Introduction: Reusing a Disposable Helium Tank

Picture of Reusing a Disposable Helium Tank

I had a couple helium tanks leftover from the kids' birthday parties, so I figured I'd take a whack at reusing them. Here's how to attach 1/4" OD tubing to one. From there, you can use it to store compressed gases (e.g. CO2, air).

Disposable helium tank (the ones I have are Balloon Time)
1/4" OD compression nut with insert
1/4" OD tubing
3/16" drill bit
5/16" drill bit
cutoff wheel
Teflon tape

Disclaimer:Author is not responsible for loss of life, limb or property. Author is not responsible for anything. In fact, author is completely irresponsible. I mean, you should see some of the stuff he gets up to. It's amazing he hasn't burned the house down yet. Don't listen to him. Seriously.

Step 1: Cutting

Picture of Cutting

Remove the nozzle. Cut the connector off as close to the thread as possible. There should be a small plastic nib inside. Remove that.

Step 2: Drilling

Picture of Drilling

Drill out the valve with a 3/16" bit. A bunch of black plastic will come out. Keep drilling until it bottoms out. As far as I can tell, the plastic is a check valve that prevents refilling.

Countersink with a 5/16" bit to a depth of about 1/4".

Wrap with Teflon tape, overlapping the edge.

Step 3: Attaching the Tubing

Picture of Attaching the Tubing

Assemble the compression nut and attach to the connector. It just happens to be the same thread.

I've tested this up to 70 psi. Not sure how far it'll go.

I've done this with two tanks so far. On one, the valve doesn't close all the way anymore, so I put an inline valve on the tubing instead. The other one seems to work fine.

I'm currently using one for compressed CO2. Haven't decided what to do with the other yet.


ArtificerMade (author)2014-07-27

I will say this as politely as possible. I am so thankful that the Wright Bros, Newcomen, Watts, Fulton, and every pioneer of science and industry did not share your cowardice. Yes, cowardice to match your contempt for objective critical thinking that goes beyond reading a warning label.

Mods, please do not kick this post, I promise the nicest thing a person can do is help another overcome their own ignorance. I promise you, everything I am saying here is true and it comes from a place of love.

Now... About these tanks. Compared to a normal helium tank hese are low pressure tanks. Helium tanks are normally like 3000psi and shaped like O2 tanks. Those H2 tanks hold liquid H2 and a lot of it.

These little pink piggy tanks hold gasseous H2, enough to fill 40 or so balloons. The pressure of the H2 in the tank is about 260PSI and the tanks are rated to function at over 300PSI.

These helium tanks are identical to the white refrigerant tanks. Tanks for which they sell an addapter to convert it to a compressed air storage tank (

The valve regulator on the helium tank even matched this conversion kit.

You know what a steel tank at 60PSI does when it ruptures? Not a whole lot. It hisses and whistles and maybe it wonders who shot it because that's the only way it's going to rupture.

Jesus... this is what the end of our species looks like. We go out, not with a bang, but with a "don't try anything new, you might hurt yourself!"

en2oh (author)ArtificerMade2015-03-19

just a couple, hopefully constructive comments I'd like to make in response to your post. First point is that the symbol for helium is "He" not "H". The second critical point is that no cylinder of helium gas contains liquid helium. While it is true that some tanks of gas do largely contain a liquid with a gas phase, examples being CO2 and N2O, none of the gases like oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and or helium are at sufficiently high pressure to exist as a liquid at room temperature.

Comments like you made are likely well intentioned, but that doesn't make them correct. A metal tank that ruptures, even if pressurized initially to only 60psi can, under certain circumstances behave like a bomb. Knocking a tank valve off a pressurized tank is a much less violent event than is a tank rupture. The problem is that these tanks are not designed to be re pressurized. That doesn't mean they can't be represurized but they may not behave predictably.

A very real senario that results in a tragedy is a tank that is pressured to 100psi at night when the ambient temperature is cool. Let's say the temperature during the day doubles as compared to temperature at filling. The tank pressure will double. This assumes you only have dry air in the tank. Add a volatile liquid and the situation becomes even worse (ie CO2 or nitrous oxide -N2O).

