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Sat Feb 20, 2021, 08:49 AM

Propane preparedness

So one small silver lining of a disaster like the one in Texas is that people (and governments) in other regions can monitor the situation and apply lessons learned to their own emergency preparedness.

I saw long "propane lines" on the news coverage and realized I wouldn't know how to employ propane as a survival resource. The poor souls standing in the endless lines all had the standard (and heavy) 20 pound LP tanks. Are these being used in generators? I wouldn't think that many people have generators, let alone dual fuel versions that take propane. Are they using the propane for portable indoor propane heaters? I realize those are safe, but most of them are designed for the smaller 1 pound tanks and I don't believe it's common to have those either. Personally I'd be nervous running an indoor heater off a 20 pound tank.

What am I missing? I do have some butane supplies for cooking in my preps. I do have a 20 pound LP tank for the grill and that's all it's for. Surely these people aren't all just grilling hamburgers and hotdogs? I admit to my ignorance here.

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Arrow 43 replies Author Time Post
Reply Propane preparedness (Original post)
Shermann Feb 2021 OP
flying_wahini Feb 2021 #1
efhmc Feb 2021 #2
Rorey Feb 2021 #6
Shermann Feb 2021 #9
displacedtexan Feb 2021 #3
Shermann Feb 2021 #18
Rorey Feb 2021 #4
Roisin Ni Fiachra Feb 2021 #5
riversedge Feb 2021 #7
Shermann Feb 2021 #8
Shermann Feb 2021 #10
dalton99a Feb 2021 #14
Cirque du So-What Feb 2021 #16
Shermann Feb 2021 #19
Cirque du So-What Feb 2021 #25
Shermann Feb 2021 #29
Cirque du So-What Feb 2021 #32
JHB Feb 2021 #30
Shermann Feb 2021 #31
NutmegYankee Feb 2021 #40
efhmc Feb 2021 #17
Shermann Feb 2021 #22
MissB Feb 2021 #23
efhmc Feb 2021 #24
NutmegYankee Feb 2021 #42
efhmc Feb 2021 #11
Shermann Feb 2021 #12
efhmc Feb 2021 #20
efhmc Feb 2021 #28
BSdetect Feb 2021 #13
Shermann Feb 2021 #37
NutmegYankee Feb 2021 #38
NurseJackie Feb 2021 #15
Throck Feb 2021 #21
CentralMass Feb 2021 #26
Shermann Feb 2021 #36
womanofthehills Feb 2021 #27
phylny Feb 2021 #33
Shermann Feb 2021 #34
NutmegYankee Feb 2021 #35
Ilsa Feb 2021 #39
GusBob Feb 2021 #41
Lars39 Feb 2021 #43

Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 08:56 AM

1. For grills. When your place is all electric it's what you have to cook with.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 08:59 AM

2. Propane heaters of all sizes are available.

Well not now but I plan on buying a couple for emergency use when they are once again available. Mainly to put in a well pump house. Ours cracked during the extreme cold.

"Used properly, indoor propane heaters are safe. ... Never place anything on top of an indoor propane space heater. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home, or the space where you use your indoor propane space heater. "

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Response to efhmc (Reply #2)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:04 AM

6. Carbon monoxide detectors, definitely

I was just thinking that it might be a good idea to put in my emergency car kit, just in case. I know you're supposed to crack a window, but I think I'd feel more secure if I also had a detector.

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Response to efhmc (Reply #2)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:16 AM

9. Sure but is that what the long lines are all about? nt

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:00 AM

3. We only know about using propane outdoors.

We cook with a 2 burner Coleman stove when we camp. That's the extent of our buying and installing a propane tank.
I did spend a month in a house on the coast of Italy that used propane for the kitchen cooktop burners. The tank was housed under the cabinet on an outside wall. You turned an inside wall lever slowly white igniting the burner flame, and you had to turn the wall lever back the other way to extinguish the flame. It worked, but I have no idea if that would be safe in houses here.

