Gaslow Refillable Cylinders
One of the first improvements I wanted to make to the motorhome was to install Gaslow refillable cylinders. Most motorhomes and caravans in the UK use Calorgas propane bottles, either in a 6kg size or a 13kg size. Calorgas propane bottles are usually an orange / red colour. Calor also sell butane in blue bottles but as butane does not perform well as a gas in very cold weather most motorhome owners in the UK don’t use it.
With Calorgas bottles you normally enter into a contract to buy the bottle(s) and then when it runs out of gas you simply swap the empty bottle for a full one at one of their suppliers. The cost of a new full 13kg bottle of propane is around the £22.00 mark. For most people this system works well, however more and more people are installing Gaslow Refillable Cylinders.
Gaslow Refillable Cylinders – What are they & the benefits
So what exactly are Gaslow Refillable Cylinders? Well Gaslow is a system whereby you buy the bottles outright and instead of exchanging them when they are empty you refill them yourself using a propane LPG pump, usually at a petrol filling station. Gaslow Refillable Cylinders are not cheap to buy so why do motorhomers use them? There are probably two main reasons:
1. The gas at LPG forecourts is about half the price of Calor propane bottles that you exchange.
2. Gaslow Refillable Cylinders can be refilled overseas. You cannot exchange Calorgas overseas.
It would take quite some time to recoup the cost of buying Gaslow Refillable Cylinders and for those who only use their motorhome a few times a year it would not make economic sense. But for fulltimers like me Gaslow refillable cylinders start to look attractive.
If you intend to travel in Europe you will find that many countries have their own gas companies like we have Calor in the UK. This could mean changing gas providers every time you cross a border, certainly something you want to avoid if you don’t speak the language! The only real bottled gas that is universal across Europe is Camping Gaz. The largest Camping Gaz cylinder is a 2.7Kg butane bottle which in the UK can cost almost £50.00! Faced with these problems, motorhomers who travel in Europe quickly begin to look at a system like Gaslow Refillable Cylinders.
Gaslow Refillable Cylinders – My installation
My Gaslow Refillable Cylinders were installed this week by Mobile Motorhome and Caravan Services and consisted of 2 x 11Kg bottles, stainless steel hoses, auto changover valve, bulkhead regulator, white filler kit and 2 adaptors to allow use on European forecourts. Steve kindly partially filled the bottles with gas and did a thorough leak test. That evening I nervously visited a petrol station to fill the bottles completely. Having never used an LPG pump before I took my time to read the instructions carefully and after a couple of failed connections I managed to attach the pump and fill up with propane. The Gaslow Refillable Cylinders have a mechanism that automatically stops filling when the bottles are 80% full which is a safety mechanism to prevent the problems often associated with overfilling.
It’s only been a couple of days since installation but I’m happy so far with the change to Gaslow Refillable Cylinders. It’s comforting to know that the bottles have a guage on them so I know when to refill them. No more running out of gas at 3:00am on the coldest night of the week as happened with Calor both times! I’m hoping that the 2 x 11Kg bottles will last me about 2 weeks before I need to visit a forecourt and that’s in winter when gas is being used for heating, cooking and to run the fridge when away from electricity. Now that Spring is showing signs of arriving I’ll not need the heating quite so much.
If any other motorhomers reading this have also switched to Gaslow Refillable Cylinders please feel free to leave a comment on this post with your experiences.
Just a quick note, at the peak of the cold spell I was using 19Kg of gas a week. So the two 11KG will last just over a week. I use it for heating, hot water and cooking.
Thanks for the comment Karl. Your gas usage I think will be more than mine as I’m currently still working so only ‘live’ and need the heating in the evenings. Next winter I plan to be in southern Europe so with any luck will not be as cold as the UK.
Good luck with the self build!
hi Gary, followed your link from motorhomefacts and enjoyed your blog. We are on our third Hymer, a new B614SL, and agree with your Hymer related points. We have a son at university for another three years and are both self employed, so full timing or long terming is a while away. If you dont mind I will stay in touch with you and if you need to bounce a thought of someone give me a shout.
Thanks for the comment. Yes please do keep in touch, I always love to hear from other motorhomers as we can all learn from each other. I have sent you an email, look forward to hearing from you.
I have been following your travels for a while now and am really enjoying your blog. I have a Hymer B754 and am thinking of going with Gaslow. Now you have had it in for a while does it work for you. Have you had any problems filling up out and about in europe.
Yes Gaslow has worked really well for me. Filling up in the UK was never an issue. When I bought the kit it included the 2 adaptors for use in Europe. A couple of forecourts have refused to fill them as they say their LPG is for cars only and not for cooking and heating. For the most part service stations are self service and they don’t ask any questions. I’ve filled up in France, Poland and Italy so far.
