Propane - Typical usage and exchange or purchase? - Fiberglass RV
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Old 01-11-2020, 03:22 PM   #1
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Name: Andrew
Trailer: 1975 Surfside (not Triple E)
British Columbia
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Propane - Typical usage and exchange or purchase?

Hello We are planning a 3 week trip in our new Surfside this summer. Our main propane usage will be general cooking and the small ~ 3ft^3 fridge. I dont expect to need to use the heater in the summer.

So what I have at home is the standard 20# exchange cylinders. I heard that you cannot refill an exchange cylinder due to some proprietary valving, so my options are:

- Use the exchange cylinder and risk running out with no exchange places, or bring 2 of them
- Purchase my own (likely a 30#) and risk running out and not finding a refill station as they are getting less common, but maybe more common in the remote places?

What do others do? I did use the search function and didnt find much for previous discussion

Thanks!
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Old 01-11-2020, 04:22 PM   #2
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The exchange cylinders that I have all can be refilled anywhere that does it. In general those exchange cylinders are not completely full. But one advantage of the exchange cylinders for those that have their own and prefer to get them refilled, if you have one that has a expired date, exchange it for one with a recent date and refill it until the inspection date expires, then exchange again.
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Old 01-11-2020, 04:36 PM   #3
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Name: Gordon
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I do both.

I own a tank (cylinder) with a float valve* that gives me a good idea how much propane is in it. When it runs out I get it refilled.

I also have three exchange tanks at home and use them as needed, mostly when the one I own is needing a refill. I exchange them or fill them depending on what is more convenient if cost is reasonable. I'll take one along on a trip if I think I might need it. Thats rare unless I run the furnace.

It is true that you almost always get a better fill than the exchange tanks, but Walmart has had the exchange tanks for so cheap that the difference was not that great last time I did an exchange (last year).

If only using the fridge and moderate amount of cooking then one tank will likely last three weeks at least. If only using the fridge then I would pretty much guarantee that a 20 lb tank would last at least three weeks. A second tank or having a fill option for the single tank would be insurance.

* The tank at Amazon I linked to is way overpriced IMHO. You should be able to find it for less.
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Old 01-11-2020, 04:42 PM   #4
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Name: John
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I took out the small exchange cylinders (15 lb?) and replaced them with two new 30 lb cylinders as soon as I got the trailer. The exchange thing might be more convenient, but since they are not reliably full, and much smaller, they will have to be changed more than twice as often as the 30 lb ones. If one 30 lb runs out, you still have more than the two 15 lb tanks combines, so there is plenty of time to find a place to refill. Many truck stops have Propane and I've never had a hard time finding it. We stop for diesel once or twice a day when traveling anyway, so I don't see the problem. One downside with the larger tanks though, is lifting them into place.
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Old 01-12-2020, 12:12 AM   #5
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If you're just running the fridge and doing a bit of cooking, I'd expect to run through about 10lbs/week. Maybe less since that's a pretty small fridge.

If you have 2 20lb cylinders, you'll probably be fine for the entire trip. Or, if you want to be extra cautious, start looking for a refill place when the first cylinder empties. You should have at least a week to spare at that point.

Finding a propane fill can be a pain, but they're not that rare. A lot of campgrounds do it, plus some Uhaul locations, truck stops, and Tractor Supply. I've also run across an Ace Hardware that has it, plus an equipment rental place (I guess for the forklifts).
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Old 01-12-2020, 05:01 AM   #6
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Getting a cylinder refilled at Tractor Supply has the added advantage of “only paying for what you get” (sorry Limu Emu!), as Tractor Supply sells propane by metered volume rather than a fixed price per fill. In other words, you can have a partially filled tank topped-off.
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Old 01-12-2020, 08:18 AM   #7
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We went on a 7 week excursion to the Western US / Canada from late August to early October . Left home with 2 full 20 lb tanks , returned home with one empty and the other 1/2 to 3/4 full . Unless your running your furnace or WH 24/7 , 2 tanks of propane should be plenty.
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Old 01-12-2020, 08:28 AM   #8
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Name: Mac
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I'm with Steve - if you're not heating, the propane will last a long time. It's amazing how little the fridge consumes - I would guess ours would run at least a couple of months on one 20# tank.
If you want the freedom of exchanging cylinders, but also want to know how much propane remains in a tank, you can use a handheld fish scale or luggage scale to determine this. Weigh the tank in question, then subtract the tare weight (empty weight) stamped on the tank. The answer is how many pounds of propane you have left.
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Old 01-12-2020, 12:31 PM   #9
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Propane Refills in B.C. Yukon, NWT

