Relearned two important lessons… and learned a new one

This past Saturday, we had some storms come thru the area.  Didn’t appear to be anything unusual for this area.  However a microburst hit a section of Memphis… a section of Memphis where my 100 year old mother-in-law lives.  That microburst snapped & uprooted huge trees in a several block area, taking down power lines with them.  Her power lines to the house snapped & were laying in the yard.  The tree that took them down hit another house.  To make it even worse, the temps were going to drop to around 20 on Sunday night.

So I loaded up my truck with all sorts of extension cords, tools, saws, portable rechargeable lighting, solar generator, 3 forty pound LP tanks and my dual fuel generator.  This prepper was off to rescue the needy.  🙂    Now my generator, as discussed in another thread, is setup where a thick cable runs between the generator and a receptacle on the outside of my house.  Obviously that would not help me here, as I was taking the generator elsewhere.  But I was smart enough to have purchased another long, thick cable that connects to the same port on the generator but has a 4 receptacle box at the end.  I thought such a cable would be a great way to bring electricity into another structure & then branch off of that with extension cords.  And it was.  Here is a pic.

4 recep

So I get to her house, hook the generator to an LP tank, run the above cable into the house & then branch off of that to run some lights, the refrigerator/freezer, coffee pot, microwave, TV. and 3 portable electric heaters.  The generator starts perfectly (electric start) and runs all Saturday evening and Sunday morning.  Once I felt that that LP tank was getting pretty low, I switched to another LP tank and got the generator back up and running.  All is good… until the generator starts sputtering and shuts off.  What the heck?  Hit the start switch and we are back in business, until this happens again in around 10-15 minutes.  Damn.  I do this a few more times & decide to switch to the other full tank.  Starts beautifully and within a few minutes… same problem.

I’m beginning to wonder if I got some bad LP gas.  These 3 tanks were filled at different times.  One was filled by itself and then a couple of weeks later, I filled the other two.  So to verify my assumption, I put the first tank back on & the generator ran perfectly.  Two tanks have bad LP gas.  I didn’t know you could get bad LP gas but sure looks like I did.  So the plan was to take the now empty tank & one of the full to get refilled… in Memphis on a Sunday, the day after a holiday.  U-Haul fills LP tanks, they are open on Sunday, & there is a store a few miles away.  Yep, they are open but they don’t have LP gas for some reason… but they tell us another U-Haul store a few miles away has LP gas.  So we drive there… and they don’t have LP gas either but another store further away does.  OK, we learned our lesson and told them to call that store to verify they had the gas.  Nope… no gas there.  And we couldn’t find any other location open on a Sunday.

First lesson relearned.  Crap happens!  Sometimes your best laid plans often go awry.

Second lesson relearned.  Be flexible and adapt.  So how was I flexible & how did I adapt?  If you remember, my generator is a dual fuel model.  It can operate on LP gas or gasoline.  My best laid plans were to use LP gas only, as it burns very clean & won’t foul up the ignition system like gasoline will.  It is also safer to transport.  It also stores long term with any problem.  Thankfully I’m a prepper & understand we have to be flexible in a crisis… so I spent the extra money on a dual fuel generator.  So now I ran up to an auto parts store, picked up a few 5 gallon gasoline containers, filled them up, filled the tank on the generator, flipped the generator switch from LP gas to gasoline, hit the start button… and we were back in business.   The generator ran perfectly all night with the low at 20 and ran perfectly today until the power came back on at noon.

It never occurred to me LP gas could be bad.  Lesson learned.


  • Comments (12)

    • 2

      Love that the dual-fuel generator gave you that option. It’s why we purchased one too. Are you the LP was bad? Or is it possible the regulators or tank itself is bad?

      • 3

        I just don’t know what the problem is, but those three tanks are brand new… their first use.  I have one hose & regulator and a total of six 40 pound tanks… all from the same manufacturer.  I brought 3 tanks to Memphis.  I have yet to fill the other 3 new tanks. The manufacturer says they come pre purged & ready for filling.  All three tanks were filled at the same store… a local store that only provides LP gas.  All they do is deliver & fill LP gas.  One tank was filled on one occasion and two were filled a week or two later.

        So here are the facts.  I started with one tank & it ran perfectly.  When it was getting low, I stopped the generator & switched tanks.  The regulator & hose stayed on the generator, obviously, since I only have one.  That tank would every few minutes, sometimes as much as maybe 10-15 minutes, stall the generator.  It would sputter & run a bit, sputter some more and eventually kill the generator.  The generator could be immediately restarted but the issue would continue.  The third tank would do the same.  But when I reattached the first tank, the generator ran perfectly for about another two hours until that tank ran dry.  The generator never sputtered once when run for 24 hours straight on gasoline.

