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Old 02-17-2015, 04:25 PM   #1
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Propane storage and use?

Hey guys,

I'm in the planning stages and one of the big hurdles to overcome is planning the underbus storage. I need to plan out where I'll be keeping the potable and gray water tanks (no black), the generator, batteries, auxiliary diesel tanks if I decide to use diesel powered accessories, and of course propane tanks.

Now looking online the largest propane tanks I can find designed for RV use are 11.2 gallons which comes out to about 47 pounds of propane if completely filled but nobody really completely fills tanks, so if I'm lucky I'd get a 40 pound fill into one of these tanks...

Now I know a lot of homes have 420lb tanks but I can't find anything even close to that size for RVs. I plan to run most of the conversion from LP on the road, the heat, stove, washer/drier, refrigerator, and possibly the generator. The heat will be provided with radiant heating through the floor of the bus and there will be plenty of insulation but it gets quite cold up here. I'm talking -15 some nights and it sometimes goes a month without getting above freezing during the day. I haven't decided on a tanked or tankless hot water heater to power the radiant floor.

I know during the summer where the A/C probably won't get used that much and the weather is pretty temperate I won't consume much propane but I plan to full time for a few years and take some ski trips for two or three weeks at a time during the winter.

I'm trying to figure out how much propane will get used per day and if I can get larger tanks? I'm planning to tow a trailer with the bus so maybe I could put larger tanks on the trailer?
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Old 02-17-2015, 11:01 PM   #2
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If you are going to be using RV appliances, then you will be using more LP than with residential. I don't have RV appliances.

Takes 3+ months to use a 20LB tank for the range.
Takes 3 months to use a 20 lb tank for the dryer.
The fireplace will eat a 20 lb tank anywhere from 5 days to 4 weeks. The fireplace is my heaviest propane use appliance. I only use it once temps get too low for the electric heat to be effective or if I want to heat the place up real fast.

I have a total of 6 (20lb) tanks. Given that I usually get my tanks filled to 4.7 gallons, that is 28 gallons. I get the smaller tanks filled as needed. It's easier on my pocket that way.
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Old 02-18-2015, 09:30 AM   #3
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Using and filling them silly little 20 and 40 pound tanks is the highest cost way to buy propane.

Here in Canada, we get what we call bulk heating propane. No road tax, right now at 0.30 a liter, $1.14 a gallon. Last year at this time it was $0.89 a liter.

All you need is a 80 gallon tank off a propane school bus, or the back of a pickup truck. Call around, find out if they will come out and fill you up for 80 gallons. If not, find out where you can go to have it filled. Emphasize that it's only heating fuel, not for your engine so you don't pay road tax.

They may not want to help you as we get min 500 gallons every time they come out.

Things in your geographic region may be different. Call a bulk propane place and ask questions.

I will still be adding a spot for 2 of the 40 pound tanks as a back up.

I will have 2 of the 80 gallons under my bus when done. The combined weight of 160 gallons of propane and the two tanks will be around 1200 pounds.

Hope this helps save you a few $$.

Nat
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Old 02-18-2015, 12:21 PM   #4
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propane is $2 a gallon here, as of yesterday. for the truck to come fill ya up, its a 100 gallon minimum and no guaranty of when he will show.

its easier to go to tractor supply and get small tanks filled. after next month, i will only need one tank till next winter. unless i boil crawfish, but i relate that to home, not bus.
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Old 02-20-2015, 09:54 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lornaschinske View Post
If you are going to be using RV appliances, then you will be using more LP than with residential. I don't have RV appliances.

Takes 3+ months to use a 20LB tank for the range.
Takes 3 months to use a 20 lb tank for the dryer.
The fireplace will eat a 20 lb tank anywhere from 5 days to 4 weeks. The fireplace is my heaviest propane use appliance. I only use it once temps get too low for the electric heat to be effective or if I want to heat the place up real fast.

I have a total of 6 (20lb) tanks. Given that I usually get my tanks filled to 4.7 gallons, that is 28 gallons. I get the smaller tanks filled as needed. It's easier on my pocket that way.
Good to know, I plan to do a lot of boondocking so unfortunately I think most appliances will be RV type that can run off of LP instead of electricity.

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Originally Posted by nat_ster View Post
Using and filling them silly little 20 and 40 pound tanks is the highest cost way to buy propane.

Here in Canada, we get what we call bulk heating propane. No road tax, right now at 0.30 a liter, $1.14 a gallon. Last year at this time it was $0.89 a liter.

