Propane for Preppers – Part Two

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How much do you really know about storing and using propane?  If you are like most folks, you open the valve on your tank and for all intents and purposes, you have fuel.  In the Backdoor Survival series, Propane for Preppers, we are going to unravel the mysteries of propane so that you will know everything there is to know about using propane as a fuel source grid up or grid down.

The series was written exclusively for BDS by my friend Ron Brown, who has taken considerable time to put together a comprehensive tutorial for you.  This is information you need to know!

Propane For Preppers Part Two - Backdoor Survival

In Part Two of Propane for Preppers, we continue our basic education then move on to the nitty gritty of tanks, valves, regulators, pipes and more. There is a lot to learn and to absorb if you really want to understand the whys and wherefores of using propane.

As Ron will explain,there are some safety concerns we should be on the watch for including leaks, poor fittings, and heaven forbid, a tank you find in a rental house that was used to produce crystal meth.

In case you missed it, here is a link to Part One.  Otherwise, let us continue on to Part Two.

Propane for Preppers – Part Two

Tanks, Valves, Regulators, and Pipes

Before we move on to tanks, valves, regulators and pipes, a word about crystal meth and used propane tanks.

Crystal Meth. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have bothered to include this section. Today it’s top on the list.

I live in the country, near a village with one stoplight, 30 miles from Wal-Mart. Yesterday, in a house just up the road, there was an explosion that blew the front door off its hinges and the glass out of all the windows. The only person home at the time went to the hospital with burns over 75% of his body. It’s the fourth meth bust we’ve had locally in the past 12 months. As Bob Dylan said in 1964, the times they are a-changin’.

People who make meth use propane tanks to hold ammonia. The tanks are made of steel but the fittings are made of brass. And ammonia attacks brass, cracks it, and makes it brittle. Makes it unpredictable. And it gives the brass fittings a distinctive blue color. The tank may or may not hold pressure without exploding.

Urban legend has it that such tanks are sometimes turned in, refilled, and recycled back to propane customers. Extremely unlikely. For one thing, the tanks are screened by propane suppliers. For another, as Snopes points out, anyone turning in a meth tank (with its prominent blue corrosion) would draw attention to himself. A far more likely scenario would be finding such a tank in the garage of the house you just rented, left behind by previous tenants. Or finding one at a flea market.

If you do come across such a tank (that is, a propane tank where the brass fittings are corroded to a blue or blue-green color), don’t move it. You don’t know what’s inside or how much pressure it’s under or how close it is to blowing. Will it take the jostling and jarring of being moved? There’s no way to tell. Call the fire department. Let them bring in the bomb squad.

Seriously. Don’t move the tank yourself.

I don’t own such a tank, or even pictures of such a tank, so that I can show you what the blue color looks like. But if you’ll Google for ‘ammonia blue propane’ you’ll find lots of images. Check it out. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

Tanks

Propane tanks come in all sizes. I worked many years at an aluminum mill. We consumed enough gas in the ‘soaking pits’ to light a small city. Literally. Had a big snowstorm. Blackout. Lost production. Mega-bucks. We installed propane tanks big enough to run for a week without interruption. Gas was delivered by rail car. It looked like a supply depot. It was a supply depot.

On the other end of the range are cartridges that hold 110 grams (4 oz.) of a propane-butane blend. Weight-wise, that’s equivalent to half a cup of water. A hiker can toss a cartridge into his backpack and not notice the weight. That kind of cartridge is intended to power small lanterns and one-burner stoves.

Within those two extremes, this series of articles will focus on the lower end of the range – one-pounders and 20-pounders for the most part. The one-pounders are made to be disposable, not refillable.

Technology-wise, one-pounders can be refilled and adapters to do so are widely sold. A subsequent article in the Propane for Preppers series will show you how. Just remember that, when we do it, we’ll be assuming all risk, all responsibility.

The skinny (Bernz-O-Matic) soldering cylinders have the same (right-hand) threads that one-pounders have. And that MAPP-gas cylinders have. They can all be refilled the same way. Unfortunately, they are all made to be disposable and they are all prone to leaking. I’ve had it happen several times. An audible hiss; escaping gas that you cannot stop.

