I had a feeling the other night, that we were dangerously low on propane.  My fears were justified as the heater began sputtering the next morning.  I shut everything down, including the refrigerator until I could get some propane.  It wasn’t too cold yesterday, but I left Erin an electric space heater running anyway.  The refrigerator stayed cold for the 10 hours I was at work; the freezer did not rise above 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

I have been planning to splice in a portable LP tank since we moved in; procrastination is alive and well in the Squatch.  I picked up a “Stay-A-While by Mr. Heater” brass tee that I installed on the high pressure side, between the motorhome 20 gallon LP tank and the system regulator.  A small hose connects it to any standard portable propane.  In this case, it’s a 20 pound BBQ tank from Fred Meyer.

stay a while propane up close

stay a while LP hookup

The question is:  How am I going to keep a constant supply of propane?  Well, for one, I’d like to keep the onboard tank filled, which is going to require me to take the Squatch to work and buy the LP at wholesale cost.  I was thinking I could just have the one portable tank, and when it is empty, I’ll switch over to the onboard tank until the next workday when I would refill the 20 pounder.  Another option is to get a second 20 pound tank and keep one full, leaving the onboard tank for emergency reserve.

Now that 20 gallon onboard tank was used up in a little over a month.  Notice that the onboard tank is 20 gallons, and the BBQ tank is 20 pounds.  At 4.2 pounds per gallon of liquid propane, the onboard tank may be 4 times the size of the BBQ tank.  But wait, I’m not so sure!  The volume on some tanks is listed as the water capacity.  In this case, 20 gallons, but propane tanks should not be filled to more than 80% capacity, leaving 16 gallons.  At about 4.2 pounds per gallon, the tank could hold 67 pounds of propane.  So, between 3 and 4 times my little BBQ tank.

I know that I’ll be switching these little tanks often.  Why not get a larger tank?  Well, partly to enforce some feedback conservation, and for ease of transport.  I want to be able to haul propane from my workplace on my bicycle, a much larger tank would just be nuts.  I briefly considered getting an aluminum forklift tank because the tare weight is lower and the capacity higher.  Also and more importantly, forklift tanks can be transported horizontally or vertically, unlike regular DOT tanks.  Alas, forklift tanks are only designed for liquid and not vapor; I need vapor for my appliances.

-M.C. Pletcher

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Posted in Dwelling, Refrigerator, The Squatch, Tiny House

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