My own passion for caravan holidays has been occasionally commented on by the media. It is certainly something that I am proud of – Margaret Beckett
Having spent a large part of our lives traveling from coast to coast and staying on caravan sites the length and breadth of the country and having spent many pleasurable weekends deep in conversation with fellow caravaners, we’ve accumulated a wealth of knowledge about our favourite pastime.
And, as we’ve been fortunate enough to have benefited from the sound advice and wisdom that our caravaning comrades in arms have shared with us, we’d thought that we’d do the same and pass on what we’ve learned so that you can also reap the rewards of the communal caravaning foresight and acumen that we’ve gathered over the years.
One of the most commonly debated issues that we always stumble across no matter where we go is whether to use refillable or traditional LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) bottles in caravans and motorhomes.
While most caravan sites are equipped with electrical hook-ups that’ll let you connect your caravan directly into the mains, for the gas supply that most need for cooking via the grill and hob, they’re still reliant on a portable supply. And that portable supply?
It works the same way that it has for decades, via a gas bottle that you connect to your caravan.
So, the modern gas supply problem that most caravaners will face during their time on-site, or while they’re at home planning their next trip, is whether or not to invest in a refillable LPG bottle or just stick with the old disposable trade-in system
The Future Is Refillable
We know that change is difficult and when you’re used to doing things a certain way, sometimes it’s hard to get out of that age-old routine.
The established system that Flogas and Calor set up and still use is a hard one to break free from, and you’re probably used to taking an empty bottle in and paying the fee for a new one.
But the idea that you can only take a bottle in when it’s empty (because you want to make sure you get your money’s worth out of your gas) in order to get a new full gas bottle, means that most of us have no option but to take two gas bottles out with us.
One to use and one as a spare, so if one does run out you can just connect the aforementioned spare and get right back to doing what you were doing before the gas ran out.
But what if we told you that there was another way. What if you only ever had to take one gas bottle away with you on your caravan or motorhome trips? What if we told you that it was entirely possible to get your gas bottle filled up before you left and refill it if you needed to while you were away?
And what if we told you that it didn’t matter how much or how little gas was in your bottle, you could refill it at any point that you wanted to and didn’t have to worry about making sure that you were entirely out of gas before you could fill your bottle at your leisure and a time and place of your choosing?
We know, if flies in the fashion of everything that you’d learned, and knew, about caravaning etiquette, but it isn’t just possible, it’s very, very real.
The refillable LPG bottle is here, and we’re going to tell you all about it and hopefully, help you to save money and time and spare you from a lot of unneeded and unwanted gas-related headaches.
Reduce The Weight, Cut The Costs
Deciding what you can and can’t take with you on a weekend away in your caravan is always a bit of a problem.
You want to make sure that you have everything that you need to enjoy yourself while ensuring that you don’t overburden your caravan and make it far heavier than it needs to be.
Even though most modern experts insist that a fully loaded and packed caravan should weigh no more than eighty-five percent of the total weight of your car (which mean that, ideally your caravan shouldn’t weigh more than three-quarters of a tonne even when it’s full to bursting), we’ve always believed that seventy-five percent is a much more realistic figure.
This is because it brings petrol costs down while you’re towing it and if anything does go wrong when you’re towing your caravan,it makes it much easier to control and deal with any potential problems that you might find yourself having to confront.
When you factor gas bottles into the weight equation, that’s when you’ll begin to realise how much a refillable bottle can actually help you save, both monetarily and as far as the weight of what you can and can’t take with you is concerned.
We’ve already talked about the usual two gas bottle (one for now and one as a spare) set-up that most of us use, but what we haven’t talked about is how much that two bottle set actually weighs.
Most caravan fans use a standard six kilo gas bottle, but that number on the side of the bottle only refers to how much the gas inside it weighs; it doesn’t refer to the weight of the actual bottle.
If you’ve ever had to carry an empty (or full) gas bottle, you won’t be surprised to learn that the average gas bottle when empty weighs about eight kilos.
That means when it’s full, it weighs fourteen kilos, and with two full gas bottles onboard your caravan that’s twenty-eight kilos of weight that you’re being forced to devote to carrying gas alone.
The weight limit for a suitcase on an international flight is twenty-three kilo’s, so that means an average conventional two bottle set up weighs more than a suitcase filled with two weeks’ worth of clothing. That’s an awful lot of weight to devote to gas bottles.
Imagine how much more you could safely take with you if you just used a single refillable gas bottle? And now imagine how that would translate to petrol costs and how much money you’d end up saving over the course of one, five or even ten years.
Every penny adds up, and every bit of weight that you save in your caravan adds weight to your wallet.
Finding Refillable LPG Bottles
As the idea of using refillable LPG bottles, or gas cylinders, has gradually started to become more and more popular and the number of companies making and supplying them has steadily started to increase, but there are three brands with an established track record in the gas industry, who have already cemented a solid and dependable reputation within the caravan community.
