Instructables

Air Can from Empty Refrigerant Can

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Nice for filling up air mattresses, bike tires, blowing dust out of your computer, etc etc. This is a useful thing to have.
If you ever get your car stuck in soft sand, snow, or mud, there's an easy way to get out. Just let air out of your tires til they're at about 10 or 15 psi. They'll have a nice big flat spot on the bottom, won't sink in nearly as much, and you'll drive right out. The military think this is such a useful trick that many military vehicles are equipped with gadgets that can drain and fill the tires from inside the cab. On Cape Cod there are still some beaches you're allowed to drive on. At the entrance to one such beach is a shed with an air compressor and a sign telling you why to flatten your tires a bit.
Without such a convenience but with a couple 100psi tanks of air in your trunk, you can refill your tires quickly after you're done driving on the beach.
 
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Step 1: The Plumbing

Get an empty freon can from behind a garage or air conditioning contractor.
They will have pumped out all but a few molecules of nasty gas using trade school magic.
Make sure it's a really empty one by using your own brain.
Otherwise teenage nerds will heavily criticize these instructions.

Get your fittings and put them all together. You'll probably have your own scheme in mind which will be different from mine.
Wrap the threaded parts with teflon tape before assembling to seal the threads. If you don't have teflon tape use a strip from a plastic shopping bag.
Attach your hose to the tank with a hose clamp.
Toxictom8 months ago
I believe those transport regulations do not apply to private individuals, they are for businesses and vehicles used in commerce.
Tegra10 months ago
With all due respect.....

It is true that it is illegal to "Transport" refilled cylinders. However, what does transport mean? This means moving, usually in large quantity, from one place to another, for someone else, for a price.

When I bring groceries home or take my gear on a camping trip I am not engaging in "Transport".

It has been explained to me that it is perfectly legal for me to take a refilled cylinder in my vehicle. It may be another thing if something went horribly wrong on the way and the insurance company hired a layer or two.

As far as the cylinders, these are similar to the "Balloon Time" cylinders. How much pressure do they contain, sitting in the isle at Walmart and bouncing around in the hot car on the way home/to a party? Approx 250 PSI!

To refill one with compressed air at 125 PSI and stored in a safe place seem very reasonable to me.

Ones point to the YouTube videos (and the shop teachers scare tactics) that show a high pressure cylinder being shot at. What is the pressure in those cylinders? 3000 to 4500 PSI! Over 20 times the pressure!

What does it look like when a 125 PSI cylinder is shot? You will not see a video on this, because it is boring! Most failures will be rust induced which will usually be so slow that you will not even notice.

(If someone was to do the math they would probably find that there is not enough energy in this cylinder at 125 PSI to bend the "thin metal.

Sorry for going on like this but I get tired of "fear mongers" with their FUD.

Like I tell my kids... "do the math".

