Last Updated on December 31, 2021 by Douglas
Propane is the most popular fuel source for day to day use among motorhome users. You can use it to cook, heat up water, power your furnace and even with absorption refrigerators which have been specifically made to be used in RVs and motorhomes. Most RVs and motorhomes come with built in propane tanks. This is very convenient, especially when you consider that most RV propane tanks have a 25 gallon capacity.
25 gallons of propane is enough to last you a very long time indeed. Even if you were to cook regularly and use a furnace heater, your RV propane tank would likely last several weeks if not months. When you run out of propane in your tank, you can easily have it replaced by the various service providers in this industry. However, at some point or another the tank itself might go bad. At this point you would have to get it recertified. This is a process that many RV owners are just not all that familiar with. If you’re part of this group, read on to learn all that you need to know about propane tank recertification for motorhomes.
Finding Out If The Certification Has Expired
This if the first step that you should take. If you have just bought a used motorhome, you might be thinking of replacing the tank. This won’t be necessary, though, unless the tank has been around for several years. Finding out this piece of information should be relatively easy. However, certain complications can arise that might make it difficult for you. There are alternatives that you can use if this is the case. Most of the time tank manufacturers are going to want to make the date of manufacture easily visible to you. This is done so that RV propane tank recertification is never delayed.
The most obvious thing that you can do in order to figure out whether or not your tank need to be recertified is to check the date of manufacture. This is usually found on the collar of the tank. It’s engraved into the tank so that no amount of wear and tear would be able to remove it. If you take a look at the date of manufacture and you see that it was quite some time ago, there is a pretty good chance that it needs to be recertified. You can double check if you want to be absolutely sure about this sort of thing.
Now, this is a very easy way to see if your RV propane tank is old enough to require certification. But in some cases it just might not be possible to see the date of manufacture. This is because RV propane tank resellers and those that refill used RV propane tanks often paint over the propane tanks. This is not done to try and trick you. Rather, it’s done to maintain the tank’s appearance. It does cause one problem though which is that you would no longer be able to tell how old the tank is.
In general, if a tank has been painted over once or twice this in itself is a sign that it’s quite old. If you get a tank that’s painted, get it recertified just to be on the safe side. Be careful while buying such RV propane tanks too. A lot of resellers use this as a trick to try and get you to buy a tank that is nearing its recertification date. They do this so that they can sell the tank off without having to pay for the recertification costs. Instead, you would be the one that has to end up bearing these costs.
Any old RV propane tank, including one that has been painted over, will have a recertification stamp on it if this process has been completed. You should never buy a used tank that doesn’t have a stamp. This is a sure sign that it’s up for recertification since no one would ever paint over this kind of stamp. The manufacturing date is one thing, but obscuring the last recorded recertification can cause severe health hazards. Making sure that your tank has a recertification sticker can help you figure out how long it will last before you have to pay for the certification process as well.
Another really obvious sign that a tank needs to be recertified is if it looks like it’s undergone a lot of wear and tear. Propane tanks are extremely durable. They are made in such a way because they contain pressurized, flammable gas. However, bumps and scrapes happen. They can leave dents and other marks on the propane tank. You should try to avoid buying propane tanks that have these kinds of marks. Or, if you still want to buy them, you should factor the cost of recertification into the price you are about to pay.
Why You Should Get Your Propane Tank Recertified
Propane tank recertification can be a frustrating process. You might have to take a whole day out for it. Hence, it can be tempting to just not get it done and face the consequences if and when they come. This is definitely going to lead to some major disasters down the line. Recertifying your propane tank when the tank comes is something that is non-negotiable, and there are plenty of really good reasons for why this is the case.
For starters, it’s a public health hazard. Propane tanks need to be recertified so that they can be cleared for continued usage. If some kind of damage has been incurred on the tank that could compromise its structural integrity, this could very quickly devolve into it exploding at a moment’s notice. Propane tanks can take a lot of damage, but at a certain point this damage would reach a critical juncture. Said tank would not be certified if it doesn’t pass the necessary requirements. Hence, recertification is necessary for the public good.
