Boom-Boom Propane Tank


Propane Tank Arrival

While we were doing the septic tank and leach field we also installed a 1,000 gallon propane tank for hot water heating. It reminds me of Little-Boy.

I don’t like propane. Badly installed propane in the old farm house gave me headaches. I’ve read all too many articles in the newspaper about homes, businesses and skating rinks exploding due to leaking propane. I prefer a nice safe fuel like wood.

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However, propane is the fuel of choice for heating hot water according to our electric utility spokes person. He, I’d think, would have a vested interest in selling me more electric. But instead he convinced me to put in propane for the hot water heating, calling the heating of water a low grade use of electric.

One advantage of propane is there are some good backup generators that we can put in which run off of propane. When we have a chiller full of a ton of hanging pork carcasses it would be a shame to lose power. So a backup generator for our refrigeration system is high on my to-do list.

I considered an outdoor wood fired furnace but don’t want to cut, haul and split that much wood. Our cottage uses consistently under 3/4 cord of wood a year. I like that. I get enough exercise.

Solar hot water is in the future but we need something now and solar is only useful as a preheater. We’ll also do preheating off of our refrigeration system. Unfortunately that doesn’t reliably get the temperature up to the 180°F we must shoot for.

Someday I’ll generate my own electrical power and can use the excess for heating water but that project is a few years down the road. We’ve got other things to do right now. So propane it is.

There are some things I am implementing in the building to minimize the risk from this fuel. The propane usage is isolated from other valuable equipment in a concrete bunker. We have remote shut offs. There are heavy air drains. I’ll put in alarms. I would like to make sure we don’t have a boom-boom situation. Let sleeping bombs lie.

Outdoors: 35°F/20°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/61°F

Daily Spark:
How many activists does it take to change a light bulb?
Activists don’t change light bulbs. They protest the darkness.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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20 Responses to Boom-Boom Propane Tank

  1. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    You have a nifty tractor . . . consider a deflection berm around three sides of the tank? I learned in Vietnam that blast berms are good ideas. And that thing looks like a blast and a half.

  2. Brian Martin says:

    Walter, Walter, Let not your heart be troubled, I have been employed by propane companies in the past and have learned that 99% of all propane related issues come from unqualified people(Home owners) messing around with the system. There are specific codes in which systems and appliances need to be installed. If the rules have been followed it is a very safe fuel, though an expensive one. Now that I have moved to town I have natural gas which is as good but far more cost efficient than propane.

    • I hope you’re right Brian about the safety. The propane we had in the old farm house was completely company installed yet it always leaked. I finally got rid of it after over a decade of dealing with the constant call backs to have them try to fix it.

      As to price, that varies greatly by region and is relative to other fuels. I read of some people paying 4¢/KWHr for electricity but ours is 20¢/KWHr. Likewise I suspect that the propane prices vary widely by region. I have read that natural gas is better since it carries more energy but unfortunately that is not an option here.

      In the long run I plan to wean us of as much outside energy inputs as possible but will likely keep the option there. Our spring water starts out very cold. Probably the best solution is if I can get our passive solar heating to bring it up to a good prewarm and then use the propane or electric for that final boost on-demand. With that in mind I’ve left places in the butcher shop design for thermo-siphoning passive solar hot water. Fortunately our water needs are actually relatively modest since we’re small.

  3. Emmette N. says:

    Hay that does look a lot like a bomb!! May it never explode on you! We have propane heat for our house and like it it burns very clean.

  4. Andrew says:

    Walter, your comment about doing water pre-heating off of your refrigeration system is of great interest. Any chance you will share some details on your ideas there in the future? Are you planning to use an off-the-shelf waste heat recovery desuperheater? There don’t seem to be a lot of heat recovery products scaled down to your (and my) project size. But it’s a no-brainer if you are doing significant amounts of active heating and cooling in the same facility. Thanks!

    • This Mueller Fre-Heater is the sort of thing we’re looking at if we don’t roll our own. It is small scale and allows for two heat recovery units.

      • Andrew says:

        Thanks! I should have thought to check for a Mueller product… In the interest of sharing: I found that Trevor-Martin Corp makes a couple of heat recovery products for small-scale applications too, but I don’t have any experience with any of them, so can’t recommend them personally. But thanks again!

