Filling propane tanks

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Climb

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Hello – I am contemplating moving my brewing to a property that has a large residential propane tank and am wondering if it is feasible and safe to fill a small propane tank, like those typically used in home brewing or for backyard barbecues, from the large residential tank. What fittings might be involved? I am hoping someone has looked into this before who’s knowledge I can leverage. Thanks.
 
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Climb

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Adding a new gas line would involve trenching through rock and would require permits; so that would be a very expensive option. Thanks for suggesting it.
 

smcinco

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If you ask your propane company they will usually fill small tanks when they come fill the big one as long as you make it convenient for them and they just add the gas to the ticket.
 

El Whedo

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Ok.

I ran a line from my house (not an additional line from the tank) to my deck and to my garage. It was a short and easy project that took maybe two hours. I'm an artist and a jeweler... if I can do it anyone can. I think it cost me less than 30$.
 

MaxStout

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Propane dealers fill small tanks from a big tank, but those usually have a pump to ensure proper filling. Without the pump you might not get a complete fill from the transfer. Seems it would just be easier to run some line like others have mentioned--if you can get the permit.
 

day_trippr

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Propane dealers use a pump to transfer liquid propane from their big siphon tank to customer tanks. If a customer had a siphon tank filled (assuming that's legal - I have no idea) it might generate enough internal pressure to help move enough liquid to a smaller tank to "fill" same. Might need a gravity assist though, and "fill" might only be a small portion of the actual capacity...

Cheers!
 

kartracer2

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My understanding is that most suburban LP tanks do not have a "liquid out" port. (some might). If you try to fill off the tank out port, (going to the house) it's just vapor. If you try to fill off of that you will just get your small tank full of vapor at the same pressure as the big tank, and that depends on temperature of the vessel. It won't last very long trying to run a burner.
If your tank does have a liquid out port you can fill a your small tank with liquid but you have no idea how much. As the temp raises so will the pressure and you small tank may "vent" (because of a over fill of liquid and lack of head space) and that may cause a very dangerous situation.
I may be wrong on all of this but I would ask an expert on LP gas for the facts.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 

day_trippr

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I doubt there's any chance that the receiving tank would reach a high enough pressure to trip a PRV.

To the contrary, I have doubts that one could actually transfer enough fluid propane to make the whole effort worthwhile.
The biggest problem is the receiving cylinder will be at a relatively high temperature wrt the transferred fluid propane (which will be shedding therms like crazy and trying to frost everything up) and thus restrict how much fluid propane can be transferred.

fwiw, I have a 20 pound CO2 siphon tank that I periodically get filled and use it to fill my collection of five pounders. Typically, I can only get ~3 pounds of CO2 into the little guys before the transfer just stops because the receiving cylinder has gasified enough CO2 to equalize the pressure with the siphon tank...

Cheers!
 

kartracer2

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OK @day_trippr you may be right. But I have seen what I have just spoke of. I have seen liquid coming from a farm filled cylinder after warming up.
As I said , consult an expert. I was just trying to share my experiences. I guess I'm a bit skittish on flammable gases.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B
 

InspectorJon

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If you ask your propane company they will usually fill small tanks when they come fill the big one as long as you make it convenient for them and they just add the gas to the ticket.
My propane company stopped filling BBQ bottles when they fill the big tank due to . . . COVID. Go figure.
 

