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Emergency Lighting

(Survival manual/ 5. Energy/Emergency Lighting)

For Medium to Long Term Power Outages – Power Grid Failure

1.  Emergency lighting
Power outages seem to be a more and more frequent occurrence. With the electrical grid in need of a lot of maintenance and upgrades and news stories of internet hackers trying to breach the grid online, being prepared for a medium to long-term power outage is a good idea. The preparations needed to have adequate lighting in any scenario are easy and affordable.

The most important thing to remember is that it is very unsettling, especially for children, to be without power for any length of time. The quiet that settles over a house with no electricity is something that we don’t often experience. While an emergency backup generator and gasoline to run it would take care of things pretty well, this requires an investment of hundreds of dollars and the  hazards of gasoline storage. It is much cheaper and easier to focus on alternative lighting.

Candles are not a good idea for anything more than a romantic dinner. They present a fire hazard, especially if you have children in the house. They are not particularly economical and they are not very portable. Small oil lamps have the same drawbacks. [I disagree, feeling that candles are a very good way to provide illumination in an emergency situation. There are candle lanterns (see below) which I’ve used and are very safe. Mr Larry]

Kerosene lanterns are much better than candles, and if you don’t like the smell of kerosene, you can purchase lamp oil for most good lanterns, however it is much more expensive. A good hurricane lantern is durable, safe (they flame out if tipped over) and cost about $30 each. While campers love them, there is still a better way.

The LED flashlight/lamp
With LED flashlights, gone are the days of having to rely on bulky, D-cell flashlights that require a new set of batteries every day. Instead, a lightweight LED flashlight will serve you night after night on a couple double A or triple A batteries. So is it as easy as just making a trip to Wal-Mart to ensure your family has lighting during an extended power outage? Not quite.

First things  – standardize your batteries
Trying to stock up on several different types of batteries is frustrating and expensive and inevitably someone’s flashlight will be out of batteries while others’ are not. Purchase flashlights and a table top lantern or two that all use the same batteries. The flashlights should be rugged and water-resistant, if not waterproof. Get a light color that will be easy to find in the dark – black is not what you want.

Worth Their Weight in Gold
In addition to flashlights and a table top lantern or two, get a headlamp for each adult in the family. Trying to do any tasks while holding a flashlight, which any camper will tell you, is very frustrating and difficult. On the other hand, a headlamp is lightweight and automatically illuminates whatever you are looking at.
Resist the urge to buy the smallest, lightest headlamps, as these use specialty button batteries. Get headlamps that use AA or AAA batteries to be standardized with your flashlights.

About Batteries
If you want the best batteries in your lights that will give you the longest light and function better than any other batteries in very cold weather, then lithium batteries are for you. They aren’t cheap – they will cost you up to $2 per battery, so if your flashlight takes 3 triple A batteries, that will cost you
more than the flashlight!

If you want to be prepared for an extended power outage, perhaps due to a terror attack or societal meltdown, then recharging your batteries is the best option. A small, solar-powered battery charger can be purchased for as little as $35, and will make you truly self-sufficient. A note of caution about rechargeables though: they do not keep a charge very well in storage. Have rechargeables on hand, but
keep good batteries in your flashlights so that they will work when you need them.

A Final Word
Outfitting yourself with at least one flashlight in each vehicle, more at home, and a headlamp for each adult, with all lights using the same batteries is a quick, easy way to be prepared for an emergency. Don’t think that if something happens you can just run to the store and get flashlights then. The store may be out of power too!
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/4692411

 Emergency lighting supplies you should have
Emergency preparedness means you should have backup systems or plans for heat, lighting and water. If you’re lucky, the power won’t be off long, but batteries are gone after a few days, unless you have a way to recharge them. A generator will only work until it runs out of fuel.

