Undoubtedly, understanding how to store fuel safely and effectively at home is a prudent practice that can significantly contribute to the smooth operation of various essential household items. Your cars, trucks, tractors, standby generators, propane refrigerator, and kerosene lanterns all rely on a steady and secure fuel supply.
To this end, it is vital to acquaint oneself with appropriate storage methods for various fuel types, such as LP gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosene. By mastering the art of responsible fuel storage, you not only ensure the continuous operation of these critical assets but also contribute to the overall safety of your home.
How to store various fuel types
Understanding how to store fuel, especially when dealing with LP gas, introduces a unique set of challenges. LP gas is renowned for its versatility, capable of powering internal combustion stationary engines, tractors, motor vehicles, and serving in cooking and heating applications. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential hazards associated with LP gas.
For instance, it must be stored under pressure to maintain its liquid state, and even the smallest, invisible leaks can quietly deplete your fuel supply. Furthermore, LP gas, being slightly lighter than air, has a tendency to disperse in a way that can lead to explosive conditions, emphasizing the critical importance of responsible fuel storage and handling.
When it comes to the art of understanding how to store fuel, gasoline brings forth its unique considerations. It remains in liquid form at room temperature, which makes it exceptionally versatile for a myriad of applications. However, storing gasoline for extended periods poses its own set of challenges. Its high vapor pressure leads to rapid evaporation, causing the fuel to go stale in just a few weeks without proper chemical treatment.
Despite having a relatively high ignition temperature, gasoline remains susceptible to ignition with minimal heat. As a result, stored gasoline should be treated with a BHT additive like Sta-Bil and safeguarded against moisture for effective fuel storage. The substantial risks associated with significant quantities of gasoline, including vapor-related accidents like boat explosions and fires, underscore the importance of proper fuel management.
In the realm of understanding how to store fuel, kerosene offers a more manageable and stable option. It tends to be underestimated by many but boasts surprising versatility and stability. Unlike gasoline, kerosene doesn’t evaporate as readily and remains stable in storage without requiring any special treatments. This quality makes it an excellent choice for various applications, including powering pre-1950 farm tractor engines and, when necessary, diesel engines. Moreover, kerosene stoves and refrigerators are readily available alternatives, often preferable from a safety perspective when compared to LP gas models. Proper kerosene fuel storage and handling practices ensure a dependable and secure source of energy for a wide range of needs.
Understanding how to store fuel, particularly diesel, presents its own set of unique considerations. Diesel fuel, known for its ease of storage, is increasingly popular among those aiming for self-sufficiency. It’s notably challenging to ignite intentionally and almost impossible to ignite accidentally. Diesel fuel comes in two primary grades: #1 diesel, akin to traditional yellow kerosene, and #2 diesel, which is essentially the same as #2 home heating oil.
Despite its advantages, diesel fuel does have distinctive storage issues. Firstly, it exhibits some hygroscopic properties, meaning it can absorb moisture from the air. The second, closely related problem is the formation of sludge. Sludge forms when anaerobic bacteria thrive in trapped water, consuming the sulfur in the fuel. If left untreated, this sludge can expand until it fills the entire tank, compromising the fuel.
Therefore, stored diesel fuel should be treated with a biocide like methanol or diesel Sta-Bil immediately upon delivery. A unique aspect of #2 diesel is that it dissolves some paraffin wax, which tends to settle out at approximately 20°F, potentially clogging fuel filters.
This “fuel freezing” issue can be mitigated by adding 10% gasoline or 20% kerosene to the diesel fuel, and there are commercial diesel fuel supplements available for the same purpose. Before use, it’s advisable to filter diesel fuel to prevent potential issues.
While ethanol (alcohol) is not commonly considered a primary storage fuel, it’s worth exploring this option, especially for those who distill their own. Ethanol, interestingly, exhibits a remarkable degree of hygroscopy, which means it readily absorbs moisture from the environment. Consequently, when you’re contemplating how to store fuel, ethanol requires special attention. It should be stored in a securely sealed container to prevent any moisture contamination. This property makes ethanol a bit unique among common fuels, and its volatility, on par with kerosene, makes safe storage all the more critical.
One distinct characteristic of ethanol is its behavior when ignited. It burns with an almost invisible blue flame, which sets it apart from other fuels. This unique property can be both fascinating and challenging, emphasizing the need for careful handling and responsible fuel storage.
Considering these factors, it may be practical to adopt a just-in-time approach when it comes to ethanol. Storing the raw materials necessary for distillation and fuel production, and producing ethanol as needed, can reduce the risks associated with stockpiling a significant quantity.
General Fuel Storage: Regardless of the type of fuel you choose to store, it’s prudent to monitor your fuel consumption and base your storage plans around maintaining a 90-day supply. This approach ensures that you have an adequate and manageable amount of fuel on hand to meet your needs, while also allowing you to rotate your fuel stock effectively, adhering to the best practices of fuel storage.
Safe fuel handling
When it comes to understanding how to store fuel safely, regardless of the fuel type, a uniform approach is essential. All liquid fuels, whether it’s gasoline or LP gas, demand consistent handling. Begin by selecting a dedicated, isolated storage area, positioned downhill and downwind from other structures. This strategic placement is crucial as fuel vapors, denser than air, will naturally flow downhill, enhancing safety.