All you need is a 80 gallon tank off a propane school bus, or the back of a pickup truck. Call around, find out if they will come out and fill you up for 80 gallons. If not, find out where you can go to have it filled. Emphasize that it's only heating fuel, not for your engine so you don't pay road tax.

They may not want to help you as we get min 500 gallons every time they come out.

Things in your geographic region may be different. Call a bulk propane place and ask questions.

I will still be adding a spot for 2 of the 40 pound tanks as a back up.

I will have 2 of the 80 gallons under my bus when done. The combined weight of 160 gallons of propane and the two tanks will be around 1200 pounds.

Hope this helps save you a few $$.

Nat
Thanks Nat, that's a lot of weight but I wouldn't mind having one of those tanks, where did you find the tanks if I may ask?

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Originally Posted by claydbal View Post
propane is $2 a gallon here, as of yesterday. for the truck to come fill ya up, its a 100 gallon minimum and no guaranty of when he will show.

its easier to go to tractor supply and get small tanks filled. after next month, i will only need one tank till next winter. unless i boil crawfish, but i relate that to home, not bus.
Refilling a bunch of small tanks seems like a waste of time if I can find larger tanks but that's just my $0.02
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Old 02-21-2015, 05:30 AM   #6
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I'd rather have the smaller tanks myself.
I use them for lots of different things and wouldn't want to be limited to a one giant, mounted tank. Different strokes for different folks.
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Old 02-21-2015, 08:55 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I'd rather have the smaller tanks myself.
I use them for lots of different things and wouldn't want to be limited to a one giant, mounted tank. Different strokes for different folks.
If you have one bulk tank you can use it to at least mostly fill smaller tanks yourself. In the same manner, I've heard of folks filling the small green propane tanks that are used for camping off of 20lb tanks.

"And that's how you pass gas"

When I can find a giant tank for a reasonable price I'm going to snatch it up. For those people who plan to incorporate propane into there daily lives (and have the land space) it makes the most economical sense. You get the best price and trucks will deliver it. We're building a farm so will have plenty of use for the propane in the future. We'll eventually be getting a big propane fridge. That'll consume a good chunk of the propane, I'm sure.

In the mean time, I installed a 20lb tank under the bus. I needed something "now" so we could get moving and had the mounts for a 20lb tank. Propane tank mounts. The mounts work great, by the way. I have the tank mounted vertically under the bus and it hasn't slipped in the slightest. Only the stove is propane, so the 20lber should do us well on this trip.
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:10 AM   #8
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I get the best deal by bringing my small tanks to a local business I deal with. They have the AmeriGas truck come by weekly. They charge me what they pay for the propane and I get my tanks and go home.
I couldn't do that with a giant, mounted tank.
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:30 AM   #9
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Thanks Nat, that's a lot of weight but I wouldn't mind having one of those tanks, where did you find the tanks if I may ask.
I got mine from a auto wrecker.

Check with you local rules on what tanks need for certification before they will fill them. Old tanks may need to be recertified before they will fill them.

Also many of the older buses were propane. You may be able to get a tank from a bus. They are twice as long as the pickup truck versions I'm using.

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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I'd rather have the smaller tanks myself.
I use them for lots of different things and wouldn't want to be limited to a one giant, mounted tank. Different strokes for different folks.

A 20 pound propane tank here cost $23 to fill.

The same amount of propane filled in a bulk tank cost $5.40.

I like small tanks too for small portable things, and as a backup.

However, small tanks are not cost practical when it comes to running a Furnace, Generator, ect, long term use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
I get the best deal by bringing my small tanks to a local business I deal with. They have the AmeriGas truck come by weekly. They charge me what they pay for the propane and I get my tanks and go home.
I couldn't do that with a giant, mounted tank.

That's not going to work anywhere else. I would still mount a bigger tank to keep the options open.

I like options, that's why I have both.

Nat
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:35 PM   #10
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A word of warning... In the past, LP delivery trucks would drive thru the RV parks and folks could get refilled by the truck (either the 40LB permanent mounted tank or the 20LB BBQ tank). THAT HAS CHANGED. Due to US regulations changing in many states, you can no longer get refilled in the parks. I forget exactly when it changed. I do remember that we got tanks refilled in the park while we were living in TX. We left TX in 2010. So it was after that. But not recently. There are many regulations on transporting LP tanks and they are getting stricter. We used to have a 100# tank but since we couldn't transport it standing up (can't lay a vertical tank down anymore) we left it attached to my parent's cabin as the old one was very old and the one we had was only two years old when we left it. Last I knew, once a permanent mount tank is mounted into an RV, it no longer was required to be inspected. I suspect that the states that this is the case in, will rethink that decision as states have a nasty habit of "monkey see, monkey do". I know TN used to be very lax about Lp tankage and by the time we left in 2005, they were getting stricter and passing more laws regarding LP.

