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Refilling small propane bottles

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Falcon15, Dec 14, 2010.

  1. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    I found a really excellent article on the why's and wherefores of refilling the small (1#) "Coleman" type propane bottles and thought it would be a good thing to share. Site Disclaimer: The site is water-craft related, but the information may be indispensable when TSHTF and you need to refill your smaller propane bottles to run that ceramic disk heater or cook dinner:

    Refill Disposable Propane Cylinders!
    Actual Method

    LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This information, of course, deals with a very hazardous gas, under pressure. So, lets keep the legality disclaimer simple: Under no circumstances should anyone ever refill disposable propane cylinders using the above method. Also, the legalities of refilling the small "disposable" bottles is discussed. Take this under advisement. I am not telling you to do it, but it is good information to have. Sometimes, you just need to know how to do things.
  2. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

  3. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

  4. Diddy

    Diddy Monkey+

    I've been stocking these little tanks for some time. You can get a pretty good deal at Walmart and Meijer etc... 4 for $10 which is a little cheaper than buying them individually. Being able to refill them would be nice and easier than stocking a hundred of them.

    Lowe's sells 100# tanks for $129.00, that would fill/refill nearly 200 of the 16 ounce bottles. In a collapse or prolonged crisis that could be a lifesaver.

    Obviously having a much larger stationary tank on your property would be much better but we can't all do that :(
  5. snowbyrd

    snowbyrd Latet anguis in herba

    I know 'someone' who refills non-OPD20lbs bottles. He uses a hose off of an old trailer that had two tanks, plugged the outlet that went to the stove ect in the trailer, flips the full tank over and opens both valves. Uh, he says you can get about 50% the first fill then another 50% the second time (total 2nd time 75%) and so on. Safety first! Gee did anyone mention not smoking?
  6. WSM

    WSM Monkey+

    My uncle started doing this for boyscout trips since he was buying lots of propane bottles. I guess he fills from a large canister to the small ones. He did say that you freeze the small bottles before filling so that you can maximize the volume. He hasn't had any issues with it.
  7. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Just remember that one MUST, either have a Liquid withdrawal Tank, OR one needs to turn the larger Vapor withdrawal Tank, upside down in order to refill the smaller tanks. That is a little tough with tanks of 100 Lbs or larger.....
  8. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    You know in a SHTF/WROL situation, you could check the local U-Hauls. I have a local one whose large refill tanks are vertical (not horizontal) and the fill valves and piping are located on the bottom of the tank. I guess this is to accommodate a liquid fill into the client's smaller tanks. Of course, their tank is RIGHT on the edge of the property, near a main thoroughfare...
  9. Diddy

    Diddy Monkey+

    Good point.
    Something else that occurred to after reading a couple of the refill articles. Everyone mentions refilling from 20 and 40# tanks but nothing larger. Is there a reason for this other than what BTPost stated?

    Would there also be to large of a pressure difference going from a substantially larger tank to a small one?
  10. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Yes, BT is correct. the liquid fuel needs to go in the smaller tank, necessitating rotating the filling tank so the valve is on the bottom. No. The pressure stays constant. In fact, there is a recommendation you chill or freeze your small bottles prior to filling to lower the pressure in the smaller bottle for a faster and fuller initial fill. Just be absolutely sure to *weigh* the smaller propane container empty, at room temp and record the weight. Add only one (1) pound of propane, any more you risk rupture. If you over fill, use needle nose pliers, gloves, and safety glasses and release some propane from the smaller bottle's relief valve until you have just under 1# of propane.
  11. Diddy

    Diddy Monkey+

    Just a note to anyone that plans on doing this. As stated it can be dangerous and the small canisters can rupture. A 20# tank will rupture during a refill as well.

    Many, many years ago I worked at a U-Haul center and we refilled tanks all the time. A co-worker had one rupture/explode on him while filling it. It split near the top shoulder of the tank and made an extremely loud boom. Fortunately for him all he experienced was temporary hearing loss, it could have been much worse.

    And do wear gloves, that stuff is extremely COLD!
  12. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    I'd be inclined to screw on a bernzomatic nozzle (not the self igniting type) and bleed off an overfill that way. (There is the additional benefit of controlling the direction of the spray.) Outside, of course. Those little schrader valves sometimes don't like to reset. But yes, keep the net weight controlled.

    I've seen small bottles chilled and then set in a bucket of cold water, seems to work well.

    There is no upper limit on the size of the filling source tank. 20 to 40 lbs is just a point of reference; those tanks are manhandle-able inverted with limited effort. For example, my house tank is filled from a truck tank that is well over 2000 gallons (might be 5000 gal, dunno but now I think I'll ask.) The key point is liquid transfer; as stated above, to fill from a portable grill or stove tank, they have to be inverted.

    Don't froget to check your local ordinances. Refilling just might be illegal where you live. [booze]
  13. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Everything I've been able to dig up states it is illegal to refill these bottles commercially. Also transport of said filled bottles across state lines for commercial purposes is illegal. Done personally for personal use, no state has any law against it. Nor is there any (thankfully) Federal Regulations o_O ... yet.

    However, you DO need to check local ordinances. Some cities/counties are draconian about people potentially blowing themselves, and others up.

    Again, I reiterate DO NOT REFILL THESE BOTTLES ON YOUR OWN. I posted this information for educational purposes ONLY.
  14. sayety

    sayety Monkey+

    I have a refill kit too. The limitations that i've seen are that you can only refill them one or two times before they start to leak around the seal. After they start to leak you can still refill them but you pretty much gotta use them (all) as soon as you fill them. Second is that the OFPD (over fill protection device) on 20# cylinders sometimes gets jammed and won't allow liquid to flow. This too isn't the end of the world...its an easy enough to fix just disconnect everything and turn right side up and bump in on the ground a few times.

    Something else to consider when tshtf is that the tank must be put in the freezer for 15 mins...this may or may not be practical.

    IMHO a better solution is the 20# to 16oz adapter kit. FYI it also works on 100# tanks too.
  15. falcon5

    falcon5 Monkey+

    A couple of years ago, I was involved in a munitions test for some Air Force folks. One aspect of the test involved detonating 20lb propane cylinders. We detonated 8 tanks tied tightly together and wrapped by det cord around them all. This created a crater in hard-packed dirt that was the exact same size as the 500-lb MK-82 bombs we were also testing. Our observation deck was about 1/4 mile away, and from behind the heavy glass, the concussion was about the same.

    Other than being part of an extremely cool test (who didn't love M-80's as a kid?), I gained a very healthy respect for my BBQ grill tank.

    As most of the previous posts state, be really careful with propane, and think through what you are doing before you actually start. Just as you wouldn't use a turkey frier in your kitchen, keep propane outdoors and a good distance from anything with a spark potential.
  16. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    No need to invert the larger tanks. Just lay them onto their sides. That will put the liquid level above the nozzle. Much easier that way.
    We have quite a few 20# tanks so that we can be easily portable. They could be used for other things too if needed. Flotation or air tanks or something benign--nothing sinister or dangerous of course.
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