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Refilling 16oz propane tanks using a refill adapter
The following procedure will describe in detail, how to refill 16oz propane tanks using a refill adapter and a 20lb propane tank. I thought that I would touch on this topic, as I recall from previous comments that there were some minions that encountered problems when attempting to refill these tanks. I’ve been doing this for years without incident, and since I can’t be there to see what they’re doing wrong, the next best thing is to try and remote troubleshoot the problem.
What I suspect is happening is as follows. The newer 20lb propane tanks have a safety valve. The intention of the valve is to prevent gas from escaping from the tank when there is nothing connected to it. The problem is that these valves stick a lot. I’ve been told that you only want to transport these tanks when filled, in the upright position, otherwise the valve will stick. Sometimes the valves stick regardless, and here is what I do, and it almost always works.
Try threading the adapter in and out of the 20lb tank in varying degrees, while simultaneously opening the knob to see if gas escapes. This usually works. In some cases you might have to bang the tank on a semi-hard surface, such as the ground, or a block of wood, but this is rare. In either event, when the adapter is installed, you must have escaping gas when the knob is turned before proceeding to the next step.
The best fills result when the donor tank (the 20lb’er) is warmed up, and the recipient tank is chilled. I usually place the donor tank in the sun, or somewhere else warm, an hour or two ahead of time. About a half hour before I plan on doing the fill, I place the small 16oz tank in the freezer.
It’s important to check the donor tank just prior to the fill, to be sure that the safety valve has not stuck. I’ve had this happen just from transporting it from a cold area to warm area, and after it sat in the warmer area over a period of time.
Thread the chilled 16oz tank onto the adapter that’s been fitted into the large tank. Turn the large tank upside down and open the knob. You will hear the gas flowing. The instructions that come with the refill adapters will tell you to wait one minute, but it is not necessary to time it. When the tank is full, you will no longer hear the gas flowing. You can’t overfill it, it will stop when it is full. Now before you close the valve, I have discovered that if you shake the large tank, even more gas will flow into the small tank. I usually do this until it no longer does so.
When you are through, make sure that there is no gas leaking from the freshly filled tank. You’re supposed to use soapy water to check it, but I just put my ear up to it and can hear if there is gas leaking. If you do hear a slight hissing sound from the gas escaping, you can use a small nail to manipulate the tiny valve in the neck of the gas bottle until it stops.
I just filled one a little while ago and got a whopping 33.8oz fill. I do believe that’s my best so far, and if I recall correctly, even brand new that’s a little more than they typically weigh.
When I refill a bottle for the first time, I date it. I then mark it after each refill to keep track of it. At the end of the season I throw the bottles away and start with new bottles the following season. I have refilled these little bottles up to 30 something odd times, without any problems. After that, I just decided that I shouldn’t test my luck and threw them out. I’m told that moisture accumulates in the bottles over time, and that they can rust from the inside out. But I’m only using them over a period of about 3 or 4 months, and then throwing them out.
One 20lb propane tank gives me around 25 refills, and it costs me around $12 to fill the 20lb tank. So as you can see, the savings are definitely there.
Legal Disclaimer: After refilling these tanks you can no longer legally transport them, so they must stay on your property. I don’t know the reason for this, and can’t recall the penalty, but it’s quite steep. As in a several hundred thousand dollar fine, followed by a prison sentence of several years steep.
Also, I’m assuming that some level of common sense is applied, such as not trying to refill one of these tanks next to an open flame, etc, and so on.