In my current (as well as in the previous location) a 20LB tank (actually a "cylinder") and a 100LB tank cost the same amount per gallon to fill (as of 1/3/15 it was $3.399/gal). The company that I have filling my little tanks will set a smallish horizontal 250 gallon "pig" in my current RV park. I have not bothered to look into it. If you are fulltiming/long terming thru the winter, it may be worth it for the fuel hog RV furnaces. I've looked at the price scale of the outfit who fills my tank (both outfits since I've been in NM). Unless you are getting one of the monster tanks like what we had when we had a house, there isn't much of a price break until you are at the 500 gallon tank size. FYI: a permanent RV tank is 40LB and when filled correctly only holds 9.8 gallons. We only filled the permanent tank on the Class C twice. We put a homemade "extend-a-stay" on it while living in a small town in GA. No one would fill an LP tank (I don't know why, idiots and/or lazy I guess) so we ended up doing nothing but tank swaps. I have learned that there is more than one town where this might occur. As for filling the Class C's big tank... Once was on our way out of the park we first stayed at in NM. That was the first time we filled the tank since buying the Class C. Second time was in TX at the mobile home park we stayed in for 5 months. So we've done both. When David & I were discussing the LP system, we opted to go with 20# tanks. Based on usage and the number of hard to get into propane fill stations that we have seen, it was a solution that suited us. Unlike what some folks think, it's not a right or wrong decision. It's a decision that suited us and our wants and needs. If I wanted to be like the rest of the sheeple, we would have simply bought a manufactured RV, not converted a school bus. Like I've said before, I have 6 20# LP tanks. That means I have more than the equivalent of a 100# tank. When I buy a piece of land to park on, I will buy a 500 gallon tank (I prefer to own my own as it lets me shop around for prices). Until then, I will stick with the method that was decided upon.

When you set up your LP system, realize that LP grills and some of the small LP heaters have regulators built into them. You do not want to "double regulate" them (talk to a knowledgeable Propane dealer/technician). You will need to add up the BTU's of all the burners the regulator will feed in order to get the right sized regulator as well. If you run hoses, make sure they are rated for HIGH PRESSURE GAS. "LP" on a hose does not mean liquid propane, it means low pressure (Natural Gas - NG). You can buy LP/NG hoses. They aren't cheap but they do seem to last longer. At least the ones we bought seem to. Your hoses from the black iron pipe to the appliance needs to be flexible. Installing gas shut off valves that are accessible from the exterior is a good idea for EACH appliance.

Do your own research and then make your own decisions. What works for one does not mean it will work for everyone else. Like electricity, LP needs to be respected for the danger it presents. Take the time to learn about LP. http://www.propane101.com/index.htm