Tom
Hello all! I know this is an old thread, but I have a new and relevant question and there seems to be a lot of collective knowledge on this site.
I have a small (1/5 HP) compressor that I use for airbrushing. Being that it has no tank, fine lines drawn with the brush tend to be dashed, if you will, due to the pulsing of the pump. The pump is a diaphragm type, so it's not as bad as a piston type would be, but I would like to add a tank to eliminate all skipping entirely.
My question is this: has anyone ever (or just know how to) converted a propane tank for use as a compressor tank, as opposed to a portable air tank? If so, how would one go about such a thing?
I realize that a small compressor with a tank can be bought cheaply, and if this project takes much more of my time, I will pony up the cash, but my slightly twisted mind thinks that it may be fun to make my own. Plus, I've already bought a conversion kit for a freon tank, (which, of course, are much harder to come by than propane...duh)
Thanks for any help you may be able to give!
Oh my goodness. The danger is not when the tank is almost full of propane. The danger is when it's almost empty. Propane, like gasoline, burns at around a 14:1 ratio, 14 parts of air to one part of fuel vapor. You couldn't breathe such an atmosphere, but inside the propane tank you'll never know it exists...until... This 14:1 ration is exactly what you'll reach at some point if you try to pump all the propane out of the tank. At which time any spark, or even any hot spot, inside the compressor (pump) you're using will set off a horrendous explosion. Shards of propane tank flying around at very high speed. If you don't pump out the propane tank, then sooner or later the air and propane in the tank will again reach that 14:1 area. Same result. They whole thing sounds a bit risky to me.
fill the tank with water and empty it out
jj.inc lukeyj152 years ago
lol, I love how simple you just owned his long comment.
lukeyj15 jj.inc2 years ago
Yup. Like a boss.
I bought a alumin propane tank at the recycling center, I opened the valve and let it set for a week I then drilled a hole in the bottom and put in a drain plug, my compresser will pump to 120 psi the tank is rated to 800 psi it's light weight and I have been useing it for over five years
a compressor without a tank would probably be without a pressure shut of switch, or a electric apparatus that shuts off the pump when it reaches a certain psi level, so i'm not sure it would be possible, sorry.
You could just stick a pressure gauge into the pipe coming out of the tank and bend the needle so that it makes an electrical connection (think Hollywood style homebrew time bomb), that activates a relay in the mains cable and switches the pump off, it wouldn't be all that difficult.
Or you could get a pressure shut off valve ;)
Agreed, but it wouldn't be as fun... :-)
regarding the reservoir for your airbrush, i used a 2 liter soda bottle. punctured a small hole on the side so the thing will not be filled full. that prevents the diaphragm pump from over exerting. use fittings and hoses from fish tank supplies.
PeteBR2 years ago
My can didn't have a check valve! I should have tried filling it with air *before* cutting the top of the valve, but regretfully didn't. I took the valve apart...and didn't find anything in it.! No ball bearing or spring. So I tried filling the can....and it works ^_^
rondust5 years ago
So if common sense was applied -
1 - this is a high pressure container, way above 175psi. (over 10x 175psi)
2 - a normal compressor stores air
3 - repaint and mark as 'air only'
4 - there is exactly the same thing as sold commercially in the USA and other countries.
5 - Make sure ALL other connections to the bottle are able to handle the pressure up to 175psi.
6 - if it was illegal to transport a filled container "How do you get your LP Gas bottle home for the BBQ?" - IT'S not illegal to transport air either.
Scuba tanks are much higher pressure than this and you can leave them in the sun (not recommended for any pressurized container) as they are designed with safety factors for stupid people.
It isn't illegal to transport a filled container. It's illegal to transport a container filled in ways other than the intended, manufactured purpose. It's also illegal to transport refilled disposable propane cannisters. It is also, I'm pretty sure, a federal offense to disable any safety devices, including check valves and OPDs. SCUBA tanks and otther pressurized vessels are designed and engineered to be rated to a specific pressure and have wall thicknesses relative to materials used to reflect this. They're expensive for a reason and, like all pressure vessels, are required to undergo hydrostatic testing on a regular basis and be retired after so many years. Considering how cheaply purpose-designed compressor tanks can be had, illegally using a tank that once contained a noxious gas (evacuated or not) really doesn't seem worth it.
HHmm... "Flamekiller" work as a fireman? So it would be illegal to fill the container with a relatively inert substance like... water? or common air? (not propane). A container ENGINEERED and manufactured as a pressure vessel, designed to be refillable and designed to be filled to extreme value (about 3000psi). Well above the ordinary water tap or common air compressor (about 120 psi). In my comment, I was not talking about Industrial Gas cylinders for Acetylene or Hydrogen etc or "Disposable" gas cylinders. My response was intended to point out to LITTLE CHILDREN that the container type was very likely to easily contain those pressures of air with a very large safety factor. (By the way, probably needing a refill every 3-5 uses anyway at 120psi) We all know that kids need to be informed or an accident may occur through poor experimentation. Kids on this site are all looking to experiment - legal or illegal doesn't come into it - but they need to be safe in their methods. The point being that "YOU" could do it safely, but use low pressures, correctly label the cylinder to display clearly what is inside and its new use, and make sure that all devices or hoses are able to handle those pressures (120 psi). That there are other RETAIL available cylinders - cheap too. Lastly - if it was dangerous - I would be the first to clearly advise that the last thing they need is a high pressure container burst. I have never found connectors and gauges that have blown off my HP lines from my dive gear - luckily I've never been struck by them either. SAFETY FOR ALL FIRST - If they don't know, give them information, teach them. I apologize for offending you, if you think it is better the kids get hurt first.
D.O.T. is your problem, not common sense. Re-using and transporting these containers is illegal period. It does not pass muster as a rated pressure vessel anymore because it was MODIFIED.
I don't think you realize that the common sense side is that we are making kids aware that these containers can be filled with water or air safely, and to think about it before they do it.

