Refillable vs Disposable Propane Canisters For Camper Conversions

For most back-seat weekenders, disposable cylinders are the clear choice.  For most big RVs, a permanently mounted refillable tank is the only way to go.  For everybody in between, it’s a little more complicated.  We still haven’t decided between 1lb cylinders or the smallest refillable cylinder we can find (4lbs)

First a note: We’re calling the green 1lb cylinders “disposable canisters” here, but they are most definitely recyclable when fully and safely emptied, it’s just the standard term.  More about trying to actually refill them later.

Cost

  • Refillable: In early 2017, propane costs ~$4 per gallon.  At 4.24 lbs per gallon, that’s $.94 per pound.
  • Disposable: ~$10 per 1lb recyclable container.  That’s 10x more expensive! Yes, they can be refilled, but we didn’t consider that option, see note below.

Size / Location in Camper 

  • Splitter for hooking up multiple propane appliances

    Refillable: Not rated to be used in an enclosed living space.  You’ll need to create a sealed, externally vented compartment for your tank.  These can be bought in some odd sizes if you need, some as small as 1 Gallon.  You’ll also need to buy hoses, splitters, and fittings to hook up your gas appliances.

  • Disposable: Can take more or less depending on needs, small bottles can be tucked most places.  Safe to discharge in enclosed spaces.

Access To Fuel

  • Refillable: This can be really hit or miss, with some places only offering it certain hours of the day.
  • Disposable: Most places, even gas stations will have these, but you may pay through the nose if you buy in touristy areas.
    • truck camper propane adapter refill
      Adapter to refill disposable cylinders. Ever used one?

      There’s adapters that let you refill these disposable tanks from a normal cylinder, but we don’t have any experience with it and can’t profess to it being safe.  It’s a bummer you can’t refill the tanks past 80%, but the big reasons we’re not really considering this as an option is we don’t think you could get all gas station attendants to use one to refill individual 1lb cylinders  Both because it’d be a pain and for liability reasons.  You could use your own large cylinder as a part time #tracktramp, but obviously carrying one with you would defeat the whole purpose.

Quality of Fuel

  • Refillable: The Mr. Heater requires a special hose for use with normal quality propane gas.  if you’re refiling your own cylinders it’s important you use product and hot other hoses that might react with the gas, forming harmful chemicals.
  • Disposable: Clean burning, can be mounted directly to the Mr. Heater.

 

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