Threaded brass end caps [19] will stop the leak if an O-ring is added. A basin of water with a leaking one-pounder in it reveals a stream of bubbles coming from the valve. If you install a brass end cap, the bubbles continue. If you wrap the threads with Teflon thread-seal tape (the Teflon tape made for propane is yellow BTW), the bubbles continue. If you install a gasket cut from a sheet of rubber-cork gasket material from the automotive supply store, the bubbles continue.

If, however, you replace the factory-installed gasket with an O-ring (15/16-inch outside diameter) from your local hardware store, the bubbles stop. Bingo!

mac cap

end caps

Unfortunately, brass end caps are expensive. An alternate is a propane device that’s no longer functional (because it’s plugged, dented, etc.) – soldering tips and such that you pick up at yard sales. These devices can be mounted on a one-pounder in place of an end cap. Plus-or-minus an O-ring, they’ll stop leaks.

Another way to use a leaky cylinder is to store it (empty) until you need it, then refill it immediately before use. But that means you must leave the appliance attached to the cylinder until the propane is totally consumed. Else the leaking resumes.

Side Note: Brass end caps are used because brass is non-sparking. Flint and steel makes sparks. (Remember the old flintlock Kentucky rifles?) Even steel and steel makes sparks if you bang the pieces together just right. Sparks are a constant threat, a constant fear, around propane. But you can bang on brass all day long and not get any sparks. And that’s a good thing, a wonderful thing.

Let’s move on up the food chain. The next size larger tank after a one-pounder is a four-pounder. Actually, the so-called 4-pounder is 4¼ lbs. Seems like an odd increment but no doubt it was intended as a ‘one-gallon’ tank. One gallon of propane weighs 4.23 lbs. at 60º F.

One pounders have right-hand threads, are intended as disposable (not refillable), and lack the 80%-refill safety feature described in an earlier section.

All tanks from 4 to 40 lbs. have left-hand threads, are refillable, and do have the 80%-refill safety feature (called OPD or Overfill Protection Device).

In the 4-lb. to 40-lb. range, tanks made before 1998 lacked OPD. The shutoff knobs on the older tanks had a variety of shapes – round, 5-point star, 6-point star, etc. Those tanks are mostly gone now, retired when their certification dates expired. Plus, since 2002, they could not legally be refilled. They’ve effectively been bled out of the supply chain and have disappeared.

old valve

new valve

What remains in circulation (in the 4-lb. to 40-lb. range) are tanks with a standardized shutoff knob, triangular in shape and stamped ‘OPD’. Not only do OPD tanks have a float inside to prevent over-filling, if the valve is accidentally left open and the tank is not hooked up to anything, no gas comes out. Sweet.

Propane is sold in both pounds and gallons. The gas supplier who fills the big tank at your house will invoice you in gallons. Small tanks (20-pounders, for example) are filled and billed in pounds.

A ‘20-lb. cylinder’ is sized to hold 20 pounds of propane (net) when it is 80% full. So its ‘total’ capacity (theoretically) is 25 pounds (20 / 25 = .80). But the tank’s internal float prevents you from putting more than 20 pounds in it.

The empty or unladen weight of a container is its ‘tare weight.’ The tare weight of a propane cylinder is stamped on its collar. Pictured below is the collar of a nominal 20-lb. propane cylinder. ‘TW’ stands for tare weight. In this case, the tare weight is 16.6 lbs. (16 lbs. 10 oz.).

tare weight

So if you removed this exact tank from your BBQ grill and weighed it, and it weighed 30 lbs., then you’d know it contained 13.4 lbs. of propane (30 – 16.6 = 13.4). And you’d know it contained 67% of its rated 20 lb. capacity (13.4 / 20 = .67).

When this tank is filled to capacity (20 lb.), it will weigh 36.6 lbs. (20 + 16.6 = 36.6). Anything below that indicates under filling. At the trade-in station where you turn in your empty tank (plus a few bucks) in exchange for a full one, you can weigh your new tank (giving you the gross weight), subtract the stamped tare weight from the gross, and see how much propane, net, is actually in your new tank. Wadda ya think? Will it be a full 20 lbs.? Or less than 20 lbs.?

Blue Rhino  says about itself: “In 2008 . . . Blue Rhino followed the example of other consumer products companies [and] . . . reduced the amount of propane in our tanks from 17 pounds to 15 pounds.”

