Starting with the Utility boxes
Once a long time ago we mentioned we started building utility boxes. We never really explained it what they are and why we’ll need them. But that all changes today. If learning about the very concept of a utility box aligns with your interests and decide to keep reading. It’s good stuff you won’t regret it.
So these little guys will be attached to the front of the house, to the right and left of of the trailer tongue. The one on the right will be use for storage for tools that we’ll need on the road in case something breaks. Knocking on wood.
The one on the left hand side is a little much involved. It’s going to house our water heater and be the source of the water coming into our house.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the utility box before putting the water heater in it. It’s not super exciting stuff anyway. But the picture below starts to tell the story. The wooden box on the right is the utility box for the water heater. That BBQ propane tank on the left is where our propane is going to come from.
The white thing surrounding the propane tank is a RV propane tank cover. It’s just built with plastic. You can kind of see the other piece of it off to the left hand side of the picture. The wig on top of the propane tank with the green tips is a little hard to explain in this picture. I’ll tell you all about him later.
But at this point I was just trying to plot out how the propane would reach both our water heater in the utility box and also route to our oven that is going to be in the house. But that’s all of our propane powered appliances. No propane powered fridge or heater. The propane powered fridges are very expensive and we already have a half split for AC. We may end up getting a small fireplace but that’s for a different post.
Choosing the Propane Line Material
Anyway, I did the research into the options for different propane options. As far as tool investment, safety and ease of installation we decided to go for CSST tubing. CSST is a somewhat more modern option for suppling propane and natural gas into your home. It’s flexible and doesn’t require any special tools to start making connections.
I ended up going with the HomeFlex CSST tubing line. It’s available at HomeDepot off the shelf for the most part. Some of the pieces we needed had to be delivered to the store. I also had to read and understand the HomeFlex installation guide, which goes into a lot of detail on larger installations. Lucky for us, we have a very simple system with just 2 appliances.
Anyway, the plus of running most of our propane lines outside is that we have much less risk of something going wrong inside of the wall. If we have a problem with the line, gas will not be pouring out into the house from somewhere in the wall.
In that case we’d have to take off our planking, remove the insulation and hopefully find the and repair it. By having the line run outside we’ll just need to replace or repair the line. Much easier and less risk.
However, since it will be outside we need to protect this stuff. Luckily I came across this awesome conduit type material. It’s called WaterTight; it’s very flexible and the 3/4th’s inch line fit our HomeFlex line like a glove.
Awesome right? Until we unwrapped the stuff. It’s coiled in it’s packaging and it doesn’t want to break it’s shape, which would be great if our water heater and stove were in a 1 foot circle, but nah.
So we used a heat gun to heat up the WaterTight and bend it into place. We had to quickly insert the HomeFlex into the conduit while it was still somewhat heated. As soon as the conduit cooled it would hold it’s shape.
But Amy was very happy to do this part of the job. It was in the 70’s on Friday, but that quickly changed to 30’s the next day and we actually had some snow. That’s Ohio weather for you.
So that’s how we did our first HomeFlex/WaterTight connection! The HomeFlex is the yellow tubing and the WaterTight is the gray material around it.
Now I get to explain that weird looking Bob Marley looking device inside of the propane cover. The 2 green tips at the end screw into a propane tank each. The black knob at the top of the contraption is the propane tank selector. What’s super cool about this particular thing is that it will automatically switch to the other propane tank when it detects the first is empty. Crazy stuff.
But the benefits of having 2 small tanks instead of 1 large one is we can have continuous service. When the left propane tank goes out, I can go refill it while still having the right propane tank hooked up. No surprise empties and hopefully no cold showers.
Here’s where we brought all of the parts together. This was our first propane connection and it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Now you can see how the propane enters in through the tanks on the trailer tongue and moves to the water heater and tees off to go under the trailer.
Drilling into the Trailer
So first obstacle was making a small hole in the trailer to allow the propane line to make a straight of a line as possible to the oven.
After a few mishaps we’ve learned to try new things on scrap pieces of wood or new material we have before trying to do the “real” thing first. More often than not we didn’t get it done on the first try or there was some kind of difference you don’t notice till you do it.
I’ve never drilled into solid piece of steel like our trailer so I wanted to try it out on a scrap piece first. With some cutting oil and some patience eventually I was able to cut a hole.
So I just needed to do the real thing now, which was to get under the trailer and make the hole for our propane line.
Turns out drilling through steel takes some time. You need to take breaks too because the bit would get super hot and it would cause the teeth to bend. Too much bending and the bit is essentially ruined. Which is did once, but just once.
The other big hole into the trailer was through the subfloor itself where the propane will come up through the trailer and into the house to our stove.
This time I made sure to make the hole through the wood slightly larger so I could get some room to fit in a gasket to protect the line from being cut while the house moved. The line could brush against the sharp edges of the outside of the hole, a rubber gasket was put overtop of the edge so it wouldn’t damage our propane CSST line.
So at the end of the day we hooked up our little water manifold to the propane line and made a small electric outlet box to power the ignition of the water heater. Here you can see up close the line splitting to go into 2 connections.
Here is the other side of the water heater on the inside of the trailer. Where the hot and cold water lines come into the house.
Will make another post when it comes time to actually test the propane lines and the appliances.