camonick

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If you ask your propane company they will usually fill small tanks when they come fill the big one as long as you make it convenient for them and they just add the gas to the ticket.
My propane company stopped filling BBQ bottles when they fill the big tank due to . . . COVID. Go figure.
Anything smaller than a 100 lb. propane tank must be filled by weight and it is illegal to do it any other way, especially from a bobtail truck during a bulk delivery. ( source: I’m CETP certified and work for a propane distributor)
My understanding is that most suburban LP tanks do not have a "liquid out" port. (some might). If you try to fill off the tank out port, (going to the house) it's just vapor. If you try to fill off of that you will just get your small tank full of vapor at the same pressure as the big tank, and that depends on temperature of the vessel. It won't last very long trying to run a burner.
If your tank does have a liquid out port you can fill a your small tank with liquid but you have no idea how much. As the temp raises so will the pressure and you small tank may "vent" (because of a over fill of liquid and lack of head space) and that may cause a very dangerous situation.
I may be wrong on all of this but I would ask an expert on LP gas for the facts.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
Most residential propane tanks larger than a 250 gallon tank have a “wet leg” it takes special fittings, hoses and training to do it correctly. It can be done, but most propane suppliers probably discourage it for liability reasons.
@Climb , consult your supplier to see if they would agree to make the modifications to your tank and train you how to do it.
 

kartracer2

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Most residential propane tanks larger than a 250 gallon tank have a “wet leg” it takes special fittings, hoses and training to do it correctly.
I forgot that you would need a "wet leg" (for liquid pump down) on the tank. The 250g. tank that I have does not have one. (I asked because I wanted to nurse a 100#er for a portable space heater) The supplier said because they can move them (the tank) with out pumping them down as they are light enough.(?)
Anyway , Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 

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At our farm the 1000 gallon propane tank which supplies our shop has wet leg which I use to fill smaller bottles. It‘s just a siphon tube, connected to a gate valve, which is attached to a bung welded into the top of the tank. It’s normally used to pump propane out of the tank, if emptying the tank should be necessary. There’s a hose, about 10 ft long, attached to the valve and a male JIC fitting, with LH threads, which screws into the female threads on the receiving tank. There’s also a second valve at the end of the fill hose, just ahead of the discharge fitting.

To fill a small tank the drill is to attach the hose to the receiving tank, which I put on an old bathroom scale to monitor the amount added, open the discharge valve, open the siphon valve, open the valve at the receiving tank, and crack the “bleeder” valve at the top of the receiving tank. Then stand upwind and keep an eye on the scale. When the receiving tank is full (or when the pressure in the two tanks equalizes, whichever comes first) close everything in reverse order and disconnect the fill hose.

Our supplier didn’t install the hardware needed to fill small tanks but they did sell us the necessary components to do it ourselves. :cool:
 

camonick

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The supplier said because they can move them (the tank) with out pumping them down as they are light enough.(?)
This is the kind of stuff that makes me cringe. It is also illegal to transport above ground ASME tanks larger than 125 gallons that contain more than 5% of their water capacity. They must be evacuated before transport. The only time it’s acceptable is if it is being hauled back to the supplier’s closest facility for repair. It must be placarded accordingly and driven by a CDL driver with hazmat endorsements.

and crack the “bleeder” valve at the top of the receiving tank.
This is the OPD valve from a 20 lb cylinder. As @grampamark says, you crack the bleeder valve (red circle) to vent the excess pressure and it allows you to know when the liquid level reaches the bottom of the dip tube (green circle) by “spitting” liquid propane (gray lines) (white spray in reality), which is set to 80% capacity of the tank, which should occur when the tank reaches 20 lbs of liquid propane. This is all done with the tank sitting on a scale so the gross weight can be verified based off the tank’s stamped tare weight.
If the OPD (overfill protection device) is working properly, it is actually technically impossible to overfill a tank. The float (purple circle) activates the valve if it is filled to that level. It is not ok to rely on that feature.
709095D2-8321-45B6-9145-97010006397D.jpeg
 
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kartracer2

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This is the kind of stuff that makes me cringe. It is also illegal to transport above ground ASME tanks larger than 125 gallons that contain more than 5% of their water capacity. They must be evacuated before transport
I'm not trying to justify any actions but this was close to 8 years ago. Were the laws the same then as now? (legit question.) The supplier brought the 250g tank full (80%) to the location when he set it.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 

camonick

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I'm not trying to justify any actions but this was close to 8 years ago. Were the laws the same then as now? (legit question.) The supplier brought the 250g tank full (80%) to the location when he set it.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
The laws haven’t changed… what they did is/was illegal. Tanks over 125 gallons can’t be “delivered” with anything in them.
 