        To me, that tells me the hose & regulator are fine.  That also tells me the generator itself is fine.  That tells me something is off on the two tanks.  Agree?

        I’m not saying the LP gas went bad due to storage.  First of all, all literature says it won’t.   Secondly, those tanks had been filled in the last month or so.  The store only sells LP gas and their supply can’t be old.

        However I know LP gas comes in different grades, based upon how much propane is actually in the gas.  Even the top grade must have a minimum of 90% propane but can have as much as 5% propylene.  That leaves another 5%.  What is that?  Maybe oxygen, air?

        So all propane seems to be allowed to have impurities.  Could the store have received a batch with too much impurities after I filled the first tank?  I don’t know.

        Could the two tanks that came separately not have been purged?  I don’t know.  I hope to call the store today and ask them what to do.

      • 1

        I assume that you will be taking those tanks back to that shop and at least getting them refilled if not refunded. I’d be curious to hear their response on what might have happened.

      • 4

        I will call & talk with them first.  Will probably be tomorrow and I’ll post what I learn.

    • 2

      I wonder if your tanks were filled with Butane instead of Propane, cos butane has a much higher evap point.  so if the bottle gets chilled it wont turn the contents into gas.

      I’ve had and got propane thats over 20 years old and still works fine.


      BTW Regulators can and do age as well, I change the hoses and regulators on my gear at never more than 5 year intervals

      Over here Butane is a summer gas only, with propane being our winter gas.

      I just double checked because your comments set off alarms here, I checked with multiple sources online and by phone. LPG does go bad or off.

      Does Propane Go Bad – Propane Shelf Life – How Long Can You Store Propane – Does Propane Gas Go Bad – Does LPG Go Off

      • 2

        Bill, as per my reply above, that store only sells LP gas.  Out here in rural America, most homes not close to a town run on LP gas.  So there is a big demand & big usage of LP gas here in my town.  This is not a small mom & pop operation, or even a U-Haul store that sells LP gas as a side.  This is all this business does.  So I just don’t see how they could be selling Butane.

        And as stated the tanks, hose & regulator are new.  The hose & regulator worked perfectly on the first tank and worked perfectly again when I reattached that first tank.  I don’t see how I could have a hose or regulator issue.

      • 1

        Let us know what the problem is when you figure it out please.

      • 2

        Will do.

    • 2

      An aid memoir for others

      Link in my first post

      Does Propane Go Bad – Propane Shelf Life – How Long Can You Store Propane – Does Propane Gas Go Bad – Does LPG Go Off
      LPG-propane does not go bad. LPG-propane shelf life is indefinite. LPG does not go off. Unlike gasoline and diesel fuel, LPG-propane gas does not bad or degrade with time. How long can you store propane and does LPG (bottled gas) go off or expire are both common questions. Because propane does not go bad, it is the perfect fuel for emergency generators.
      But what do you do with the bad petrol or diesel fuel? You can’t just dump it.
      How Long Does LPG Last
      How long does LPG last… indefinitely. LPG shelf life is unlimited. The only limiting factor is the gas bottle itself. Assuming it is taken care of and not allowed to rust, it could last 20 years or more. Gas bottles typically need re-ispection every 10 years to refill the gas bottle but you can use it beyond 10 years, if safe to do so.

      Does Propane Go Bad – Propane Shelf Life – How Long Can You Store Propane – Does Bottled Gas Go Off

      Gasoline (petrol) and diesel fuel degrade with time. Storing LPG for 10 to 30 years or more would not be an unreasonable expectation, with the limiting factor being the container. Assuming that the LPG cylinder and valve are in good shape, you shouldn’t have a problem.

      You can store propane for a very long time as LPG-Propane does not go bad. A propane shelf life of 30 years or more would not be an unreasonable expectation, as LPG-propane does not go bad or off. Different from fuel types that degrade with time, like gasoline and diesel, propane fuel does not expire nor does its effectiveness deteriorate with time. You can store propane forever, if you are talking about the gas itself. Propane tanks typically need re-ispection every 10 years.

      Does Propane Go Bad
      Whilst not a problem with LPG-propane that does not go bad or off, to prevent the problem of bad petrol or diesel fuel, you have to go through the effort and expense of changing out the fuel supply on a regular basis.

