We use the gas for heating, the fridge, and water heating (for showers). We have two Calor gas bottles. Only one came with the van, a 6kg one. We found that we could just fit 13kg bottles into the van so we bought one. For some silly reason Calor will not allow you to swap a 6kg bottle for a 13kg one so we have two different sizes. I have been told that recycling centres are good places to pick up empty bottles but I haven’t tried yet.
The bigger the bottle the more economic the refills are. A full 6kg bottle (with an empty return) costs around £27; a 13kg one is only £5 dearer and it’s over twice amount of gas.
Update 2023. Those were the days. A 13Kg bottle is around £60 now
The prices vary widely from supplier to supplier and Calor themselves are amongst the dearest. Find a cheap supplier and stick with them.
I fitted a splitter with a dial – which is a “must have” piece of kit if you have two bottles. You turn on only one bottle at a time and when it runs out (as signalled by the fridge led flashing and/or the heater clicking as the re-igniters try in vane to light the flame with no gas, and the cooker stops working) you turn off that bottle and turn on the other one. It takes seconds, and is far faster than unscewing and rescrewing connectors. One of those head torches help no end if switching a bottle at night.
A spin off is that you connect the bottle when you buy it. I have had to return a couple of bottles because of damaged threads that would not connect to the pipes. Imagine discovering that when you are parked up at sub zero temperatures.
While on the topic of low temperatures – we would only ever use propane gas. Butane loses pressure at low temperatures – no problem if you only use the van in summer, but we don’t.
Not much else to say really. We don’t stint on using the gas in the van, but energy costs are far, far lower than living at home.
That said, in the recent very cold spell, (outside temperatures down to -5C at night and 0C max through the day) when the van was occupied day and night we managed to get through a 13kg canister in five days.
But we were warm.
We have been considering a switch to refillable bottles. This was really prompted by the collapse in Calor’s delivery service in the recent cold snap and bad weather.
OK, they could not get their vans through and this caused a backlog but they took ages to clear the backlog. When we asked dealers when they would get supplies they just shrugged their shoulders and said “Your guess is as good as mine mate”. This shows really bad service.
Now we were not drastically effected. We had to run without a full spare for a little while but it could have been worse. We are unlikely to be spending weeks on end in very low temperatures again. (This was a one off).
Folk say you need this sort of equipment for European touring as Calor bottles are impossible to get. I guess it depends on the length of the trip. I would think a month to six weeks would be our maximum and it would probably be in the warm weather when not much gas would be used for heating. Our 6kg and 13kg could handle it but I’d worry about setting out with a full 6kg and a near empty 13kg.
SO options are to switch to a Gas It type of system or switch to two 13kg Calor cylinders. Even buying a from Calor this method would be drastically cheaper in the short run. The LPG approach may save in the long run, but its a very long run.
Anyone know of a 13kg red Calor bottle going cheap in Cornwall??
Update:- I bought two Calor 15Kg blue butane gas caniisters from Gumtree for £11. These were exchanged for two red propane 13Kg cylinders. I then sold the 6Kg cylinder half full for £12.
So we now have three 13Kg red cylinders. We can set off for short trips with one full cylinder and one somewhere between full and empty. For longer trips we can set of with two full cylinders. On non-winter trips they should last a couple of months.
Two and a half years after fitting the splitter the dial gauge is stuck. Oh well, its not crucial.
How to estimate how full a gas bottle is.
The bottles come fitted with an aluminium collar which has the empty weight in lb stamped on it.
On one of my bottles it said 30.08. (I don’t know if that means 30.08lb or 30lb 8oz bit its not critical)
That converts to 13.6Kg. The bottle weighed 22.3Kg (on a digital luggage scale so it had
22.3 – 13.6 = 8.7 Kg of gas in it.
A full bottle would have 13Kg so the bottle was 8.7/13 full or 67%.
We are heading out in the Van to visit relations so I thought I’d do a calculation on the cost of Calor.
In line with all the other sources of energy, the cost of Calor gas has rocketed. It is now £52.50 for a 13Kg refill. This time last year it was £39.50. and in 2018 it was £34.50. A simple calculation shows that 13Kg of propane will provide 180KWh.
The heater can provide 3KW of heat, but we have never had to keep it full on. On the coldest days, we have it set at number 7 (max is 10) I guess we use about 2KW. When we were parked up in the cold at 0C through the day and -5C at night we had the heating on all day and at a reduced setting at night. 2Kw for 16 hours and 500W for 8 hours would empty a canister in 5 days. That’s what we found. So that is around £10.50 per day. Actually similar to the house in cold weather. But the price of Calor in 13Kg bottles is almost 3 times the price of home gas. (It’s around the same prices as home electricity. The price in 47Kg bottle is only slightly dearer than home gas)
On less extreme days, then the cost will be much less. A chilly day – not freezing, is probably around 30p per hour for heating (based on 1Kw).
Campsites who charge £5 for a EHU in the summer are rip off merchants.
I am so glad we have a three way fridge. Many modern vans are fitted with compressor fridges and these will take around 35AH per day. A 100AH leisure battery will be almost flat after two days without a charge (and a big charge from the engine or an EHU. Calculations show that a 13Kg propane cylinder would keep the fridge running for a year or over.
We don’t have a windscreen cover, and so we must lose quite a bit of heat through the windscreen and door windows. We considered buying some covers, but:-
- they seem to cost around £100+
- I would guess at the most they would reduce heating costs by 10-25%. It would take quite a few cold trips to recover the cost
- Sod’s Law clearly states that it will always be raining, or snowing, or blowing a gale when they are being fitted.
- Sod’s lay also states they will always be soaking wet when removed.
- In our van, they would be difficult to store when not in use. We could stuff them in the outside locker but
- The curtains that go across the cab in front of the seats seem to do a reasonable job of separating the cold windows at the front from the rest of the cab. They do an excellent job for privacy, and they look nice and can be opened quickly to let the sunshine in. It is surprising how warm the van gets simply due to the greenhouse effect, even in winter.
So we decided against it.