I’m not a big fan of propane. I don’t like that it can explode. I don’t like that if you use it indoors, you have to be really careful not to accidentally kill yourself. I don’t like that you have to check propane connections periodically to make sure they’re not leaking. I just don’t like propane. It’s too much of a hassle.
And yet …
I find myself with a propane tank.
Let’s rewind a bit. Since I’m an uber-prepared wannabe van dweller, I purchased a Little Buddy Heater by Mr. Heater a couple of years ago. This heater uses 1 lb. disposable propane tanks—the ones that you can get almost anywhere and cost $3-4 each. I used the heater a handful of times, and it never really worked very well. The heat went straight up. And when am I ever standing directly over my heater? Never. Not once did I ever get the Little Buddy to heat the space around it instead of above it. That heater got the boot.
So then I considered going heat-free. After all, how bad could a little cold weather be? I’ll just cozy up to a few warm blankets, and I’ll be just fine. But after a few nights of camping out in the driveway in 55-degree weather, I changed my tune. The cold air hurt my nose, and my feet were so cold that I couldn’t sleep.
Begrudgingly, I bought the best portable heater known to the RV world: the Olympian Wave 3 Catalytic Heater. At $207, it was more than twice the price of the Little Buddy heater. And unfortunately, Olympian Wave heaters don’t work with 1lb. disposable propane cylinders—they only work with the larger, refillable tanks. So in addition to the heater, I also had to buy a regulator with a hose, a propane detector, and the smallest refillable propane tank I could find—a Worthington 1-gallon propane tank. (I already had a carbon monoxide detector.) It was pricey, but I figured that my nose, my feet, and sleep were worth it.
Now, the thing about new propane tanks is that they have to be purged (unless you buy your tank in person from a propane supplier who has already done that for you). I won’t go in to the science behind why you have to purge new propane tanks before their first use (mostly because I’ve heard conflicting reasons and still don’t know what the right one is), but most people will agree purging is necessary.
As soon as my tank arrived, I set out to find a propane supplier who would purge my new tank. Easier said than done. At least, it was for me. One supplier didn’t refill tanks, they just exchanged them. Another didn’t know how to purge new tanks. Yet another told me over the phone that there were willing to purge the tank, but when I got there, they told me that “everyone was in a meeting” and I’d have to come back tomorrow (wtf!?). I finally found one place that was willing to do it, but as the technician prepared to purge the tank, I noticed that the method he was using was … well, it was the exact method that this article said to avoid!
Ugh, why is this so difficult? I let the technician do it anyway.
He simply filled up my propane tank once, let all the propane out, and then filled it all the way up again. Was this the right way to do it? I don’t know.
All that conflicting information wasn’t sitting well with me, so I decided to do a little test run of the heater and the propane tank—outside, so that if anything blew up the damage would be minimized.
Great news! Nothing blew up. The heater worked beautifully, and, as far as I can tell, the propane tank is functioning perfectly. I’ve been using my heater inside the van since then (windows cracked!) and it’s been toasty warm.
That leaves me with only one question: How does one properly purge a propane tank??? Anyone? Bueller?