Hope this answers your question.
All the best
I’m in Canada and would like to drive across USA in my propane fuel motorhome.
Could you tell me which gas stations could fill me up?
I have just bought a Gaslow system and fitted it myself. Very easy job to do.
Just a quick point, if you fit the filler inside your locker so you have to open it to fill it may indeed cause problems. I have fitted my filler to the outside of the van. I will be able to let you know over the next 5 months if I have any problems filling in Europe.
I was not nervous at all about fitting it myself or of drilling holes in the van. However I am a little nervous about going for my first fill and looking like an absolute twonk…….
Hi Gary, from another Gary! Just retired [both me and my wife] and we have two longish trips through France, Italy and Germany [June and July] then France, Spain and Morocco [September/October/November]. Previous trips into Europe have been short so we’ve managed with Calor cylinders, but I am now looking to have Gaslow fitted to our Hymer B544 in April of this year. We’ll have it done anyway, but I’d be interested to hear what other people have paid for the installation before I sign up with a particular installer. I’ll be having 2 x 11KG cylinders plus all the bits and [I think] an external filler.
All the best
We’ve recently reluctantly moved back into bricks and mortar after a year and a half in our van.
Gaslow was invaluable for us, as we travelled through so many countries. Apart from the expense, complication and hassle of buying local cylinders, many countries use tubby cylinders that wouldn’t even fit in our gas locker.
We had no trouble filling up with Autogas and were never refused a fill (we have an externally mounted filler). There are a few different fittings in use, but we carried two adaptors and if they didn’t fit the filling station always had something suitable. Occasionally we had to search online to find a nearby supply. Filling stations were relatively rare in Spain but Google found us a map and we were able to plan our route to suit. New stations are opening all the time in Spain so it’s less of a problem than it was even when we set off.
The only real exception was Morocco, where there is no autogas. Local butane is available from every corner shop, and uses the same fittings as Camping Gaz. If you take a Camping Gaz adaptor (readily available in Morocco as well) and a pigtail (not widely available in Morocco), you can buy a local butane bottle very cheaply.
Thanks for comment Richard. So why did you move back into house? Living in London area as I do there is no attraction in paying inflated rents when I can live cheaply and enjoy Motorhome life.
You seem to have over looked the reason for changing over other than convenience….
MONEY…… how much did this cost in total. I’ve been quoted £600, but it will take a long long time to get my money back. Yes I do travel across Europe
Thanks for a very interesting article.
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Yes Gaslow is expensive, for my kit it was something like £500.00 fitted by mobile company. I would estimate that I must be getting close to break even or better off than had I stuck with Gaslow and that’s with long spells at club sites where I don’t use much gas.
For me the financial calculation is only part of the decision making process. I would not have been happy touring Europe without a system that could be filled on forecourts. Also when it comes to sell the motorhome the system will add value, if it doesn’t then may as well remove and sell on their own.
All the best
I have a Hymer B564 and had a similar system as the gaslow refillable, with external filling point an 80% cut off etc.
I,ve had this for about 6 years and have been very happy with it. But suddenly I am having difficulty finding somewhere to fill them. I was turned away by Calor gas,who say they will only fill under slung tanks and by BP, both say that it’s against their policy on elf and safety grounds.
I did eventually found someone that would allow me to fill.
This is a worrying development. As anyone else encountered problems
I await others replies to this but for my part I’ve only ever had this issue once in Europe. In the UK I use both BP and a Murco garage close to me and neither of them ask any questions. Most pumps say not to be used for refillling bottles though I think they are referring more to people trying to refill traditional Calor bottles which don’t have the 80% protection built in.
I’ve also been told by someone that the pumps are not supposed to be used for heating and cooking but the reality I experience is that the garage is just happy to make a sale. I was also told to produce this leaflet (which I have since lost) which Gaslow provide to show to garage staff. Makers of these systems would have serious problems if garages refused filling and they must have done checks and research before going to market.
Would be interested to hear what others say though.
Thanks for raising the issue.
The Motorhome Vagabond.
Hi there just a quick note , i have recently installed a gaslow 11kg bottle with a auto change over valve and a external fill point i paid…. £73 for the bottle which has 10 years left on it £13 each for the hoses and £20 for the regulator change over valve and gauge i only intend to use one bottle for now so i have blanked off one side of the change over valve to be used at later date all going well of course…..my point is in doesn’t have to be expensive to buy and install….. e bay often has these items for peanuts in comparison to brand new they do have a shelf life so be sure to check it when buying… total cost £129 install time 1 hr but i am a gas engineer and do similar stuff everyday
Not forgetting the fill point @ £30 which means a total of £169 =)
Interesting comment. For fulltimers Gas low makes sense but the cost does make it harder to justify for most motorhome owners.