And a horizontal "Forklift" tank is not something you should be buying. If you want a horizontal tank, then buy one that is made for running LP VAPOUR appliances, not forklifts which use LIQUID propane.
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Old 03-06-2015, 09:49 AM   #11
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Lorna, what kind of mounting system are you using for your 20# tanks? I'm having a heck of a time finding something for use under a bus!
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Old 03-06-2015, 11:17 AM   #12
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Good to know, I plan to do a lot of boondocking so unfortunately I think most appliances will be RV type that can run off of LP instead of electricity.
I think Lorna means to say that propane-fueled residential appliances are more efficient with the gas than propane-fueled RV appliances are. I don't think she was recommending electric-fueled appliances.
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Old 03-06-2015, 11:31 AM   #13
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Lorna, what kind of mounting system are you using for your 20# tanks? I'm having a heck of a time finding something for use under a bus!
I'm going to have to make my own. I cannot find anything ready made that will fit under the bus. I have found that I can tuck the collars of the 20# tanks between the ribs if the metal floor so I can squeeze them up a bit (but can I get them out again without dropping the rack). They will be located at the far end side of the bus on the door side. That doesn't really make sense? Behind the rear wheels, I have 10 ft. On the entrance door side of the bus in that 10 ft space is where I will put the tanks. My idea is was to take my Hitchhaul that I drag around, off the Jeep and pull the framed basket off the receiver bar for the tanks to sit on. Das Mel objected to that use and we swapped Hitchhauls since mine is much heavier than hers. So now I will tear her Hitchhaul apart. I may have to cut the little metal frame to widen/lengthen it (or toss it completely and keep the expanded metal as a floor) so I can stack all the tanks on it. I have discovered "SuperStrut" metal framing channels in the electrical section at work. I think the thinner SuperStruts & 3/8" threaded rods will work for the LP tanks (10 ft space, 10 ft struts) plus another thing that I have been told I don't have. I will use a tank hold down (buy or make my own) to hold them in place. The plan is (and has been) to put 5 of the tanks (one is a backup while I pull the others to be filled) on a manifold that is connected to my two stage regulator which will be connected to an iron pipe that will run the length of the bus up to the front where it will tie into the fireplace and the range . The LP generator, wall mounted Tag-a-long heater and the gas grill all need unregulated LP so they get their own tanks. So in the same 10 ft space on the hookup side (drivers side) from the wheels back, I will have the LP RV water heater for the hydronic heater that I haven't put together yet (and won't until I get stopped after the trip east), the two 20# tanks on an auto change over (need to buy one more tank as I only have 6 tanks) and the LP generator (not bought yet). I have to relocate a few things in doing this. I have a huge hole that the engine exhaust used to go thru in the bumper. The generator exhaust can go thru that. The tanks on the generator side (and the generator) will also be held up with the super struts. LP tanks will be tied down to the SuperStruts as well. For the time being, I will probably only use framed expanded metal for the doors for the whole mess. No time to make better doors. I still have to build two holding tanks (again, held up with SuperStruts but probably the thicker ones) and add a starter battery box under the drivers seat side. I have a little access panel there but nothing to sit the battery box on but air. I'll hang it under there some how.

That's my idea. Hope it gives you some ideas you can work with. I've bounced it around for a while now and that is what I have come up with. I've been running each appliance (Fireplace, range, dryer, tag-a-long, gas grill) on it's own tank to see how long it takes to empty a tank. The fireplace is the hog. If I don't run it all the time, I can get 1 month out of a tank. If its freezing, single digit cold for days on end, it eats a tank in 5-6 days. So once I get to the Gulf coast, the fireplace won't be used as much as it is now, in snowy, icy, single digit below freezing NM.
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Old 03-06-2015, 12:26 PM   #14
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I think Lorna means to say that propane-fueled residential appliances are more efficient with the gas than propane-fueled RV appliances are. I don't think she was recommending electric-fueled appliances.
RV appliances do not have to meet Energy Star standards. Residential appliances DO have to meet Energy Star standards. I prefer gas for cooking and heating. But we evaluated the way we used things. That AC/LP gas water heater that we spent the extra money on was never used on the gas side except to make sure it worked. So we decided to go electric for the water heater in the bus. LP RV refrigerators are fires waiting to happen. And the electric side is very inefficient. I have two undercounter sized units (one stacked on top of the other) so I can have one that is kept very cold and the other that isn't so cold. That way I can have almost freezing drinks while my lettuce is NOT frozen. Plus I could get more refrigerator space that way. Two shorts stack easier than trying to tip up a taller refrigerator. I have an electric freezer. I have both electric heat (two space heaters) and LP (fireplace and wall mounted tag-a-long) for when the electric isn't enough or the power goes out. We evaluated the appliances, what we wanted out of them and the costs. We have a mix of electric and LP.

If you are boondocking then you will be better off using LP over AC. But you really need to evaluate EACH appliance. Check out an LP calculator to see what things cost LP vs AC. Take into account your power supply.

For us it wasn't that difficult. We've been fulltiming since 2006 (our 2nd time fulltiming). Prior to that we fulltimed, long timed (1-3 months), & weekended in a popup. Prior to that we tent camped. We knew what we needed and what we wanted. I will install a 5000 running watts LP generator. It will run the water heater if needed. I only stay without hookups in parking lots. I don't "boondock". Did that enough in a tent. I don't care to any more. The Compass Rose is a custom conversion at a very personal level. It is what suit us, our wants and our needs. You need to be doing the same and suit your own wants and needs. Read what others did, ask them why they did it that way for clarification. Then do your research to find what will work best for you. Just because I did some things the way I did, does not mean that way will work for everyone.

I figure Das Mel is pretty lucky. She has lived in a sticks-&-staples RV, next she will be living in the Compass Rose with me for a year or so. And if she survives that, she will either get a bus to remodel or do a full conversion. By the time she has her own bus, she will know exactly what she wants and needs.
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