And while we’re going to chat a little about the benefits of each brand and their refillable bottles they’re not listed in any preferential order, and the number, and position, that each has been assigned is completely arbitrary and is in no way meant to reflect anything other than the fact that we think that each of them is a brand that you can wholeheartedly trust to supply all of LPG bottles that your caravan or motorhome requires.
When Safefill first started making refillable LPG bottles, there was no refill infrastructure in the UK. It just didn’t exist, but undaunted they forged ahead believing that one day there would be, and the enterprise that they were embarking on was worth the risk. And sure enough, they were right.
Having started as an LPG filling station, and after being asked to constantly refill gas cylinders by caravaners and motorhome owners, and having some expertise in the field, Safefill decided that it was time they stepped up to the plate.
Having located a bottle that met their exacting, and all of the industry’s standards and engineered a valve that enabled the bottles to be refilled, they started the next chapter in their LPG adventure.
Made from a combination of polyurethane and glass resin (fiberglass), Safefill’s composite bottles are made to be lightweight, durable (each Safefil bottle comes with a ten-year warranty that begins as soon as you register your bottle), and affordable and are ideal for caravanners.
The price differential between the bottle sizes is negligible, and even though they make a smaller and larger size bottle, their middle ground fourteen and a half kilo bottle is perfect for almost any caravanning holiday.
Admittedly, the cost of actually buying the bottle is a little steep and exceeds the standard bottle rental, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you can actually tell how much gas you have left by looking through the convenient window that Safefill uses on all of their bottles. And, as they’ve now partnered with Morrisons, you can fill and refill your Safefill bottle on the forecourt of any Morrison’s garage that has an LPG pump.
However, even though we’re Safefill fans and we like the way they do things and the fact that they emphasise safety and durability in equal measure, we’re not so keen on the additional costs that a Safefill bottle incurs.
While we understand that buying the right connecting valves for countries that use different LPG delivery systems in their pumps is necessary, the fact that you have to pay extra for a valve for your bottle for domestic use and that it isn’t included in the initial purchase price is a little off-putting.
A long-established brand that supplies companies such as Tesco and Wildax with their LPG, Gas It are the largest supplier of gas refillable products that are designed to be user friendly, simple, and durable.
With a quarter of a century of industry experience under their collective belt, this small North Wales company has amassed a global client list that would make any multinational company green with envy.
And we as love a plucky underdog story, there was absolutely no way that we weren’t going to shine the spotlight on their ingenious and inventive refillable bottle solutions.
Gas It likes to do things the old fashioned way, and they fashion their range of gas bottles (that includes everything from a standard six-kilo size all the way up to a whopping twenty-kilo bottle that would keep a smallish caravan site fully supplied gas for a long weekend) from solid steel.
So unlike the Safefill bottles, you can’t see how much gas is actually in any of their bottles at any given time. However, Gas It have a choice of solutions to keep you informed of how much LPG you have left whenever the need to find out how much fuel you have left to play with takes you.
You can either choose to have a traditional gauge fitted to your bottle, or you can opt for a Bluetooth-enabled bottle that will send a constant reading directly to your phone. But if you’d rather not use your phone, and still want to take advantage of the Bluetooth system that some of their bottles use, Gas It will supply you with a monitor that connects to their bottle and uses an LED bar system to let you know exactly how much gas you have left.
Admittedly the Bluetooth enabled bottles are slightly more expensive than their more conventional range, and their two-year warranty doesn’t pack the same sort of wallop that Safefill’s does, but Gas Its bottles aren’t earth-shatteringly expensive, and buying one won’t send you into a financial downward spiral that culminates in an irate telephone call from your bank manager.
However, that doesn’t mean that they’re not burdened by the slightly inconvenient problem. Gas It bottles can only be filled by Gas It approved dealers and suppliers and you’ll have to figure out where they are, and which one is closest to you using Gas It’s map before you and your caravan can leave home.
Their refill system also means that it’s a little awkward to travel to mainland Europe with your caravan and that you’ll need to find a dealer close to wherever it is you’re heading in the UK if you want your bottle refilling while you’re away.
As we said, it’s more of an inconvenience rather than an actual problem.
Having been in the business of supplying gas and LPG products since nineteen seventy-eight, Gaslow know more than a little about how to safely deliver their products to their customers.
So the fact that they claim that their refillable LPG bottles are the safest in Europe isn’t really surprising and it’s an affirmation that we not only believe but would happily share with our friends and family.
Having designed and produced their first commercially available refillable bottle in two thousand and four, Gaslow are keen to stress that all of the various sized bottles and valves that they sell are engineered to meet the strictest and most demanding of gas safety protocols.