The reason tanks are certified and tested "hydrostatically" is because water is essentially incompressible. A water filled tank at 3000psi will behave much more predictably at failure than a tank failing with 300psi of air.

Tanks can be repurposed safely and are repurposed by people all the time BUT, if one fails, the full weight of the law will come down on you. Make no mistake about that. It says "DO NOT REFILL" not only to protect you, but also to put the legal liability squarely on your shoulders, should something go wrong. You could pay (as in cash money) for this for the rest of your life, if your negligence harms someone other than your self.


Pulmer59 (author)en2oh2016-09-29

When calculating pressure increase in relationship to temp we convert to kelvin not Fahrenheit. Doubling temperature from 30 to 60 deg Fahrenheit is only a 5.8% increase when converted to Kelvin. So, your pressure increase would only be 5.8% not double. A 100psi tank stored in a place that goes from 30deg F to 60F would be raised to approx 106psi... which is why it is safe to keep tires on your car(they won't explode when the temp doubles in deg F) or an air storage tank in your garage where ambient temps are very unstable.

Possum Living (author)en2oh2015-05-09

"A very real senario that results in a tragedy is a tank that is
pressured to 100psi at night when the ambient temperature is cool.
Let's say the temperature during the day doubles as compared to
temperature at filling. The tank pressure will double."

Wow, that's scary! You are hereby cordially invited to prove that statement. I never realized that when my shop air compressor cycles at 10PM just before I shut it off for the night, I am risking having it explode at noon the next day.

Of course, I also didn't realize that 60 degrees Fahrenheit is double the temperature as 30 degrees F.

en2oh (author)Possum Living2015-05-09

not sure if the possum is still alive or not but on the chance he is, I'll try and clarify some points

First, the compressor does not have to cycle at night for a problem to occur. If the tank is at 100psi with an ambient (read that as air temperature) temp of 35 F (ie just above freezing in the desert night air), AND you don't have a pressure relief valve on the system (or the relief valve doesn't properly work), the pressure WILL go up in the morning, as the daily temperature goes up. This isn't my opinion and certainly doesn't need "proof". Pressure varies directly as the temperature so..... If the temperature doubles, the pressure will double (assuming the volume doesn't change). If the pressure doesn't go up, the volume MUST increase. The only way the helium tank can increase its volume is by expanding. Once it expands to the point that the weakest part of the tank fails, the tank RUPTURES.

As far as your last question, "I didn't realize that 60 degrees F was double 30 degrees F", I can only suggest you speak with an adult about that one. Another way to think of it is in terms of money. If you have $30 today and someone gives you $30 more, you have "doubled your money". Does that clarify things?

Bottom line is, read about Gas Laws. Don't worry about ideal vs real gas behaviour. (P1V1)/T1=(P2V2)/T2 is a pretty good place to start.


Possum Living (author)en2oh2015-05-11

As SippingD pointed out, 60 degrees F is NOT double the temperature of 30 degrees F. And that was an observation btw; not a question.

Also, I never said the pressure will not increase in the tank of my air compressor when the sun comes up. Just that it won't double, nor increase to anything approaching an unsafe level.

SippingD (author)en2oh2015-05-11

en2oh - You got the equation right, but you are using the wrong temperature scale. You need to use absolute temperatures (Kelvin) for those equations to work. 30F is 272K and 60F is 288K. So, with a temperature increase from 30F to 60F the pressure will increase less than 6%.

en2oh (author)SippingD2015-05-11

yup, you're correct ;)

The problem with this debate is not about safe vs risky. It's really about factoring in the imponderables. When you have too many uncontrolled variables, the risk for most becomes unacceptable. A thick walled pressure vessel will tolerate (safely) repeated pressure / depressurization cycles with little risk (hence the need to recertify scuba tanks on a schedule rather than simply saying "pass once, good for life" or, "only good for 5 years") of harm to the user or the public.

A thin walled vessel is quite a different story. I don't think anyone is saying "you can't do this", but more than a few have suggested that some of the risks associated with this practice might not have been considered by the original poster.

Your observation about the dimensions of this equation are correct, but the practical issue remains. A marginal pressure vessel that is safely charged to its working limits may, under very real life circumstances fail due to something as simple as an unexpected rise in temperature.