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Response to displacedtexan (Reply #3)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:31 AM

18. I bought 96 ounces of butane for around $20

I'm pretty sure I could cook for several months with that supply if need be.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:00 AM

4. I don't know all of the answers

What I do know is that after this crisis if over, I'm going to buy some alternate sources of heat to have on hand in case of an emergency. I won't even try to buy anything like that now because there are others who need it right now, and I don't.

Awhile back I bought a single burner dual fuel (butane and propane) stove so I can at least have coffee and heat up food if there's a power outage. I wanted to stock up on propane and butane canisters, but I ended up only getting a couple of the butane and a four-pack of propane because, again, there are others who need it more right now. I don't think it's right for me to have a hoard of it when it can be life and death for someone else.

Just a note for anyone who isn't aware: Butane is cheap, but only works if it's not too cold. That's why I got the duel fuel stove.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:01 AM

5. Portable heaters, and some camping stoves run off 20 lb propane tanks.

Also, motor homes and travel trailers generally use propane systems to run their stoves, heat, and hot water heaters.

I have three portable propane heaters, a propane camp stove that run off 20 lb tanks, and an old, small 1982 motorhome, that uses a 20 lb tank for the stove, heater, and hot water. I don't use the built in furnace because it uses way too much propane. Instead, I use a portable propane heater that uses far less propane.

Look up "portable propane heaters" at Amazon and you'll see what I'm referring to.

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Response to Roisin Ni Fiachra (Reply #5)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:06 AM

7. yes, if in a freezing situation I would use my ice fishing set up-as you describe and my camping

stove which run off propane.

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Response to Roisin Ni Fiachra (Reply #5)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:15 AM

8. I would think if you had an RV you'd just get out of dodge instead of standing in that line

A mobile home would be another matter, although I'd expect most would hook up to the utilities in the trailer park and wouldn't have any use for a 20 pound tank.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:20 AM

10. Part B of this question is what about natural gas?

Surely in the natural gas capital, most homes have gas heat. Is that not the case? I've heard about water and electricity being out, but what about the natural gas?

This is not a good time to have a heat pump. It's never been a good time to have electric heat. What's up with all that?

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Response to Shermann (Reply #10)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:27 AM

14. Only 40% of Texas homes use gas for heat

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Response to Shermann (Reply #10)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:30 AM

16. The natural gas distribution system was hit too

so there’s that.

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Response to Cirque du So-What (Reply #16)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:33 AM

19. Link? nt

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Response to Cirque du So-What (Reply #25)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:41 AM

29. The article is referring to gas-fired turbines freezing up

It doesn't say anything about residential gas, other than it gets priority:

"Besides electricity, more than half of the gas goes to residential use like heating and cooling. The supply of gas is limited mostly by the pipelines, and as weather gets bad, either hot or cold, residential use gets priority. So electricity production gets short-shrifted, which is unfortunate for those three-in-five households in Texas that use electricity for home heating."

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Response to Shermann (Reply #29)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:50 AM

32. ...


Demand for natural gas to heat homes and businesses also spiked, contributing to shortages. And high gas prices further disrupted generation, as operators who could not turn a profit took their plants offline.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/02/19/climate/texas-storm-power-generation-charts.html

I tire of being anyone’s Google go’fer for very long, so here’s hoping this satisfies.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #19)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:42 AM

30. "Texas largely relies on natural gas for power. It wasn't ready for the extreme cold."

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/natural-gas-power-storm/

***
Officials for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages most of Texas’ grid, said the primary cause of the outages Tuesday appeared to be the state’s natural gas providers. Many are not designed to withstand such low temperatures on equipment or during production.

By some estimates, nearly half of the state’s natural gas production has screeched to a halt due to the extremely low temperatures, while freezing components at natural gas-fired power plants have forced some operators to shut down.

“Texas is a gas state,” said Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin. While he said all of Texas’ energy sources share blame for the power crisis — at least one nuclear power plant has partially shut down, most notably — the natural gas industry is producing significantly less power than normal.

***
“Gathering lines freeze, and the wells get so cold that they can’t produce,” said Parker Fawcett, a natural gas analyst for S&P Global Platts. “And pumps use electricity, so they’re not even able to lift that gas and liquid, because there’s no power to produce.”