One of the more important aspects of urban survival during winter storms is lighting. Without a lighting plan, you could end up in the dark from when the sun sets at around 5:30 p.m. until dawn. The right lighting supplies can make this situation more bearable. Among your lighting back up supplies should be all the items from the following list:
•   A  LED headlamp for each person, this is very important since it frees both your hands for writing, reading, doing dishes, fixing things, going to the bathroom, and other activities done in the dark. When the power goes out for days, you’ll appreciate this.
•  A hand-held LED flashlight for each person— can’t have too much light.
•  Also a lantern per person. Hopefully one of those lights has a red filter or red LED to use at night to preserve night vision.
•  A spotlight/lantern , one per group – illuminate a living space with an electric lantern. The 6V batteries last a long time. Preferably get an LED model, otherwise regular bulbs are fine if you get some spare bulbs.
•  Rechargeable batteries and both a regular  & solar battery charger — another critical item. Get two to three packs each of AA and AAA batteries, depending on the items you
have. Ebay has solar chargers for $25 that look like lunch boxes It takes one or two days to charge a set of four batteries, depending on sunlight availability. Leave the lid open a little, otherwise it gets so hot inside that the batteries are reduced in their lifespan. The most compact chargers are flat ones that roll up into a pouch, used by the military, but they are quite expensive.

The LED Advantage
Red LEDs have been available for decades. Cheap and powerful white LEDs now make LED flashlights clearly superior to traditional incandescent flashlights.

LED bulbs hardly ever need to be replaced. LED design and integration company LED dynamics says that LEDs can sustain up to 100,000 hours (eleven years) of use.

LED flashlights (known as torches in some countries) last longer between battery changes. LED versions are over twenty percent brighter, yet lasts eleven hours on a pair of CR123A lithium batteries versus one hour for the incandescent.

LED Brightness: Lumens versus Watts
More LEDs doesn’t mean brighter. A one led flashlight can be brighter than a flashlight with 3, 4, 9 or even 100 LEDs.
Total flashlight brightness is measured in lumens, with 10 to 100 lumens being common:
•  10 lumens is about the minimum practical brightness.
•  30 lumens will be bright enough for most purposes: lighting up trails when walking,fixing car engines, searching for lost items under the sofa.
•  “Tactical” super bright police/military flashlights start at 90 lumens and can reach a few hundred lumens. They are good for lighting up more distant objects.
•  One of today’s brightest LEDs is the SSC P7. It’s a 10 watt, 900 lumen LED. It is used in a variety of flashlights from different brands.

As a comparison, a list of light bulb brightness from Energy Federation Incorporated
says that:

  • A 15 watt incandescent bulb gives off 122 lumens of light
  • A 100 watt incandescent bulb gives off 1750 lumens of light
  • A 90 lumen led flashlight looks brighter than a 15 watt (122 lumen) incandescent bulb because its light is focused into a narrow beam.
  • LEDs are also measured in watts. This is the input power, not the brightness output.
    Most general-use flashlights top out at 1 watt, while 90 lumen tactical flashlights are typically 3 watts.
  • It is difficult to compare lumens with watts. Manufacturers claim anything from 10 to 90 lumens per watt. Average claim is about 30 lumens per watt. So, brightness is best compared using lumens, not watts. However 30 lumens per watt can be assumed if lumens are not stated.
  • Lux is another measure of brightness. Lux is lumens per square meter, which is less useful for comparing flashlights.

Dimmer can be better
•  The lowest brightness of a flashlight is important. Dim light is
•  good for conserving battery life (super bright also means super battery-eater), especially useful in emergencies,
•  more comfortable for reading at night,
•  less likely to wake up companions when rummaging around in a tent.
•  Premium flashlights have a low and high power setting. Some have more than two levels of brightness. Others have a separate red LED that not only conserves the battery but also protects night vision.
•  An alternative is to carry two flashlights, one dim and another bright (much like carrying a pocket knife and a machete). This is practical with today’s lightweight flashlights. A backup flashlight can be a lifesaver.