It’s also necessary for your own safety. Traveling around with a tank full of propane is dangerous enough as it is. Old propane tanks can also be ineffective. They end up wasting a lot of the propane that you could have otherwise used. So recertification isn’t just about preventing some potential catastrophe. It’s also a practical aspect of determining whether or not your tank is even worth using in the future. Leaks in your propane tank are also serious health hazards. RVs are enclosed spaces, and if propane floods this space you would suffer from a lack of oxygen. Extended periods of time spent in propane rich environments can cause brain damage among other serious issues.
Finally, if you need a little more convincing, there are some pretty hefty fines that can be levied for using an uncertified propane tank. Once again, this is done to ensure that destructive explosions don’t occur. It also helps with the regulation of these kinds of propane tanks. Resellers would sell old and dangerous propane tanks with abandon if certification was not required.
If you don’t want to certify your tank for safety reasons, do it to save yourself from the fine. Repeat offenders often get their propane tanks confiscated and are not allowed to use propane tanks in the future. Propane suppliers might not even fill your tank if they can’t find proof that it has been certified.
All in all, avoiding the recertification of your propane tank just isn’t worth it. It would likely do more harm than good.
Duration of Certification And Frequency of Recertification
A brand new propane tank is in pristine condition. So it won’t require recertification for a good 12 years. Most propane tanks are still functional after this time, though. They are built to last after all. Hence, the first recertification would occur 12 years after the tank was initially manufactured. The general idea is that no serious damage can be incurred to a new tank that would be serious enough to warrant a checkup. It’s only incremental damage, done over a period of years or possibly even decades, that could lead to safety hazards.
After the first recertification has been done, the window will shorten. Now you will have to get the tank recertified every five years. Most tanks get recertified twice or thrice at the most before being decommissioned. At that point the damage would be too severe to justify letting anyone use it. Hence, you can expect to use a brand new propane tank anywhere from 17 to 22 years as long as you use it responsibly. Not taking care of it might mean that it doesn’t get recertified the first time which is usually quite rare.
Bear in mind that not all propane tanks are meant to be recertified. Certain propane tanks are considered single use. This means that once all of the propane has been used up, the tank needs to be thrown away. The vast majority of propane suppliers are not going to refill your tank if it’s a single use model. What’s more is that the fines for reusing a single use tank are even greater than those for not recertifying your tank. This is because single use tanks are actually very risky to use. They are made to be as cheap as possible, and anything that’s made on a shoestring budget would have some serious durability issues.
The How And The Where
In order to get your propane tank recertified, you will have to contact a licensed retailer. Try to call ahead if you are in the middle of your travels. Most big cities have a number of licensed propane retailers that can do the recertification for you. However, smaller towns might not have anyone with a license. Or they might have someone that does a bad job with the recertification and doesn’t actually test the propane tank properly.
The primary job that the technician would perform would be to check for leaks. They have special tools that help them with this sort of thing. Another aspect of your propane tank that they will check is the pressure valve. This is the most common obstacle to recertification. Pressure valves are usually not as durable as the rest of the propane tank. Which means that they are more likely to get damaged. This isn’t a big deal, though. You can get it replaced without spending too much money. The technician might even replace it for you and add the charges into your final bill.
One thing that you should be wary of is the asking price. There is no universal standard for propane tank recertification charges. Most service providers charge whatever they feel like. You should opt for someone that has a logical and consistent billing process. This would save you from paying extra money for a simple job. Also, before you let a technician work on your propane tank, ask to see their license. Plenty of people try to pass themselves off as qualified without actually having done the work. Propane tank recertification is a very lucrative field. Many are tempted by the high fees and try to lie their way into a job.
Is The Propane Still Usable
This is a question that lots of people ask. If the propane tank has been dented and damaged, you probably won’t be able to access the propane inside it. However, that doesn’t mean that the propane has gone bad. In fact, propane doesn’t go bad at all. It has a very stable molecular structure. The stability of its hydrocarbons means that the gas would never deteriorate as long as it has been properly stored. Even if your propane tank is leaking or damaged, it’s still a secure storage container for the propane itself.
