How to Completely Refill a 1lb "disposable" Propane Bottle





Introduction: How to Completely Refill a 1lb "disposable" Propane Bottle

Summer Is here and its time to go camping! I go through a lot of the small 1lb cylinders of propane. They are used for my stove, Lanterns, Heaters, etc. At  $3 to $4 a Piece, they really start to add up, not to mention that when you are done with them, they are then thrown into a landfill. No more! for about $30 you can build a refill station and refill those bottles completely for about 50 cents a bottle!

I know what you are thinking, why build this when you can buy a refill adapter ready made for your tank. I used to use one, but you can only fill your bottles about 2/3rds full. This method allows you to completely fill a bottle. much the same way as they were originally filled in the factory. and with the quarter turn valve, the refill process is quick and easy.

Disclaimer: this is the way I refill cylinders. I do not claim to be an expert, and I take no liability for mistakes you make. BE SURE TO DO THIS OUTSIDE preferably with a bit of a breeze and no near, flames, sparks, cinders, etc. Propane is highly flammable and this can be dangerous if you don't use common sense. If you blow yourself up, don't blame me!

Step 1: The Anatomy of a 1lb Cylinder

A 1lb Cylinder has a pressure relief valve. This is a safety feature that will vent excess pressure from a bottle. This is also used to vent the gas during the filling of the bottle. It looks much like a valve from a tire.

Step 2: The Valve

The valve Consists of the appropriate propane connectors, a 1/4 turn valve and a street elbow to angle the bottle appropriately. I found all my parts at my local hardware store. I am sure they can be ordered on line as well.

Step 3: The Vent Tool

I no longer use the tire valve tool to vent the small tank. It is safer to use a needle-nose pliers to pull up the vent valve. The pressure relief valve is set at the factory. (as mentioned in some comments below.) it is difficult to get this back into the same setting and can lead to preventing the safety valve from working. the following is a link that I have since found that demonstrates the refill process with needle-nose pliers. (And yes it can be accomplished with a Harbor Freight valve adapter, but it is much easier to use an angled setup with more room.)

Step 4:

Attach the Valve that we have built to a 5 gallon propane tank. Close the quarter turn valve and open the tank valve. Then invert the entire setup.

Step 5:

Attach the 1lb Cylinder to the valve and then open the quarter turn valve. You should here propane rushing in to the bottle. Due to the fact that we have the 5 gallon tank inverted, we are pushing liquid in to the 1lb cylinder. Insert the tire valve tool into the relief valve, unscrew the valve until you hear propane escaping past the valve. I have found the most efficient method is to crack the valve open for  a few seconds and then close it. every time you do this, you will hear more liquid propane rushing in to the cylinder.

Step 6: Completely Fill the Cylinder!

Continue Venting the gas from the bottle in this manor until you get a small liquid spray out the vent. Once this happens, the cylinder is completely full.  Screw the relief valve closed until you hear it click. Turn off the quarter turn valve, and remove your completely refilled Cylinder! a full 5 gallon propane bottle will fill about 20 1 lb cylinders.

When I am done, I cover the top of the 1lb cylinder  with a bit of foil or plastic wrap to keep the connector clean and to mark the cylinder as full. If you save the plastic connector cap that came with the bottle, that is even better. IF you need more bottles, check the dumpster at the camp ground, there is always a plethera of them discarded by people who do not reuse...

You can now save money, and keep the cylinders out of the land fill.  Keep your cylinders dry and clean. replace the cylinder if it gets rusty or starts to leak. When in doubt, error on the side of caution.



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102 Discussions

I usually take my empty canisters and put them in the deep freeze for 24 hours, then quickly refill them. I usually get them pretty full this way. A lot safer than what is mentioned here, plus, you have room for expansion if the cylinders get warm.


1 year ago

I used needle nose pliers as you suggested and the valve would not re-seat, no matter what. All gas leaked out. I think unscrewing it would be better.

1 reply

It happens sometimes, especially with old cylinders where water may have entered the valve and corroded the valve seat. The chilling effect of bleeding gas can also make the valve seal hard, so it won't reseal properly. Sometimes I wait a minute for the valve to warm up, then briefly pull the relief valve stem with the pliers and let it snap back. That usually gets the valve to seal properly.

This looks like a great way to save money so you have it to spend at the hospital after this thing blows up in your face. You pay to play. Walmart has best prices

1 reply

Your comment is not helpful.

I have been refilling disposable cylinders for over 30 years for personal use without so much as an incident, much less an accident.

P To allow for this expansion, propane containers are filled to 80 percent to accommodate expansion Of the liquid. Pressure is determined by 72 degrees the psi is 100 at 130 degrees the pressure is at 254 psi Propane, like water, will expand when heat is added to it. Propane, however, will increase in volume nearly 17 times greater than water over the same temperature increase.

1 reply

so do not overfill the bottles and weight them to be safe otherwise when heated too hot they will become a supercritical fluid and "boom"

The only addition I will do is a plastic line so the bottle can be placed on a scale and see how much is going in. Makes it a bit more flexible and easier to weigh. I will be stopping by my Local Big Box store and picking up the parts.

Thanks for the Instructable.

Great idea ! People doing this should be sure not to completely fill with liquid. There should be at least 10 - 15 % gas in the bottle. Liquid propane will not compress if it heats up , it will explode the container if the safety vent fails. This is unlikely but a possibility. Compromising safety for an additional 10% of fuel seems like a foolish idea in my opinion Not that I haven't done much more foolish things in my younger years. I hope everyone saves money, saves the environment, and has a great camping experience !

I was pretty interested in this instructable until I started reading
the comments. I found the barbed comments between you guys to be
off-putting, and will look for another source of information on this

Food for thought... If you have a pissing contest,
and fill your thread with barbed comments, you're likely to lose your
potential audience. I'm disappointed that I wasted as much time as I
did reading comments that had little to no informational value to them.

Have a nice day, and thanks for the Instructable.

2 replies

Real information ALWAYS includes involved discussion, and when someone puts out faulty information in the name of 'safety', (or, alternatively, truly unsafe information), they need to be called on it.

So, you are interested, and liked the information, but a little heated dicussion runs you off?

i want to do it for camping instead of just buying new packs tho

Great information, thanks. Other sites suggest putting the small cylinder in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes before filling, this seems to work, along with the other sites I found your post very helpfull thanks for taking the time and effort.

You do know in Canada in Ontario and Quebec it is Illegal to do this. You could get a half a million dollar fine and/ or 5 years (min) in Jail for attempting this.

1 reply

Often the fill valve leaks after filling and within a few days the tank is empty.

I have tried putting a bit of WD40 on the valve, but don't know if that works.

Comments or suggestions?