 LED flashlight batteries
AA batteries are best.
•  Small, bright LED flashlights can be powered by one or two AA batteries. These are the best all round performers (cost, capacity, availability) for general portable use. A single AA alkaline can power a flashlight for hours.
•  AA batteries have wide market support. Battery types are:
___ Alkaline
___ Lithium (lightweight, last longer than alkalines, work well in the cold, expensive)
___ NiMH rechargeables
•  AAA batteries are the next best. Flashlights with three AAAs are a popular configuration.
•  Specialized batteries such as button cells or CR123A lithiums should be avoided. CR123A batteries may give good performance, but replacements can be difficult to obtain in remote areas.
•   Batteries are part of an overall portable or emergency power supply plan. Equipment that use the same battery type (GPS, camera, flashlight, MP3 player, radio, walkie-talkie) can share batteries in a pinch. Solar chargers for AA and AAA batteries are available, making these batteries even more attractive.

LED features
Brightness and batteries are the most important issues when choosing a flashlight. Additional features include:
•  Regulated power or voltage, to maximize and even-out battery power. Instead of being too bright when the battery is new and too dim later, a more constant level of brightness is maintained.

  • Flashing feature, to attract attention in an emergency.
  • Focusing head to adjust the width of the beam. These are normally available only on single-LED flashlights.
  • Safety switch to prevent accidental switching-on of the flashlight, draining the battery. End-twist switches and recessed push-button switches are also good.
  • Additional red LED for protecting night sight.
  • Waterproofing.
  • Floating (buoyant) body. This prevents the flashlight from getting lost if dropped into water, but increases the size of the flashlight.
  • Hole to attach a lanyard.
  • Flat sides to stop the flashlight from rolling when placed on an even surface.

4.  Suggested
emergency lighting options:

Left to right:
•  Black Diamond Apollo lantern, 3 watt LED, 50 lumen output, 9-1/2 in tall extended, 4 AA batteries, 60 hr. illumination per set batteries. Plenty illumination to work around the kitchen; can read by it if your up close.
•   Black and Decker FSL18 18 Volt Firestorm Light, adjustable beam, shares 18v batteries with other of my tools. Lights up a room but has pretty straight on focusing beam, more for outdoors or close up work in a dark area.
•   Coleman 8D  Square Pack-Away Lantern. 15-watt fluorescent spiral U-tube, 390  lumens on High. Runs 24 hours on Low, 12 hours on High,  8 D batteries. This older technology lantern is something I’ve had for a while, works great. There are newer lanterns available for those who that want to use fewer batteries, ie., see Black Diamond above.

Left to right:
•  Petzl E99 PG Tikka XP 2, LEDs  Headlamp, 60 lumens,, 3 brightness settings, a red light, uses 3 AAA batteries: 160 hrs low, 80 hrs high, lighting out  to 60 meters. A really great headlamp that free’s up both hands allowing you to dig around looking for things or pull emergency equipment out of storage.
•  Similar to my Black and Decker wall light/rechargeable emergency flashlight. Looks kind of like the pic above, has the same plug in the wall and nightlight features. When the household power goes off, the flashlight immediately lights up and is fully charged, ready for use. Great indoors flashlight.
•  Eneloop rechargeable batteries stocked for small  personal electronics;  buy a couple dozen each AA, a nd AAA, also a few plastic C&D adaptors so you can use the AAA to power C& D battery devices; also, La Crosse Technology BC-9009 Alpha Power Battery Charger.[1].

Left to right:
•  LED Lenzer #7736 tactical power flashlight, 110 lumens, beam distance 590 feet., (dangerously bright, focused beam),  tooled aluminum, 4-1/2 “ long, uses 3 AAA batteries. Best used outdoors.
•  Energizer, 1 watt, LED flashlight, 7” long, rubberized grip, uses 2 AA batteries. Right brightness
for ‘in the house’,  45 lumens.
•  Mini LED keychain flashlights, have just a few in supply. Very handy & small, not very bright, internal battery, disposable unit. About 10 lumen light output.

5.  Emergency Candles

In a disaster, it is not uncommon for electricity to be unavailable, sometimes for days or even weeks. Flashlights are an important component of a disaster kit, but flashlights are not meant for long-term use. Emergency candles are an excellent way to generate light when the electrical power goes out.