      People ask the question “How long can you store propane?” in many ways:
      Does propane go bad?
      LPG-propane shelf life?
      How long can you store propane?
      Does propane gas go bad?
      What is the shelf life of propane?
      Does LPG go off?
      Does bottled gas go off?
      Does propane go bad over winter?
      How long does LPG last?
      How long does bottled gas last?
      Does propane gas go bad over time?
      Propane tank shelf life?
      Shelf life of propane tank?
      How long does BBQ gas last?
      How long will propane store?
      How long does propane store?
      So, a lot of different ways to ask the same question.

      Assuming that the LPG cylinder and valve are in good shape, you shouldn’t have a problem with LPG-propane shelf life.

      This makes LPG the near perfect choice for emergency generators and similar off-grid survival equipment.

      LPG – propane – does not go bad or degrade through any natural process and is also referred to as natural gas liquids – NGL.

      The only limitation on how long can you store propane is the durability of the container – gas bottles, cylinders or tanks.

      That and cobwebs!

      Does Propane Go Bad Over Winter – Does Propane Gas Go Bad Over Time
      Propane does not go bad over winter nor does propane go bad over time. There is no reason for concern as propane (bottled gas) never goes off or bad at any time. Propane lasts indefinitely.

      LPG Expiry Date is Not LPG-Propane Shelf Life – LPG-Propane Does Not Expire
      When people talk about “LPG expiry date”, they are actually talking about the gas cylinder inspection date, not the LPG-propane going bad itself. It is not LPG-propane shelf life. As previously mentioned, the LPG-propane gas never goes bad, off or expires.

      Gas cylinders must be inspected periodically.

      The timing typically runs from 5 years to 15 years, with 10 years being the most common time period for gas bottle expiry.

      Gas cylinder expiry can vary by country, as well as type and size of the vessel.

      Propane Tank Shelf Life – Shelf Life of Propane Tank – LPG Gas Cylinder Life
      Propane tank shelf life (shelf life of propane tank) may also refer to the ± 15 year LPG tank-gas cylinder inspection expiry, as opposed to the longevity of the gas itself. Propane tank shelf life (shelf life of propane tank 10) is a finite period that varies by country.

      How Long Can You Store Propane: Indefinitely
      You can store propane indefinitely. As previously stated, LPG-propane does not go off or bad and the propane shelf life is unlimited. The limiting factor to how long you can store propane would be the propane cylinder.

      Durability of LPG Gas Bottles – Propane Tanks
      High quality galvanised LPG gas bottles or cylinders (propane tanks) can last 30 years or more and the LPG-propane never goes bad. There is no water or oxygen inside a full sealed gas bottle so they typically do not rust from the inside. If they are stored in a cool dry place, exterior rust would be slow to develop, particularly with a galvanised cylinder or tank.

      There are also aluminium and the newer composite cylinders that simply cannot rust, as they do not contain steel.

      Some composite cylinders are also translucent, meaning you can see the liquid LPG and very easily check the fill level.

      Cylinder re-inspection requirements typically apply to the refilling of the cylinders but place no time restrictions on the use.

      These regulations can vary by country so it is best to check if this is the case for you, as well.

      High quality valves and fittings are also a must.

      Rubber hoses, that can perish, are best avoided in favour of copper tubing or piping.

      Petrol – Gasoline – Shelf Life vs LPG-Propane Shelf Life
      Unlike unlimited propane shelf life, petrol (gasoline) has a very limited shelf life. Quality petrol should be good for six months, when stored properly.

      However, petrol (gasoline) will break down slowly over time due to the separation of the components, with gummy, sticky resin deposits and layers of varnish.

      “Stale fuel” can cause corrosion of system components.

      Petrol should be stored in an airtight container that does not allow the petrol to vent away the volatile components.

      Petrol has many components with different properties.

      When petrol is kept in an open container, eventually it will completely evaporate but the components will evaporate at different rates, affecting performance.

      Preventing water contamination and oxidation will extend the shelf life.

      It also helps if the container is as full as possible, to decrease the exposure to air (oxygen).

      Petrol containing ethanol is even more problematic, as ethanol is hygroscopic – attracting moisture from the atmosphere.

      Ethanol is also harmful to rubber seals and components.

      The addition of a fuel stabiliser can slow the oxidation process.

      Fuel stabiliser can extend petrol shelf life to about 15 months.