Because it is illegal in any way or some way, is not going to stop them, better to get them to think about it and know it is relatively safe to do.

The original product would be filled to a much higher pressure than if it was water or air. So if the container was labeled correctly and contained the item labeled is likely to be okay.

NOT advocating filling it with LP Gas!!

Maybe you do not realize that the PET plastic Coke bottles are rated to 150+PSI
and that the average home compressor will not fill above 110 psi - so the kids could use a plastic Coke bottle as an air reserve.

But that would be wrong also under DOT wouldn't it?

Have a nice day please :-)
Well Said
coppeis3 years ago
How do you re fill it and do you think that i can re-fill it up with co2?
profpat3 years ago
this is very useful, i made one myself using one of my mom's spare propane(lpg tank) had to change the valve though. and its a little heavy, but since the tanks has thicker walls, chance of over charging it with air from my air compressor is nil. i have been using it for 10 years already...
spraypaint 006.jpg
when i build my workshop outside im going to have a big propane canister and small electric powered compressor with a air hose into my workshop so i get to always have a air line without using up space!!
MT-LB4 years ago
There are plenty of empty propane tanks and fire extinguishers. Get one, they can be refilled safely if structurally sound. Or just get a portable air tank.
lilroud4 years ago
Im an EPA certified HVAC Tech, and these ARE one time use cans and they are suppose to be evacuated before discarding, But not required drilling. These are dangerous and illegal to use in any way other then intended. The wals on these "Virgin" R-22 containers are thinner than a "normal" container or a recovery container. The pressure in these cans brand new depend on the temperature of the can,, so they hold a threshold range of PSI but they WAY under fill them to compensate. The check valve is just to make sure no one re uses them as a extra step required by law. I mean... you could use them, like, in your own back yard, but be carful and dont get caught.
browncar4 years ago
How hard is it to get a air tank used or new that you can use? I understand the need of wanting to have one . But to take risks with disabling safety features is dangerous and not worth the risk for me. Any suggestions on where to get an air tank?
Caya7 years ago
Ok I am really really un-acquainted with these things, so I have to ask a dumb question- How do you know when the tank is full? When air refuses to go in any more? I mean, it wouldn't explode or anything, right? And I think the point about putting air into a tank with flammable remnants sounds like an excellent one- It sounds like a good idea in theory though, I guess-
static Caya4 years ago
Any air tank worthy of the name should have a safety relief valve, that should start popping off when the safe limit is approached. And scare the bejesus out of you when it goes off full bore if you don't head the early warning.
mje Caya7 years ago
You use a compressor with a pressure gauge, and stop when you hit 140psi.
(this goes for just about every tank) -- pressure will dictate when the tank is 'full'. How much pressure is the question... - but if you look on the side of the gas bottle, you might find a max pressure rating or the capacity (in lb or oz etc.) of the gas that is supposed to be in there. If you know that the tank hold X lb of gas Y -- you can figure out the rated pressure by calculating the gas' vapor pressure (at a known temp).

As for checking if there is refrigerant in the tank (including propane - which happens to be a refrigerant :P)... pour some hot water on the side of the tank. The area that remains warm is "empty" space. Areas that cool off fast have refrigerant -- a google search will give you a lot more information as to why this can be done.