camonick

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I'm not trying to justify any actions but this was close to 8 years ago. Were the laws the same then as now? (legit question.) The supplier brought the 250g tank full (80%) to the location when he set it.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
There’s also an old saying— “it’s only illegal if you get caught” which is how some folks justify their actions.
 

kartracer2

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Wow, I am surprised he was in such non-compliance with that, because he double checked every thing else. I wanted to have a caped tee in the line for a possible future addition and he wouldn't allow it. He even made sure the the unit that was attached worked perfectly before he left.
Cheers. :mug:
Joel B.
 

InspectorJon

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Anything smaller than a 100 lb. propane tank must be filled by weight and it is illegal to do it any other way, especially from a bobtail truck during a bulk delivery.
That might be true but they used to fill my small tank for me and they stopped. The lady on the phone said it was because of Covid. I used to tell my kids that when you need an excuse any one will do. Also, it is quite common in my area to have 95 gallon tanks and they are regularly filled from a delivery truck. I have two of those DOT tanks.
 

camonick

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Also, it is quite common in my area to have 95 gallon tanks and they are regularly filled from a delivery truck. I have two of those DOT tanks.
That is perfectly legal. I was talking about tanks smaller than 100#. I’m assuming you’re talking about 120 gallon tanks that hold 96 gallons when filled to 80%. They probably look like this.
4220DD9D-96B8-469E-9A4C-37CC284C8E49.jpeg C5D9CF20-0020-40B8-B602-F32BDF3D8645.png
The lady on the phone said it was because of Covid.
She can say whatever she wants, but it’s still illegal to fill any tank smaller than 100 lbs (23.8 gallons) by any other means than by weight on a certified scale. It was illegal before Covid and will still be after. The only exception to this rule is forklift tanks with fixed liquid level gauges (spitter gauges).
A 100# tank looks like this-
E4BD1FED-5EBA-4C5E-A19A-8410B7EDF07B.jpeg
…and we all know what 20 & 30# tanks look like.
 
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Brewdog80

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It's been illegal since the feds decided that we needed to have an internal valve and external threads on the small tanks about 20 did years ago. The industry scrapped millions of 20 pound tanks and made cost go up 50%. The feds and industry arbitrarily make laws and rules to try and supposedly keep us safe. Does that valve inside make us safer? Maybe. It isn't in any larger ones. Permit to run a copper line to hook up a burner? Rural? Not anywhere in the 4 states that surround me.....
 

camonick

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It's been illegal since the feds decided that we needed to have an internal valve and external threads on the small tanks about 20 did years ago. The industry scrapped millions of 20 pound tanks and made cost go up 50%. The feds and industry arbitrarily make laws and rules to try and supposedly keep us safe. Does that valve inside make us safer? Maybe. It isn't in any larger ones. Permit to run a copper line to hook up a burner? Rural? Not anywhere in the 4 states that surround me.....
And anyone exchanging tanks at blue rhino, amerigas, etc. is getting screwed too. All those exchange places only fill their bottles with 15 lbs (3.57 gallons) of propane. The bottles are designed to hold 20 lbs (4.76 gallons) which still allows the 20% headspace that is considered an industry standard for safety.
 

PCABrewing

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And anyone exchanging tanks at blue rhino, amerigas, etc. is getting screwed too. All those exchange places only fill their bottles with 15 lbs (3.57 gallons) of propane. The bottles are designed to hold 20 lbs (4.76 gallons) which still allows the 20% headspace that is considered an industry standard for safety.
Fortunately for me the local Menards has a refill station and you can watch the process if you want.
When I asked about exchanges they said they don't even have stock to exchange (shortage due to supply chain issues?).