(This is nothing more nor less than the universal business model in action. After all, I can remember when a pound of coffee weighed 16 ounces instead of twelve. I believe this is what the communications people mean when they say, “The world is getting smaller.”)

Refillable tanks are certified for twelve years from the date of manufacture (stamped on the collar). At the end of twelve years they must be tested and recertified. The recertification is good for five additional years.

And how about the disposable one-pounders we want to refill? There is no collar. The date of manufacture is unknown. There is no recertification procedure. Translation. If you refill it, you’re on your own. I’m not saying, “Don’t do it.” But I am saying, “Be careful.”

Valves

Some years back, if you cooked with gas, having two 100-lb. tanks with changeover valves was SOP (standard operating procedure). That’s what I had as a married student back in the day, supplying my 12′ x 60′ house trailer.

Today, I have a 200-lb. tank owned by the gas company. My gas company waives any rental fee. Some companies charge. When I had 100-lb. tanks, I, myself, transported them to the vendor to get them refilled. Today, with a 200-lb. tank, the vendor sends the truck to me.

About the only place I see changeover valves (sometimes called switchover valves) these days is on RV’s where they use two 20-lb. tanks. (BBQ grills typically have one 20-lb. tank.)

With changeover valves, when tank #1 gets empty the valve automatically switches to tank #2. At that point you can shut off and remove tank #1, haul it away to get it refilled, and have supper cooking on tank #2 while tank #1 is off-line.

I once stayed with some folks in their travel trailer who had changeover valves but who didn’t understand them. Tank #1 ran out of gas. They shut everything off – I failed to convince them it was unnecessary – and, despite the fact that tank #2 was available, supper waited while someone drove to town, many miles on back roads, to fill tank #1. What part of h-u-n-g-r-y don’t you understand?

Newer changeover valves look different than the old-style valves but perform the same function. If you don’t understand how they work, there’s no harm in asking your gas supplier. YouTube also has some good tutorials; just search for ‘LPG changeover valves.’

Regulators

Regulators are the heart of a propane system. Regulators keep the gas pressure to an appliance constant even though conditions change. Say it’s noon and 70º F outside. The pressure inside your propane tank is 145 PSI. You turn on a stove burner (to cook down a big pot of tomatoes from scratch, say) and set the burner on ‘medium.’ The sun comes out and by 1:00 PM it’s 90º F outside. Due to the increase in ambient temperature the pressure in your propane tank rises to 180 PSI.

But the flame at your stove is still ‘medium’ in size. Then your gas-fired hot water heater starts up. And your gas-fired clothes dryer shuts down. But even with demand bouncing around in addition to the change in tank pressure, the flame under your tomatoes remains ‘medium.’ Looks like magic to me.

Actually it takes two regulators to perform the magic. One regulator of the type pictured below is mounted on the big tank supplying your home. (The one pictured here even sends a radio signal to the delivery truck saying you need a refill.) In addition, each individual appliance (stove, fireplace, water heater, etc.) has its own secondary regulator.

regulator photo

With portable tanks and smaller devices there is only one regulator. Your BBQ grill has its own regulator (the 20-lb. supply tank has none). The one-burner stove that screws onto the top of a one-pound cylinder has a regulator (the one-pound supply cylinder has none). With these smaller devices the regulator is part of the appliance, not part of the fuel supply.

one burner stove regulator

Pipes

The RegO company (the name is derived from Regulator and Oxygen) has a free, downloadable, 52-page, LP-gas serviceman’s manual. It’s far more technical than this article but might be nice to tuck away for reference. It’s available here: RegO  LP-gas serviceman’s manual.

In my house, we have a gas cook stove and a gas clothes dryer. One ½” copper pipe comes from the outside LP tank through the concrete-block wall into the basement and thence to a ‘T’ coupling. After that, each leg feeds one appliance. Simplicity itself.

Aside. When we bought our house, there was an electric range in the kitchen. We replaced it with propane so that we could cook normally during a blackout. Granted, in a blackout, the stove’s electronic sparking system does not spark and we must light the burners with a match. But I can handle that.

Back to our story. In a more complex setup (one propane tank feeding several apartments, for example) a manifold system (similar to what you have for water) is used. Such systems have large pipes near the source and progressively smaller pipes as you move further away from the source.