***




https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-weather-texas-energy-idUSKBN2AH1V2
Natural gas output also slumped. At this time a week ago, Texas was producing about 7.9 billion cubic feet per day, but that fell to 1.9 billion on Wednesday, according to preliminary data from Refinitiv Eikon. Natural gas accounts for half of Texas’ power generation.

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Response to JHB (Reply #30)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:45 AM

31. Ah so gathering lines and pumps are the issue. nt

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Response to Shermann (Reply #31)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 10:09 AM

40. Natural gas coming out of the ground has a LOT of water vapor

If the initial pump lines are not heated, the valves freeze up and gas cannot be supplied. Normally residential natural gas is dried (desiccant beds for instance) to a dewpoint of -40 before it is distributed, so freezing is not an issue on the consumer end. But with such massive demand and production cut to a small fraction, many customers lost gas service.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #10)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:30 AM

17. Most Texans have gas but one needs electricity to run the blower and to start the units.

I was able to use my gas stove top by bypassing the igniters and using a match since the gas was still flowing. Probably could have done the same thing with the separate oven but I was not taking that chance.

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Response to efhmc (Reply #17)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:34 AM

22. That's a good point

I have a ventless natural gas fireplace which will run during a power outage.

Really doesn't explain the long propane lines though.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #10)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:34 AM

23. Not in texas

I’m in Oregon and have been without power since Sunday.

We use natural gas for heat, hot water and stovetop. Clearly the furnace doesn’t work right now. But I have hot water and can manually light my stovetop to cook.

One can buy a generator that is hard plumbed to the natural gas line. I’ll be shopping for one this summer after demand reduces a bit. I think I’ll go with a kohler and size it to run the entire panel (whole house).

So, if the power ever goes out again, I’ll have a generator ready to kick in using the same fuel I’m currently using.

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Response to MissB (Reply #23)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:36 AM

24. Sounds like a good plan.

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Response to MissB (Reply #23)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 10:12 AM

42. I use a device called the Generlink.

It installs just behind the meter and allows the generator to be plugged in using the 4 pin connector. This allows me to use a 5500 Watt portable generator. I can then bring on much of the house including the furnace.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:23 AM

11. We have propane as our source of heating at the ranch house. Much of rural Texas does.

The tank is huge. Not sure of its capacity but the tank is located away from the house and we can turn on stoves and heaters by pressing an on switch normally inside the house.

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Response to efhmc (Reply #11)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:25 AM

12. I would expect that

But is it not possible to get those large LP tanks refilled right now? What good does a 20 pound tank do in that case?

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Response to Shermann (Reply #12)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:33 AM

20. I had checked the tank before I left the ranch at few weeks ago. We were at 30% capacity and

I put in order to refill.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #12)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:39 AM

28. The person who works for me says they will be there soon. Since I am not there

but in town, I'd rather others who are in their homes needing heat be first in lines. Of course he and his wife need the heat.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:26 AM

13. We have about 6 propane (20lb) tanks but these have limited life spans. Be aware.

Some are getting to the age limit now. I think it's about 8 years.

They do not last forever (legally).

We have a duel furl generator (12000 watts) running on gas with 120 gallon propane main tank (used for the kitchen stove mainly).

Keeping the generator running on gas is a pain as you need to buy extra gas. It smells and can be messy.

Solar panels supply enough electricity so that we have no bill for the full year.

We need all this power to run the well pump in order to fight fires if we have to.

Battery backup systems are great. We are waiting for 3 Tesla Powerwalls here. Enough to run for at least a week if the grid goes down.





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Response to BSdetect (Reply #13)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 10:00 AM

37. 20 pound propane tank storage is an issue for me

I have the one tank under my grill, which is a safe and convenient storage location. Adding a second is problematic. You could put in in a ventilated outdoor shed or something like that. The garage or basement is a big no-no. So I just have the one that I run dry and it is musical chairs as to when the power runs out and how much is left.