Even though they produce the smallest refillable bottle in the industry, a two and a half kilo (which is probably aimed more toward the camping market than the caravan and motorhome sector, as it would empty itself in record time if it was attached to most caravaners second homes), the size that they recommend, and we find ourselves readily agreeing with their assessment, for most caravans is their eleven-kilo bottle which costs slightly less than two hundred pounds.
We know that you’ve probably just sucked in a rather recalcitrant breath after reading those prices, but in the long run, it’s a price that’s worth paying and while the initial outlay may seem a little large, you’ll save money in the long run by having the freedom to pump your own LPG as and when you need it.
With their bottles being designed to accommodate a veritable plethora of different sized valves, so you’ll be able to fill up anywhere and everywhere in Europe, there only a couple of drawbacks that we can see with Gaslow’s refillable cylinders.
The first is a weight issue. As the bottles are made from solid steel and built to be tougher than the most demanding industry regulations require them to be, they’re also going to be incredibly heavy and nowhere near as portable as their Safefill and Gas It counterparts are. And then there’s the slightly more troubling problem.
None of Gaslow’s bottles seem to be fitted with any sort of level indicator, which means that trying to estimate how much gas is left in them would be difficult at best and at worst nearly impossible.
There is obviously a system that they’ve been engineered to be compatible with, as we refuse to believe that a company so dedicated to safety wouldn’t have included some form of gauge, and the answer to which gauge you need to fit and where to find it is almost certainly just a phone call or email away.
Just make sure that you do find out before exploring the range of Gaslow bottles in any great detail.
Refilling LPG Cylinders
While the infrastructure for refilling LPG gas cylinders is improving on a nearly weekly basis, some companies (like Gas It) insist on using their own registered suppliers and networks to refill their gas cylinders.
However, that model is changing as there is an increasing number of LPG pumps appearing on the forecourt of garages up and down the length of the country, and while some have a strict policy concerning what said pumps can be used for, most of the LPG friendly garages will actually allow customers refill their LPG cylinders on the forecourt, providing they have the correct valves installed on their refillable cylinders to allow them to use and, access the pumps safely.
One of the most significant advances in refilling and reusing LPG cylinders is the partnership that Safefill have recently formed with Morrisons which means that their customers can refill Safefill bottles on the forecourt of any Morrison’s garage that has an LPG pump installed.
And if you’re unsure which Morrison’s garages have LPG pumps, Safefill have a continuously updated list and map of which garages have LPG and where you can find them.
Cylinder Valves – The International Problem
One of the most challenging obstacles facing any caravan owner as far as refillable LPG cylinders are concerned are the different LPG pumps that various countries in mainland Europe use.
The connecting valves in the pumps vary from country to country, so depending on where you’re going, you’ll need the right valves for your LPG bottle for the right pumps.
The LPG Shop is a one-stop resource for any, and refillable cylinder issues that you might have, and has proven invaluable for caravan owners everywhere.
If you’ve planned your mainland route and destination, and have already made the reliable switch, give them a call. They’ll not only be able to tell you where to refill your cylinders, but they can also supply you with the correct, easy to change valves that you’ll need to fit to your cylinders in each country so that you can fill up.
And, if you’re still thinking about the refillable conversion and have any additional concerns, the staff at the LPG shop are able to easily answer any and all queries that you might have.
It’s easy to get bogged down in a hundred different problems, and sometimes you just need a friendly voice to provide the answers that you’re looking for. That’s what the LPG shop is there for, to help you to find the LPG solutions that work for you.
The Permanent Solution
There is an alternative to both the old fashioned gas bottle set-up and using a refillable LPG cylinder, and that is installing a permanent gas tank in either your caravan or motorhome.
While this can seem like an incredibly attractive option, it can be expensive and realistically, is a far more suitable solution for motorhomes than it is for caravans.
The main issue is the weight. While the weight of an LPG tank is easily offset in a motorhome, as we’ve already discussed, weight is a far more pressing issue to caravan owners.
If this is an alternative that you’re readily considering for your caravan, you’ll need to factor in the weight of the tank and how much LPG it’ll hold before you have one installed, as it will have an incredible impact on the number of personal items and supplies you can take with you when you embark on your next caravan adventure.
There is absolutely no way to avoid the fact that refillable LPG cylinders and gas bottles are where the future of caravanning is heading.
Convenient, light, and much easier to use than their traditional counterparts, they’ve already begun to make an impact on an industry that has started to welcome and readily accept the need for change.
That said, at the moment there really is only one company that you can happily, and safely, consider as the source for all of your refillable LPG cylinders and gas bottles and that’s Safefill.
They’ve revolutionised the way that the technology works and how available it is for everyone, and thanks to their forward-thinking deal with Morrison’s have made it possible, and incredibly simple for caravanners everywhere to take advantage of an already existing network and confidently stride into the future.