Instructables

Reusing a Disposable Helium Tank

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Picture of Reusing a Disposable Helium Tank
tank3.jpg
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).

Materials
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.
 
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Step 1: Cutting

Picture of Cutting
tank6.jpg
tank7.jpg
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
tank9.jpg
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
tank11.jpg
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.
-CCCP-1 month ago

You should NOT attempt this. It may blow up and kill you and others. The explosion will also wreck the people's stuff.

-CCCP-1 month ago

You should NOT attempt this. It may blow up and kill you and others. The explosion will also wreck the people's stuff.

-CCCP-1 month ago

You should NOT attempt this. It may blow up and kill you and others. The explosion will also wreck the people's stuff.

mrmkv1 month ago

Folks, I would highly advise you do not even attempt this, these helium tanks are not real cylinders they are disposable much like most aresol sprays, these tanks are prone to explosion when heated, punctured, or damaged. They also cannot withstand the integrity of being refilled. Real cylinders have pressure ratings and designated hydrostatic testing dates carried out by the manufacturer and licensed practices under the department of transportation, THEY ARE TESTED EVERY 5 - 10 YEARS. Not only do I believe this is the stupidest thing you can possibly do, but I would never risk my life or quality on a cheap disposable canister project such as this.

Atomic Shrimp3 months ago

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.

rjkorn4 months ago

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

Tegra1 year ago
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".

Tom
flag[delete]
rjkorn Tegra4 months ago

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

Bungie5 months ago

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?

    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 helium flow rate and improving the safety of the
    product.

http://www.balloontime.com/about/FAQ.aspx

-copper tube-6 months ago

Cool

rich602 years ago
I can't really see why you would want to refill this kind of tank anyway.
I think I might have to make a Barbute helmet from one of these... There's an idea for my first instructable!
kwhit1902112 years ago
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_idaho2 years ago
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.
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.
Achan202 years ago
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.
rbclima2 years ago
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
colorex2 years ago
HAHAHA
You should come to Ecuador, see what they do with them here!

They retrofit them with a compressor from an old fridge, and voilá 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...

ETC ETC ETC

Good Instructable!
skincage2 years ago
I imagine you can also make a wee tongue drum out of one.

cchubb skincage2 years ago
That was my idea. I'll be taking pictures along the way, mayhaps to turn into an I'ble.
coppeis3 years ago
How do you fill it up(re-fill it)?
Mmatch4 years ago
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.

Bob
Mmatch@hotmail.com
Florida
Mmatch4 years ago
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.

Bob
Mmatch@hotmail.com
Florida
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!
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
bwpatton15 years ago
You can also do this with propane cylinders
kill-a-watt6 years ago
Awesome, another take is always good on those pesky one-way valves.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Air-Can-from-Empty-Refrigerant-Can/
degroof (author)  kill-a-watt6 years ago
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.
how do you put air in the can
how do you fill them up what did you use to cut offf the nozzel
Bad-dawg6 years ago
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!
funoldman6 years ago
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.
hanelyp6 years ago
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.
DeimosOne6 years ago
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.
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?)
jimmyb0nz6 years ago
I turned mine into a smoker/barbecue once. It got rusty from neglect but worked great!
nanonano586 years ago
nice :)
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