We use the gas for heating, lighting, the fridge and occassional 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. 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.

Refillable Bottles

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 impoosible 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 whern 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%.