Even these helium tanks may fail under circumstances that are totally within the design parameters. But if they do, there is a company with deep pockets at the end of the street that a victim or their next of kin may turn to.

ChefLamont (author)ArtificerMade2014-11-17

Talk about going out with a bang. Filling balloons at a party with hydrogen is probably not a good idea. ;)

fostersfriend (author)ChefLamont2015-03-01

what is funny is that i disagree with that as well, if you fill the balloons with pure hydrogen the explosion is much softer (no bang all woosh), pretty fun for kids to watch; even better for parties ;)

en2oh (author)fostersfriend2015-05-09

pure hydrogen doesn't explode. On the other hand, if you fill a balloon with the gases given off by electrolysis of water (2H:1O) the bang will be very impressive. You MUST have fuel, an oxidizer and a source of heat. A balloon full of hydrogen won't explode. To explode, you must have the correct mixture of fuel / oxidizer. For some mixtures, the range is quite narrow.

Matthew R.K (author)2015-09-29

theres a tool shop 5 gal tank at menards for 25$ and it says max pressure is 125psi... if this party helium tank is operational at 275 then which tank would be safer to use at 125.. an air tank with max pressure 125 being sold as a refillable air tank or a disposable party helium air tank rated at 275... come on fear mongers.. do the math.. help me out here...

boxbot (author)2015-09-26

Here, I copied from the Balloon Time FAQ page,

Hope this helps!

What is the working pressure of Balloon Time tanks?

  • Balloon Time tanks operate at a working pressure of 260 psi, and are successfully leak-tested at a minimum of 325 psi to ensure quality. In addition, each Balloon Time tank has a patented flow restriction safety device, reducing the flow rate and improving the safety of the product.
legogamer (author)2015-05-21

Awesome! I have one of these, I might do this!

Tegra (author)2013-06-25

I just did one and used a reinforced PVC toilet hose. (kind of limits the pressure a bit) and a compressed air disconnect.
Found there is a combination shut off/anti-refill cone that is pushed down by the turn handle. Even with the handle turned open, it will fall over the hole and the refill pressure with keep it closed and prevent it from filling.

I was thinking of just drilling it al well, but this would then not allow it to be shut off. I found that it it turned the tank upside down and gradually increased the pressure the "cone" would not get pressed into place.

I am also thinking of filling it with CO2 (only about 60 PSI) and using it to push beer out of a keg.

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 lawyer or two.

As far as these "Balloon Time" cylinders. How much pressure do they contain, sitting in the aisle 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 keep stored in a safe place seems very reasonable to me. (on a side note, it is frightening to me that a common use of these helium cylinders is DIY suicide. Thus proving that a leaking helium cylinder can be fatal)

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".


en2oh (author)Tegra2015-05-09


What you've done here is "arithmetic" not math. Math is a little more complicated! :)

Just because you might get away with something doesn't mean it's safe. Statistics show that if enough people (or one person, enough times) do something that is unsafe, bad outcomes will follow. Call it the Golden BB, or the Darwin Award, but I've seen these stories through to their logical conclusion on more than a few times. Each time you cycle a pressure vessel through its full/empty state, the metal wall distorts. Some metal work hardens due to this distortion but all metals undergo fatigue. The disposable tanks are not designed to undergo these pressure cycles. You may not believe that, and you may not know that, but it doesn't change the facts.

As a final comment, I don't believe any of what I've said is "fear mongering". When people express their opinion, they are often speaking from a position of knowledge. On the other hand, have you considered how annoying it might be to some of us when a person "safety mongers"?


rjkorn (author)Tegra2014-03-22

Beautiful cogent reply. I wish you said that was on my i'ble.

standardmoose (author)2015-05-04

ok, if anyone has got down this far, please listen to what i am going to say. PLEASE DO NOT DO ANYTHING THAT IS MENTIONED ABOVE. i work in the refrigerant/gas industry, the cylinder which is talked about above is what is called a disposable cylinder for the pure fact that it is not meant be be reused in any way other than scrap.

the box the cylinder would have come in would have probably had loads of warnings on it say do not refill, caution pressurized gas etc etc.