Candles for use in emergency situations come in a variety of styles and sizes, many of which are similar to ordinary candles. Some of the ways in which emergency candles differ from conventional candles include length of burn time, adjustability of the wicks and wind resistance. There are emergency candles available which can burn for 30 to 120 hours or more.

My candles and propane lighting options

Left to right:
•   UCO single candle lantern, closed and open, 6.5 in. tall & 2 in wide. UCO candle lanterns use 9 hour (non decorative) candles, candle is spring fed to maintain appropriate height in globe, see candles below.
•   UCO, 3 candle lantern,  has a top surface for heating, with all three candles burning, you can heat a cup of liquid in 5 minutes, not to a boil, but useful for instant soup or coffee, spring fed candles.
•   UCO 9 hour candles, each measures 3-1/2” long x 1-1/8”diameter. Wouldn’t hurt to have at least a dozen in supply.

 Left to right:
•   Coleman Quick Pack InstaStart Lantern, 967 lumens, runs 13 hours on low and 7.75 hours on high using  one  16 ounce propane cylinder. Light up the yard for outdoor cooking, dish washing, etc.
•   1 pound propane cylinder, stock a few for light and cooking.

Candle making, (traditional candles, primarily for illumination)
The best candle wax is Petroleum Paraffin wax like used in home canning. It’s very cheap, comes in pre-cut blocks and stores indefinitely. You can also use crayons or pieces of old decorative candle found around the house.

The first step in candle making is to prepare the wax. You do this by melting it in a double boiler. A double boiler is simply one large pot filled with water and placed on the stove top. Another smaller pot that contains the un-melted wax is sat inside the larger pot. Wax will burn when you try to melt it so using a double boiler makes it easy.

Once the wax is melted, hold the wick in place in the middle of the mold and pour in the wax. Allow the wax to cool for about four to six hours before you attempt to remove it from the mold. You can also spray non-stick cooking spray into the mold before you pour the wax into it so it is easier to remove the finished candle.

A.  How to Make Emergency Cooking Candles (for light and heat)
These candles differ from the traditional candle when the mold is preloaded with a stack of cardboard wicks embedded and held in place by wood chips or by a tightly wound coil of cardboard. With the following two procedures, you can make a much more heavy-duty candle than discussed above.
Emergency cooking candles provide both  light and heat, allowing you to cook food in a difficult situation. Make several emergency candles and put them in your long-term storage.

Procedure #1: Cooking candle, Tall can/mold
Things you’ll need:

  • Tin can
  • Candlewick  (see wick making, below)
  • Double boiler
  • Slotted spoon (optional)
  • Paraffin wax, old candles, wax crayons
  • Matchbook (optional)
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Duct tape (optional)
  • Wood chips
  • Hot glue gun (optional)

Place the broken up paraffin, old candles or crayons in a double boiler, or melt enough paraffin wax to fill the tin can. If you melt too much wax, you can always store it for later once it hardens. Watch the wax as it melts, and stir it to encourage the melting. You should use the double boiler method to prevent the wax from catching fire as is melts.

Cut the corrugated cardboard into thin strips. The strips only need to be as tall as the can. Roll the strips into a tight coil.

Pack wood chips into the tin can. Compress the wood chips tightly around the candlewicks. Fill in the holes and saturate the cardboard to fill the tin can completely with the melted wax.

Pour the candle wax to cover the cardboard and wood chips. Lay a candlewick horizontally across the candle wax. The candlewick needs to be as long as the tin. Light the candlewick in an emergency, and the flame will spread across the top of the tin can.

Optional, so that you’ll have matches, if and when the emergency candle is needed. Cut the top off a matchbook. Cut the strikers off the box, and then tape the matchbook inside the lid of the tin can. Glue the strikers next to the matches on the lid with a hot glue gun.

