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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've only been a member since Aug of last year but I've read a number of threads with questions concerning Propane storage, tanks, ect. Since Propane is the industry I work in I thought I'd put together a quick fact thread that should answer most qustions. I'll try to answer any questions this generates or you can PM me if you wish........

Propane – A Primer for Preppers

Propane is a compressed gas whose primary source is petroleum refining and Natural Gas processing. Pure Propane has no odor; a powerful chemical compound called MERCAPTIN is added to give it a distinct odor. Propane must be pressurized to remain a liquid above -44F. It is stored, transported, and delivered in a liquid state under pressure. Propane contains 91,000 BTU’s and weighs 4.2 lbs per liquid gallon; one liquid gallon produces 37 cubic feet of usable vapor. Vapor pressure is a function of temperature, not container size, on a cool day, say 32F, the vapor pressure will be about 70 PSI, at 95F about 180 PSI.

Propane tanks containing 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, and 100 lbs of propane are considered DOT Portable tanks, these include your grill tanks and nearly anything used by campers and RV’s. 20, 30, and 40 lb tanks must be equipped with an OPD, (overfill protection device), valve and are good for 12 years from the date of manufacture, (stamped on the protective collar). The OPD valve serves a two-fold purpose, it limits filling to 80% of capacity and, it prevents vapor escaping the valve when it’s opened with nothing attached. At 12 years from the date of manufacture tanks can be recertified after a visual inspection for an additional 5 years. Tanks older than 12 years with an old style valve can be revalved and recertified as well. 50, 60, and 100 lbs tanks do not require OPD valves but the 12 year rule and recertification standards apply to them as well.

Residential tanks range in size from 120 gal to 1000 gal and come in two primary types, underground, (buried), and above ground. Their placement is governed by National Fire codes, (NFPA-58); there may be additional state and local codes as well. Here are the general rules;
120 gal - can be placed right next to any building or structure but must be 10 ft away from any source of ignition, i.e. electrical components or connections.
150 gal to 501 gal - must be at least 10 ft from any structure or attachment to any structure, 10 ft from any source of ignition, 10 ft from any property line.
Greater than 501 gal – must be 25 ft as above.

Residential tanks can be purchased or leased by the year from your local Propane provider. There are advantages in each option, if you lease the company owns the tank and regulator and is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep, if there’s a leak and you lose gas they will replace it at no cost. However, you can only buy propane from that company so you’re held hostage to their pricing and billing policies. If you buy your own tank you own the whole works and are responsible for it, most propane companies will still perform maintenance but you’ll pay for parts and labor. However, you can also “shop the market” for the best price for your propane if you own your tank.

If you plan to buy your own tank, here are some things to look for;
Every residential propane tank has a Data Plate; it lists the manufacture, date of manufacture, serial number, gallon capacity, working pressure, ect. IT MUST BE READABLE! If you can’t read the items listed as a minimum, its junk, no reputable propane company will fill it. There are a number of old BUTANE tanks out there, they have a working pressure of 100 PSI and are not safe for use with propane, that information is on the data plate.
Older tanks will have a number of the fixtures contained on one large riser in the center of the tank, this is called a multivalve. If everything is in good repair it’ll work but spare parts are hard to find and expensive. Tanks manufactured in the 70’s and later will have each component separate, service valve, fill valve, percentage gage, pop off valve, and evacuation valve under one lid. Things you need to look hard at are the service valve, (it looks like a hose bib), the percentage gage, the pop off valve, and the fill valve. If there’s pressure in the tank spray each down with soapy water looking for bubbles that indicate a leak, pay particular attention to the percentage gage if it’s mounted with four bolts, they are notorious for leaking. If the pop off valve is full of dead flies, it leaks, flies are attracted to the odor of mercaptin, they’re a dead giveaway. Be generous with the soapy water around and into each item. Each of these components is replaceable but the tank must be empty and all vapor pressure blown down. If you visit your local propane company they may even send one of their people out with you to check it out or give you additional advice tailored for your area. Older tanks in good repair but with leaking valves can still be a good buy, (if the price is right), if you plan to replace the faulty valves with new ones, all new components can be purchased for about $150 and installed by anyone competent with a pipe wrench. I have a tank built in 1951 that I rebuilt with new valves for under $100.

Now that you have your tank you’ll need a regulator, don’t skimp here, buy a new one that’s sized properly for the load you intend it to carry. If you’re leasing your tank the propane company will ensure you have the correct one. A regulator does what its name implies, it regulates tank pressure regardless of what that is, down to a pressure that’s usable by your propane appliances and provides that pressure flow and vapor volume on a constant, consistent basis. Regulators are rated by maximum BTU load, inventory your appliances and total the BTU load of each at maximum output, buy a regulator that exceeds that total by 100,000 BTU’s.

Connecting your tank to your home, or BOL, is easy. You can use 5/8” refrigerant grade copper tubing, or black pipe, or a combination of the two. Bury the line 12 inches deep, 18 inches if it runs under a driveway or road. Propane lines must be in a trench of their own; they cannot run alongside electric lines or any other utility in the same trench. Keep underground joints to a minimum and use a good quality “Gas Rated” pipe dope on all joints. If you’re leasing your tank from your local propane company they will do the installation for you, they may even do the trenching.

