Refillable gas system or standard replaceable bottles? – a guide

A lot of information on the internet would suggest that swapping out your replaceable gas bottles for a refillable system is an upgrade that would benefit everyone, but as with many things the reality is a little more complicated…..

We use standard, replaceable propane cylinders in our van, and I’ll explain why shortly. Firstly lets look at some of the benefits of a refillable gas system:-

  • Cheaper gas
  • Ability to fill up at petrol stations in any county
  • Ability to easily ‘top up’ so you start a trip will full cylinders, where doing the same with replaceable cylinders may mean swapping out part full cylinders
  • No more lifting/carrying of heavy gas cylinders

There are a number of refillable gas systems on the market, the most popular ones in the UK seem to be Gaslow and Gas-IT

The alternative being the humble replaceable cylinder, lets look at the economics of each system:-

To be fair, I have assumed we are starting from scratch for each system:-

Gaslow 2x 11kg kit compete with European adapters = £621

Flogas 2x11kg cylinders with propane to 21.8LH adapter to allow continental cylinders to be used = £72.24

Current Flogas Propane cost is £2.89/kg when buying 11kg cylinders, current average UK LPG cost is £0.62/litre, which is approx £1.21/kg

This means you save ~£39.86 every complete fill and have to get through x27.5 replaceable Propane cylinders before you have broken even and start to save money – if you already have standard cylinders it’s closer to x31 cylinders

costs checked early 2019, my best top gear maths applied…….

You can see from the above if you get through a handful of cylinders a year you’re not going to save any money from a refillable system for a long time! – of course if you are fulltiming and/or a heavy user of gas this time will be shorter

The main reason for us not using a refillable system however is that we use our van in the winter in the mountains. LPG bought on the continent is a mixture of Propane and Butane, and Butane is not suitable for very cold weather (it boils at around 0 (zero) degrees centigrade, below this temperature it will stay as a liquid and not vaporise as it needs to, Propane by comparison is good down to -42 degrees centigrade)

There is a useful website that shows the various LPG mixtures around Europe here: https://www.mylpg.eu/useful/lpg-mixture

The other reason we don’t use a refillable system is availability – the vast majority of petrol stations in the mountains do not have LPG pumps (probably for the reason above), it can be a long drive down into the valley and back for a refill – and when it’s well below freezing outside your 22kg of LPG may only last ~10 days!. Replaceable cylinders however are easily found in most mountain resorts – there is often a chap in a van that comes round every night supplying them to Motorhomes in need!

Clearly most of our reasons for not wanting a refillable system is based around our winter camping in the mountains – if you don’t venture to the mountains it probably doesn’t apply to you. But then the questions is why are you not enjoying the mountains?!? – you’re missing out!

What are your thoughts? – anything I have missed?, let me know below…….


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6 Comments

  1. Hi guys have you found that the connections for your replacement bottles is totally universal for hooking them up everywhere, or do you need an adaptor kit for use in Europe?

    • Dan

      September 8, 2020 at 7:12 pm

      Hi Brian – our van has a hose with a UK POL propane connection on it, most of the time we just use a POL to 31.8LH adapter and european bottles with the screw-on connection (these seem to be the most popular bottles). So yes, an adapter is needed if you are currently set up for UK Propane, but it’s also easy to just swap the hose from your regulator to a european one while you’re on the continent. Hope this helps, Cheers, Dam

  2. Just another question, but how did you find your internal plumbing goes with the extreme low temps in ski towns? Do you drain them down every day to avoid them freezing during the day when you’re out sliding?

    • Dan

      September 8, 2020 at 7:15 pm

      Hi again – we don’t drain down during the day and never had any problems, but all our plumbing is internal so we just leave the heating on low while we’re out 🙂 We’ve have been on aires with vans with external plumbing that have had issues in extreme low temperatures, so draining down might be a good idea if yours is like this – however it’s probably better to look at insulating your pipework as you may find an externally-routed cold water line will freeze overnight even if you’re in the van with the heating on!

  3. Good afternoon
    Having read your article above I’m now worried as I’ve just bought a A class to take to the alps for the season and it has a gas flow system already installed. Is it possible to get an adapter to enable the use of normal propane bottles ?

    • Dan

      October 13, 2020 at 8:41 pm

      Hi Paul – no need to worry – I’ve seen a few motorhomes in the mountains with refillable bottles and a standard French propane bottle plonked on the floor next to the gas locker and connected to the system, so it must be possible. I don’t know however whether you connect to the filler or another part of the pipework. The connection to the regulator should be standard anyway so you could always just disconnect the gaslow bottles at the regulator and run a new hose to the french bottle (you can often buy the gas hoses at French supermarkets).
      Good luck with the season anyway – I hope all goes well for you! Where are you planning to stay? Cheers, Dan

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