As for flammable remnants.... there's only remnants if you leave them... its up to you to clean out the tank and get rid of the mercaptan (a stinky gas added for detection), which will stay behind even after LPG has been removed. This is why I say, if you let it be scary - it's gonna be scary (as with most things). http://www.instructables.com/ex/i/E1833EF3E58A1027A8C7BE5FA20C578F - uses an emptied propane (LPG) for their air powered bike :P
static7 years ago
Yes, even after reading the various warnings, I had a few freon tanks collected to make air bubbles out of. That is until a lawn mower tossed a pebble that hit one of them, puncturing it. Granted it may have not punctured if pressurized, but until then I really hadn't a clue as to how thin the tanks are. They may be fine for their designed use, but used as an air tank, they will begin corroding internally. Propane bottles without the OPD may start showing up at auctions real cheap, they may be the better choice. Then again tanks sold as air bubbles aren't really that expensive, and they have the hose, connections, etc. there all ready to go. BTW; if your outings include a propane grill, you can use propane to air a tire up, in a bind. S.
Derin static5 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
Derin Derin4 years ago
Deleting for being a stupid comment.
ReCreate Derin5 years ago
No,Use rocket fuel
lukeyj15 Derin5 years ago
but then you empty it out when you get home
aholgate5 years ago
How about air pressure? What does it hold? I have a 175 Lbs compressor can I put this much in it repeatedly?
I dare say NOT!
evanwehrer5 years ago
Where can I get a tank like that for free?
I've done something similar with a scuba tank(I always have a few with me for work) I used a tank, the first stage of a scuba regulator, and a length of tool-grade airhose. The regulator steps down the 3000 psi down to 125 psi, giving TONS of air to use for tires, air tools, etc... one word of warning, though... 125 psi+bicycle tire rated for 40 psi+me not paying attention= me crapping my pants...
Yeah, one of my relatives did that to a little kids bike, but it was fine.... ....until a little later when they heard BOOM, and saw that the tire had exploded when the kid was riding the bike.
you must have heard the explosion from when the tire of a rubble truck went boom,the first word that i said before seeing the truck was "yikes what are they doing with the dynamite"
haha good idea
purgedsoul6 years ago
140 PSI "might" be the safe limit for these tanks but to make sure you don't go over you can check the tank for markings like this one:

DOT-39 NRC 260/325 M9701

DOT-39 - Non re-usable cylinder
NRC
260 - Service pressure
325 - Test pressure (The minimum test pressure is the maximum pressure of contents at 130 °F or 180 p.s.i.g. whichever is greater.)
M9701 - Manufacturer's registration number.

This data is for the tank that I have now which is an R-12 (yikes bad for the environment)

got these info from this page:

http://www.setonresourcecenter.com/49CFR/Docs/wcd0000a/wcd00aee.asp
IMG_2408.JPG
oh no cfc yikes
Derin5 years ago
here u can only drive in the area flattened by a cylinder and approved as a road
Derin Derin5 years ago
in the beach,that is
Derin Derin5 years ago
our 1km long driveway is a pain to drive on since it is just dirt patched with ashes
mweston5 years ago
A great way to get those stems is going to your local tire shop (ours is Tire Discounters) and they'll give you a bunch for free, plus there easier to assemble if they are the ones made for car tires. I use them all the time to make air powered potato guns. Another plus is you can get an electronic compressor the easily goes to 150psi for about 20 bucks and the come with the bike/tire chuck already on them.
Old Propane tanks work great, any HVAC supply warehouse will sell you a conversion kit that features two threaded nipples, one for air input and another for output, I have one I use for freon recovery that could be easily modified for the Air-gun supply
hvacr guru7 years ago
Yikes. Using these cans may not be dangerous if done using a little smarts, but doing so is CERTIANLY ILLEGAL, and comes with a hefty fine. Having one of these in your possession requires you to be EPA certified. Re-use or re-filling of these jugs, is strictly prohibited. Again, big fine.
call me crazy, but wouldn't the refill clause apply only to freon or whatever volatile compound the can used to carry? i'm not a lawyer or an expert, but i do pride myself on having a reasonable amount of common sense, and that common sense is saying that a law against refilling something with compressed air isn't quite on the level. i could be wrong, as there are many laws that are unspeakably retarded, not to mention the fact that there are probably aspects of this that i'm not seeing.
Another thought. These are supposed to be "evacuated" and rendered useless by the responsible person. (We usualy drill a hole in the side.) If your finding one that isn't, someone is in violation. I believe there is a reward???
I don't think so much as these canisters need to be drilled (I know when scuba tanks fail their inspection, they get drilled) since they have a check valve that most people wouldn't bother to try to take apart that prevents it from becoming refilled.
Actually it's illegal to transport a refilled canister... I read the warning label on a canister.
coil10026 years ago
Newer refrigerant tanks are not a good choice for re-usable tanks way too thin. Hence the reason they put the check valve on the thing in the first place. I have worked my "trade school magic" for roughly ten years now and every year it gets easier to puncture the tanks before I discard of them in the scrap bin at work. Not to mention they rust up fairly quick as they are not designed to hold moist air only refrigerant and vapor.
I agree. These are really thin, non-rust-resistant tanks. (There's no anticorrosion lining or coating on the inside, because they're designed to hold moisture-free freon.) That's why they have the check valve and the warnings about refilling. You can get a 7-gallon "air carry" tank for $20 from Wal-Mart, which is designed to hold compressed air. It comes with the hose and tire-filling thingamajig, and a gauge. That seems better to me than hassling with disabling a check valve, etc. and still having a flimsy rust-prone tank under pressure.
carpespasm6 years ago
I made one of these a while back since there are many large AHUs where I work that sometimes need maintenance. I put a pressure guage on mine, but the copper coupling I had to use at the bottle's valve is kinda flimsy. Still a lot cheeper than storebought though.
trebuchet037 years ago
You can also use a propane tank... The pressure inside a tank filled with propane (20lbs) is 145psi at 70oF, 180psi at 90oF, 235psi at 105oF... Tanks with OPDs onlu hold 17lbs of LPG, so the pressure numbers are a little different... What's nice about those tanks is that they have pressure relief valves built in (but they open at pressures over 300psi)....
putting compressed air into tank that has flammable remnants in it seems a little scary
only if you let it be scary ;)
take the brass fittings out of the top of ye propane tank and fill it with water. The water, being heavier than the propans sinks to the bottom. the more water goes in, the more propane's forced out the top. I'd still reccomend leaving it outside overnight, tho
good idea
Walker maxwell7 years ago
You are right, Maxwell. It should be scary. Some flammable gasses can and will explode under high pressure. Refrigerants are non-flammable but propane tanks should be purged prior to using: 1) Let the top valve stand open for a while. 2) Use a valve-stem tool to remove the filler valve. 3) Fill with water and then drain. 4) Throw it away and go get an Empty Refrigerant Can. I use a couple of these tanks for running my air tools in the field when a compressor is too impractical to bring out.
mje Walker7 years ago
This would be dangerous if you were filling it with oxygen, but there's no risk here. Your oil-lubricated compressor has a lot of combustible oil in the air tank, but they typically don't explode. Propane will not burn in very low concentrations. The LEL (lower explosive limit) for Propane is 2%- and given the high vapor pressure of propane at STP, simply pulling the valve and letting it sit for a minute would insure a concentration far below that. If you're really worried, purge it with nitrogen- although air, being mostly nitrogen, works well ;-)
jtobako mje7 years ago
There is a difference between explosive and burnable. I just saw a tank that sat open (no valve) for several hours give off a foot long flame.
static mje7 years ago
I agree the risk is low. So many forget about the thing called the Fuel/ Air ratio, that has to be correct for a fuel to burn. Not to mention a need for a means of igniting the mixture. Out here on the Plains propane servicemen once used the propane gas on their delivery trucks to paint storage tanks out in the field. That was back in the day when the distributers got the gas for free or less than 20 cents when they had to pay for it.
Then just vacuum it first. Vacuuming is a very safe method of removing gas.
Not really. Propane boils at -44 F so if you leave an "empty" propane tank open all the propane will evaporate in a short time. Just do it somewhere where there is a breeze to disperse the vapors. Propane is flammable at a very restricted range of fuel/air ratios so as long as you don't open upwind of an open flame you would be fine. All that would be left is the oily odorant residue (added because propane itself is odorless), which can be hard to get rid of.
Toxictom6 years ago
NAPA used to sell a kit to convert these tanks into an air tank for around $10.00. I've had mine for 10+ years.
g_c_c7 years ago
toke!, one of my friend in the army did that to his beloved jeep not too long ago, seems to have worked great for him. Lord knows he talks about it enough lol ;). As to catastrophic explosions- the physics simply doesnt look right. I'm not an expert on these tanks in specific, but since the maximum amount of force doesnt exceed the sheer strength of the material it seems like it shouldnt significantly exceed the elastic limit of its canister for very long if at all. Personal experience confirms that these things really aren't that dangerous, and physics backs me up. Back to your cave, troll.
toke!7 years ago
Dude, relax. There are no gas stations in the boonies, and that is when you usually get a flat or need to refill the tires after airing down for off-roading. Plus, biting criticism loses it's comedic effect when laced with mistakes and typos. But don't become bitter, you'll find a girlfriend someday! Cheers!
jmsdf677 years ago
why dont you go up to the gas station and fill up your tires just sounds to easy! good luck with filling up those propane tanks with air why dont you use hydrogen i could be more fun jackass
toke!7 years ago
Back in the 70's the hot Off-Road 4X4 trick was to replace the stock bumpers with end-capped, welded air-tight 6" steel tubing and fill them with compressed air for tires and inflatable toys and such. Speculation was catastrophic destruction upon impact was inevitable, but I never witnessed it happen, nor did any one I know. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen, but think about the amount of pressure auto A/C systems are under and that doesn't seem to be too big of a deal. Many GM luxo-barges have 12v onboard air compressors--hit the junkyard.
Kactapuss7 years ago
haroun, i know that its very dramatic and exciting to think that if you get into a car accident the tanks will explode and send metal sharpnel all over the place. im pretty sure, as long as long as the tank is not filled to maddening pressures (which is impossible with the pressure release valve) that a hole in the tank will only cause the tank to leak all the air out. mythbusters did a similar expiriment with a scuba tank. they shot it with a rifle and all that happened is it turned it into a rocket, but it did not explode. (again, driving with these in your trunk is your perogative, i will help you (if i can) if you have freon or propane shrapnel lodged in you, but i will not be responsible)
jaime99997 years ago
When I was a kid, I used one of these to hold compressed air for my homemade go-kart. Why? Because I had a pneumatic industrial clutch that I borrowed from my dad... makes a better clutch than a slipping/tightening belt, etc. Later I put in a cylinder that pressed a 2x4 against the rear tires... thus "power brakes" in addition to the "power clutch". Downside: when the tank was out of air pressure, the kart was dead. Re: pressure: I put a tee at the nozzle, and installed a pressure gauge inline before a valve... viola-- you now know the pressure of what's in the tank.
spinach_dip7 years ago
the "how to bypass the one way valve" is pretty useful. As for the remainder of this instructable, I'd have to suggest that your time has value. Running around for most of this junk takes time, buy a kit.