Interior piping could be a novel in itself so I won’t address it here other than to say consult your local propane provider who can advise you on local and national codes. I caution you on trusting plumbers unless they are Gas Certified based on personal experiences. One more thing on piping, WHEN IN DOUBT, USE BLACK IRON PIPE, it’s never a bad decision.


Good Luck
 

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Fly it Northward
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Good info. Thanks!

Maybe you can help me out. My cabin has 6 propane lights, a propane stove/oven, propane heater that claims to heat 800 Sq feet, and a tankless hot water heater. Some of my lights burn much better than others (furthest lights from the regulator burn the lowest). Despite using new, purged tanks I still have flow problems.

I'm guessing it's the regulator??? Would a larger capacity regulator solve the problem? If so, how do I figure out how big a regulator I need?

Not sure if it's important but the cabin in 3500 feet above sea level and season temperatures can get as low as -40 (I have tank blankets that work well for the temperature issue).

Any advice you could could provide would be great!

Thanks
 

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Another Canuck with a question: while looking at rangehoods/vents at the local Sears store, we just happened to mention that we planned to replace our electric range with a propane one in the near future. The salesman then told us that none of the range hoods were powerful enough to vent a gas/propane stove. How do we determine what strength(?) of rangehood we'd need? We don't have the stove yet ( still trying to find one that doesn't need electricity for the oven).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Good info. Thanks!

Maybe you can help me out. My cabin has 6 propane lights, a propane stove/oven, propane heater that claims to heat 800 Sq feet, and a tankless hot water heater. Some of my lights burn much better than others (furthest lights from the regulator burn the lowest). Despite using new, purged tanks I still have flow problems.

I'm guessing it's the regulator???
Thanks
Since it's the farthest lights that seem effected the most it doesn't sound like a regulator issue, more like a pipe size issue. You have a lot running on propane, I'd venture a guess your low light issue is worse when your running more appliances, sounds like a lack of vapor volume to me. The regulator controls pressure and volume but your pipe size can restrict vapor volume inspite of the regulator. Your piping should be larger when it enters the house and gradually decrease in size as it passes more appliances and the demand down stream is less. I'd bet your cabin needs repiped to fix the problem.

Grandma wrote: "Another Canuck with a question: while looking at rangehoods/vents at the local Sears store, we just happened to mention that we planned to replace our electric range with a propane one in the near future. The salesman then told us that none of the range hoods were powerful enough to vent a gas/propane stove. How do we determine what strength(?) of rangehood we'd need? We don't have the stove yet ( still trying to find one that doesn't need electricity for the oven). "

I've also sold household appliances in my varied career, this is bunk! If your running a large commercial grade 6 burner stove I'd agree but it doesn't sound like it. Any range hood that will accomedate an Electric Range will work with a properly converted Propane range. He just wants to make a bigger sale IMHO. Get a range that operates on "Pilot Lites", the oven will have one as well as the cook top, it'll work fine without electricity. Just make sure it's properly converted for propane, all gas ranges come from the factory set up for natural gas and have to be converted for propane.
 

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Displaced Arizonan
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Any information concerning liquid propane tanks for forklifts. I been told that they can be used if turned upside down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Any information concerning liquid propane tanks for forklifts. I been told that they can be used if turned upside down.
Forklift bottles are set up for a liquid feed, even if turned upside down. If you want to use them for vapor feed they have to be altered and revalved, not a job for amatures. If you have acces to some I'd consult your local Propane Company, however, they might not touch them due to liability issues. Sorry, there's no easy answer to this one.
 

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Thanks, Old Soldier, for the quick response. As you've sold appliances in your career, can you tell me of a copuple of brands that would have this type of stove? Everything in the Sears store had to have electricity for the oven; I did see a brand once while perusing the 'net, and it said they had distributors in my area of Canada; I sent emails but never heard back...
 

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And, if you don't mind, what's the content of those one pound cylinders in terms of capacity, btu's or however that's determined? Thanks in advance for a most useful post.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks, Old Soldier, for the quick response. As you've sold appliances in your career, can you tell me of a copuple of brands that would have this type of stove? Everything in the Sears store had to have electricity for the oven; I did see a brand once while perusing the 'net, and it said they had distributors in my area of Canada; I sent emails but never heard back...
I bought a "Hotpoint" range last year brand new that runs on pilot lites. Ask Sears to look in their "Special Order" cateloge. I got mine at Lowe's, also check your Mom & Pop local appliance stores, they tend to have access to things the big box stores don't.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
What's you opinion on refilling the 1 lb tanks? Would you store 10-15 of them indoors after refilling?

Thanks
BIH
I know it's done but I don't recommend it, far to easy to overfill them. If they were new from the store I've no problem storing them inside but I wouldn't trust anything that's been refilled.

Bobbers, get your calculator. 1 gal of propane weighs 4.2 lbs and produces 91,000 BTU's. You have a 1 lb bottle.........
 

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Not to hijack the thread, but what whould be the best burner that one could hook up yo a tank to cook with out doors. Useing as little gas as possible and so on?
 

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Can you refill your own BBQ tanks from a larger storage tank? Is the equipment hard to install? Would it be cost effective to do it? Is there a 'best' size tank to use to draw from?
 
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