Can I use a smaller propane tank?
October 19, 2020 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I only use propane to cook, and use @ 30 lbs a year, I think. My local propane supplier got bought out, and the new company keeps trying to charge a new fee for tank rental. Have talked my way out of previously, don't think that will work any more. it's already expensive because I don't use a lot, and I'm stubborn, frugal, and despise add-on pure profit fees and corporate greed. Can I have my stove connected to the smaller tanks used by gas grills? I'm guessing the right sort of plumber might do this.
posted by theora55 to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
 
We do this. IIRC, it was a bit tricky finding the right connectors, but here's what our installer said about it in an email:

"Instead of just a fitting to hook up to the tank, we need to run a BBQ gas line that has a gas regulator attached to it from the tank to the range area. That will be just like what you find on a BBQ that you can un-attach and re-attach to whenever your tank runs out. We then will either have some fittings to connect the range directly to the BBQ gas line or hook up a normal range gas line to that BBQ one with different connectors."
posted by 10ch at 7:36 PM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


Totally doable, but yeah, finding the exact right parts might take some trial and error. I would feel comfortable doing this myself with the help of Mcmaster Carr, and Johnstone Supply (some offices sell to the public, some don't) and some gumption. A very, very well stocked hardware store might have the gear you need to do this.

If you're looking to have someone else do it, any gas plumber could probably rig this up, BUT this very well may not be up to to code (but not really dangerous or anything) in your area, and sometimes solutions like this have consequences like, voiding your home/renters insurance. They would be the ones who could tell you for sure (because they wouldn't do this, even if it is technically possible).
posted by furnace.heart at 8:02 PM on October 19, 2020


Yes, you can do this but the tank must be outside the house, exposed to the weather. You might find you lose pressure in the winter if it gets very cold where you are.

As you use the gas, liquified propane at the bottom of the tank evaporates to replace the gas that you use from the top of the tank. This evaporation process absorbs heat so the cylinder becomes chilled the faster you use gas. You might see frost condensing on the outside of the cylinder. The chilled liquid propane won't evaporate as fast and you may lose pressure until the cylinder warms back up. A large propane tank has a lot of mass so doesn't get chilled as easily. A small tank will chill more quickly.

This likely won't be a problem unless you are using a lot of propane, say, to run a gas furnace.
posted by JackFlash at 8:24 PM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]


Is this just a basic stove? Because I definitely have plenty of friends who use propane stoves powered by a BBQ tank in their homes and the tank just lives under the counter.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but I've seen this set up in pretty much every Central and South American country, Mexico, and Canada.

I highly doubt you're required to keep the tank outside unless there is a specific law preventing it in your area. (Also, how would they know?)

Hire a professional if you aren't confident, but this is a problem solved regularly by lots of folks so I'm sure you can find the right tutorial to convert your particular stove online.
posted by ananci at 9:17 PM on October 19, 2020


This is doable, as we do it ourselves. My only suggestion is always to keep a second tank full, so when you run out of gas in the middle of cooking, you can quickly swap it out without running to the store.
posted by wile e at 12:02 AM on October 20, 2020 [3 favorites]


The reason you keep the tank outside is because it's not only a bomb but a source of leaks. That's why places that refill propane tanks have a sign on the door that says "do not bring propane tanks inside." Don't put the tank inside. While almost all of the time it is totally harmless, the failure modes are catastrophic.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:29 AM on October 20, 2020 [20 favorites]


Was coming in to say what seanmpuckett said so I’ll repeat it: a propane tank stored in the house structure is a bad idea. Don’t do that.

We had a neighbor who lost their entire house to a fire because the propane tanks they kept in the house exploded during the fire and the firefighters, reasonably, were having none of that shit. So they stood back and let it go.
posted by spitbull at 4:35 AM on October 20, 2020 [6 favorites]


We switched to small tanks at a family cabin for the same reason - tank rental fee was way out of proportion for how much gas we actually used. We generally keep three tanks at all times, one for the grill, one for the stove, and one extra. I would recommend having three tanks even if you don’t have another propane-burning device if you’re remotely disorganized (or if refills are particularly inconvenient).
posted by mskyle at 4:48 AM on October 20, 2020


Current tank is outside, potential replacement tank will be outside.
posted by theora55 at 7:07 AM on October 20, 2020 [4 favorites]


This is very doable. All the fittings/parts you need are sitting on the shelf of any RV or propane appliance dealer (as this system is super common for off grid cabins).

Yes, you can do this but the tank must be outside the house, exposed to the weather. You might find you lose pressure in the winter if it gets very cold where you are.

At 30lbs a year the sustained draw is unlikely to cause a problem for the OP in their climate.

However as a hedge increasing capacity reduces the problem; a pair of 30lb tanks would work well and is easy to implement while still enabling easy refills (unlike say a 100lb tank which is pretty heavy to manage).

I've seen this set up in pretty much every Central and South American country, Mexico, and Canada.

I highly doubt you're required to keep the tank outside unless there is a specific law preventing it in your area. (Also, how would they know?)


It is specifically illegal in Canada to store propane tanks in non ventilated enclosures (IE: any heated building in Canada); that's why every tank swap facility storage area is outside despite the theft risk. It's also a pretty bad idea, a minor leak can turn a building into a bomb. Luckily it isn't required. Propane tanks aren't adversely affected by weather.
posted by Mitheral at 7:07 AM on October 20, 2020


I did this for several years in frigid upstate NY, I did it because the gas companies were total ripoff artists. I had two of those small tanks and never had any problem changing them out myself. ( I am a medium size woman.) The tanks lived outside, as they should. I used mine for both the cookstove and my water heater.
posted by mareli at 8:27 AM on October 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


I talked to the state regulator for my area who says this is not safe, strongly does not recommend. And have not found a plumber who will do this. Regulator guy was reasonable sounding, recommended I just buy a tank.
posted by theora55 at 10:45 AM on February 18


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