As a side note; I noticed that the exchange tanks in the recent past have a chrome-plated valve handle that starts to peel into razor-sharp shards on the older tanks. I raised the issue to Blue Rhino and they told me to take it back to the vendor and tell them that I had reported the issue to Blue Rhino. That's when I was told they have no tanks to exchange.

I had a suspicion that the shortage might be an effort to get new tanks into circulation at consumer expense.

As long as I can get a tank filled locally I don't have to deal with that.
 

camonick

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Does that valve inside make us safer? Maybe. It isn't in any larger ones.
Any tank smaller than 100# (5, 20, 30 & 40 lb) must be equipped with an OPD valve. As well as a any tank on an RV or camper trailer. 33 lb forklift tanks are the only exception.
OPD valves are identified by the shape of the hand wheel (triangle shape) and should be stamped “OPD”. The old “non-compliant” valves or those on 100# tanks or larger, typically have a star shaped hand wheel.
7A5A29E9-D774-45A3-865D-236F73EE841D.jpeg
 

InspectorJon

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Just to split
And anyone exchanging tanks at blue rhino, amerigas, etc. is getting screwed too.
The local feed store fills my tank for less than the blue rhino exchange and I get more gas. I think its worth the 10 minute wait. When my old tank dated out of certification the local feed supply store would not fill it. I guess if one goes to the right place the old tank can be tested and re-certified but they charge a fair amount to do that. Rather than buy a new tank, I exchanged the old one for a newer blue rhino tank. The feed supply store now fills that tank. That was a while ago. That tank is now near the end of its certification date. I'll exchange that one for a newer blue rhino tank soon. I think the tanks are good for 12 years after manufacture then they are supposed to be re-certified or replaced. There is a date stamped on every tank.
 

Tom R

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She can say whatever she wants, but it’s still illegal to fill any tank smaller than 100 lbs (23.8 gallons) by any other means than by weight on a certified scale. It was illegal before Covid and will still be after. The only exception to this rule is forklift tanks with fixed liquid level gauges (spitter gauges).

I don't get this.
At any location near me in WA, they always fill my 20# tanks by volume. The pump measures in gallons, I've never seen it sold by weight, there is no scale to be seen.

Maybe this a WA state thing?
 

InspectorJon

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Same here, my guess is that it's a rule that nobody enforces or follows or maybe it is selectively enforced. When that starts happening in a society it's a pretty good indication that there are too many laws, but that is a different discussion.
 

camonick

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I don't get this.
At any location near me in WA, they always fill my 20# tanks by volume. The pump measures in gallons, I've never seen it sold by weight, there is no scale to be seen.

Maybe this a WA state thing?
Nope it’s a national thing.
“Propane tanks can be filled by weight or volume.But according to DOT regulations, propane tanks with less than 200 pounds capacity must be refilled by weight. The proper refilling procedure is detailed in the CETP handbook.”
 

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My local propane dealer fills tanks while the customer waits and can watch the beam scale (from outside the fenced-in area). They charge by the pound of what's actually filled, not a flat rate for "20 lbs."

I never take tanks to gas stations, for a lot of reasons. And don't do Blue Rhino.
 

day_trippr

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fwiw, I have had a 30 and then 40 gallon tank sitting on our lower deck for a combined 40+ years that have always been serviced by Suburban Propane, and they always fill by volume...

Cheers!
 

camonick

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There are a lot of companies that “bend” the rules for sure. I guess if they’re willing to assume the risk, that’s on them. That doesn’t make it ok though. I’m just offering the rules/laws that I’ve been trained and certified on, which is a national standard.
Sláinte
 
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camonick

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Of course non of this (filling bottles) is really enforceable for a private citizen, doing it by themselves on their own property, which is what the OP is technically asking. I kinda hijacked the thread.
What @Climb is asking can be done only if his tank has the necessary fittings/features. It takes special fittings and hoses and must be installed correctly. I also advise getting the proper training to do it. It’s not difficult, but one needs to know how to do it safely.
 

