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Old 09-11-2013, 04:00 PM   #15
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I too have great difficulty seeing anything meaningful in teh sight glass - but them I am somewhat red/green colour blind! I never realized that for many years until one day I took a medical and they showed me a book of those mosaic multicoloured circle patterns with numbers in them. In many, I could see no numbers at all!

Our trailer has 30# alum bottles with gauges and also with electrical connection for remote connection and we can check levels inside the trailer.

I used to rely on the gauge, then go flip the lever (even though I couldn't tell what the sight glass was trying to tell me!) then get the empty filled.

Until one day the guy filling it told me my gauges must not be accurate as the bottle was not empty but he had to charge me for a fill anyway!

So now, I generally just keep one bottle open so I can know for sure when it is empty (ie when the stove goes out!).

At times when I really don't want to run out of gas, such as when we are traveling with the fridge on and I know the bottle is getting low, I will turn on both bottles, then go back to one bottle again when we are set up at a campsite and running the fridge on 110.

Brian.
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Old 09-11-2013, 05:10 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Wingeezer View Post

I used to rely on the gauge, then go flip the lever (even though I couldn't tell what the sight glass was trying to tell me!) then get the empty filled.

Until one day the guy filling it told me my gauges must not be accurate as the bottle was not empty but he had to charge me for a fill anyway!
That's a new one on me. I always have been charged based on the weight difference or the gallons pumped. Sounds like a rip off. The way I see it, it's the same as getting a fill up on a half full car gas tank and be charged for a full tank.
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Old 09-11-2013, 05:26 PM   #17
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If you carry a scale, the most accurate is simply to weigh the cylinder. The collar on your cylinder carries a figure after the abbreviation "TW," standing for tare weight. That's the weight of the cylinder with it is complete devoid of propane. If you have so-called seven-gallon cylinders, then the full point is TW + 30. (This is so because these cylinders have a capacity of 30 pounds of propane, which is also marked cryptically on the collar after the abbreviation "WC," for water capacity. Your propane capacity in pounds is WC X .42 ...)

Fillers who follow the guidelines from the National Fire Protection Assocation (Publication 58) in the USA can't rely on gauges on cylinders because they're too inaccurate for safety.


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Old 09-11-2013, 05:59 PM   #18
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Here's a pic that might help some who are having trouble identifying the parts folks have referred to above:

The red rectangle = the switch that one flips to point toward the "service tank"...(the one being drawn from). In this picture it is pointed to the tank in the foreground which means that's the active "service tank"... the tank in the background would be the "reserve tank"...

The orange circle = the gauge that has a red ring (empty) or green ring (propane present) to indicate the state of the "service tank" (the one pointed to by the switch)...

The blue arrow = where the red/green rings are located, below the black cap that says "Do Not Remove"...

We have used this system successfully and have never run completely out of propane. One just needs to remember to check the gauge periodically.

We leave both tanks open so that when one runs out there will be seamless delivery of propane to all systems.
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Old 09-11-2013, 06:03 PM   #19
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If your indicator is showing full green then the tank you are using is not empty - if it becomes "questionably red" then it is probably empty - the test is to if flip the lever to the next tank and if you notice a clear change to a solid green then it is time to change you empty tank - if there is no change then flip it back.

What's perhaps most important here is a change in the indicator - if you check it on a regular basis you will notice a change - if you do not check it on a regular basis you have nothing to measure a change against.

The other helpful indicator is to purchase tanks with their own visual gauges that let you know the percentage of propane you have left (or not).


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Old 09-11-2013, 06:38 PM   #20
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A really simple solution to this issue:

Like most of you, we carry two bottles, both 30-pounders.

The way I see it, I only need to know when the first one goes empty. That does two things: assures me that it IS empty, so I will get my money's worth at CostCo (who have the cheapest fill-ups around here), and gives me a fair bit of time to fill the empty one up.

A couple of years ago, I bought a very simple device from our local RV place that solved those problems for me. It is a small black plastic device that you put on the valve that sits on my two tanks. It is wired with about a 25-foot cord to a small black box that takes 2-AAA cells and has only one item of note on its case: a single LED indicator.

Once installed (which took about 5 minutes), it works like this: it monitors the tanks, and when one goes empty, which triggers the switch-over to the other tank, the LED flashes.