      The real problem is how do you dispose of the petrol after it goes off?

      Diesel Fuel Shelf Life vs Propane Shelf Life

      Diesel fuel also goes off, forming gummy deposits, varnish, sediment, microbial slime and sludge whilst LPG-propane (bottled gas) never goes bad or off. This can block fuel filters, lead to carbon and soot deposits on injectors and other combustion surfaces, and increase the frequency and cost of filter changes. Diesel vs propane shelf life is no contest.

      It also becomes dark and stratified (see above).

      Exposure to water, air and heat are the three things that facilitate degradation.

      Diesel that has gone off makes black smoke and may even prevent the engine from starting.

      Ironically, the newer low sulphur diesel fuels are actually more prone to degradation problems.

      Microbial growth – fungus, bacteria & algae – is part of the process that breaks down diesel fuel.

      Higher sulphur levels used to inhibit this growth, providing a much longer shelf life.

      The new lower sulphur products lacks this natural preservative effect.

      Microbes can now multiply more quickly in the fuel, allowing the creation of biomass formations and production of acids that degrade the fuel.

      “Diesel fuel can be stored 6 months to 1 year without significant fuel degradation if you keep it clean, cool and dry.” according to Exxon.

      BP says that under normal storage conditions diesel fuel can be expected to stay in a useable condition for:

      • 12 months or longer at an ambient of 20°C.

      • 6-12 months at an ambient temperature higher than 30°C.

      With the addition of fuel stabilisers – with antioxidant and biocide – diesel fuel can last for 3 years or more.

      Once again, the real problem is how do you dispose of the diesel after it goes off?

      Best Fuel for Emergency Generators & Off-Grid Survival – LPG-Propane Never Goes Bad
      With an indefinite LPG-propane shelf life, LPG is the perfect fuel for emergency generators and survival in the events of catastrophic emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances. LPG can be used to power generators, but is can also be used directly for cooking, heating, hot water, and most machinery that is powered by small internal combustion engines.

      There are LPG versions of water pumps, small tractors, and an assortment of tools.

      The list of LPG – propane – applications is almost endless.

      A larger storage tank could also be used as autogas, if the vehicle has had a gas conversion.

      You could literally provide your entire energy needs with just LPG and, with sufficient storage, you could do it for many years.

      Nothing compares to LPG-propane shelf life for emergency fuel.

    • 3

      Great post. I agree dual fuel is the way to go.

      My thoughts on the general question is the same as the gen fuel type, more options are better. I have provision to use FFs for what they do best, burn. So a blue flame heater, kero burner, coleman or even candle lantern puts out a surprising amount of heat (as long as you pack a CO2 alarm) and are way more efficient —99% according to Blue Flame—than the maybe 20-30% efficiency of an internal combustion engine generator and resistance heat.

      The other thing is I never run a generator constantly. Even good small engines aren’t gonna run constantly forever. Maybe a big Onan diesel or something can but not little contractor unit. I plan to run them on a schedule, however many times a day for as long as it takes to fill water jugs & stock tanks, run the freezer, charge various batteries, use whatever tool, etc All my various devices run on AA, or can themselves be charged from AAs. I have (too many) chargers, some fast some big some ac/dc, etc, plus of course Dewalt 20v) but I plan to plug in as many chargers as possible at one time rather than run the gen 5 hours at 10% capacity or worse, idle.

      We had an ice storm once and I thought we’d have power back in a day or two but it was over 3 weeks. We were on a well and had animals to water but had propane plus wood heat. We ran the gen on a sched and probably didn’t use 10 gallons.

      • 2

        The other thing is I never run a generator constantly

        I agree and that was my plan.  My plan, which I followed Saturday during the day and Sunday during the day, was to run for a few hours to keep the refrigerator/freezer happy.  I’d run for 3 hours or so and then shut off for 3 hours or so.  I left the generator off Saturday night from 10 PM to 7 am.

        Problem was it then got cold Sunday night and Monday.  It dropped to around 20 degrees.  With a 100 year old in the house, I decided to keep the generator running all night and kept it running till noon Monday, when the power was restored.  

        Having the big lithium battery on my solar generator kept the lights on & charged phones and other devices when the generator wasn’t running.  I also used the solar generator to power my CPAP at night.

      • 3

        Make sure your CO2 alarm also works on battery. When our power went out and we had to run a propane heater I realized that our alarm had a backup battery and it was still running. If it had been solely wall powered, we wouldn’t have had that protection.