The RegO manual explains how to size such a manifolding system (plus tons of other stuff). More than you ever wanted to know.

Of more immediate concern is the issue (some would say myth) of unshielded copper tubing running through a concrete wall and being corroded by the concrete. To avoid that corrosion, some building codes around the country (not all) require plastic-coated tubing.

I once had an LP-gas serviceman install a new tank, look at the unshielded copper-to-concrete installation already in place, and tell me I needed to change it. He was new to both his company (who had actually performed the installation some years earlier) as well as to the area. He was simply citing the rules and regulations as he knew them from a different section of the country.

It appears that the well-intended serviceman was wrong. Radiant heating systems have had copper tubing buried in concrete for years. I suggest you to check it out yourself. Here’s a good place to start: Copper pipes “reacts chemically” with concrete a “myth”?.

Disposal of Empty Propane Cylinders

Unfortunately, I am completely stymied on the topic of cylinder disposal for one-pounders. I live in upstate New York (not the same as New York City). I Googled for ‘NYS propane tank disposal.’ Here are the first two results, top o’ the list, one from Westchester County and the other from Huntington, Long Island:

Barbecue and Propane Tanks“To dispose of a one to two pound propane barbecue tank: Residual gas should be burned off through proper use of the grill. Empty tanks may be disposed of in the garbage or on bulk pick-up days. Never include a 1 or 2 pound barbecue tank with your glass, plastic or metal recyclables.” [emphasis added]

Propane Tank Recycling“Town of Huntington, Long Island, New York . . . The Recycling Center will accept, at no charge, propane tanks sized up to 25 lbs. . . . Never put a propane tank out for trash collection with household garbage.” [emphasis added]

I feel so much better now that the disposal issue has been clarified. Of course the labels are helpful. “When empty discard in a safe place.” Or “appropriate place.”

Or maybe this one: “To discard, contact local refuse hauler or recycle center.”

So I called my refuse hauler. I really did expect them to be knowledgeable. After all, they have a hundred garbage trucks on the road at any given time. Maybe two hundred.

Turned out they didn’t have a clue. After a bit of phone-tag (and confirming I was talking about “the little green cylinders you hook up to camping lanterns”) they told me to contact Home Depot or Lowe’s and see what the people who sell these things suggest. You mean the clerk on duty in the sporting goods section of Wal-Mart is the final authority on this stuff? Really?

I also chased down the number of the county recycling center. Got an automated recording who never called me back. (Imagine that.)

There’s a theory in business management to the effect that, if management cannot decide something, then the decision, when push comes to shove, will be made at the lowest level in the organization (the machine operator typically). And the decision will be whatever is easiest for the guy making it.

So if the folks who make one-pounders cannot tell you how to dispose of the cylinder – nor can the vendor who sells it; nor can the trash collector; nor can the recycle center; nor can the internet; nor can the alphabet-soup government agencies – then the decision will be made by the customer. And it will be whatever is easiest for the customer.

Right or wrong, empty one-pounders will go in the trash and get set out with the garbage. In my heart of hearts, I’m sure it happens hundreds s if not thousands of times every day.

Tell me it ain’t so.

Purging

‘Purging’ is the act of flushing out the air inside a new (empty) tank and replacing it with propane. If the tank is not purged before its initial fill, the propane will be diluted with air and not up to the task of functioning as a fuel.

Purging is not a concern with one-pounders because they’re already filled with propane when we bring them home from the store.

There are actually three materials to consider in the purging process: propane, air, and the water vapor in the air.

The wrong way to purge a tank is to use liquid propane. When the first bit of liquid propane rushes into the empty, virgin tank it evaporates and turns to a gas. To turn from liquid to gas requires heat. The heat is drawn from the sidewalls of the tank. Any water vapor in the air quickly coats the inside of the tank with ice. After the air is expelled, the ice remains. Which leaves you with water in your propane. In case you didn’t already know it, water does not burn well when it reaches the flame in your appliance.

The new tank should therefore be purged or flushed out with gaseous propane. And it needs to be flushed out four times.

After the first flushing (accomplished by filling the receiving-tank to 15 psig with gaseous propane then exhausting the vapor to the atmosphere), the tank contains a 50/50 mix of air and propane.

