Propane Stove Myths Exposed

    Propane, diesel & wood stoves (and the adapter kit) – at Starr & Bullock Hardware

    It isn’t that I don’t like propane. Like everyone else, I love propane. It doesn’t blacken your pans. You can cook indoors, and there is so little if any carbon monoxide that even cooking in a small tent is safe. My concern is that Americans rely too heavily on propane for long term survival needs, and for that it just isn’t practical.

    These stoves are more robust and efficient than the “green bottle” stoves at the big box stores. Those green bottles are not even supposed to be refillable (but you can refill them at home), so the cost works out to about $25 per gallon of propane, which contains 40,000 BTUs less than a gall

    Now please, if you already heat with propane, or even cook in the house with a regular propane fired gas stove, please don’t scroll down to the comments to ‘splain to me and all of us how “all set” you are. Because perhaps you are, if off-grid is required right after you get a fill. Otherwise I think it is a false sense of security.

    And for those of us who don’t already require a 500 gallon propane tank in our yard, the propane companies are very stingy with them. If you can guarantee that you will fill it regularly, they will rent you one. But otherwise, you are out of luck. And even if you do have one, it isn’t something you are allowed to just keep full and not use. My advice is that if you have one to for sure top it off regularly, but most companies won’t deliver for anything short of half a tank.

    For the rest of us, we are forced to store propane in at best, 20lb cylinders, which is about 4 gallons.

    The container alone is $57 right now. You might be able to find a swap cage at your local drug store or supermarket where you can get a full cylinder for $60 or so, and some of those are even new. But even then, let’s look at the numbers.

    Right now delivered propane is just under $3.00 per gallon as a national average. To get your small cylinder filled, at a reasonable store, is just over $4.00 a gallon. I went to a U-Haul place here in Miami that filled tanks, and they charged me over $100 to fill a standard RV 30 pound tank recently. That works out to over $16 a gallon. I should have asked first on that one obviously. But it doesn’t really matter when you look at the BTUs. Even the best priced propane pales when compared to diesel.

    Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, uses those silly green tanks besides the US. Everyone else uses this standard connector for a higher pressure small cylinder of a butane/propane mixture.

    A gallon of diesel weighs 7 lbs and produces around 128,000 BTUs. A gallon of propane weighs 5 lbs. and produces around 84,000 BTU. Right now diesel is about $4.50/gallon, so with propane at $3.00/gallon, the price per BTU works out about the same. (If you want to do the math on wood, one cord produces about 150 gallons worth of diesel BTUs.)

    But diesel doesn’t need a special container. Any HDPE bucket, can drum or even an IBC tote is fine for diesel. It doesn’t need any special treatment to stay viable for a long time, and if you add Pri-D, it will last pretty much forever.

    You also don’t need a special truck to deliver it, and short of an occasional forklift you might run into, there is going to be very little free range propane kicking around in the event of a collapse. Whereas with diesel and gasoline, fuel will most likely be very available in car and truck gas tanks for a long time. And wood is everywhere.

    So now that I have beat up propane pretty good, let me explain propane stoves. Or at least the ones you’ll find at Walmart or a sporting good store. I am not even going to bother with gas grills. They waste an enormous amount of fuel for how much cooking gets done on them.

    Your standard propane camp stove is usually two burners, and they are made to work on the one pound green propane tanks that you will usually find in plentiful supply at the same store. Right now those tanks are over $5 at Walmart. They are not refillable as a rule (that I will show you how to break at some point), so at current prices, you are paying over $25 per gallon. I guess U-Haul wasn’t such a bad deal after all.

    If you are lucky, the same store will have a 20lb tank adapter for their little camp stoves, but those are another $20. And the stoves themselves, which use to be as little as $15, now start at about $35.

    With adapters, that little orange connector will work with the green bottles, a 20lb propane tank, and even butane cylinders used for catering stoves.

    No other country uses those foolish green tanks that hold almost nothing. For backpacking and camping, they use a higher pressure propane and butane mixture tank, and this tank you will also find on the shelf at Walmart, but you rarely will see the stove that goes with it.

    Sometimes they have a little stick stove that screws directly into the top of that tank, but in my experience they are very unstable. Most people don’t even know what they are. They just assume that those high pressure tanks are for high end backpackers and climbers, and that the stoves for them are some outlandish price.

