So, if storing gasoline is tricky because of explosive vapors and a short shelf-life, what other sorts of fuels can be stored for emergency usage? Today we’ll look at another option…
You may already be storing propane gas! If you have a gas barbecue grill, you likely have a propane tank just waiting to fuel your emergency cooking (or heating). Propane is widely used in “off-grid” areas as an alternative to natural gas and electricity, and it is also a good choice for emergency fuel storage.
There are four main benefits to using propane:
1. Propane can be used for a whole lot of different things. Propane of course fuels some barbecues, but it can also be used in portable stoves, and portable heaters. Some engines, torches, residential central heating, fireplaces, and generators can run on propane.
2. Propane is widely available and easy to use.
3. Indefinite storage potential.
4. Propane is convenient and easy to use. Usually you just hook it up to whatever you’re fueling. It is also considered to be very reliable.
(Propane is also the fuel used in hot air balloons! If you want an additional emergency evacuation option, you could consider adding a hot air balloon to your preparations if you’re already storing propane. Might as well, right? I’m only kidding, of course, but this is my favorite fun fact about propane.)
There are also a few drawbacks to storing propane:
1. Propane gas is toxic.
2. Propane is also heavier than air, so if there is a leak, the gas will sink in a room, and may spread and reach a pilot light somewhere, which would cause an explosion.
3. Propane is not the lightest-weight fuel; it may not be your best choice if you’re going camping without a car.
Propane is usually sold outside at places like home improvement stores; you can also have it delivered if you’re getting a lot. Depending on where you live, you can either buy small steel cylinders (the 20lb size is most common, I think), or you may be able to get a very large tank (which you rent and have refilled). Here in Utah, propane sells for a little over $3/gallon.
Always check the valves on cylinders that you exchange; the places that refill them often don’t close the valve all the way. If it is open, you could have all of your fuel gradually evaporate, without you even realizing it. Obviously, this also creates a risk of explosion.
If you decide to store propane, get an oxygen depletion sensor, and use it when you use propane inside (for heating). Store propane outside, away from the house, and not in direct sunlight. Do not smoke anywhere near stored propane, and do not store propane anywhere that may have a risk of sparks.
Propane is the second fuel we’ve decided to store at our house, primarily because it is so widely available, easy to use, and because it will last. There are several other options, though, and we’ll keep going through them.