When we were looking at caravans, I also started looking at options for gas. I didn’t want to have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to change the gas cylinder over… nor have to go and change it in the middle of cooking breakfast.. so, an auto changeover regulator seemed to find its way on to the list. I then came across a refillable system. That seemed like a good idea, only it was more tailored for permanent install than a portable system. I did like the idea of being able to refill when I wanted though. I seriously looked at a permanent system… the only thing was, it would not save me any weight and if I did need a refill… I’d have to tow the van to a LPG refill station.
While browsing one of the motor home forums, I came across a chap that had bought a Safefill gas bottle and it seemed to tick the boxes… the bottle was lighter 7.1Kg empty and 15.7Kg full and could be taken out of the caravan to refill if on site somewhere… but more importantly, I could always set off with a full gas cylinder for every trip, therefore the need for a second gas cylinder and auto changeover regulator disappeared.
Now, to work out the economics of it. If I went for A Calor Lite or BP Gas Light, I’d have to pay a £30 deposit for the bottle or bottles… or I could put that deposit towards the £150 cost of a Safefill cylinder. I looked at the price of refilling and came up with this little spreadsheet:-
As there is a Calor station close to us, that would have been the logical option rather than BP. After 8 refills though, I could have saved £154 which would have covered the cost of the Safefill cylinder even if I didn’t take into account the £30 deposit required by Calor. Additionally, there is a Morrison’s filling station less than a mile away that had a LPG pump and one of Safefill’s distributors, Cheshire Gas was only 5 miles away in Stalybridge and another in Stockport. It seemed like the way forward. At the end of the day as well, it does have a resale value if we ever wanted to sell the van.
So how has it been after six months?
The first few months were fine, but on the last outing, I noticed that the gas flow was lower than normal. The only thing I had done since our previous outing was to take the gas cylinder out of the front locker while I reorganised the locker…I guess finding the ultimate way of organising any locker is a man thing! When we turned on all the gas rings, the jets got lower. I’d already checked the bottle before we set off and it was 4/5ths full (easy to check with the see through panel) The regulator was set to take a feed from the correct side and the valve was fully turned on. Still a problem. OK, Disconnect the Safefill cylinder and see if it’s the connection and swap the pigtail over at the same time. I carry a spare Propane Pigtail and a Butane one as well…. I do like to have options! It did improve things slightly. OK, we would have to live with that. We were only going to be away for a few days this time, so it would not be a problem unless we needed the gas heating.
Returning, I fired of an email to Neil Worthington the owner of Safefill, basically telling him what the problem was and what I’d done to try and fault find. Not being a Gas Safe engineer, I wasn’t going any further than removing and replacing a pig tail. I didn’t thing it was the cylinder, but just wanted the opinion of Neil before I rang up the service department at Glossop Caravans. I was convinced that it must be the regulator or something in the caravan. Within an hour I had an email back from Neil, “I know exactly what it is, don’t worry, I’ll come out to see you and sort the problem out” Now that is what I call customer service. Neil called round a couple of days later and explained the problem. On some pigtail’s the machining on the POL is slightly too big and the internal valve is not operated correctly, causing a low flow of gas. It is still totally safe and will not leak, but Safefill corrected this on cylinders sold after we bought ours. (June 2011)
Other than that its been fine, with it being light weight even when full, its easy to take out of the caravan and use on a gas BBQ at home with a screw-in regulator. It also allows me to put more stuff in the front locker and keep the nose weight sensible. But the biggest advantage for me is not so much the weight saving but the fact we can set off always with a full cylinder of gas… and check exactly how much gas is in there with a quick glance.
Are there any improvements to be made… well I think a smaller cylinder as a “spare” just incase you do run low… and hopefully at a cheaper cost. That will bring the Safefill system in range of low gas users.
I used a couple of web sites – LPG Map and Get LPG to find suitable places to refill and to download a POI file for my GPS with all the LPG filling stations. Maybe creating a downloadable POI file for all the Safefill recognised dealers/filling stations is something Safefill should consider to take away any worries about being turned away when looking to refill.
Is it worth the money?- In my opinion, for us, YES.
UPDATE: 29/12/2013 – Safefill now do a 20 litre (9.86Kg of gas) blue cylinder. You can read more about it in my blog post “Still taking two bottles on holiday?…“