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Old 10-07-2011, 01:31 AM   #1
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Propane refill

So, let me just start saying that my propane tanks are very accessible and very easy to exchange. It would probably take me about a minute or two to swap them out. With that in mind, what are the pros and cons of getting them filled at a gas station or just doing a tank exchange? I have never had them filled before, is it cheaper? The tank exchange is 19.99 for the 30 gal tank.
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:58 AM   #2
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First, you are talking about a 30 pound tank, not a 30 gallon tank. It holds about 7.4 gallons of propane. Every exchange tank I have ever seen is a 20 pound tank, so I don't think exchange is an option for you unless you don't mind cutting your propane capacity by one third.

Refilling your tanks with only the amount they are down, even if they are completely empty, will always be more economical than buying an exchanged tank. At least in my part of the country. Around here propane runs $2 to $3 per gallon.
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Old 10-07-2011, 05:28 AM   #3
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I agree with Kurmudgeon. Here in California, propane is $3.70 per gallon if you shop around. When I was truck camping, I usually had more propane left in my tanks than I thought. The gauges are notoriously inaccurate, especially on the horizontally installed tanks. If you exchange, you will lose any propane left in the tanks. Also, you never know what kind of a tank you will be getting....old, leaking valve, etc.
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:58 AM   #4
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Exchange tanks, Blue Rhino is installing a proprietary valve that can only be filled by them and many Blue Rhino and Amerigas are under filling the tanks.
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Old 10-07-2011, 07:00 AM   #5
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Most of the time around here, unless you either 1) go to a propane dealer or 2) have a vehicle with a built in tank (class A, etc) you pay a set amount for a refill of a portable tank.

I have a Class A motor home and I have several 20 pound tanks and one 11 pound tank. I attempted to take the motor home and 2 - 20 pounders that were partially empty to get all of them filled at the same time. The lot monkey at the hardware store told me that he could not refill the partially filled tanks to top them off. I mentioned to him that filling them was exactly like filling the tank on the motor home except they were much smaller. He didn't want to do it, either because he could not grasp the concept or just wasn't allowed to do it. I wasn't hurting for the portable tanks to be filled so I didn't worry about it.

When my 20 pound tanks get near the expiration dates or start showing signs of rust or damage, I'll do an exchange. I have been known to reject the new tanks because of the expiration dates being sooner than I like. Exchanges are usually about 2 dollars more than a fill at my local hardware store.

As an aside, I don't own a propane grill but I do have a single burner 'Cajun Cooker' style stove and a few assorted 2 and 4 burner propane stoves. We cook outside a lot during the summer to keep the heat out of the house.

I used to get a lot of 20 pound propane bottles from foreclosures I'd work at. Most of these were old style, non-OPD bottles. I's take them to the local box stores on Sunday evening right before closing and exchange them. The lot monkey's there were in such a hurry to leave, they'd almost never look at the valve to see if was an approved exchange. The one guy that did told me he didn't care.

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Old 10-07-2011, 07:13 AM   #6
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You've got a heck of deal on a 30lb exchange for $19.99. They charge more than that to fill a 20lb tank around here.

One of the problems with exchanges is that the new cylinder may not be filled to capacity. I'm not sure how widespread that practice is but getting a 30lb tank that was 60% (they are only allowed to fill to 80%) would mean that the actual cost of fuel was higher.
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Old 10-07-2011, 09:03 AM   #7
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Blue Rhino now puts only 15 lbs of propane in a 20 lb tank, so you are getting only 3/4 tank for the price. They did that to maintain an attractive sounding price for the exchange program. And the price is higher than if you refilled your tanks at a bulk propane store (one that charges by the lb or gallon, rather than a fixed fee). So, economically it is better to refill. You have to make your own call on convenience.

3/4 full is actually 60%, since a "full" tank is only 80% full of propane (to allow for expansion).
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Old 10-07-2011, 09:38 AM   #8
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I try not to fill at places that charge a flat fee, you pay the same weather your tank is empty or half full. Flying j has always been my favorite place to fill tanks they meter the fuel by the gallon so you pay for what you get, plus they give you a break if your a member of the frequent fueler advantage, biggest advantage is easy access.
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Old 10-07-2011, 12:29 PM   #9
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Generally speaking (though there are exceptions) Cheaper to refill.

And as others have said, Blue Rino tries to make it so once you start using their tanks you have to KEEP using their tanks.. of course SOME (And I stress SOME) refillers know how to work that valve.
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Old 10-07-2011, 09:19 PM   #10
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I normally fill my propane tanks at Dowdle Gas because they're close and probably the only one that I can get my motorhome into, other than maybe U-Haul which is not at all convenient. The tank in the motorhome is metered. I let my 20 lb and 11 lb tanks run dry before I refill them because they have a flat fee for the portable tanks. I don't remember what their prices were, but they ain't cheap. They did however, finally get the hole in the parking lot/driveway fixed and paved. That's a plus for them.
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Old 10-12-2011, 07:42 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the replies. I was indeed referring to a 20lb tank although I wrote 30gal. Wouldnt be the first thing I get backwards. I didn't know that the exchange companies dont fill to capacity, that was very enlightening. I will give refilling a shot.
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Old 10-12-2011, 07:50 PM   #12
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Refilling will always be cheaper and finding propane dealers that charge for the actual number of gallons used will also always be cheaper than the fixed rate fills. Flying J does propane per gallon and many others do as well. Just drive past the fixed priced dealers unless you know that your tank is absolutely completely empty!
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Old 10-12-2011, 09:00 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadowcatche View Post
Exchange tanks, Blue Rhino is installing a proprietary valve that can only be filled by them and many Blue Rhino and Amerigas are under filling the tanks.
Yep, around here Blue Rhino is only filling about 2/3rds full and charging more than filling your tank.
Around town here we pay about $3.599/gallon. Two weeks ago I filled up at a resort area and paid $2.999. Only took 13 gallons.
Further north it's $1.899 at an RV dealers.
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Old 10-12-2011, 09:05 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Adams View Post
Refilling will always be cheaper and finding propane dealers that charge for the actual number of gallons used will also always be cheaper than the fixed rate fills. Flying J does propane per gallon and many others do as well. Just drive past the fixed priced dealers unless you know that your tank is absolutely completely empty!
Here in WA the law requires propane to be sold using a pump and meter. Just too many complaints about cheating (short filling) I guess.
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