. However that year something magical happened: the bulkhead regulator was born. A single regulator to manage both butane and propane, without us having to worry about the pressure!
The following are all the possible gas appliances you could have in your campervan:
Gas water heater (for taps and shower)
Gas heater (eg. Propex)
I won't go over the installation of each appliance in this article (check out my other guides for that information), however there are some key pieces of information to be aware of:
Because they combust LPG, the fridge, heater, and water heater all need an air intake and an exhaust (flue) outlet.
According to BS EN 1949:2021 (and very self-evidently):
The exhaust and inlet must be outside the van
The exhaust should be somewhere where it will not be sucked back in by the air inlet or through a window!
Gas level gauge
Simply put, a gas level gauge tells you how much gas you have left in your campervan gas bottle. Needless to say, this is an important feature that could save you a cold night in the van or a dinnerless evening.
Refillable campervan gas bottles (like the one from the Gaslow system) have gas level gauges built-in (per the regulation requirements). However the built-in level gauges only give rough readings and are hard to see (as the gas bottle is inside a gas locker).
Instead we should install an auxiliary gas level gauge which we can readily see.
There are the best campervan gas level gauges:
You can install this handy dongle on top of your Gaslow campervan gas bottle. It connects to the Gaslow Wave app so you can see the gas levels from your phone
This is a physical level gauge that you can mount somewhere visible in your van. It tells you the level of your tank without needing an app.
This gadget is a quick-and-dirty way to check the level of your gas bottle. It also works by ultrasound, but requires you to manually hold the LevelCheck device against the gas bottle to get a reading.
If you are running two gas bottles in your campervan gas installation, like some people using the Gaslow system have, you will need a changeover valve. This allows you to alternate between gas bottle when one runs out.
Sometimes regulators come with a built-in changeover valve. Other times, bulkhead regulators allow you to screw a changeover valve directly into the regulator (eg. Gaslow auto-changeover) The auto-changeover is particularly nifty as it will automatically switch tank when it senses one is running low (without interrupting gas flow)!
You could also opt to take the purist method and install a manual changeover valve (brass fitting) which you can turn by hand.
LPG gas filters
An LPG filter is very much a nice-to-have - though it could save you the heartache of a broken gas appliance a few years down the line. An LPG filter removes particulate matter from the LPG gas, reducing wear and tear on your appliances.
There are two types of LPG filter:
A filling point LPG filter is an adapter we screw onto the filling point in the side of our campervan when we are filling up with LPG. It is a very easy solution to the problem so long as you remember to use it! It catches the particulate matter at source.
In contrast a regulator filter is fitted just after the gas bottle. Gas with particulate matter can be housed in the gas bottle, but it will be filtered as it leaves the bottle.