Quote:
Originally Posted by kipper View Post
Hello We are planning a 3 week trip in our new Surfside this summer. Our main propane usage will be general cooking and the small ~ 3ft^3 fridge. I dont expect to need to use the heater in the summer.

So what I have at home is the standard 20# exchange cylinders. I heard that you cannot refill an exchange cylinder due to some proprietary valving, so my options are:

- Use the exchange cylinder and risk running out with no exchange places, or bring 2 of them
- Purchase my own (likely a 30#) and risk running out and not finding a refill station as they are getting less common, but maybe more common in the remote places?

What do others do? I did use the search function and didnt find much for previous discussion

Thanks!
When I did at 3 month trip to Inuvik three years ago, I found that up North - Prince George, North - it was easier to find a place for a refill rather than exchange. They are getting harder to find down here in civilization though. I took one 20 lb on the trailer, and another in the truck. Sometimes it was a little out of the way to find the place that did the refills but never impossible. One was at a logging company's works yard. And I use the fish/luggage scale to figure what I have left. I tried the magnetic strips and pouring boiling water over but found the scales were the most convenient.

Where are you planning to go?
Barb
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Old 01-12-2020, 01:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarbinBC View Post
... I tried the magnetic strips and pouring boiling water over but found the scales were the most convenient.
...
Weighing (total minus tare) is of course the best way to know how much is in the tank. The reason I have a tank with float valve, and the reason that people use techniques like hot water, is almost always because the tank is mounted and its a PIA to unmount it.
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Old 01-12-2020, 01:52 PM   #11
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Name: Cliff
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Our last outing was 4 weeks in Maine and Vermont end of September/October. Used the heat a bit. Used our barbecue some also. Didn't use 1 20lb tank.😎
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Old 01-12-2020, 02:30 PM   #12
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Name: Jann
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Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kipper View Post
Hello We are planning a 3 week trip in our new Surfside this summer. Our main propane usage will be general cooking and the small ~ 3ft^3 fridge. I dont expect to need to use the heater in the summer.

So what I have at home is the standard 20# exchange cylinders. I heard that you cannot refill an exchange cylinder due to some proprietary valving, so my options are:

- Use the exchange cylinder and risk running out with no exchange places, or bring 2 of them
- Purchase my own (likely a 30#) and risk running out and not finding a refill station as they are getting less common, but maybe more common in the remote places?

What do others do? I did use the search function and didnt find much for previous discussion

Thanks!
We usually fill up our 2 20lb tanks in the beginning of the year and only if one runs out do we refill that year. We run our fridge, cook inside all the time, use heater once in a while if in the mountains just to break the chill, and use our hot water heater. To save on propane we turn on the hot water heater until it is hot then turn it off. We do the same in our bigger RV and usually only refill a small tank once in the middle of the season. With tanks if you run out of one you know how long it took it to run out and know how long you have until you need to refill the empty one. I have never had trouble finding propane and have never exchanged a tank. Most RV dealers, Camping World, campgrounds, etc all have propane. With exchange tanks you have no clue how much propane you have.
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Old 01-12-2020, 02:41 PM   #13
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Propane Tank Weights

Quote:
Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
Weighing (total minus tare) is of course the best way to know how much is in the tank. The reason I have a tank with float valve, and the reason that people use techniques like hot water, is almost always because the tank is mounted and its a PIA to unmount it.
True 'dat! Tell me more about the float valve business!
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Old 01-12-2020, 02:55 PM   #14
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A propane float gauge consists of moving parts located both inside the tank and outside. At the end of the stem is the float that rises and falls with the level of the propane in the tank. The top of the stem is the pinion gear. This turns the gear in the shaft and causes the dial on the external face gauge to turn. The float gauge is not considered a fully reliable instrument for measuring tank volume. (Text borrowed)

Its more accurate than the pressure types but still more of a estimate than a precise measurement.