Procedure #2: Cooking candle, Short can/mold
Things you’ll need:

  • washed out tuna can, make several
  • stove
  • corrugated cardboard hot pads
  • Paraffin wax, old candles, wax crayons
  • water
  • primed candle wick
  • scissors or sharp knife
  • small sauce pan and old heat proof glass jar (for double boiler)
  • pencil

1.  Using your scissors or knife, cut strips of the corrugated cardboard that are the same height as the tuna can. It is beneficial for one or two strips to be slightly taller than the rest to make the candle easier to light after the first time it is used.
2.  Roll a cardboard strip around the pencil. While keeping the cardboard coiled up, slide it off of the pencil.
3.  Place the coiled cardboard into the tuna can, and allow it to uncoil. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the whole can is filled and the cardboard strips are fairly snug against each other.
4.  Cut a piece of candle wick that is about 1/2 inch taller than the tuna can. Place the wick in the hole at the center of the cardboard coils.
5.  Fill the small sauce pan half way with water and put it on the stove over medium heat. Place the wax into the jar and put the jar in the water. The water will slowly begin to boil and will melt the wax in the jar.
6.  When the wax is melted, use the hot pads to remove the jar from the water. Pour the melted wax into the tuna can filled with the cardboard coils. Start at the center near the candle wick and work toward the outer edges. Fill just to the top edge of the can. Do not over fill the can or it will spill all over when the candle is lit.

Allow the cooking candle to cool completely. Store in a Ziploc bag with waterproof candles and tuck the bag into your emergency survival kit or 72 hour kit.

B. Homemade candle wicks
To make wicks the colonial way, soak heavy cotton yarn for 12 hours in one of these solutions:
•  1 tbsp salt combined with 2 tbsp boric acid and 1 cup of  water, OR
•  a mixture of turpentine, lime water and vinegar.

When the yarn is dry, braid 2 or 3 strands together to form the wick. or as another person suggested just, use cotton string/cord/rope soaked in liquid wax, the larger the candle diameter
the thicker or more numerous the wick(s).

[1] The LaCrosse charger includes individual LCD displays for each charging compartment, and
three function keys at the bottom–Current, Display, and Mode. Push the Mode button to choose from four categories: Charge mode to charge the rechargeable battery (automatically switches to trickle charge after the battery is full); Discharge mode to discharge then charge the rechargeable battery to minimize the memory effect; Refresh mode to refresh the rechargeable battery to maximum
capacity by charging and discharging it repeatedly; and Test mode to check the rechargeable battery capacity in mAh/Ah. Also features a heat monitor to prevents overcharging.

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Filed under Survival Manual, __5. Energy

Propane fuel & equipment

(Survival manual/5. Energy/Propane fuel & equipment)

A.   What is propane?
Propane, or liquefied petroleum gas (LP-gas), is one of the nation’s most versatile sources of energy and supplies 3 to 4 percent of our total energy. As opposed to relying on foreign sources, approximately 90% of the United States propane supply is produced domestically. For years, families and businesses have counted on clean, dependable propane for heating, hot water, cooking, and clothes drying.

The advantages of propane?
There are six very good reasons why you should consider  increasing  propane use in your home energy needs:
1)  Propane has a wide variety of uses: heating, water heating, cooking, clothes drying, swimming pool water heating, hot tub & sauna heating and emergency generators. Propane is also used to fuel cars and trucks.
2)  Propane is a clean-burning, environmentally friendly fuel that can be stored safely in residential & commercial underground tanks.
3)  Propane heating equipment is designed to operate efficiently. Some equipment can be as high as 96% efficient. That means for every heating dollar you spend, you get 96 cents worth of heat.
4)  Propane heats water at one-half the cost of electricity.
5)  Propane heating and water heating equipment can be installed with special direct venting systems which do not need a chimney. This will save you money on retrofitting and unnecessary construction.
6)  Unlike competitive fuels, most of the propane used in the United States comes from North American sources.