After the second flushing, the tank contains 75% propane and 25% air.

After the third flushing, the tank contains 87.5% propane and 12.5% air.

After the fourth flushing, the tank contains 93.75% propane and 6.25% air.

And that’s adequate. At that point the new tank can be disconnected from the gaseous-propane line, hooked up to a liquid-propane line, and filled.

Coming Up Next

In the next part of this series (Part Three) we’ll cut to the chase and and describe the refilling of one-pounders (in other words, how you do the doin’).

Also included will be brief sections on the economics of refilling (does it save enough to pay?) and the legalities of refilling. Should be interesting, no?”

… to be continued                                                                           © Ron Brown 2014

Sources – For Reference Purposes

As he did in Part 1, Ron has provided a list of items available at Amazon that are footnoted above.  They may or may not be precisely the items/brands displayed in the article.  Part Two has just a single item.

[19] End Caps:  Mac Coupler Propane Bottle Cap MacCaps (End Caps)

The Final Word

No one was more surprised than I was to learn that there are no standards for the disposal of those one pound cylinders. Who would have guessed?

Knowing that, of course, we can all begin to think about what we will do with those used-up cylinders.  If you are like me, you will want to hang on to them as we learn, in an upcoming article, how to fill them ourselves from larger tanks.  Then again, maybe not.  I am looking forward to Ron telling us how to do so safely given the risks involved.

With his usual wit and humor, there is still a lot more Ron will be sharing with us in Propane for Preppers so stay tuned!

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye

PS:  You might want to check out the page I created featuring Ron’s books.  Every single one of them is a worthwhile investment in practical and useful knowledge.  Meet Ron Brown!

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Spotlight:  Ron is the author of three books, so far, in the Non-Electric Lighting Series: CANDLES, OLIVE OIL LAMPS, and LAMP FUELS . I wrote the foreword in two of the books and what can I say?  All three are recommended.

Ron Brown   Backdoor SurvivalRon Brown   Backdoor Survival    Ron Brown   Backdoor SurvivalRon Brown   Backdoor Survival    Ron Brown   Backdoor SurvivalRon Brown   Backdoor Survival

All of Ron’s books are available in both Kindle and print format.  They are well priced (99 cents cheap!) and in my not-so-humble opinion, worth double the price.

Bargain Bin:  Below you will find links to the items mentioned in today’s article as well as other propane related items that are popular with BDS readers.

Mac Coupler Propane Bottle Cap aka MacCaps (or End Caps): This ingenious device protects the threads of disposable 1 pound propane bottles and helps prevent thread damage and seals out dirt. You will receive 2 caps per order. The Mac Caps makes a welcome addition to any camping gear, RV enthusiast, outdoorsmen, or home owner that needs to use a 1 lb. propane tanks. Now you can protect the threads of those tanks with the Mac Cap. Simply attach the Mac Cap to your 1 lb. tank when not in use to help prevent leaks and protect the threads.

CRL Standard Propane Fuel Cylinder:  These are the standard14.1 ounce propane cylinders that are used with propane torches and most portable propane appliances.  Also referred to as Bernz-O-Matic soldering cylinders .

Mag-Torch MT200C Propane Pencil Flame Burner Torch: Useful on leaky canisters, this small and inexpensive propane torch will also do a great job of starting campfires even in windy situations.

Coleman PefectFlow 1-Burner Stove:  This Coleman One-burner Propane Stove is an easy-to-use portable stove that should meet almost any camp cooking need. The PerfectFlow regulator provides consistent cooking performance by producing a steady fuel stream, even in cold weather, high altitudes, or when fuel is low. Equipped with one 10,000 BTU burner, this fully adjustable stove will last for 2.2 hours on high or up to nine hours on low.  Less than $25 plus a lifetime warranty.

Mr. Heater Portable “Big Buddy” Heater : A number of readers have mentioned this portable heater to me. Using propane and safe for indoor use, the Big Buddy Heater features an automatic low-oxygen shut-off system that automatically turns the unit off before carbon monoxide fumes reach dangerous levels in home.  Now how good is it? Read the reviews and decide for yourself. I think that in a power down situation, this is a great option for someone without a wood burning heat source.