    For a weekend camping trip, who cares if your stove is inefficient and the fuel overpriced? Not really anybody. But the American camp stove scam matters a lot when it comes to planning for long term off-grid cooking.

    That is why I decided to cover these small propane stoves that you see in the video, and as with most things on this Grid Down project, I arranged that Star & Bullock Hardware have them in stock in the country. I am not aware of a propane stove made in America. So having them in the country and available is important right now.

    These camp stoves dominate the world market outside of the US. They come in dozens of shapes and sizes. The BTUs are usually listed, and they generally correspond to the surface area of the gas holes. The pressure and hole size are constants, so the more holes the more BTUs. Some stoves have their own igniters. Some you have to use a match or sparker.

    The key to these stoves is the connector, that small orange one at the end of the cable. It has become something of a universal standard, worldwide, so adapters have been made to convert it to handle other pressurized cylinders. In the video I show you the one for 20lb propane tanks, as well as the adapter for those small green tanks, and even the butane cans made for catering stoves.

    This is the same connector that is on the “all fuel” stove that I recently reviewed. So if you got that already, you don’t need one of these. Maybe get the adapters, which I have also arranged to be sold as a set. If you missed that article and video, you should check it out. That stove has a special preheater bar for burning diesel and other fuels, and it has a pressure pump and fuel can so it will also work like the old Coleman liquid fuel camp stoves.

    As I explained in the video, these propane stoves are all measured in BTU output, and if you look at the burner itself, or burners in some cases, you can see the surface area of the gas holes. The more surface area, the more gas the stove can burn. And all of the stoves can be turned up and down with that orange connector. Even the smallest propane stove has plenty of BTUs to cook for a few people, but if you want things cooked quicker, or you are cooking a lot, having the BTUs of a larger stove is more practical.

    All of the stoves have fold out feet, so they are very sturdy for even big heavy pots. And some have an igniter built in, which is handy. They all fold up small and have a nice plastic case, in which you can store matches as well.

    If you already purchased the all fuel stove I recently covered, the adapter set now available will turn it into a truly all fuel stove, which includes the three above mentioned types of canister fuel.

    Cooking, cooking, cooking, cooking, cooking. I can’t stress it enough. It is extremely likely that even under the best case scenario we will all be facing long lasting periods without electricity. Transformers are in short supply, so even if you are on nuclear and the plant doesn’t go out, your neighborhood could for some time. Being able to cook is so important, because the most cost effective food needs to be cooked. Most of you probably aren’t interesting in nerding out about propane. But knowledge is power. Perhaps the power to survive this mess.

    Propane, diesel & wood stoves (and the adapter kit) – at Starr & Bullock Hardware

    Paul Helinski

    Leave a Comment

    • Bill S. September 19, 2022, 10:22 am Reply

      Paul, for those of us who purchased your all-fuel stove with the 20 lb tank adapter, how about providing the propane and butane adapters as a 2-piece set? Right now on the S & B website you only sell the set of all 3, but if I already have the 20 lb adapter I don’t necessarily want to purchase another 20 lb adapter hose. Thanks.

      • Paul Helinski September 19, 2022, 6:18 pm Reply

        Ok Bill I will tell them.

        • PaulP September 26, 2022, 9:45 pm Reply

          Hi Paul,
          I too purchased the 20# adapter refill hose for propane from S&B and it didn’t fit my 1# green Coleman tanks. I spent over $300.00 on the diesel lights you recommended along with more items. I called them to tell them what was listed as being able to refill the smaller tanks doesn’t fit without the adapters, but when I asked for a return shipping label for the refill hose, they said they weren’t able to accommodate me. Not happy with that reply. So now they are listing the refill line with the propane/butane adapters but not separately for sale. Just wanted your readers to be ‘aware’.
          Semper Fi,

          • Paul Helinski October 1, 2022, 8:16 pm Reply

            That was put up for sale after the last comment I believe. Nothing in the original article on their website suggests that the 20# would fit the 1# tank. There is no reason you would expect that. They are completely different sizes. Asking others to pay for your brainfarts is not nice. I don’t, and my brain farts all the time.

    • Dan Rosencrance September 20, 2022, 8:11 am Reply

      Paul, I want to applaud your providing quality, well, thought out information on a number of topics, lighting, cooking and so on. Both technique and technology, as well as sorting out the useless from the useful. I would be scrambling about spending my retirement funds on things that would not be useful, but finding too late that I had bought sub-performers or junk.
      Many Thanks.

