Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) is obviously potentially dangerous but it is even more so inside a steel boat. LPG is heavier than air and any escape will quickly sink down to the floor and into the bilge where it can tend to remain. It is given a distinctive odour but some people have difficulty smelling it. Always keep your boat well aired and never block or obstruct any vents.
If you do not have a gas alarm we strongly recommend you fit one or more in the optimum positions near to the floor and close to your gas appliances. Exercise sensible precautions too; for example, never leave a lighted hob unattended in case a draught blows it out. Consider turning off the supply at the bottle overnight and during the day if you know you will not need it for some time. Always smell for gas when returning to a closed-up boat. Take care with empty bottles which should always be firmly shut down; they can be just as dangerous as full ones. Make sure your gas locker scuppers (the low-level venting holes) never become obstructed. Novices should note the threaded brass nut on the tail (the flexible pipe that connects to the bottle) is always reverse threaded and should be cleaned of any dirt when changing over bottles.
There are some ‘all electric’ boats but most boats are fitted for gas. It is convenient, quick and safe if handled sensibly. It is used mainly for cookers, gas-fired central heating boilers and some fridges. Older boats may have ‘instant’ water heaters and wall-mounted catalytic room heaters. Always have your gas appliances regularly serviced and cleaned and your pipe work checked by a Corgi-registered fitter; do not rely on your Boat Safety Scheme 4-yearly inspection.
Two types of LPG are in use on the canals; propane (in red/orange bottles) and butane (blue bottles). It is imperative you always use the type specified for your gas regulator (a piece of equipment usually fitted in the gas locker which controls the pressure delivered to your system). Never change colour without changing the regulator.
Propane is generally preferred for canal use; it continues to perform fairly satisfactorily in freezing conditions. Butane, although having a higher calorific value and a ‘hotter’ burn, tends not to ‘gas’ properly at extremely low temperatures but many boaters do use it without undue difficulties.
Gas can be bought canalside at most marinas and boatyards. If you wish to buy a bottle without surrendering an empty one there will be forms in triplicate to complete and a deposit to pay!
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