Coleman One-Mantle Compact Propane Lantern: Easy to use and portable. This Coleman compact lantern lights with matches and is pressure-regulated for consistent light, regardless of weather. The porcelain ventilators will prevent rusting and help this lantern last you a long time.

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Comments

Propane for Preppers – Part Two — 28 Comments

  1. Excellent!!! I love Ron Brown’s writing. His expertise is strong, his delivery emminently approachable without being simplistic. He strikes a wonderful balance.

    Sadly, I don’t do cloud e-books or I’d be all over his 99-cent books.

  2. He mentioned yellow Teflon tape for propane,… what if a person uses the white plumbing Teflon tape instead? The white stuff is what my local hardware store recommends, for low pressure devices anyway.
    I don’t recall ever seeing yellow tape.

    • As far as I know, white Teflon tape is intended for water and yellow for gas. (Plus Dupont holds the Teflon trademark and doesn’t like the phrase “Teflon tape” because they, DuPont, no longer make it.) The white tape has been stretched during its manufacturing process. It is both thinner and lower density (more porous) than yellow. For gas, the story I get is that white tape will work; yellow tape will work better. And by all means, don’t be afraid to Google for it.

  3. Ron – I have gotten tanks at the exchange place that, although seeming full, I could get no drop an out of. You said ” Not only do OPD tanks have a float inside to prevent over-filling, if the valve is accidentally left open and the tank is not hooked up to anything, no gas comes out. “. Could his be cause by a bad float, or as some people say, because the tank is full of water? If the float, is there anything the average person can do to get it working properly? (35 miles each way is a bit far for returning the tank, especially during an emergency when you need it NOW)

    • If your tank is not hooked up to anything and you open the valve and “can’t get a drop out of it,” GOOD. That’s the way OPD is supposed to work. If, however, your tank is hooked up to an appliance and nothing comes out, different story.

      At the feed store where I get my BBQ tank refilled, there are twenty abandoned OPD tanks at any given time setting in rows near the refill station. Why? Because with the float paraphernalia inside, OPD tanks are more delicate than the old-style tanks they replaced. But the good old boys don’t know that. They let the 20-pounders roll around in the back of their pickup trucks just like gramps usta do. Clankity-bump. Eeee-haw!

      If the tank/float/valve is at fault and no gas comes out even though it’s properly hooked up and you know the tank to be full, then NO, there is nothing the average person can do to fix it. That’s why the abandoned tanks are lined up at the feed store.

      You might consider testing your new tank right there in the parking lot before making the 35-mile trip home. Doing so would require an adaptor hose plus a small appliance (e.g. camp stove), and those devices are not free, but there is no technological reason why it couldn’t be done

      • Thanks Ron – where I live I suspect the “good ole boys” problem. That and the exchange place not properly checking them. I guess I’ll have to get one of the single burner stoves so I can check the tank before leaving! 🙂

        • A single-burner stove, designed to go on a one-pounder, will not mount DIRECTLY on a 20-pounder. You’ll need an adaptor and/or adaptor hose. All available at Walmart. Not exotic stuff. Just be sure you’ve got everything you need for testing before you leave home on a 70-mile round-trip jaunt.

  4. This is ONE topic which I’ve been sadly lacking. Acquired a foldable bbq grill but it’s supposed to hook up to propane. (Have patience, all female house w/no male advisers here) lol Anyway, I don’t like those small ‘throw away’ bottles and would like to get a small refillable tank for the car and a standard tank for home. What sizes do I look for? From the reply to JimW, I’m going to be taking my bbq grill when I go buy these babies too. 🙂 Thanks so much for the great article.

    • As far as I know, the smallest size refillable propane tank is the 4.25 lb. (one gallon) size. If you Google for it (“4.25 lb propane tank”) you’ll find that Lowe’s and Home Depot and several other stores carry it. The “standard tank” you want for home use is likely the 20-pounder. And EVERYBODY sells those. The 20-pounder is what’s on everyone’s BBQ grill. Ironically, the little 4.25-pounder is over $50 whereas the bigger (and more popular) 20-pounder is only $30. Say what?

      With the 20-pounders, there are places you can trade in your old, empty tank (plus a few bucks) and take home a different, full tank. It’s quick. You don’t have to hang around waiting for somebody to fill your tank. To get started on this swap system, you can outright purchase a filled tank.