Propane doesn’t have any organic compounds in it either, which further secures it from going bad. However, just because the propane is still good in the tank doesn’t mean that you should try and use it. You might be able to ask a professional if they can extract the propane and put it in a new tank. This most likely can’t be done unless your tank is in reasonably good condition though. If it is, the entire reason for wanting to transfer the propane would be moot. Recertification doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the gas. Rather, it’s all about the structural integrity of the tank itself.
One Thing You Should Never Do
People that travel in RVs generally have a very DIY mentality. This is fine if you are painting your walls or building a bed. That said, you should never under any circumstances try to check your tank yourself. Only someone that has experience in this field would be capable of doing so. They also have special tools that they use to find leaks no matter how small they might be. These tools are only available to people that are licensed in this field. You can’t conduct a proper recertification procedure without these tools.
Certifying a propane tank can also be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. The government yet again levies heavy fines on people that try to do this sort of thing. Certification requires a lot of repairs and upgrades. This is the sort of thing that only someone that has trained in this field would be able to do the right way. Some people also try to conduct a fake certification on their own. At best this would end with them being caught and having to pay a fine. At worst they could seriously injure themselves as well as anyone that happens to be around them.
Is It Worth It?
Since you are spending money on recertification anyway, you might just think about buying a new propane tank. This is actually not a bad idea depending on the circumstances. Generally speaking, though, buying a new propane tank will cost more than having your old tank recertified. At worst you would have to get the valve changed which generally doesn’t cost much. At best there would only be a couple of leaks which the technician would include in their recertification fee.
The average cost for a propane technician is about $50-$100 dollars. This depends on where you are and who you end up hiring. Some technicians can even get the job done for under $20. As long as they are fully licensed, there is no reason to be suspicious of these low costs. They often charge low fees because they do a lot of recertification in a day and the number of jobs they do accumulates this small amount and turns it into a hefty sum.
Recertification being cheaper than buying a new tank is generally only applicable to relatively new tanks. That is, if your propane tank is getting recertified for the first time after a 12 year period. Even if you have done a lot of damage to the tank, the technician might offer you an upgrade in exchange for the old tank as well as the recertification fee. This would again be cheaper than buying a new tank.
If you are about to get your tank recertified for the second time, however, this represents a different scenario. Most tanks that are this old will need a lot of repairs in order to be certified again. These repairs will cost a lot so you might be better off just buying something new. You’ve gotten a good 17 years out of the propane tank after all. It might be time to put it to rest.
Disposal Procedure For Damaged Tank
There is no guarantee that your propane tank would end up getting recertified. Tanks that are severely damaged or compromised would fail the certification process. When this happens, it will be your responsibility to dispose of it. You can’t just drop it off anywhere, though. It still has propane in it, and since it failed recertification this means that it’s even more dangerous than a regular propane tank.
There are a number of service providers who would be willing to take your propane tank off of your hands. The only problem with them is that they usually charge a lot of money. While the service they provide is certainly useful, you likely have to pay for a propane tank so chances are you don’t have this much money to spare. This doesn’t change the fact that you need to find a way to dispose of the tank, and luckily there are some cheaper options that you could go for as well. You just have to wait for the opportunity to arise for you to take advantage of these options.
In certain areas, a few days out of the year are set aside for trash disposal. On any of these days, you can just put your failed propane tank on a street corner and someone or the other from the local government would pick it up. You wouldn’t have to pay a fee for this service. Local governments sometimes collect old propane tanks from you regardless of what day it is. They would charge a fee as well, but the fee would be lower than that of service providers. One caveat is that you would have to go and drop it off at a designated location.
Propane tanks last so long that you might forget that they need to be certified. As we have already mentioned above, there is no excuse for not getting this done. While it can be inconvenient to get your propane tank recertified since it can delay your travels, it’s pretty easy to find someone to recertify propane tank. You might even get a few upgrades out of it that would make your propane tank safer and more efficient. Propane tanks can last decades, but after 17 years or so their life expectancy tends to draw to a close. Buying a propane tank makes more sense at that point.