  5. Nance says:

    when you say you’ll generate your own power some day, does that mean a big wind turbine? These giants are all over northern Iowa and lots of areas in Illinois. I’m fascinated by them and hope someday to have a small wind turbine to power my retirement home. Meanwhile, propane it is, for you.

    • I am interested in the wind but don’t think it is a top quality solution. We have pretty much constant wind, thus the interest, and we have altitude and a funnel shape to the valley leading to us. I find building a wind turbine from scratch to be fascinating. A big power company wanted to build a 34 Megawatt wind farm on our farm’s ridges. The town was interested and willing. But the wind energy company went bankrupt during negotiations and since then Vermont has become very hostile to wind power – a pity. Solar electric is also marginal in our climate since we have so much cloud cover. Both of these power sources involve batteries or at least grid tie-in. Micro-hydroelectric is even more interesting. We’ll see what we do. Each situation is unique with its resources and needs. I hope you do it. Even if it provides only some of your power it is fun, aye?

  6. Susan Lea says:

    So glad the “boom-boom” in your title was only in your nightmares! I was reading your story quite anxiously, afraid you had had a tragedy.

  7. Jeff Marchand says:

    Walter, don’t forget a nice big NO SMOKING sign. I hope none of you smoke but you must have visitors from time to time.

    Last winter a propane tank flipped over right beside where I parked my car to catch a commuter bus to work. The whole intersection was blocked off and I could nt get to my car till the next morning. Word is that when the fire department arrived the truck driver was standing beside his truck having a smoke! I have also been told that he no longer works for the propane company.

    • But, Jeff, my son Will has announced he would like to learn to smoke! In fact, I was planning to learn to smoke to so we could do it together. We figured we would start out with a small smoker and then build a pipe big enough to stuff whole pigs into. :) e.g., the smokehouse. :)

      Bummer on the car adventure!

  8. Nance says:

    Sorry, Walter, I don’t know where else to ask this. Is there a link to the old house? I love old houses and thought to revisit yours this evening . . .but lost my way. If there is a link or a “category”, I would love to go ramble around . . .

    • Check out Vermont Cape. Our old farmhouse is available to buy if someone is interested in moving it. There are a lot of good beams, posts, granite stone and the beehive oven in it that could be moved to a new location if someone had the interest in such a restoration project.

  9. Jeff Marchand says:

    Walter, I don’t know any other parent who is delighted that their son wants to learn to smoke, and is happy to enable him. You are truly one in a million Walt!

    I look forward to reading about your smoke house. Building one is on my to do list too.

  10. Katharine says:

    Don’t feel bad about your tank Walt, I have a 7″ in diameter high pressure GAS LINE running thru my property (all the way to TEXAS) that we were unaware of until after the deal was done (LONNG Story- and NO we can’t sue the realtor or the Title Company, we tried) So I think I would RATHER have your brand shiny new tank under my ground that DID NOT come with a 20′ to either side of the pipe, easement, also to boot! Do you remember a little while ago about the GAS EXPLOSION in CA from the poorly maintained old iron pipes that were running thru a suburban neighborhood and it opened up this huge crater where houses and a street were?? Well, that’s what we have- OLD IRON PIPES underfoot…. All I can say is at LEAST it would be quick!

  11. Ed Allison says:

    Walter, I was looking at a wind zone map of the US, and you are in zone 4 I believe! Yikes! That’s a lot of wind. If I had that much, I would definitely preheat my hot water using wind power. Have a look at this:
    http://www.hydrogenappliances.com/Hornet600_HOT_WATER.html

    It is a small wind turbine direct connected to an electric hot water heater. The heating element is a DC version. This is what I would have if I had wind like yours!

    • A very large wind power company wanted to put 34 MegWatts of wind towers on our farm’s mountain ridges back in the aughts and we were incline and our neighbor’s and town felt good about it but for various reasons it never happened – Vermont has been being picky about this. Too many NIMBYs. I’ve considered building my own tower for that. We also have micro-hydro and solar hot water options to play with. I have designed into our buildings and farm ways to take advantage of these when we’re ready. But those are projects for another year.

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