      OR you can start out by buying a new, empty tank AND GET IT PURGED and filled, then keep taking the same tank back for refilling. With a 4.25-pounder, this second option is your only choice. The first option (turn-in-an-empty-and-go-away-with-a-full-but-different tank) can only be done with 20-pounders. (Although TIAEAGAWAFBDT has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?)

  5. Thanks for the unexpected reply.

    The question I now face is: should I, or shouldn’t I, replace the tape on the connections for the propane/generator/conversion set-up?

    … I’m going with: maybe later, but get some yellow to have on hand, especially for the brass elbows.

    • As far as I know, the “Teflon” part of the Teflon tape is the same, be it white or yellow. It’s not like propane will dissolve the white tape or anything like that. It’s just that the yellow tape, being slightly thicker and slightly less porous, will contain or confine GASEOUS propane better than will white tape. White tape will suffice with a LIQUID, but a gas, under pressure, is more easily contained with the heavier yellow tape.

      That being said, if the joints you already have don’t leak . . . then they don’t leak. Check them out with soapy water. If they don’t leak . . . well, what more can you ask of them?

  6. Ron – My sis just called me. How she knew you were doing propane stuff today I don’t know! I have a 250 gallon tank and she said her neighbor has a 250 for sale at a very low price ($100). In addition he said she could use his trailer to bring it to me (250 miles).
    The questions now are:
    How difficult is it to connect two tanks together? Should it be straight tank to tank or should it be via the regulators?
    Would it be better to have my propane company come out and connect the tanks to be sure it’s done correctly?
    Is it even worthwhile contemplating?
    Finally, should there be a shutoff valve between the tanks so you can isolate them?

    (Man – we running you ragged today! 🙂 )
    Thank you for sticking with us!

    • You’re out of my league here, sorry. Anything I say would just be guessing. And propane is something I DO NOT want to guess with. I’ve come to have some very healthy respect for the stuff. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

      • Thanks – Probably the safest bet is to have the propane supplier do it. They should know all the safety regs and may have to empty the tank I now have. They should have the equipment to do it all with. Now to see if my sis is willing to pay more! 🙂

  7. Ron (?), regarding “purging” ; If I purchase a NEW 20# propane tank (from Walmart for instance) do I need to inform the guy at the propane station that it’s new and needs purging ? If “yes”, does that mean that I then need to pay for the tank to be filled and emptied 4 times before I take it home ??
    Thanks……….Ken

    • Ken – the purging is done with gas (vapor), not liquid. After purging then the tank is filled with liquid. So, I don’t think you would be charged much if any for the purging. I do admit that I haven’t had that experience, but I would probably argue if they tried to charge me for “filling” it 4 times! Maybe a small additional charge for labor, but not for “filling”.

    • The guy at the propane station will likely notice that the tank looks brand new and ask you if it has ever been filled. But don’t take the chance. You tell him right up front. I have never been charged for purging and would be surprised if anyone did so. To the propane company, it’s part of the cost of doing business. The cost of purging the occasional tank (filling it with GAS and venting it to the atmosphere 4 times) is built into the day-to-day propane price. You’ll be back for a refill. They’ll get you then. Don’t worry; they’re not giving anything away.

  8. Ron
    you say “the issue (some would say myth) of unshielded copper tubing running through a concrete wall and being corroded by the concrete”….
    Here in UK most houses have central heating systems where the wall mounted radiators are fed by copper pipes through which the water heated by the boiler circulates. On the ground floor these pipes sometimes have to be run under the cement floor to get to each radiator so as to avoid ‘unsightly’ runs of pipe along the walls which then are often boxed to hide them. The practice is to sheath the copper pipes in plastic, though its not thick stuff, more like freezer bag thickness. The pipes of course have water flowing through them, not propane gas. What I wanted however to point out is that if that sheathing is broken you can indeed get corrosion and ‘pinhole’ size leaks. We have had that happen three times in our house, and always at the point where a copper pipe is emerging from the floor, which is the point, for aesthetic reasons I guess, where the sheathing stops. The only solution is to smash the surface tile, dig out the cement until you are down to undamaged copper pipe and make good with a joint and a decently sheathed piece of new pipe. I’ve learnt the hard way to take the precaution of watching the installer like a hawk and insisting on thicker plastic sheathing, e.g. damp proof course thickness which I’ve purchased myself, being wrapped several times round the replacement pipe and joint until it stands proud of the floor by a few millimetres. The place the leaks occur haven’t had someone with a foor mop making them wet, nor has the joint above onto the radiator itself leaked back down the pipe and onto the floor. In two cases the floor round the pipe was carpeted. So any external moisture would purely be from the air. It takes many many years for copper pipe to corrode usually in these circumstances, but plumbers here always say it is because of something in the cement that the corrosion eventually occurs if unsheathed.

