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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…

Propane!

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.

7 Responses to “Storing Propane for an Emergency”

  1. Greg

    Good post on propane. I have been storing it in the house and now i will store it outside the house like your article suggests. Thanks!

  2. tom

    I have found those “turn a tank in, take a full one”, sometimes don’t have a full tank of propane. Where does it say on them exactly how much they do put in? I have a 20lb, and a 30lb, which I take to whoever is cheapest and just have them do it. Then I know for sure what I’m getting. The stores that have the cage are good if the date on yours is expired and you want to get rid of it, as some places actually check that date and will refuse to fill an expired one. they explained to me, that they have a company that pressure tests them, and if they pass, are restamped with a new date. Remember if you want someday to hook a big tank to something you have that uses small throwaways, you will need a hose with an adapter.

  3. Esther

    I have a bbq in the garage and it has a propane tank attached. Is it ok to store it there, or do I need a better place like a shed outside. That would mean I would have to buy one.

    • Emily

      Esther, if it is just one propane tank I wouldn’t worry about buying a shed for it. That is a small enough quantity that it is still relatively safe.

  4. Ian Law

    I am buying 40 & 100 lbs tanks for storage I can heat and cook with it, I’m in PA and a 40lb tank costs $79.00 and the 100lb tank is $129.00 not including the gas

  5. graymare

    Propane wieghs aprox 4 lb to the gallon the sizes are 5 7 and 25 gallon on bottles. the Tare Weight (TW) stamped on the bottle is the empty wieght of the cylender so if your 5 gallon bottle has a TW of 18 lbs empty then a full bottle will wiegh 38 lb. Hope that helps you determine how full your bottles are. Personaly my home heating and stove run on propane so I have a 500 gallon tank that I fill once a year.

  6. randy seely

    I am a rancher wanting to store propane in a inclosed pickup bed , can i use a natural gas cylinder for this purpose. this vehicle runs on propane.