messing around with pressurized gas, no matter how low the pressure is, is dangerous. that cylinder has no relief valve just a burst disk which come flying off if the pressure gets to high or the cylinder fails, and if that hits you it made do more than just hurt.

please do not follow the above instructable. if you want to refill a cylinder get a refillable cylinder. they dont cost must and are meant to be refilled

kivster (author)2014-11-26

Fun project. Really a great use for the tanks.

balloons (author)2014-11-10

Oh no! Half knowledge can be really dangerous for you and the ones around you. These cyllinders have a opperating pressure of 260 psi. And compressed co2 can reach pressures of 800 psi it then turns into its liqued state. REALY NOT GOOD! ive got two balloon time cyllinders and I always fill them to 110 psi with just air. Completely safe.

vaporlock (author)2014-08-18

Nobody takes a poorly devised "oxygen cylinder" diving. Nobody take a properly designed "oxygen cylinder" diving. Diving involves, in typical cases 3,000+ psi of air, not oxygen. Wall thickness is about 3/8" of a special aluminum alloy designed for a combination of rigidity and flexibility (and yes, the DO flex and expand noticeably under the pressure). If one of these cylinders defies all safety measures and bursts, you are hosed if it happens to burst in your direction, otherwise taking a 35lb chunk of aluminum in the jaw could have many different outcomes. If they rate these little helium tanks at X psi they are really rated for X x 1.2 psi. The tanks are constructed of maleable metal and would split without shrapnel and could cause a big bump on your beanie, but would be less than stellar and hardly worth a youtube video.

Atomic Shrimp (author)2014-04-20

I just found one of these today in a skip. I'm going to make it into a hot smoker for smoking fish/bacon etc.

rjkorn (author)2014-03-22

Love these tanks... and any i'ble that gives me more ideas to use them!

Bungie (author)2014-02-17

Found this buried at the bottom of Balloon Time's web site FAQ's. Looks like these hold more pressure safely than they seem to imply:

  • What is the working pressure of Balloon Time tanks?

    Time tanks operate at a working pressure of 260 psi and are
    successfully leak-tested at a minimum of 325 psi to ensure quality. In
    addition, each Balloon Time tank has a patented flow restriction safety
    device, reducing the helium flow rate and improving the safety of the

rich60 (author)2011-09-28

I can't really see why you would want to refill this kind of tank anyway.

Master Beorn (author)2011-09-20

I think I might have to make a Barbute helmet from one of these... There's an idea for my first instructable!

kwhit190211 (author)2011-09-18

I would never advise anyone to refill a sheet metal tank with any type of compressed gas. You making a bomb out of it for one thing. Just like some of the people above advised. But, I also did find a use for the tank. On my round as a ball charcoal grill. The charcoal holder finally went. So after cutting the top & the bottom off of the tank, I had the makings for the holder. I just needed some more metal to make up what I needed. And, anymore I don't throw to much away. And, if I do throw anything away it's shot!!

allen_idaho (author)2011-09-17

I need to advise against reusing these tanks. They are constructed of thin walled sheetmetal and weren't designed to hold much pressure.

Overcharging one is very easy to do and can result in a catastrophic failure. If you are lucky, it will just crack and shoot off like a torpedo. If you are unlucky, it will explode killing you and whoever else is nearby.

Something similar happened in Florida about a week ago. A guy was taking a poorly manufactured oxygen cylinder to his car to go diving and it exploded, killing him instantly.

I highly recommend using thick walled steel cylinders instead.

PaintingContractor (author)2011-09-17

Thanks posting this. These tanks have many uses, just seeing one more, thought I have seen everything, I learn something new every day.

Reminded me what I just recently saw. Was getting new tires on my truck, and new ones did not want to air up, even taking out valve stem, connecting air hose. Feller pulled out a similar tank with a 2" ball valve, air gauge, valve stem, and a 2' pipe coming out of ball valve. He aired up tank to about 100 psi, opened ball valve, shooting a massive amount of air near bead on tire which was on rim. Like a cannon of air, sealing bead to rim, thereby filling tire at the same time.

