Refilling Small Propane Bottles - Homesteading Today
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  #1  
Old 12/05/09, 04:25 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
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Refilling Small Propane Bottles

I go through about six of the taller bottles for a handheld propane torch a year. My BIL cooks mostly on a small outdoor propane grill using the short, squat green bottles.

I bought a fitting through Harbor Freight which said it would refill these small bottles from a 20- or 30-gal propane tank. Dubious, but it does work.

The connector goes on the propane tank and then the small bottle screws on the other end. You first freeze the small bottle, connect it to the tank, turn the tank over and open the valve. You can hear a very slight hiss if you hold your ear to the tank. Close the value to the tank and then remove the bottle.

I suspect it would work at maximum efficiency if the tank were at room temperature and the small bottle right out of the freezer.

Used my postal scales and it seems to refill very close to original weight.

Saves me a fair bit of money over a year not having to keep buying replacement bottles.

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  #2  
Old 12/05/09, 07:51 AM
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Idaho
Posts: 4,332

Yep, I have one and it works as stated.

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  #3  
Old 12/05/09, 10:47 AM
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 9,199

I didn't know there was such a thing! The stuff I learn on HT.....

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  #4  
Old 12/05/09, 10:56 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
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As I recall the Harbor Freight delivered price was about $25 for the fitting. So you won't achieve any savings for a while. Depends on how many of these small bottles you go through in a year.

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  #5  
Old 12/05/09, 10:56 AM
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Zone 7
Posts: 10,344

I have a propane tank of the type used on a forklift. I can get liquid or vapor from the valves. Leaving the main tank upright I connect to the small tank. No freezing is involved. With the main tank connected to the small tank, I place the small tank horizontally and with the small bleeder valve that is in the top of the small tank at 12 o'clock position I open the liquid valve slightly and with a pair of long nose pliers I PULL the small tank bleeder valve stem and hold it open until liquid propane starts to exit and then I shut off the main liquid tank while releasing the grip on the bleeder valve on the small tank. The small tank is now filled to the amount engineered into the design. Note...I made my adapter from an old propane torch kit and propane tank adapter from a junk BBQ.

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Last edited by agmantoo; 12/05/09 at 11:02 AM.
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  #6  
Old 12/05/09, 03:10 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
Posts: 11,072

I also have one of the Mac Couplers as I remember them to be called. I gave $14 for mine in 2007.

I don't bother to chill or freeze the bottles before filling but do make sure the bottle is entirely empty, i.e. no more pressure in it before I attempt to fill on a hot summer day when greater pressure is in the 20# bottle. I also weigh each to make sure I haven't overfilled it.

I got a lot of empty bottles from a fellow that uses a propane lantern. He will often toss a bottle before it is empty because he knows it won't make it through the next use without running out and doesn't want to change them while guests are around the campfire. My brother uses a propane lantern and has also saved me some that I need to pick up the next time I visit.

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  #7  
Old 12/05/09, 04:34 PM
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Idaho
Posts: 4,332

It seems Harbor Freight puts everything on sale if you wait long enough. We've had ours several years and I know we didn't pay anywhere close to $20.

If you need bottles, check the trash at the nearest campground. There are always a few in there.

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  #8  
Old 12/15/09, 11:23 AM
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 473

The tanks have a tendancy to leak after being refilled.
Making a cap from an old torch or appliance body will preserve the contents.

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  #9  
Old 12/23/09, 09:48 AM
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Northern NY
Posts: 1,180

Wayne, give the little tank a shot of WD40 or other lube. Keeps the seals in shape.

I haven't bought a small tank in over 20 years, since I got my adapter. I'd be lost without it.

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  #10  
Old 12/24/09, 05:24 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Florida and South Carolina
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We use one at work, where we go through a LOT of small bottles. They freeze the bottles before filling them.

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  #11  
Old 12/25/09, 04:14 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
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One BIL was in the H&A/C business for about 40 years. I asked him about the freezing thing. He said propane flows better between temperation differentation. If the say 20-lb tank was at 50 degrees, and the small bottle at 30 degrees, then it would flow towards the colder one. If reversed, the 20-lb might not fill the small bottle at all.

I do a bit of copper pipe soldering in the shop. I'm currently using one of the tall bottles. When it runs out I'm going to try switching to one of those squat green ones intended for a small cooking stove. More fuel and more stable base.

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  #12  
Old 12/25/09, 09:48 AM
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Zone 7
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Do you folks not realize what the bleeder valve adjacent to the main attachment port on the small tanks is used for? It is the vent. It is used to make certain that the small tank is not over filled yet filled adequately. It is a reverse acting valve and the small needle portion is made to be pulled NOT pushed in order to vent the bottle. With the bottle horizontal and the vent valve at 12 o'clock open the main fill valve on the fill tank and permit the small bottle to fill. When you think the bottle has taken all the propane it will accept open the vent using a pair of needle nose pliers until liquid propane starts to escape. At that time the bottle is properly filled and has enough room for expansion of the gas safely. Obviously, this exercise needs to be done outdoors and away from a flame.

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  #13  
Old 12/25/09, 11:52 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: north Alabama
Posts: 9,816

Never thought about that, Agmantoo. Makes sense, great tip. Thanks.

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  #14  
Old 12/25/09, 10:25 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
Posts: 11,072

My experience was that you don't need to freeze them or bleed vent them, just fill a 100% pressure free bottle on a hot summer day when the larger bottle has max pressure. I weighed the ones I filled to make sure they hadn't been overfilled and all weighed out as being full.

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