View Full Version : Propane Refill Anyone?

2006-05-09, 00:50
OK, I admit it, I am cheap. Go check for yourself, open the dictionary, look up the word cheap and you will see my picture. I refuse to pay $2.50 for a small bottle of propane which I can refill myself for 30 cents. I refill those little green bottles of propane. I have devised a way where I can refill those little propane bottles real good! Too good. I am still learning. (this is not good). Still learning means I am making mistakes.

Here is what I have learned. Coleman leaves a void at the top of each propane bottle to allow for the contraction and expansion of the liquified propane in their propane bottles. Iceman's bottles are much heavier when refilled-much heavier than Coleman bottles. This used to make me feel manly. Ugh, my bottle is fuller than your wimpy bottle. Me bigger. Me win...(not exactly.)

Coleman bottles are probably filled at an ambient temperature of, oh say...70 degrees F. Iceman is bored in the winter, and fills his bottles when the temperature is much, much colder, let say 25 to 35 degrees. Nothing better to do, than stand in the shed and overfill propane bottle nice and full, when it is freezing out.

Now imagine what might happen later, when you store that overstuffed propane bottle in lets say a black plastic tote, in the sun. Add sixty to eight more degrees of temperature to those thin metal bottles which are really, really full of propane.

No explosions yet. But, my bottles have a unique bulge to them. Sort of like an overstuffed bra, you keep asking yourself, when are those babies going to burst out? :biggrin: (Sorry ladies...you know us men...(boys)... you know...) My bottles are blowing paint off of themselves. My bottles are exerting enough pressure, that normal propane diagphrams and valves do not like to work, too much pressure to overcome... This is not good.

And, being cheap like I am, you know darned well that I will not let that propane go to waste. Imagine my discomfort when I screw a propane device into these bottles in an attempt to use the propane inside. I am not sure that closing my eyes and turning my head are really going to do me any good if things go boom...

Lesson here is, do not overfill your propane bottle. Maybe I will learn.....

Sometimes less is more!

2006-05-09, 03:16
A long time ago I used to fill propane tanks semi professionally.
Managed a bar/restaurant with a small gas station attached to it, part of the service was filling propane tanks.
OSHA made me watch a film and take a class.

Propane bottles are only supposed to be filled to 80% of their capacity.
While I've never tried to fill one of the little bottles, I expect that the small valve on the upper part next to the screw on valve is what is called an 80% valve.
In order to fill them safely you have to figure out how to open this valve and leave it open while filling the tank.
While filling the tank this valve will hiss, when it starts to spit liquid the tank is full.
Stop filling and shut off the valves.
One problem is if the bottle is ment to be filled upright or on it's side, as the valve will only work in one position (I'd bet for upright).

You could also do it by weight, filling the bottle while it sits on a scale.

Two warnings: 1) a small propane tank (5 gal) has enough potential power to take out an average house, the small ones could take you out with no problem 2) you shouldn't use any metal other than brass in your filling system as it may cause ignition

Jim Henderson
2006-05-09, 19:17
I have one of those Old Paulin propane refill kits. The old style kit had a special propane tank with a release valve that was openable with a wrench. The new kits just have a filler and don't appear to address the issue of release valves.

I have filled both my refillable propane tank from Paulin and the usual disposable tanks like Coleman and brand x.

The big difference is that the disposable tanks have a permanent "non-releasable" valve on them. I assume the intent is that you NOT refill them. I do anyway, but a big warning...

About 10% of the bottles I refill do develop a leak, usually at the valve and occasionally in the neck where there is another valve. This could be dangerous. So always leak check the tanks and leave any leakers outside. This does not address the potential that a valve may release at some later date while sitting in the garage on top of the gas water heater.

I am guessing the refill kits assume you will not release the valve to get the "80%" fill. So presumably you have a less than full tank and assumably a bit safer.

I do occasionally but will probably stop, fill the disposable tanks while releasing the permanent valve. I am guessing my releasing a permanant valve that was not meant to be reused is a possible cause of me having about 10% leakers. I will not describe how I release the valve other than to say it is like a reverse function Schrader valve, out rather than in. I think not releasing the valve is probably safer what with my record of leakers that seem to occur while doing this.

I also recall reading there is a warning on disposable cans that it is illegal to transport refilled cans. I assume this means even for personal use. Not that any policeman is hiding in the bushes to bust you for this infraction.

Since I no longer live in the frozen wasteland of Oregon, I probably won't need to refill tanks as much so leaky tanks will be less an issue. But these kits do drop the cost of propane a lot.

Just my experience,

Jim Henderson

2006-05-09, 23:53
We had the same issue with the bleeder valves. After a time or two they all began to leak. (The bleeder valves can be loosened and removed, basically a tire stem valve in reverse.) To avoid removing them repeatedly, I devised a slow refill technique, where liquified propane refills the smaller bottle at a snails pace without removing this preset relief/bleeder valve. The problem with my technique is that you may overfill to the tippy top of the bottle if you are not careful. I usually try to stop the refill at 70 to 90 percent. I should aim for less though. The idea was to save money. Even if I refill to the 50% level, so what...I am saving a bundle.

Any bottle filled too much, and then exposed to warm temps, shows up as a bulged bottle, with checking in the paint.

Another fun trick with these is to set a full bottle directly in front of a campfire, and shoot a hole thru it. Awesome mushroom cloud. :biggrin: Be ready to duck and tuck!

And, yes this is stupid, someone is going to get hurt, blah blah blah... :damnmate:

john pickett
2006-05-10, 14:20
To Jim Henderson's missive I would add only two points.
One: DON'T SMOKE around the refills (or before or after or...) (I'm a former respiratory therapist, now work in Open Heart surgery. Smokers keep me busy)
Two: Please make sure your life insurance is paid up. Your family is at GREAT risk of collecting. You are going to get hurt.
"And, yes this is stupid, someone is going to get hurt, blah blah blah"
Remember the immortal words. "Hey guys! Watch this!"
John Pickett

john pickett
2006-05-10, 14:22
BTW Iceman,
Do you hunt? With a blackpowder rifle? You would be safer making your own blackpowder.
Now I'll shut up.
John Pickett

2006-05-10, 18:09
You could employ a greater safety factor by only filling to 60%.
Also you could discard after so many refills, or time, or any signs of damage.

I suspect the greatest risk is from leaks and the propane forming an explosing mixture with air in a small area, like a car or basement, rather than from the tank exploding. Unless of course you overfill it and then heat it up and then drop it or something. I imagine that they are designed for a lot of abuse, so if you are other wise extra cautious, and don't refill too much and too often, you should be OK, at least in theory. I would research it more.

2006-05-11, 02:34
Good points by all, thanks. I think that the best approach is to go for less refill. I do destroy the bad bottles (campfire trick) so as not to risk trying to refill if I get them home. Problem is, I still have a little of the devil in me around that campfire... :evil: :evil: :evil:

Now where did I put my sheeplegs...?

2006-05-11, 11:27
I hear yah. So much combustible material. So little time.