Propane is one the easiest fuel source to use. All you do is screw it on and light the gas. Because propane is already under pressure you do not have to pump it or do anything special. Propane has to be under pressure because its boiling point (point when it turns from a liquid to a gas) is negative 44 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it is normally a gas. In order to turn it into a liquid you need to pressurize it, which is why it is stored in strong metal containers.


B.  Facts and figures
•  1 pound of Propane = 22,000 BTUs =8.5 cu ft LP gas.
•  20 lb tank of propane holds approx 4 gallons of propane (366,000 BTUs)
•  Your propane appliance will work for x hours= 366,000 BTUs per 20 lb tank propane/ appliance BTU output hrs .
•  Filling a 20lb tanks costs  about $15.
•  100 pound propane tank will hold about 24 gallon. (100 pounds / 4.24 lbs/gal = 23.58 gal.)
•  100 lb tank holds 2,159,400 potential BTU’s, so a 100,000 BTU input furnace could burn 21.59 hours, if your furnace is fired for 25 minutes of every hour (COLD WEATHER), over 8 hours you will get about 6-7 days on a tank.
•  1000 lb propane tank will hold 235.8 gallons. 1000 pound tank / 4.24 lbs/gal=235 gal.
•  Propane contains roughly 20,000 BTU’s per pound, so if you’re using a burner of 20,000 BTUs, a 1 lb cylinder will last 1 hour. If your burner is 2,000 BTU’s you’ve got about 10 hours of fuel in a 1lb cylinder.
•  1 gallon of propane:  weighs 4.24 pounds and produces 91,500 BTUs heat.
•  1 gallon of propane = 27 kWh (Kilowatt Hours) of electricity; this means that one gallon of propane contains the same amount of usable energy as 27 Kilowatt Hours, or we can say that 27 kWh equals approximately 91,500 BTU ( or 4.15 each  1 pound propane cylinders).
•  A 100 watt light bulb left on for a full day (24 hours) will consume 2.4 kWh. If propane were to power the same light bulb (hypothetically remember, we’re comparing energy content) for 24 hours, it would use .09 gallons of propane.

•  The cylinders should be transported in a ventilated area and kept as cool as possible and out of direct sunlight if possible. The best option for 1 lb & 20 lb cylinders is a plastic milk crate with a reflective, white sheet/towel covering the top.
•  Propane cylinders are not rated in gallons. They are rated in weight because propane has been traditionally sold by weight. For instance, a standard BBQ cylinder is called a 20 lb cylinder even though it weighs a bit more than 20 lbs when filled. There is a larger one that is common to the RV world and it is 40 lb.. The taller cylinders that are owned by the propane companies are 100 lb, 250 lb and 500 lb cylinders. The horizontal “hot-dog” ones are 1000 lb units or larger.
•  A 100 lb cylinder is about a foot in diameter. Propane weighs 4.24 pounds per gallon. A 100 lb cylinder holds about 24 gallons of liquefied gas.
•  The 100 lb cylinder is subject to recreational tax, that means it will cost you more per pound to fill the 100 pounder than the bulk tank in your yard. If you lease your bulk tank, when you don’t want it anymore they’ll take it away. There is usually a discount for a ” bulk tank ” refill.
•  Buying your own propane tank vs. leasing/renting: “I bought my own 1,000 gallon tank 4 years ago. The difference in the price of propane paid for the tank by the second refill and I shop around every time I need to fill it.”
• Liquid propane will expand to 270 times its volume when it changes from a liquid to a gas. That’s why you can cook for a long time on such a small amount of propane.
• When your home’s furnace pulls full load on a 100 lb cylinder the vapor will freeze, limiting your 100 pounder to 75% useable volume until it thaws out. The reason is that a 100 lb. tank doesn’t the regulator discharge size to supply the needs of a full house furnace, and starves it for fuel.

