Dealing with Utilities (Propane)

Filling Your Portable Propane Tanks

These tanks are just like the tanks you use for BBQs.  You will typically be refilling your own tanks.  There’s a propane kit called “Extend-a-Stay” which allows you to swap propane tanks when they are empty without needing to move the RV.  You can find locations to swap your propane tank at participating grocery stores, hardware stores, Walmart, or UHaul. Or you can have them refilled at participating gas stations and large propane distributors.

Here’s an illustration of an “Extend-a-Stay” installed on an RV and a link explaining how to install it.

Some Important Words About Propane Safety

When transporting these tanks in your car, don’t be a dumb hippie like this guy below in Coachella!

PLEASE Use a seatbelt and/or a crate and rope to secure your tanks for transport.

As the cycles between venting gets shorter you are in imminent danger of an explosion. That’s what happened here at 1:58.

Please watch this safety video, it has more tips than what is above.

Please read these VERY important safety tips.

  • No more than 2 spare tanks should be stored within 25’ of the RV. The largest size you will probably want is 7 gallon tanks. They will weigh about 50-60 lbs.
  • Portable and RV tanks must be DOT-approved or otherwise meet current state law.
  • Tanks must ALWAYS be secured in your vehicle during transport.
  • Never fill a tank more than 80% to allow for temperature expansion.

Getting Propane Delivered

On-site delivery service typically is only available for very large tanks.  If you are willing to get a permit and invest in the larger tanks, the suppliers can guide you through the process to get that set-up.  Unless you live in a place like Alaska, this is probably a waste of effort and money for a temporary arrangement.  You cannot use natural gas in your RV, in case you were wondering.

WARNING: This is a rare rant by the website editor.  I lost my home to a fire due to lack of safety involving gas.  YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

There is an unsavory underbelly to the propane industry and it may be the consumers fault, as much as it is the vendor.  All propane vendors typically have low ratings on Yelp which is indicative of a systemic problem.

If you are one of those people that just wants anything at the cheapest price, then swap your own tanks yourself and leave the delivery companies alone.  It is “price oriented” behavior that is damaging the propane industry and the safety of our community.

Due to price competition, there may be deferred maintenance issues. This is a two way street, if you focus on price instead of safety, you will pay in one way or the other. Hopefully, not in the loss of your home or anyone else’s.

When the propane delivery company provides the tank for lease, be sure your contract includes leaks, faulty or aging equipment for as long as their tank is on your property and with an active lease.  A lease fee should be inclusive of all maintenance and repairs on their equipment.

If you take over a home with an existing tank, have that company provide you with a complete inspection of their equipment (see the decal on the tank for who owns it). They own the equipment.  It is their responsibility to ensure safe and proper working order, period.

For safety, ask about the training of their delivery employees and also if you are getting a new tank, be sure to ask for a fiberglass bonnet. The newer tanks have this important safety feature, so the cap melts rather than allowing the tank to vent back onto itself, if it catches on fire.

The consumer can make their propane tank safer by keeping combustible material away from the tank by a MINIMUM of 10 feet (more is better) and keeping your tank full in the summer to no more than 80% (a full tank is a cooler tank).

Typically, for a better quality service and price, it is best to use a non-franchised vendor because they don’t have to give up a percentage of their income for a national brand and it isn’t  clear any benefit exists to do so.  With this logic, it is my hope that locals MIGHT have more budget to train employees and maintain their equipment.

Gas fires occur more frequently than you may realize.  When it comes to the safety of your home, this topic is truly worth investing your time to prevent a catastrophic loss.