For LP tanks, always keep them in open, unenclosed spaces. However, when dealing with liquid fuel tanks, such as those for gasoline or diesel, consider storing them in a well-ventilated building or an open lean-to structure. This not only prevents solar heating from accelerating fuel evaporation but also contributes to overall safety.
For a permanent storage solution, you might consider the use of buried tanks. Set below the frost line, these tanks maintain stable temperatures at around 55°F, effectively inhibiting evaporation and safeguarding against potential threats, from stray (or aimed!) gunfire to brushfires.
Should buried fuel tanks raise environmental concerns, an alternative option is an underground vault. This approach offers the added advantage of enabling periodic tank inspections, ensuring that the fuel remains secure and contamination-free.
Regardless of the location chosen for fuel storage, certain safety measures are universal. Hang a dry chemical or CO2 fire extinguisher on the outside of the building or near the pump. All electrical fixtures should be “explosion-proof,” sealed, and wired in sealed conduit to prevent fuel vapors from coming into contact with electrical sparks. Additionally, a strict no-smoking policy should be enforced, with smoking or carrying smoking materials prohibited within a 50-foot radius of the fuel pumps.
Electrical fuel pumps should be equipped with a heat-sensitive shutoff mechanism to halt the pump in case of fire. Always remember to shut down the engine of the machine being fueled promptly. In the event of spills, clean them up without delay.
Lastly, ensure that you only use equipment specifically approved for the type of fuel in question, as using equipment not rated for the fuel can pose serious safety risks. Proper fuel storage and handling protocols are essential to maintaining a safe and efficient fuel supply.
Fuel storage methods
Liquid fuels, collectively addressed here, demand a systematic approach to their safe how to store fuel. While LP gas is typically housed in pressurized tanks supplied by a dealer and requires only a brief mention, the other liquid fuels share comparable considerations.
One of the simplest methods for how to store fuel is using portable fuel cans. If you’re still connected to the grid and commute for work, these cans provide an economical way to manage your fuel. You’ll need at least three cans: one kept full at all times, one for immediate use, and one for refilling at your earliest opportunity. Regular rotation of these cans ensures that you always have access to reasonably fresh fuel.
Furthermore, their portability can prove invaluable in situations where your storage location needs to be relocated. Always use approved containers and be mindful not to mix them up. Standard color coding is prevalent for portable cans: blue for kerosene, red for gasoline, and yellow for diesel fuel. However, you can customize the color scheme to your preference, so long as you maintain consistency. Mixing fuels can lead to various complications, such as starting difficulties in a diesel engine if it’s contaminated with gasoline or the risk of an explosion when gasoline is introduced into a kerosene heater. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain uniformity in your fuel selection.
For more extensive storage, a 55-gallon drum, used with a hand pump or set horizontally on a rack, offers a flexible solution for how to store fuel. You can add drums as needed to accommodate your fuel storage requirements. Many fuel dealers impose a 100-gallon minimum delivery, so having at least two drums is advantageous.
You can even fill a drum at a service station, bring it home, and transfer the fuel into your storage drum. The mobility of drums is a valuable asset if you ever need to relocate your storage site. However, keep in mind that drums may eventually rust and develop leaks. It’s advisable to label each drum clearly, especially if you’re storing multiple types of fuel, to avoid any potential confusion.
For those contemplating substantial fuel storage, purpose-built fuel tanks are the preferred choice for how to store fuel. These tanks come in various capacities, ranging from 100 to 10,000 gallons, available in above-ground and underground configurations. In the Northeast, the standard residential 275-gallon fuel tank is a popular selection for how to store fuel. These tanks are obtainable new at plumbing and heating suppliers, typically priced around $450.
Additionally, used tanks can often be obtained for free, along with any remaining fuel. As an additional note, individuals with pickup trucks and reciprocating saws may find opportunities in removing old fuel tanks as homeowners transition from fuel oil to natural gas for how to store fuel. While this work is strenuous, it can be profitable. The removed tanks can be refurbished and resold for more.
Regarding fuel dispensing for how to store fuel, it’s a matter of personal choice. An elevated tank only requires a valve and filter, with gravity facilitating the rest. However, for kerosene and diesel tanks, hand pumps are often preferred due to safety considerations for how to store fuel. Valves can be prone to leaks, and in today’s world, vandalism is a sad reality. Hand pumps offer increased security, particularly when you must leave the tank unattended.
By following these guidelines for the safe storage of fuel, you can ensure a reliable and efficient fuel supply that meets your needs for how to store fuel.
The Author’s Approach to Fuel Storage
My personal approach to how to store fuel revolves around a salvaged 275-gallon tank equipped with a hand pump and filter. This system primarily serves our diesel fuel storage needs. Our main tractor, which runs on diesel, is the cornerstone of our operations. It not only powers our everyday tasks but also drives a PTO (power takeoff) generator for standby power generation.
In addition to our diesel setup, we employ two or three 55-gallon drums for kerosene storage. These drums are equipped with a lift pump for efficient dispensing. We rely on kerosene heaters to complement our woodstove, ensuring comfort and warmth during colder periods.
However, due to my job requiring me to be “off the property,” and the presence of two older gasoline engine tractors, a chainsaw, lawnmower, and various other equipment, we’ve adopted a fuel can system for our gasoline supply. This choice aligns with my preference for not storing large quantities of gasoline, prioritizing both convenience and safety in how to store fuel.
Stephen Harris has written this article for Prepper’s Will.
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