C.  My propane appliances:
a)  Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner Stove: cooks 2.2 hours on High or up to 9 hours on Low. Lasting 3 days per 1 lb cylinder at 72 min/day [1 hr 12 min]);  5- 1 lb cylinders=15 days, 10 lbs=1 month, a 20 lb cylinder=2 months minimal cooking. 1 each 20 lb cylinder theoretically cooks 74 days of meals at 1 hr/day.
b)  Coleman QuickPack InstaStart Lantern:  illuminates 13 hours on Low and 7.75 hours on High with a 1 lb-ounce propane cylinder; 967 lumens. 1 lb cylinder=4  to 6 days cooking with a
two-burner stove or 3 hours of continuous early morning lighting for 4 days.
c)  MR Heater Big Buddy heater: two 20-lb. cylinders heat up to 400 sq. ft. for up to 220 hrs. (9 days).
The formula for calculating how big of a heater you need is the volume of your tent (LxWxH) x 4. A better insulated space might have a multiplier of 3, or even 2. If you camp in a nice 10×10 Eureka tent, tall enough to stand up in–you will probably need at least a 3000-4000btu heater.
d)  Camp Chef Sport Utility DJ-60LW Sport Stove: two 30,000 BTU/hr low-pressure cast burners, 14.75 inches by 7.5 inches by 28.25 inches, 364 sq. inch cooking surface.

Preview of my propane appliances
(see full  discussion in Warehouse/Equipment/My propane appliances. doc)

1 lb Propane bottles – how long can they be stored? (Answers from the Internet)
 •  The propane can never go bad, only the container. Keep them rust free . I’m using a bottle from 1994 in my shop today. All I originally did was wipe it with vaseline and kept the cap on.
•  ‘I had one that was over twenty years old. Worked just fine.’
•  I’ve been able to find half a dozen credible references for using Vaseline on tank fittings from Propane tanks but none against. Propane and Petroleum will not react with each other.


D.  Read me first: The thoughts and process of refilling disposable 1 lb propane cylinders
At normal atmospheric pressure and temperature, propane is a gas. It’s heavier than air, so it will tend to settle and collect in low spots. That’s what creates the explosion risk when there is a propane leak, and that’s why propane storage locations must be designed to vent outside and not allowed to vent indoors. This is absolutely crucial. Don’t cut corners here.

The propane we purchase is “Liquefied Propane Gas” (LPG), which has been compressed into a liquid and is stored in cylinders designed to keep the propane compressed. The propane is always under pressure, and will tend to escape if you let it. So, the integrity of your storage cylinder is another extremely important safety factor. Don’t skimp. I don’t know what the lifespan of a refilled “disposable” cylinder is, but if it leaks or is visibly damaged, it’s time to get rid of it.

Myth: Larger propane cylinders generate more pressure than small tanks. This is false, they all generate the same pressure, which is dependent on temperature. Lower ambient temperatures produce lower internal cylinder pressures. Higher temperatures produce higher pressures. That’s why one of the guidelines for refilling disposable propane cylinders is not to do it in direct sunlight or on hot days; you could be dealing with very high pressures indeed under those circumstances.

See, what happens inside the cylinder is that the liquid gas vaporizes just until the pressure is sufficient to prevent additional vaporization, which depends on the temperature.

Pressure keeps the propane a liquid. And the vaporized propane gas exerts pressure. So just enough of the liquid vaporizes to maintain the pressure inside the cylinder to prevent any more of the liquid propane from vaporizing.
Now, you come long, open the valve, light your grill, and thereby release some of the pressure inside the cylinder. Propane abhors a vacuum, so the liquid starts vaporizing again to “fill the vacuum” left behind due to your cooking.

So here’s an interesting feature of propane systems: As long as some liquid propane remains in the tank to vaporize, whether it’s 90% full or 10% full, the pressure inside the cylinder remains constant. That’s why you can cook just as well with a nearly empty tank as with a full tank.

OK, back to the subject at hand: refilling disposable propane cylinders. The goal is to move LIQUID propane into the empty cylinder. It does no good to move GAS into the cylinder. The heavier liquid sits at the bottom of a cylinder, and the lighter gas sits at the top-keep this in mind as you continue reading.