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Response to BSdetect (Reply #13)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 10:00 AM

38. They don't go bad per se, they just need to be recertified.

A hydro-static test is performed to prove them still sound and then a new date is stamped on the ring. Look for the date codes.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:28 AM

15. In our little home, a kerosene heater worked well when an ice-storm took down power lines.

Kerosene stores well. Without added stabilizer... and in relatively controlled environment (like a garage)... kerosene will keep well for five years. (Although, we've kept it on-hand for up to 7 years before needed it... and the old kerosene burned just as well and just as clean as fresh.)



Something like this can be purchased at Lowes or Amazon.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:33 AM

21. Just be safe and make sure you have a good carbon monoxide detector.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:37 AM

26. The size of the container does not make it unsafe. When you run out of power

you do what you have to to survive. It comes down to using propane powered devices safely and how long the appliance can operate on the amount of propane in the tank. You (follow the mfg's usage) can use a propane campstove indoors for cooking under the right conditions. Like under a hood vent or in a well ventilated area with an open window.
Unless it is direct venting type I think that use propane heaters indoors can be deadly. A good size portable emergency propane powered generator would be a 5kW generator. A 20lb propane tank will power a 5k generator running at 50% load for about 8.8 hours. That would drop to 5.5 hours for a 7.5k generator running at 50%. (Generators have to be outside, inside is deadly)..
So if it's all you have or can get during and emergency it can make a huge difference.
Being able to cook a hot meal or make hot drinks is huge. In New England where we could lose power for 2 weeks or so in the dead of winter. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a kind neighbors back up generator that ran on gasoline. I have some electrical back ground a d was able to connect it up to be able to selectively run things like the oiled fired forced hot water furnace and the refrigerator and some lights. Running the furnace for a few hours would warm the entire house and running the refrigerator to keep food from going bad. Since it was probably not going to get above freezing we could also put food in containers on the back deck. So I would run the ed furnace at night to warm the place up and after everyone showered etc and was ready for bed I would shut it down and wake up periodically to check on the kids and start the generator as needed. We also had a large coal stove on our raised hearth fireplace down stairs that producedl a lot of heat but with sub zero night time temps the rooms upstairs would get cold on that alone. In an emergency we could all sleep in the living room.
Oh and a very critical item that I forgot was running the well for water and be able to flush toilets..

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Response to CentralMass (Reply #26)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:56 AM

36. You do what you gotta do, I agree with that

Is that what all these people are doing though? Connecting 20 pound propane tanks to portable indoor heaters?

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:39 AM

27. Living out in the country I have a 500 gal propane tank

If you have a larger tank, you can get free propane delivery. My water heaters, stove and one heater run off propane. I have some small electric heaters I use when I need more heat. My whole south side is windows (passive solar) so I only use my propane on really cold nights or days without sun - rare in NM - except for this week with -0 temps. If you get a propane heater that doesn't vent - it won't kill you, but it's illegal in many states. Not something I would use in a bedroom without an open window. I have a direct vent propane heater made by Cozy. They are great because with a direct vent, no fumes enter the room. You don't need a large pipe with a direct vent heater - just a small circle cut through the wall - with a foot wide circle vent on the outside of your house. A person could install one of these heaters for emergencies with a 100 gallon propane tank.

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Response to womanofthehills (Reply #27)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:52 AM

33. We also have two small propane tanks outside of our house.

The only thing we use propane for is to cook on our gas stove, as there are no natural gas lines here in our rural town. We are considering a propane-powered generator as well.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:53 AM

34. I did find one article

https://www.cbs7.com/2021/02/17/hundreds-line-up-for-propane-to-keep-warm/

I just mentions cooking and staying warm, without a lot of detail.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 09:55 AM

35. A turkey fryer (beer stove) melts snow rapidly.

Normally I can use one of those to bring 6 gallons of wort to a boil in 20 minutes.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 10:04 AM

39. My understanding is that propane, like kerosene, stores well

for very long periods, whereas gasoline degrades, beginning around three months.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sat Feb 20, 2021, 10:11 AM

41. We lose power, heat or water out here regularly for brief spots

I have a lantern, stove and portable heater that run off propane

I use them for camping so I just keep 2 doz little propane bottles about

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