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OT: Refilling Disposable Propane Bottles

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  • OT: Refilling Disposable Propane Bottles

    Anyone else crazzzzy enough to do this?

    I don't actually think it's that crazy, but I do get some weird looks from friends and family. I was filling a couple of bottles yesterday and was thinking this is the kinda thing a lot of the old forum hippies would appreciate.

    Basically, for those of you unaware, you freeze the little bottle to create a temp gradient and attach the bottle with a special fitting like this:

    Click image for larger version

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    I only use bottles I acquire brand new and know how many times they've been filled. I also check the relief valves to make sure they're working properly. I've been told that the only real risk is that they've rusted from the inside and are getting weak. I visually inspect them for any signs of rust like bubbles under the paint.

    Why, some might ask? I've found that the small camping accessories you can get for these bottles are the most cost efficient, but I don't like throwing all this material in the trash. I currently have three bottles that I've been using for about three years that I'll probably retire pretty soon.

    Lanterns, stoves, and a small heater can all be run from my bulk tank with a hose, but these small bottles quite often work better as the one-burner and lantern can sit upright on top of the bottle. I weighed one yesterday to see how much propane I'm getting into the bottle and it seems you get a little over a pound.

    This is actually legal in the U.S. for personal use although I noticed the fitting can't be shipped to Canada so perhaps it's illegal up north. Anybody else doing this?
    Last edited by Matt J; 13 February 2014, 08:47 AM.

  • #2
    Awesome...I'll ship you all my empties.

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    • #3
      I have seen a significant number of boaters on mountainbuzz.com reference doing this/advice, without problems.....lots of discussion there re camping gear/stoves/propane relative to kayaking and rafting....in the extreme, some rafters seem to go wild with their custom/deluxe kitchen/stove set ups

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      • #4
        It sounds like a business opportunity to me. These guys make a propane bottle recycling machine that empties, punctures and flattens the bottles for recycling. I'm not sure they are still in business, tho.

        OTOH, I actually really like Matt J's re-use option. Re-use is even better than recycling. I doubt if those relief valves are engineered for re-use but probably work fine. I wonder how hard it would be to engineer a bleed-off refilling nozzle like they use to refill the 5-gallon bottles.
        It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Baaahb View Post
          Awesome...I'll ship you all my empties.
          Haha. Thanks, but no thanks. You deal with your own foot print law dog.

          CROE, I paddle and used to participate on the 'buzz some back when Frenchy ran it. Although I don't think that's where I originally got this idea. I'm going to buy a smaller refillable (5# maybe 10) for overnight rafting. The carbon fiber ones are pretty sweet for when you have to hike into or out of a section, but a bit too rich for my blood.
          Last edited by Matt J; 13 February 2014, 08:56 AM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by jfb View Post
            It sounds like a business opportunity to me. These guys make a propane bottle recycling machine that empties, punctures and flattens the bottles for recycling. I'm not sure they are still in business, tho.

            OTOH, I actually really like Matt J's re-use option. Re-use is even better than recycling. I doubt if those relief valves are engineered for re-use but probably work fine. I wonder how hard it would be to engineer a bleed-off refilling nozzle like they use to refill the 5-gallon bottles.
            That's a helluva machine. I wonder what they built it for? Maybe cleaning up after ice fishermen Maybe municipal solid waste facilities?

            I've heard of a dude selling refills up in cabin country, Wisconsin or Minnasota maybe. I read that he was charging $1 a refill which obviously wouldn't be worth the liability (or time for that matter). I'm pretty sure it's illegal to resell them. What does the bleed-off nozzle accomplish?

            It'd be cool if they'd simply made them more "refillable" which would actually just mean creating protocol for outlets to efficiently test the relief valves and visually inspect. Probably have to date stamp production too.
            Last edited by Matt J; 13 February 2014, 09:00 AM.

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            • #7

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              • #8
                That image is taken from the incident with Occupy protests at UC Davis I think. Damn, it's disturbing. Joking about being a "hippie" is one thing, police brutality in what seems to rapidly be becoming a police state is another. Can't believe that is on U.S. soil eleven years into the 21st century. Scary.

                BTW, when one of Willy's aliases comes along to tell me how dumb, poor, and anti-American I am feel free to move this over to the WOT.
                Last edited by Matt J; 13 February 2014, 09:45 AM.