D.  Refilling A Disposable Propane Tank from a Standard 20 lb Cylinder

Step 1: Safety First & Disclaimer
The 16-ounce disposable propane cylinders are such a convenient size for camping that sometimes there isn’t any other alternatives, it’s a shame that even the major suppliers such as Coleman don’t provide refilling recommendations. The reason you don’t hear much about it, though, is that these cylinders are not DOT-approved for refilling. This means that you can’t take your cylinders to the local propane-equipped service station and have them refilled, refilled cylinders can’t be sold commercially and commercial operators can’t transport refilled cylinders across state lines.
Disclaimer : Whenever there is propane there is risk. If you decide to refill your propane tanks yourself, you have to understand that you do it at your own risk.

Step 2: What you will need
First thing, though, you need to purchase one of these refill adapters from Mr. Heater or one of their distributors. Cabela’s sells a similar item called the Mac Coupler, it’s worthwhile to read the negative reviews on their site.
The negative reviews, which are by far the minority, describe some of the difficulties people experience using this adapter. This can be helpful, because there are a few tricks to refilling these cylinders. To obtain the best results, it helps to understand a little bit about how propane works.

Step 3: Gather your empty, disposable 1 lb. cylinders
I collect empty cylinders from the campgrounds I visit. Most of the people throw them away in the recycling basket I collect them. I also collect the plastic caps because I always store my cylinder with them to protect the tread and the Shreader valve. Use bottles that don’t have dents or rust.

Step 4: Chill Empty Cylinder
You need to create a pressure differential between the supply cylinder and the cylinder being refilled. There are two ways to do this: The official way is to chill the empty cylinder. Remember how propane pressure depends on the ambient temperature? If you can keep the supply tank at room temperature and chill the empty cylinder in the fridge for 30-60 minutes, you can create some temperature differential, and therefore some pressure differential.
But even so, many users report that they only get about a half-full cylinder this way. It may take some experimenting to get it to work optimally. Chill the empties longer? Freeze them? I’m not really sure.

Step 5: Warm the 20 lb. Cylinder
Put your BBQ cylinder in warm water (not hot) for about 1/2 hour. This operation increase the pressure in the giver tank. If your bottle is under the sun a warm and sunny day, just skip this step.

Step 6: Weight the empty 1 lb. cylinders
Weight the empty cylinders. My results after weighing about 24 tanks:
Type #1- With plastic Base (Coleman Type) average empty weight : 384 g. This mean a 100% full tank will weight 849 g (384 g tare weight + 465 g of propane)
Type #2- With metal Base Average empty weight : 417 g. This mean a 100% full tank will weight 882 g (417g tare weight + 465 g of propane)

Step 7: The refill process
To do the refill process, follow the sequence:
#1  Plug and screw the refill adapter onto the 20 lb tank FIRST.
#2  Then, screw the empty 1 lb cylinder onto the adapter.
#3  Flip the tanks over, so they’re upside down, as shown in the picture. In this way the vapor pressure in the 20 lb tank is forcing liquid out of the 20 lb. cylinder into the empty 1 lb cylinder.
#4  Open the valve on the 20 lb tank. The instructions say to leave it open for 1 minute, but you will hear the flow of propane stop after 30-40 seconds. When the sound of the flow stops no more gas is being transferred, close the valve on the 20 lb cylinder.
#5  Turn the tanks back into their normal upright position.

Step 8: Weight the refilled 1 lb cylinder to check fill results
For example after filling a  Coleman type tank, its final weight is found to be 797 grams total weight. Then  797 g total weight – 384 g empty = 413 g propane weight 413 g propane in cylinder / 465 g empty cylinder = .888 or 89% full cylinder.

Step 9: Check for leaks and store refilled cylinders
Once you’ve refilled a cylinder, place some soapy water on both valves (the pressure relief valve and the regular valve you connect to your appliance) and check for bubbles/leaks. I’ve never had a leak, but it’s best not to take a chance. I store my refilled cylinders outside  to be safe. Protect the valve threads with a plastic cap.


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