      • Paul Helinski September 21, 2022, 8:25 am Reply

        Oh Dan I wish it was just me out here covering this stuff like in 2014 or so. There is a wealth of really useful things that most people have no idea exist. But I don’t have the voice I used to have because prepping is the in-thing now, and a ton of people with no job are now youtube stars. By and large they provide no useful information at all. I have had three more children since then, so besides not having the voice, I no longer have as much time. I just hope the people who are paying attention don’t treat this as infotainment, and they take action. Something has to be left after this curtain comes down. We have a Republic to rebuild.

    • Frank September 20, 2022, 9:10 am Reply

      Hi, Paul. Thanks for continuing to provide useful information on which items are reliable and cost effective for survival situations. Have you written anything on scavenging parts from discarded/junk items? For example, a burner out of a propane-fired water heater makes an excellent high-btu stove for boiling large amounts of water, or cooking with large pots as when feeding several people. Anyone with a little handyman know-how can fashion a cooker from one of those burners. Even a burner from a natural gas heater can be used if you know how to change out the orifice (or braze it closed and re-drill a smaller hole… even seen a grease fitting used as an orifice before). That’s just one example of scavenging that came to mind from your article.

      • Paul Helinski September 21, 2022, 8:21 am Reply

        It’s funny that you say that Frank. Because I follow a couple youtube channels that have made all kinds of cool stuff, usually made with just an angle grinder and a welder. But I never make any because I just don’t have the time. When I watch the videos I see that oh, you have to fabricate that, which means you have to bend this and cut that and weld that, and it’s usually a multi-day project. Right now if I have days that I can break away I am garden farming, and organizing my own stuff. There are people have more money than time and there are people who have more time than money. While we are still printing dollars and sending them abroad, and they send us really awesome stuff, I think it is prudent to do that. If you have the time to tinker and fabricate, by all means go for it. Right now it’s just not for me.

    • John September 23, 2022, 8:03 am Reply

      I have a 500 underground tank and a 288 above ground tank I use for filling my forklift and manlift. I also fill smaller bottles for my truck camper and spot heating where I may need it. I haven’t had any issues getting them filled. I have several suppliers and I just shop around and place the order. I also use it for my backup generator 50kw hard wired and also have a couple smaller gasoline units. I have a high efficiency propane water heater and a second one for the hydronic floor heat. I can also heat my house with electricity by way of my 6 zone mini split heat pumps. Electric is extremely expensive. I also can heat my house with wood which I do the most of since I have acres of fuel. In addition I have 2 wood stoves in my auto/ machine shop and one in my woodworking shop. They can be used for cooking in a pinch. I cook with induction in my house but on the deck I have a propane barbecue and a charcoal fired kamado. I designed and built my buildings with a variety of fuel sources so I can be more independent. This is my fourth new house I built this way over the last 48 years.

      • Paul Helinski September 23, 2022, 2:42 pm Reply

        Not everyone has your resources.

        • John September 23, 2022, 5:44 pm Reply

          I created the abilities and bought the land with the fuel. I read books to learn what I needed and watched others at first. I got my general engineering license that way too. Self education is a good thing.

          • Paul Helinski September 24, 2022, 8:26 pm Reply

            I have no idea what “bought the land with the fuel” could possibly mean. You were homeless, and now you have your fourth house, with resources you were able to create from fuel that somehow appeared? Very few people can afford their own regular electric bill right now, let alone stuff to prep with. And honestly your confidence in your comfort is probably misplaced. But you seem capable and creative so probably you will be fine.

    • Mikial September 26, 2022, 7:44 pm Reply

      Great article. I have a good stock of small propane bottles, a 20-pound tank, and an adaptor to fill 1-pound bottles from it. Sounds pretty good, but last winter there was a heavy snow that brought down several hundred, yes hundreds of power poles. We were out of electricity for 4 days in cold winter weather, and we were the lucky ones. Some people were out for a week. Our road didn’t get plowed for several days, but fortunately, we have a vehicle that could handle it so we could go and get a hot meal once we found a restaurant that had power. Still, that propane went pretty fast when you’re cooking every meal and running emergency propane heaters in the house just to survive. The reality is that you’re never as prepared as you think you are.

      • Paul Helinski October 1, 2022, 8:17 pm Reply

        That is the truth. It can all change in a heartbeat. Praying to a Higher Power to help with our “plans” is essential.