    • Tim, thanks for both your interest and your time in composing such an extensive comment.

      What you’re saying makes sense although the truth of the matter might be somewhat different from what “common sense” tells us. As an analogy, back in Part One I discussed the armchair science of peeling the labels from one-pounders so that moisture wouldn’t get trapped under the paper, etc.

      I’ve little doubt but what corrosion will form around a pinhole in the plastic sheathing. One solution would be to seal the pinhole. Another solution might be to remove the plastic altogether.

      It looks like our topic of propane could morph into a discussion of galvanic corrosion, eh?

    • Glancing back over your remarks a second time, I’m reminded of wooden fence posts that rot off at ground level. Fence posts don’t rot off down in the ground. The rot is always at the interface of soil and air. Same thing?

  9. We have natural gas in our household, however every gas stove also has the ability to run off propane if you attach the adapter. This comes in handy if for some reason the gas ever gets shut off to your neighborhood. You can put the adapter on and continue with propane.

  10. Sir:

    I have had some difficulty obtaining clear information regarding the fuel that stores best in large tanks, such as a 500 gallon tank. I have looked at diesel, bio-fuel, propane, and gas. However, my preference is to use bio-fuel, since it is the only alternative fuel that allows me to produce myself with my own processor and crops, in the event of any catastrophe that interrupts supplies that must be provided by others. If biofuel can be stored for a reasonable period of time, it will affect my decisions regarding the cars I drive and the generator I buy for my home and outbuildings. Your thoughts please.

    • Joe, at its best, bio-fuel offers you, the individual, the possibility of being energy independent on an ongoing basis. It’s a control issue, no? Bio-fuel would allow YOU to be in control of your own destiny.

      But does bio-fuel give the biggest bang for the buck where land use is concerned? You’d be converting (1) acreage to (2) corn to (3) ethanol to (4) miles driven. Is that a better return than (1) acreage to (2) corn to (3) cash to (4) gasoline to (5) miles driven?

      Will you really be energy “independent?” Or will your DEpendence simply shift from Mobil to Mother Nature. Drought and floods and swarms of bugs come to mind.

      Health. When you get old and can’t do it any longer. To whom do you pass the baton?

      On a macro scale, we already use 10 petroleum calories to produce one food calorie. If we reverse the process, how many food calories will we consume in the production of one petrol-equivalent calorie?

      We have drifted off-topic here, haven’t we? 😀

  11. A galvanic corrosion blog post wold be nice to read someday. A kerosene one, too?

    ANyway, for whomever might like to know, RE: “wooden fence posts that rot off at ground level” I heard somewhere there’s a company which makes a substance that prevents this from happening. Utility companies are using it for wooden electrical poles (a.k.a telephone poles). I wonder if it would be helpful with propane lines and such? Sorry, I can’t recall the brand name of the substance.

  12. This comment is on filling one pound propane cylinders. I put the cylinders in the freezer before filling. I don`t how much more propane goes into the frozen cylinder but not having to go thru the bleeding process that to me just adds more danger to an already bad hair day possibility. Using the ol hillbilly weight scale. A store bought cylinder in one hand and a refill in the other the refilled one is close enough. For me the time saved on the bleeding process is more time I have to work on other ways to burn down the neighbor hood
    Like always try at your own risk !!!

    Jim

  13. I have a small teardrop camper with one 20 lb tank. When dry camping it heats with an Atwood propane furnace. Not having room to carry a large spare tank I was wondering if I could use a one pounder in an emergency if the big tank ran out. Would it work? With an adapter of course. Someone on a forum said no because of “small tank surface area would cause a freeze up”. No a clue what he meant.

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