Achan20 (author)2011-09-15

if i may. you dont have to drill out the black plastic. take a wood screw and put it into the black plastic stopper and twist it in. (dont push too hard or it will get shoved back and you will have to drill out) then when you have a good grip take a pair of pliers and pull the screw and the plug out! im going to put some rustoleum in mine and swash it around. then dump it out to let it dry to prevent rusting. then put water in it and put it in the shed upside down for washing hands/ parts/ ect. lol. hope i helped. also thought about painting it blue and sticking it in the back of my car to look like nitro. lol.

rbclima (author)2011-09-15

man ... i wouldt do it if i were u ... its a freaking BOMB hehehe be carefull or its gonna explode. this walls are very thin

colorex (author)2011-09-15

You should come to Ecuador, see what they do with them here!

They retrofit them with a compressor from an old fridge, and voil√° you've got a compressor for spraypainting, filling tires, etc.

They split them in half vertically, add some legs, a grill from a fridge, and turn them into grills.

They split them in half and turn them into flowerpots...


Good Instructable!

skincage (author)2011-09-14

I imagine you can also make a wee tongue drum out of one.

cchubb (author)skincage2011-09-14

That was my idea. I'll be taking pictures along the way, mayhaps to turn into an I'ble.

coppeis (author)2010-10-07

How do you fill it up(re-fill it)?

Mmatch (author)2010-03-30

Looks interesting ... thanks for sharing.

But can you help with a couple questions?

1. Why do you need to "Cut the connector off as close to the thread ..." ?
2. In other words, why isn't the drilling out the aperture enough?
3. What is the point/need for a "Countersink" afterward (1/4-inch deep)?

Maybe any closer (macro) views would explain these basic concerns in advance.


Mmatch (author)2010-03-30

Looks interesting ... thanks for sharing.

But can you help with a couple questions?

1. Why do you need to "Cut the connector off as close to the thread ..." ?
2. In other words, why isn't the drilling out the aperture enough?

Maybe any closer (macro) views would explain these basic concerns in advance.


struckbyanarrow (author)2010-02-12

My school throws these out after school dances but i never though anything of them, i cant wait for the day after the next dance!

MadBricoleur (author)2010-01-02

Interestingly enough, I have the exact same helium tank and luckily brought it home from a party today in hopes that I could use it for something like this. Thanks :D

bwpatton1 (author)2009-07-03

You can also do this with propane cylinders

kill-a-watt (author)2008-01-06

Awesome, another take is always good on those pesky one-way valves.

degroof (author)kill-a-watt2008-01-07

Yeah, that looks like it's nearly identical to the valve on the helium tank. I've got one more sitting around. I might try grinding down the lip on that one, just to see what's inside.

imthatguy1125 (author)degroof2009-04-13

how do you put air in the can

imthatguy1125 (author)2009-01-11

how do you fill them up what did you use to cut offf the nozzel

Bad-dawg (author)2008-06-13

We like to pump 'em up to 150PSi with a compressor and take them shooting.... Hit one of these(from FAR away) with an '06 or 8mm round and watch the FUN!

funoldman (author)2008-06-11

One should NEVER re-use a "disposable" cylinder. These cylinders such as "refrigerant" (R-12,R-22, etc) or "helium" are not meant to be refilled. The wall thicknesses are thin, and they are not coated on the inside to prevent rusting. Once the original material are gone, rust can begin. The empty tank should be rendered useless and then recycled as scrap steel or set out with the garbage. Most tanks will say not "re-usable" but might say recyclable. BE SAFE don't explode an old tank and kill someone.

hanelyp (author)2008-01-10

Re-pressurizing a tank can fatigue it, especially if the tank isn't designed for reuse. Beware of catastrophic failure. The authors disclaimer is good advice here.

DeimosOne (author)2008-01-08

I've got about 10+ empty CO2 tanks at work, Maybe I can make some use out of them now, instead of just throwing them in the storage room.

GorillazMiko (author)2008-01-07

Good job. No, great job! This is very smart, but I just like tossing them high in an empty parking lot or something. (Of course, when they have nothing in them. Or do they still have some left?)

jimmyb0nz (author)2008-01-06

I turned mine into a smoker/barbecue once. It got rusty from neglect but worked great!

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