Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...
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  1. #1
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    Nov 2010
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    Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    I've been considering switching to oxypropane on my truck's torches, and keeping acetylene in the shop only. Along those lines, one thing I've been thinking about is filling 20 lb propane tanks from a bulk tank. At one time we had a 500 gal bulk tank, but it was owned by the propane company and when I put in a wood stove we weren't using it enough to justify keeping it here.

    Our house already uses LP for the stove and we'll soon be replacing our electric tank water heater with an LP-fired on-demand water heater. Currently, the house is plumbed to a pair of 100-lb cylinders which are owned by the gas company, but I'm thinking of buying our own bulk tank, filling it maybe every couple of years when it needs it, and also using it as a filling point for small bottles for torch and BBQ use. This would be for my own personal use, not the public's.

    I know this can be done, and is being done, safely. I know some people gravity fill and some use a pump of some sort. I also know the tanks must be filled from the liquid part of the bulk tank.

    What I'm asking is for opinions on the idea itself, and relevant real-world experience. Whether you think my specific situation would benefit from all of this trouble or not, I would hope that this thread would get some good information out on the table, from how to wisely buy a used or new bulk tank, to tank maintenance, to potential safety issues, to correct filling procedures.

    I didn't put this in the safety forum because I'm looking for more than just safety info, and also frankly because that is a less-traveled forum. Knowing this is a public discussion on a potentially dangerous subject, I would like a healthy empasis on safety to be maintained. But please, unless the sky really is about to fall, let's not run around being Chicken Little.
    Applied Fabrications, LLC

    Mobile Welding / Mechanical Repair in VA's Piedmont & Shenandoah Valley

  2. #2
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    We have a 500 gallon tank with a wet line, use it to fill the tractor as well as a couple of small tanks for burners etc. Its a pretty simple straight forward process. Saves a lot of money and time.
    Make sure you ALWAYS keep a good pare of insulated gloves handy, wear them when you are connecting and disconnecting bottles. Frostbite should NOT be part of a well planned workday.

  3. #3
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    I don't know about the prices on new tanks, but you should be able to get a used tank reasonably cheap. You may have to get some sort of pressure test done to put it into service. Around here, they'll fill anything that's still under pressure. If you let it get totally empty they require a pressure test. I'm not sure if they're doing a hydro. I've never needed a test, but from what I understand the guy on the truck performs it. So I'm guessing it's not a hydro, probably just a leak test.

    A lot of the residential tanks I've seen also have a place for a wet valve. If there is a plugged opening on the tank, it may be have a dip tube on it. If not you can probably get a reducer that fits the hole, then weld a dip tube to the underside of the reducer. Screw the dip tube/reducer into the tank, screw a valve into the reducer and you're in business.

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  4. #4
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...



    The tank valve and hose I ordered from McMaster. The new style bottle connector I got from Lowes. It had a ball check valve to prevent flow from going into the tank, but a little application of a drill bit removed this. I use a ball valve to preserve the liquid in the hose when refilling multiple tanks. I release the pressure on the hose when I'm done for the day.

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  5. #5
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    Normally they use the pol (lh inside threads) which are still on the new style valves for filling. the plastic handle is ment to break or melt, incase of accident or fire. In normal use that would shut off the propane. In this case since the check valve has been defeated, you could have a torch on your hands!!
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  6. #6
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    I'm venting propane vapor to get the bbq tank pressure lower than the bulk tank pressure. The plastic knob is the least of my worries. The plastic knob requires no tools to do a refill.
    Last edited by AndyA; 01-23-2011 at 08:48 PM.

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  7. #7
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    My buddy used to do this. I believe his fill hose came from the bottom of the 500 gal tank. Get the 20 lb tank cold so it drops the pressure. Fill with liquid and open a screw??? in the valve to release vapor until liquid comes out. Then I think he drained some to allow for expansion.