That's it. Nothing to do immediately, but when it's convenient, refill the empty tank, and the cycle starts over. I think the device was about $40, and I consider it well worthwhile.
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Old 09-12-2013, 08:16 AM   #21
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Hi Lumatic. That is pretty common practice around here where most places fill them by weight. I have found places that fill them by volume and I look for them when I can. Yes it's a ripoff but they got you by the you-know-whats and they are driving the bus. I give them a shake when taking them off just to be sure.
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Old 09-12-2013, 09:06 AM   #22
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Allow me to jump in here with a bit of clarification. Most generally, there is a difference between filling practices (safety) and billing practices (money).

Filling Practices

The National First Protection Association bible for propane handling in the USA (NFPA 58) specifies either of two safe filling practices:

1. Fill by weight. Using the TW and WC figures stamped into the collar of the cylinder at manufacture, set the scale for the full weight and fill to that point.

2. Fill by volume. Open the small screw valve on the side of the OPD and fill until propane spews out.

Either method is a safe way of filling, but some states -- this is a state-regulated matter -- prefer one over another. Here in NM, for instance, they recommend filling by weight unless volume filling is required. (The reasoning is environmental, not safety related.)

Adding in here, note that filling by the gallon is not permitted. This is so because the notion of "gallon" is a variable one that depends on ambient pressure and temperature.

Similarly, filling a cylinder until the built-in OPD valve stops the flow is also not permitted. This is so because OPD valves are known to fail. After they are installed at manufacture, they are never inspected (for obvious reasons), and are therefore suspect as a standard filling practice.

Billing Practices

Billing has nothing to do with safety and is not addressed by NFPA 58 at all; states, villages, cities, or just fillers are free to make up their own rules. A few notes here:

1. Most charge (but not fill) by the gallon, I suspect. (That's what we do here.)

2. Others may charge by the pound if they wish.

3. Most critically for consumers is whether fillers charge a flat rate for cylinders or they just base their charges on amount of propane dispensed (either gallon or pound). Most often, your best deal is when fillers base charges on amount of propane dispensed, kind of like at a gas station.


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Old 09-12-2013, 09:49 AM   #23
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For CostCo, it's purely flat rate.
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Old 09-12-2013, 10:05 AM   #24
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I guess CostCo is one of those trade-in places for 20-pound cylinders? (Nearest CostCo in these parts is about 160 miles away ...)

I send customers with 20-pound cylinders that are out of date/damaged to one of those trade-in places. However, I also explain some provisos:

1. Trade-in places generally don't do 30-pound or larger cylinders at all.

2. The 20-pound cylinders at those places are generally not filled to 20 pounds, but rather only to 15 pounds. (Makes for mighty expensive propane.) Check the "net weight" marking on the plastic external sleeve that most of those trade-in cylinders come with.

3. Those trade-in cylinders are not different from any other 20-pound cylinder and can be refilled subsequently by any filler. In other words, you're not required to continue trading in once you get started on this route.


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For CostCo, it's purely flat rate.
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Old 09-12-2013, 10:22 AM   #25
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I guess CostCo is one of those trade-in places for 20-pound cylinders? (Nearest CostCo in these parts is about 160 miles away ...)
Yes, that's true. Although, they also don't have an exchange program for 30 lb aluminum tanks
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Old 09-12-2013, 03:31 PM   #26
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If you have older, 20 pound tanks that can't be filled because they need to be modified (OPD) or reinspected, you can exchange them for updated, full tanks at WalMart. There is no extra charge, and Blue Rhino updates the tanks for the next user as part of the refilling process.

Also, the Costco where we shop in Phoenix (north side near I-17 & Yorkshire) sells propane by the gallon; and there is no minimum charge (i.e., they charge for only how much they dispense). This Costco gets a lot of business from hot air balloons, which use a lot of propane.

This is how we check to see if our propane tanks need to be refilled:

Berkley Scale with Tape: Fishing & Marine : Walmart.com

At the beginning of each season, I weigh the tank currently in use to see how much propane remains. This scale probably isn't terribly accurate, but it's close enough to see if the tank is almost empty.
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Old 09-12-2013, 05:37 PM   #27
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THe Blue Rhino tanks are not aluminum.

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Old 06-09-2015, 06:01 PM   #28
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I am running with the two 20 # tanks. I understand the automatic switching over from one tank to the other depends whether that option was installed on the trailer when it was first purchased. I bought mine used and don't think I have that.

I now only use the exchangeable tanks since they are accessible at many stores due to them being used for the typical backyard BBQ grills. Places to refill tanks aren't that easy to find plus the time required to do so is usually Long. Is the cost savings to do the refill really worth the effort?
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