Propane Co’s Under-Fill Tanks

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Nothing says summer in America like cooking out on a gas grill. And nothing says questionable sales tactics in America like companies who reduce the volume of the product they’re selling without telling you and without reducing the price.

This is a 20 pound propane tank. But for safety reasons, these things were never sold with 20 pounds of propane in them. They were, however, sold with 17 pounds. Until last year.

That’s when propane followed oil and gas prices to record highs: propane prices got close to 2 bucks a gallon. So rather than hiking prices, some major suppliers quietly reduced the amount of propane in the tank from 17 to 15 pounds.

But now propane prices are way back down: half of what they were last year. And yet; surprise: the can still only has about 15 pounds in it, and it costs about the same amount.

I called Amerigas and Blue Rhino… two of America’s largest propane retailers… to ask about this: neither returned my call.

But if this less for more tactic burns you up, there is a simple solution to propane problems: take your tank to a re-fill station and get your money’s worth.

“To refill a 20 pound cylinder here, it’s $17.00 even… You get approximately between 18 and 19 pounds.”

Bottom line? When you’re selling a product in a container that you can’t see through, it’s easy to change the amount. But when you see through the ploy, it’s easy to change the way you’re buying your propane.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Jay

    Wow, great story! I really never thought to look at that. That’s what happens when the container isn’t clear is right!

  • Jay

    Wow, great story! I really never thought to look at that. That’s what happens when the container isn’t clear is right!

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    Joe Public getting ripped of by the big boys yet again! I wonder how we’d react if we ordered a pint in the pub and only got a pint glass 3 quarters full, for safety reasons! No different really except we can see the imbalance.

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    Joe Public getting ripped of by the big boys yet again! I wonder how we’d react if we ordered a pint in the pub and only got a pint glass 3 quarters full, for safety reasons! No different really except we can see the imbalance.

  • James Herrmann

    I work for a company that has refilled customer’s LP tanks for 30 years. Personally I’ve been doing this for the past 20 years. I have a couple issues with the details in this story.

    The claim that even re-filling stations don’t put a full 20 lbs. into an empty tank isn’t accurate, at least here. A new 20 lb. gas grill tank today weighs approx. 17.5 – 18 lbs. empty. They are called 20 lb. tanks because that is their capacity in LP gas. Any tank, regardless of size when “full” is only 80 % full by total volume because tanks are designed for expansion of the contents.

    With this said a 20 lb. tank still hols 20 lbs. of gas, they are large enough to allow for expansion when full. When we fill a tank we set certified scale on 40 lbs., 18 for an empty tank + 20 for the fuel and a couple for the weight of a fill valve.

    Besides todays OPD (overfill prevention) valves automatically close themselvs when a tank is full, preventing an overfill.

  • James Herrmann

    I work for a company that has refilled customer’s LP tanks for 30 years. Personally I’ve been doing this for the past 20 years. I have a couple issues with the details in this story.

    The claim that even re-filling stations don’t put a full 20 lbs. into an empty tank isn’t accurate, at least here. A new 20 lb. gas grill tank today weighs approx. 17.5 – 18 lbs. empty. They are called 20 lb. tanks because that is their capacity in LP gas. Any tank, regardless of size when “full” is only 80 % full by total volume because tanks are designed for expansion of the contents.

    With this said a 20 lb. tank still hols 20 lbs. of gas, they are large enough to allow for expansion when full. When we fill a tank we set certified scale on 40 lbs., 18 for an empty tank + 20 for the fuel and a couple for the weight of a fill valve.

    Besides todays OPD (overfill prevention) valves automatically close themselvs when a tank is full, preventing an overfill.

  • Al

    That’s true, James … unless the retailer has “rigged” the OPD to shutoff at less than 80% (& I’m not sure how they’d do that on consumer-size valves … and the OPD has tripped … your bottle has a “full charge.”

    As always … buyer beware.

  • Al

    That’s true, James … unless the retailer has “rigged” the OPD to shutoff at less than 80% (& I’m not sure how they’d do that on consumer-size valves … and the OPD has tripped … your bottle has a “full charge.”

    As always … buyer beware.

  • big b

    nice tip! I went to a refill station at Uhaul and they completly filled my tank for around $8.00 yes thats right I said eight dollars!
    I went to home depot before I went to the Uhaul refill station and not only do you drop off your personal tank and take one of the blue rhino or amerigas containers that are only filled to 15 lbs but you pay around $17.00 instead of $8.00 !
    buyer beware

  • big b

    nice tip! I went to a refill station at Uhaul and they completly filled my tank for around $8.00 yes thats right I said eight dollars!
    I went to home depot before I went to the Uhaul refill station and not only do you drop off your personal tank and take one of the blue rhino or amerigas containers that are only filled to 15 lbs but you pay around $17.00 instead of $8.00 !
    buyer beware

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