    NOTE/CAUTION - I am going by memory from a while back. PLEASE confirm this info before trying it. If someone here finds anything wrong with this, please correct it.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stick-man View Post
    My buddy used to do this. I believe his fill hose came from the bottom of the 500 gal tank. Get the 20 lb tank cold so it drops the pressure. Fill with liquid and open a screw??? in the valve to release vapor until liquid comes out. Then I think he drained some to allow for expansion.

    NOTE/CAUTION - I am going by memory from a while back. PLEASE confirm this info before trying it. If someone here finds anything wrong with this, please correct it.
    Before OPD the regular small tanks had a short dip tube tied into that vent screw. When a mist came out of the vent you were at the 80ish% fill mark and your cue to stop filling.

    Can't say about the OPD's tho. Haven't taken one of those out. I imagine they are the same.
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  9. #9
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    Feb 2008
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    What ya may want to do, is talk to your local propane dealer. We have a 1000 gallon tank, that we run the house on. We have a pump that we use to fill our 20, 30, 50 pound tanks. What we do, is screw the nozzle into the tank being filled.. Then turn the valve on the pump and it pumps. We use a scale to check the tank, not the most accurate, but it works. The pump is "leased" from our propane supplier. This may be a route you may want to take, specially if you are filling alot of tanks.

  10. #10
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    At a fab shop where I used to work, the local supplier would also fill our forklift tanks. We seemed to have a lot more fill valves going bad and leaking after we started having these tanks filled by truck instead of taking them into the store. And yes, the leakage was coming from the fill valves themselves. What could've caused this? Do you all ever have any problems with this?

    I've also seen online where some people are recommeding replacing bulk tank regs every 12 years, and some other part every 15 (a vent valve, maybe?). Besides keeping your tank painted, what other maintenance do you do?

    Any tips for buying used bulk tanks? There are a few 500's around here in the $300-$700 range. They're on CL, so who knows what their story is. How can you be sure you're buying a privately owned tank? How do you know it hasn't been condemned?
    Applied Fabrications, LLC

    Mobile Welding / Mechanical Repair in VA's Piedmont & Shenandoah Valley

  11. #11
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    tbone, the town we live in runs on propane, so everybody round here has their own 500/1000 gallon tank. but for some reason, im the only one in town that rfills my own bottles. ive done it for years now with no problem. as for you using lp instead of acet. that ive done for years now also. no problems whatsoever.it is kind of odd to watch my neighbors go to the next town about 8miles away to the gas station and exchange the bbq bottles for $30 when the bbq bottle only holds 4 gallons anyway, going by that rate cost round here wld be $6.60 before tax. i guess some people just dont get it, or dont want to smell like lp.BTW iv had my best luck using smith torches for lp, you wont even be able to tell that "it takes longer to heat up", just my .02
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  12. #12
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    Back when I was ruffnecking we filled our own bottles...and quite a few drillers ran their cars/trucks off lp.On the cars the tank was mounted in the trunk..lol only 1 time to learn not to light a smoke while the driller was filling the crew car.

  13. #13

    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    I believe most bulk propane tanks have an evacuation port that uses an "actuated liquid withdrawal excess flow valve" so the tank can be emptied before moving. This is a complicated matter and you pictures show a pretty simple answer, but I can't seem to find that valve you show. Does it depress the check valve when you install it? Where can I find this valve (3/4")?

  14. #14
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    We used to fill tanks off a 500 gallon bulk tank that had a liquid dip tube installed in it by the tank company. The tank was higher on a stand. The only reason we changed to a pump was dept weights and measure laws. Otherwise it worked fine.

  15. #15
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    We used to fill our farm tractors back in the 60,70 and 80s with a bulk tank. One day we caught one of the hands with a bucket filled with hot beer. He had the propane hose and was icing it down . Propane was going everywhere. I don't know how much he had been wasting out of our big tank to freeze his beer. My father in law put a stop to that. Richey

  16. #16
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    Re: Filling your own propane tanks from a bulk tank...

    Yes but I bet the beer was nice and cold drink up

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