Buying the bottles and other parts used would save you money but unless you are confident about installing you would need to get quote from gas engineer who is prepared to install used equipment.
Certainly might be an option for those interested in the benefits of gaslow but put off by the cost.
Thanks for the comment.
The Motorhome Vagabond
Hi Gary, I have a single 6kg bottle fitted to my tourer, as I also have a. LPG tug for the van filling both up at the same pump has not proved a problem yet..
Good to hear that you have not had any issues filling bottles with LPG at stations. Like you I’ve never had an issue in the UK and only had a problem once overseas. There is a healthy market in these refillable cylinders which there would not be if there was problems getting them filled.
Thanks for commenting and reassuring anyone who might be thinking of investing in such a system.
All the best
The Motorhome Vagabond
I have the opportunity to purchase a used 6kg bottle which I would like to use in my caravan. Do I just literally just secure it, get the right fittings and away I go ? Thanks
Depends on how handy you are. Some would say you should use qualified gas fitter but some seem to feel you can do yourself. I know one friend who had Gaslow fitted who said it leaked and he does not trust the system. Personally I found mine to be great but it was fitted by someone with lots of experience fitting them. I’m no gas engineer and things like regulators don’t make much sense to me.
If anyone else on here has advice for Mike feel free to post replies!
Hope you get it sorted.
The Motorhome Vagabond
This is the first time I have ever contributed to a blog but I agree with everything you say! We live full time in our Swift Kon-Tiki with two Gaslow bottles on board. I fitted my first bottle myself including external filler. I didn’t have a problem but to be on the safe side, when my van went in for service, I asked if one of there ‘Gas Safe’ engineers would check it out, and all was okay.
Apart from the convenience, I feel that payback is fairly fast, depending on usage of course. We tour Europe in the winter months and have just done so with friends who do not have Gaslow, and compared to their costs in exchanging bottles, my experience has been cheaper by a long way. I reckon I will have payback in less than two years. Brilliant!!
Also, neither in the UK nor Europe (Germany, Italy, France, Spain & Portugal) have I had any problems with service stations, in fact, they have been most helpful. I think it helps with an external filler rather than routing in a locker.
Hope this helps anyone who is considering the cahange.
Thanks for the comment. Yes mine was in a locker but I still did not really get more than one or two issues and since I never let them completely run out if I had to drive to the next place it was not an issue. Good to hear you didn’t have issues in Spain as some years ago that was the one European country lacking in LPG stations (so I was told). If you are able to install yourself then your savings will be great if fulltiming. If you need to pay someone to install them maybe the payback will take longer but it’s still worth it for the convenience factor.
We are retiring and going this August to tour Europe for at least 6 months in our motorhome. We have converted to LPG with one 11KG bottle being fitted but where we had it fitted they insisted we need 2 bottles and fitted a red replaceable bottle to the back. Not what we wanted as you can imagine very difficult to replace as it is at the back of our fitted LPG bottle. We have asked them to take the wee red bottle out and only leave the LPG bottle but they are not happy to do this. I am right in thinking we can travel with one 11kg bottle as I am concerned about payload.
What’s the issue with only having one bottle exactly? I had 2 large Gaslow bottles myself but could have just as easily used just the one. In my experience things like cooking and heating water in the boiler did not use much gas. Heating the living area however did use lots of gas in the winter which is why I would use campsites more often in the winter and then use my little electric heater (my Truma heater was older gas only type).
I don’t think I’m following the advice not to use just one bottle. Yes you will need to refill it more often but as long as you know that and are happy to do it what’s the issue? Sure having 2 bottles helps when you plan to be in the wilds and away from civilisation for periods of time but I don’t see that 2 bottles is essential for most people.
The Motorhome Vagabond
A while since there’s been a post here but I have just bought a MH with twin-tank Gaslow and have been refused a fill at a Calor depot. They only fill underslung tanks and consider onboard Gaslow as removable bottles and not appropriate. National company policy he said.
Interesting to know. I always used forecourts when I had Gaslow and never an issue (only twice refused overseas). Personally I like the Safefill option as it’s cheaper but again you have even more problems with forecourts refusing. There were rumours that this was being addressed but these things seem to take ages.
If I was to buy a camper again I would probably look for something that has a diesel heater like Webasto etc and just use Calor bottle for things like cooking and heating water. Most of my gas usage was for heating the vehicle.