Connecting Propane To Your Tiny House

Propane. Can’t live with it. Can’t stop talking about it. I like to call it the “friendly flammable.” But what is it exactly?

WHAT IS PROPANE?

Also known as liquid petroleum gas, LP-gas, and LPG, propane is produced in roughly equal amounts from both natural gas and crude oil sources.  Propane is nontoxic, colorless, and odorless.

(WARNING: technical talk coming) To make propane from crude oil, the oil is separated at a refinery using a fractioning tower.  It is refined into different levels of purity depending on what height of the fractioning tower the propane is pulled from.  The higher the point on the fractioning tower, the higher the purity, or quality, of the propane.

According to the US Department of Energy, the southern states sell propane with more butane, which is at a lower cut point, in the fractionating tower.  In the colder states, the propane sold is from a higher crack that is more pure. All of this to truly say that if you are taking your tiny house from a warmer climate to a colder climate you should either use up your propane before reaching cooler weather or simply exchange your tank at the new climate center. However, the quality of colder weather propane is better, so if you are toting propane from cooler to warmer climates you should be okay.  Rule of thumb: use propane from the climate you are in.

The use of propane is one that can all at once seem like common sense and like rocket science. It has been used by campers for years. However, it is relatively new to the tiny house community since the modern tiny house movement itself is rather new. If you consider the use of LP-gas for sticks ‘n bricks though it only makes sense. Propane keeps water hot, it makes stove burners blaze, and it allows furnace air to be toasty. Put those items on the road and you have a need for a system both new and old. But before going into those areas it is most important to know how to hook your propane tanks up in the first place. The process can be scary for some and even a bit perplexing.

In the next three minutes or so I hope to show you how easy hooking up a propane tank to your tiny house or recreation vehicle can be and even how safe it can be. Just click on the standard YouTube play button on the screenshot below. When you’re finished watching be sure to subscribe to the Tiny r(E)volution YouTube channel.

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By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

Note: “What Is Propane” section paraphrased from Ask The Expert.

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Becca - January 21, 2015 Reply

Good to know!

DW - January 21, 2015 Reply

Few errors in this video…
1. Make sure the hose fitting is straight when inserting it. Being slightly off will not release the check valve in the tank valve.
2. When one tank runs out of propane, switch the lever to the other tank, open that valve, then close the MT tank valve, remove the hose connector and get the tank refilled.

Simply turning off the MT tank can deplete the LPG from the service line, thus making it necessary to bleed the system to get gas components working again.

Also, it is advised to check the connection with a spray bottle of soapy liquid to make sure there are no leaks. A leak could cause an explosion that could cause bodily injury or death.

Just saying, if you are going to do it, do it right…

    Andrew M. Odom - January 21, 2015 Reply

    Thank you so much DW for the corrections. When making the video I assumed that folks would realize that if the hose fitting wasn’t straight and they cross-threaded…well, it wouldn’t allow the connection to be a snug one. I shouldn’t assume.

    I also didn’t know about point #2. It wasn’t how I was explained a transfer switch from the gas company. I will definitely begin to do that.

    And yes, you should always check for leaks. Most folks do not and will not. And from my experience the smell of a propane leak or exhalation is so strong and putrid it is recognizable almost instantly. I would hope that would caution people to check their system.

    You are right. If you are going to do it, do it right. Thank you for your comments. Please feel free to leave those on the YouTube video as well.

LH - January 21, 2015 Reply

So what happens if you use propane purchased in the south in cool climates? Or if you take a tank to refill that was previously filled in the south and now you are filling in the north?

Shane - January 21, 2015 Reply

good information and I like the photo you picked.
Shane

    Andrew M. Odom - January 21, 2015 Reply

    I know a good setup when I see one Shane. Heck, I know a good tiny house when I see one! 😉

TMM - January 21, 2015 Reply

Few additional notes.

The reason Butane is not used in the north is because it has a higher freezing point than propane.. so as it gets colder, the butane can stop flowing.

Any time you use propane inside an enclosure, you should have a propane detector installed. Placed down low since propane is heavier than air and pools in low spots. If you are in bed and have a leak, do not assume you will smell it… it can easily pool along the floor until it reaches critical levels.

Be prepared to shut off any propane devices when using transit, such as ferries. They usually require the tank hoses to be disconnected as well.

Lastly, while not vital, it is good practice to always shut your tanks off when away from your home for extended times.

Andrew M. Odom - January 21, 2015 Reply

Excellent points TMM!

LH - January 21, 2015 Reply

Thanks for all the good information

Jake - January 21, 2015 Reply

I’m conflicted about using propane in my own house (tiny, of course):

The Dickinson Marine heater that is the symbol of tiny house heating is appealing and propane seems to be pretty efficient when it comes to heating (stoves, heaters, hot water, etc.)…

But some people in this movement and niche group are in it for the environmental reasons and propane is a nonrenewable energy source. I know most of us still use gas-powered vehicles but transportation in the country almost requires them. There are other sources of energy that could be utilized but perhaps in the similar vein as gas powered cars, propane can serve as a viable source until other sources are more easily available and affordable?

J. Myers - January 21, 2015 Reply

One other comment on the video. If I understood you, you suggest using propane to fuel your refrigerator when driving down the road. That practice can be dangerous. Not only is there the potential for a problem with the system while you are driving or in the event of a collision, but also, the refrigerator can cause an exposion in gas stations if you leave it on. An open flame in a gas station is not a good idea. I once pulled into the RV aisles of a gas station and a man approached on foot with his RV parked well behind me. He yelled over to ask if I had my refrigerator and propane off. I did. He told me that he had witnessed a gas station explosion caused by someone who didn’t and he was wary of being involved in one again.

Andrew M. Odom - January 22, 2015 Reply

Absolutely J. Myers. The video was about connecting your propane tank. It by no means covered every part of propane and how to use it 24/7 with a tiny house or travel trailer. Our typical practice is to turn the gas off and the appliance off when stopping at a gas station. Is it cumbersome? Sometimes. However, it prevents accidents like you described but also allows your food to stay cool in the fridge for those especially long hauls. With everything there are responsibilities and consequences.

Margy - January 22, 2015 Reply

We use propane at our cabin for lights, stove and the refrigerator. I was afraid of it in the beginning, but after 15 years it has become a part of our everyday life. We use 40-pound tanks because they are easier to transport from town in our boat. We used to use 60-pound tanks and they were much more difficult to manage when full. Because we live in a cabin, we replaced our smaller RV style refrigerator with a full size Unique model. It is so much for efficient that the propane consumption is just a little bit more for double the capacity. – Margy

Kayla - Thinkheat.com - January 15, 2016 Reply

Nice video. Our family have used propane in our house for a long time, and it’s nice to know that it offers so many advantages. I really like the versatility and economical of it.

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