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                • #9
                  Matt... I have the fitting and used to do this often, though I have not done it for years since the main thing I use the small bottles for is soldering plumbing and melting beeswax into cutting boards, so I don't use all that much and find it easier to just buy the filled bottles. I do save the empties in case I want to fill them, though, since I don't like to see stuff wasted.

                  Refilling did not seem especially dangerous IMO. Two important things I remember to get it to work is to have the supply bottle upside down so liquid propane will flow out to the small bottle, and to pull the safety relief valve as the upright small bottle fills to vent the gaseous propane out so the liquid propane can fill the space. Stinky, though.

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                  • #10
                    This six pounder would work well in the Westy (did someone mention "hippie"?)

                    http://www.amazon.com/Worthington-29.../dp/B004FPZABK

                    hard to pay $150 for a propane tank, but maybe I should splurge.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Matt J View Post
                      What does the bleed-off nozzle accomplish?
                      Hindfoot captured the concept saying "to vent the gaseous propane out so the liquid propane can fill the space".

                      Originally posted by Matt J View Post
                      It'd be cool if they'd simply made them more "refillable" which would actually just mean creating protocol for outlets to efficiently test the relief valves and visually inspect. Probably have to date stamp production too.
                      That Westie cannister on Amazon looks like a solution but pretty spendy at $150. You might be able to have one fabricated to your specs for that kind of coin.
                      It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!

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                      • #12
                        I got bit by the recall of the Lite tanks and probably won't go back to composite ones. I have used the 1# refill adapter with some success, but I found that the threads are likely to get stripped with repeated use. I am happy just recycling those. 5# steel works for my camping/boating needs even though they are priced too high.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by skipowpow View Post
                          I got bit by the recall of the Lite tanks and probably won't go back to composite ones. I have used the 1# refill adapter with some success, but I found that the threads are likely to get stripped with repeated use. I am happy just recycling those. 5# steel works for my camping/boating needs even though they are priced too high.

                          Some of my rafting buddies had those tanks. I don't remember the details, but it didn't sound good. As I recall no one got refunds or replacements?

                          The brass adapters can easily strip. Between being kinda soft and extreme temp differences between the two tanks I think they're susceptible. I try and be careful threading it into the big tank at room temp and make sure the threads are mating well and then crank it on real tight with a wrench. I leave it on there until it all warms back up to room temp before removing it. I thought about some anti-seize yesterday but didn't find any graphite, teflon tape would probably be a good idea. The adapter hose I use with my stove is actually getting pretty beat. I'll try chasing the threads with a die before I give up on it.

                          skipowpow, you using something like this?

                          http://www.lowes.com/pd_313493-743-2...7C1&facetInfo=

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Matt J View Post
                            Some of my rafting buddies had those tanks. I don't remember the details, but it didn't sound good. As I recall no one got refunds or replacements?

                            ...
                            skipowpow, you using something like this?

                            http://www.lowes.com/pd_313493-743-2...7C1&facetInfo=
                            I was lucky and was able to return mine to backcountry.com for a full refund.

                            I haven't actually picked up a 5# yet. Probably will this summer. What I have found is that I keep the partially used 1# tanks and use those for spares when the home grill runs out in the middle of cooking something.
                            Last edited by skipowpow; 20 February 2014, 10:43 AM.

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                            • #15
                              [QUOTE=Matt J;9946]

                              "The brass adapters can easily strip. Between being kinda soft and extreme temp differences between the two tanks I think they're susceptible. I try and be careful threading it into the big tank at room temp and make sure the threads are mating well and then crank it on real tight with a wrench."

                              Matt...Maybe the brass threads are tending to strip because you are tightening them too much. I think the older tanks had a brass to brass fit in this attachment and it had to be pretty tight not to leak. When I attach fittings into my big tank, the 5 gallon size or whatever they are, I used to use a wrench until I noticed that there is a gasket inside the tank fitting that the nose of the male fitting seats against. I've found that it only needs to be finger-tight in order to not leak gas. If the bigger tank has the gasket, I wet the nose of the fitting I am screwing into it, so as not to damage the gasket. I've heard this suggested somewhere, and it seems to make it seat more smoothly.

                              I don't understand why you freeze one of the tanks.

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