http://froogle.google.com/froogle?q=freon+air+tank+-airsoft&hl=en&btnG=Search

these seem to include a Schrader valve fill port, Schrader air chuck, pressure gauge, air hose, and <b> relief valve </b>. MPJA.com seems to have 'em for $8 plus shipping. Lots of ebayers out there too.
haroun7 years ago
In any situation where you are using compessed gases the use of a pressure relief valve is the law, for damned good reason, and as far as driving around with a couple of these in your trunk that is maddness. If there is an accident & a tank is cracked, the result will be an explosion. The mess made by compressed air accidents is considerable. Using great care & familiarizing oneself with the standard practices & potential problems could save you a lot of pain & suffering.
compudude867 years ago
i happen to know a few things from some HVAC work ive done. on home AC compressor units, we usually put a vaccum on the lines, removing any air in the lines and making it accept the freon easily. im sure if you could snag a vac pump, then you could empty the tank below pressure then fill it, getting a lot more pressure in it. also, he doesnt mention the safe pressure and/or the pressure in which the tank will practically blow into pieces of jagged metal. (i also used to fill propane tanks in a past job, thank god they came out with OPDs)
Putting the tank under a vacuum first won't let you pressurize it any higher o.0 I'm not sure if that was what you're trying to say... Also, the reason to vacuum refrigerant systems before filling is to reduce the amount of mixed gasses and remove as much moisture as possible... yes, you can get more refrigerant in there (be it R-22, 134, ammonia etc. etc.), but having other gasses and water in there effects the COP more than a few ozs of refrigerant...
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