I can’t recall why I didn’t do this last winter…

I certainly meant to. But it was probably a money thing.

When I lived in the RV I scrounged every 30-pound propane bottle that came my way. I think I topped out at six at one point. But some of them were quite elderly and the valves aren’t forever. You can get the valves replaced but (surprise!) it costs slightly more than the cost of a replacement bottle.

Anyway attrition brought me down to four, which was still more than enough when the only propane draw was the cookstove. The moment I lit the pilot on the bedroom heater, it became an issue. I bought one last winter and intended to get another but for some reason probably involving poverty never got around to it. Now I’ve hit the mark where every single empty bottle doesn’t become an immediate action item.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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15 Responses to I can’t recall why I didn’t do this last winter…

  1. Ben says:

    Perhaps you need to work on your scrounging skills? 😉

  2. terrapod says:

    Lowest price for new 30 lb bottles runs around 57 bucks delivered so you are still money ahead if you put new valves in old tanks you already have..

  3. Joel says:

    Ben, these things are like gold to the people who don’t have 300-gallon propane tanks. People don’t ditch them like cast-off furniture or junk pallets. It’s like scrounging an unrusted burn barrel: it can happen, but it’s not the way to bet.

    Terrapod, I worked at one of the two shops in town that replace valves. Around here it only starts to make sense with the bigger 100-pound bottles. And I’d never try to do it myself. The valve is virtually glued to the bottle: without a big clamp that’s attached to something almighty solid you’ll never break it loose. And then we can talk about the special socket and the gigantic breaker bar. 🙂 I know you’ve got a better set of tools than I do, but if you can pull that stuff out of your shop I will applaud.

  4. Sevesteen says:

    Around here most of the time instead of getting your existing bottles refilled, you swap your empty with a full used bottle. If that’s an option where you are, you might be able to cycle your marginal valves.

  5. Mark Matis says:

    Also be aware that the tanks have a hydrostat requirement 12 years from date of manufacture. It is possible that your local propane dude won’t check, although if he gets caught it’s a hefty fine for him. And it makes no sense to replace the valve on a tank that is about to go out of pressure test.

    The reason for the requirement is standard for pressure vessels of any type. After a certain number of cycles, they can go boom due to metal fatigue. Uncle doesn’t want that to happen at a retailer.

  6. terrapod says:

    Thanks for the info Joel, I have never had to take apart an LPG tank but as a scuba diver I have done many tanks rated at much higher pressure and never had an issue unscrewing the valves when they needed replacing. Seeing that Steve mentions that Home Depot has a real low price for them and accepts PayPal…. seems like a no-brainer.

  7. Mike says:

    I know the feeling about propane tanks being scarce. Around here they are a lot more expensive then they were when you can find them. That link that Steve posted is the cheapest I’ve seen by far.

  8. terrapod says:

    Going to post you a Christmas present on paypal to cover the cost of ordering one of those cylinders online from Home Depot. Before doing so, is the payment to D Hampton a correct destination? Just checking before launch. 😉

  9. Norman says:

    RE: propane cylinder swaps – dunno about the 30s or 40s, but 20 swaps are a losing deal. Most swappers will sell you a “full” 20 in exchange for $$ and your empty 20, but there are various values for “full” – I haven’t seen any swap offers where “full” is not 15 lbs instead of 20, so if the convenience of quickie swap-outs is worth a 25% reduction in content, at least understand what you’re buying.

    As for the 12-year thing, a swap-out is probably a more efficient way to dispose of an expired cylinder with a currently certified replacement.

    RE: Home Despot 30 pounders for $48.92 – didn’t see it in the item linked, but IIRC HD offers free shipping on orders >$45. Dunno if propane cylinders are excepted from that.

  10. Ben says:

    Yes, I have done the “swap out” trick to exchange an expired tank for a refillable tank that (as a bonus) contains 15 pounds of fuel. They don’t seem to care as long as you bring a convincing-looking tank.

  11. Joel says:

    Terrapod: Yes. And thanks!

    Re: Cylinder swaps – The swap is an economical way to replace a faulty 20-pound bottle, although yes you will get cheated a little on the contents. It’s still much cheaper than buying a new bottle and solves the problem of how to dispose of the old one. I have never seen exchange services for any bottles bigger than 20-pound: They’re really only meant for people whose use of portable propane bottles is limited to their BBQ. Lots of people own one 20-pound bottle and don’t wish the hassle of having it refilled. But if you have a bad valve on an otherwise good 20-pound bottle that’s a good way to fix it.

    There are dates on all bottles and a theoretical requirement to have them hydrostatically tested. I have never – ever – seen anybody check that date before filling. I certainly never did when I filled propane for other people. I was never directed to. And I have absolutely no idea how/where one would go to do it. Maybe an actual propane distributor could do it or send it to be done, but I very much doubt it’s a big part of their business. Around here at least, they’d probably give you that look that suggests they know where you just escaped from.

    ETA: And that makes sense, really. A propane bottle is not a SCUBA tank. It holds liquid under just enough pressure to keep it liquid. A SCUBA tank is pressurized to – I don’t even know anymore, it used to be about 2500 psi – of gas, and then depressurized over and over. That’s got to stress the bottle, which is attached to your back in a lethally hazardous environment. When I dove in Florida everybody who filled my tanks was strict about hydrostatic testing, and they were right to be.

  12. Mark Matis says:

    Here in Florida the refillers have been checking carefully for at least a couple of years now. The appearance is that Uncle has been sending people out with expired tanks to see if the retailer will fill them, and then fining them if they do. Of course, the last time I filled, the guy doing the work tried to tell me the 12 year requirement had been changed to 10 years, and that my bottle was about to expire. Next time I get a fill, I’ll track down the store owner and verify what their policy really is.

    You might be lucky in being so far out of the way that Uncle simply does not give a shit.

  13. terrapod says:

    Done – you can order a new tank and use Paypal credit. Merry Christmas, we can’t have our online entertainment curtailed due to frostbite.

    Now off to the shop to wrench on cars…………. hobby, not work, thankfully.

To the stake with the heretic!