Good price at BJ's if you are a member:
https://www.bjs.com/product/worthing...00000000145803
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Old 01-12-2020, 03:08 PM   #15
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Propane Fuel Gauge

Quote:
Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
A propane float gauge consists of moving parts located both inside the tank and outside. At the end of the stem is the float that rises and falls with the level of the propane in the tank. The top of the stem is the pinion gear. This turns the gear in the shaft and causes the dial on the external face gauge to turn. The float gauge is not considered a fully reliable instrument for measuring tank volume. (Text borrowed)

Its more accurate than the pressure types but still more of a estimate than a precise measurement.

Good price at BJ's if you are a member:
https://www.bjs.com/product/worthing...00000000145803
Thanks for the info and link. Since I'm in Canada I've not heard of BJ's or of a float gauge. Do any Canadians on this site know of a brand here that has the float gauge? I'd love to have one as the tank is a pain to get off to weigh. I do have a pressure gauge but I'm not confident it's telling me the truth!
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Old 01-12-2020, 03:13 PM   #16
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The pressure gauge is almost certainly not accurate. The pressure stays pretty consistent as more liquid turns into a gas, so really all it can tell you is whether it's empty or not.

The float is probably the least bad way to measure in-place. The color-change water gauges are apparently super finicky based on temperature and whether you've used much propane recently.

The ultrasonic(?) AP/Mopeka gauges apparently work fairly well, but they're not cheap.
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Old 01-13-2020, 05:52 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarbinBC View Post
Thanks for the info and link. Since I'm in Canada I've not heard of BJ's or of a float gauge. Do any Canadians on this site know of a brand here that has the float gauge? I'd love to have one as the tank is a pain to get off to weigh. I do have a pressure gauge but I'm not confident it's telling me the truth!
I went to an Ace Hardware (in the US) and ordered them because they were not a stocked item. I would suspect the customer service types at Home Hardware or Crappy Tire or maybe even Loweís could special order them for you if you cannot find them anyplace else.
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Old 01-13-2020, 05:58 AM   #18
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Name: Cliff
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I have never worried about propane. I keep an eye on the indicator and when the first tank runs dry I start looking for a propane filling station. Always fill my tanks, donít do the exchange. So far from Maine to Florida I donít think Iíve ever gone farther than 10 miles to find it. In the more rural areas you can usually find a hardware store or tractor supply that has it.
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Old 01-13-2020, 06:42 AM   #19
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Like Cliff, once the 1st tank empties we find an LP gas supplier to fill our tanks.

Over 30 years of having two tanks, and have only run out once. That time we had our automatic switchover working, where you open both valves and it switches from the empty tank to the full tank. If you aren't constantly watching for the red to show the first tank is empty you'll run out of gas in both tanks. Now we only open the valve on one tank. When we run out I simply go outside and turn the valve on the other tank open. In the morning I remove the empty tank, put it in the truck, and when in town, get it filled. Easy peazy!

Your choice:
  • Go outside on a chilly night when you need the heater and open the valve. You realize both tanks are empty. Then go inside to try sleeping in a cold, cold camper. Of course you can't sleep because your wife is cold, letting you know that, reminding you what a failure your are, plus you're worrying about the pipes freezing.

  • Go outside on a chilly night when you need the heater and open the valve. Then go inside to sleep peacefully in a warm camper.

Again, your choice.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 01-18-2020, 11:34 AM   #20
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Name: Judith
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Will someone please explain the expiring tanks? I have a small 5# tank I kept from my Puck. I know it is expired. What is involved in renewing it? I don't have to buy a whole new tank do I?
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