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Don't know how much of an analogy it is to what OP is doing, but a while back I bought one of those $10 adapters to fill 1# disposable bottles from a 20# tank. I wanted to refill the little bottles for a camp stove. You hook it up, turn the 20# tank upside down and open the valve. At best, it fills the smaller bottle about 1/2 way.

More trouble than it's worth.
 

camonick

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Don't know how much of an analogy it is to what OP is doing, but a while back I bought one of those $10 adapters to fill 1# disposable bottles from a 20# tank. I wanted to refill the little bottles for a camp stove. You hook it up, turn the 20# tank upside down and open the valve. At best, it fills the smaller bottle about 1/2 way.

More trouble than it's worth.
What the OP is asking to do can be done with the correct hoses and fittings and it will fill a 20 lb bottle full if you know what you’re doing.
 

camonick

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I’ll just leave this here for everyone to watch so you know why we have rules, laws, and employee training/certification programs…The cause of the explosion in this video is from the same fitting that must be accessed if the OP wants to do what he’s asking. I’ve said it can be done, but it needs to be done by someone who is trained to do it. As an employee of a company that distributes propane and as a volunteer firefighter, I think this is something people should see.
 

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I've never seen it sold by weight, there is no scale to be seen.
Ask them how they know if there isn’t already some gas in there if they aren’t weighing it. You just can’t pump some arbitrary amount of gas in there and hope it fits. You aren’t allowed to use the “spitter gauge” to determine a tanks “fullness” because there is no way to know if the dip tube has been compromised or is even in there.
 

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Ask them how they know if there isn’t already some gas in there if they aren’t weighing it. You just can’t pump some arbitrary amount of gas in there and hope it fits.

For unscrupulous dealers, that's a feature, not a bug. They get to charge for a full fill, regardless of how much was already in the tank.
 

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I’ll just leave this here for everyone to watch so you know why we have rules, laws, and employee training/certification programs…The cause of the explosion in this video is from the same fitting that must be accessed if the OP wants to do what he’s asking. I’ve said it can be done, but it needs to be done by someone who is trained to do it. As an employee of a company that distributes propane and as a volunteer firefighter, I think this is something people should see.

WOW!
Perfect example of how cascading mistakes amplifies the ultimate failure.
 

camonick

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For unscrupulous dealers, that's a feature, not a bug. They get to charge for a full fill, regardless of how much was already in the tank.
I guess that’s up to the individual company and their policies. At our company, if you bring us a 20 pound bottle we charge you for 20 pounds no matter how much goes into it because there’s more to it than just pumping propane into the tank. We do a visual inspection and check the certification dates on every tank because that is required by law. We have to determine the tank’s tare weight (TW) and water capacity (WC) then refer to a special chart that tells us what the water capacity is in pounds, then do the math conversion to figure out how much we can pump into that specific tank to reach the final gross weight after we have taken a beginning weight before the fill. We inspect the valve, replace any damaged or missing dust caps, and replace any damaged or illegible warning labels which are also required to be on there by law. If you bring us a bottle that has a plastic shrink wrap label like AmeriGas and blue rhino, we cut those off and replace them with adhesive stickers because those plastic wrap labels collect condensation underneath and rust the tank which is a disqualification for the visual requalification. If we find a tank that is out of qualification and a visual inspection indicates that it is OK to refill, we have to do another step and apply our inspection label and record that, including the tank’s serial number, tank size and technician’s initials in our records to indicate that that has been done. So, if a legitimate company is doing everything correctly and not taking shortcuts, I don’t see any reason why anybody could complain about paying for a full fill if you know you are receiving something safe in the end that has passed all the legal requirements. That doesn’t even to begin to touch the hours of certification training and millions of dollars in liability insurance we are required to accumulate and to carry. I don’t consider us to be unscrupulous.

Edit: punctuation and spelling
 
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