As I was struggling with a poorly draining tank chained to a little utility trailer, the world was passing me by. Private enterprise struck fossil gold in North Dakota and the government (despite its best efforts) couldn’t stop it. The price of propane fell like a rock. Everyone and their dog bought propane furnaces.
During that time my furnace died. I replaced it with… nothing. Because that’s how I roll! (See the chronicles of the learning experience that is the saga that inspired the book that will be the movie of “The Furnace: One Man’s Struggle”: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
A year later, I’d gleefully proved I could live without a furnace. Yay me. But smart monkeys like redundancy. It was time to replace the furnace. At the time everyone was buying propane furnaces. Hank Hill had won the day.
The smart monkey/survivalist/prepper/boy scout looks at propane and ponders not the fuel but the delivery system. Any dipshit with a truck can deliver fuel oil. (I knew because I’d been buying it from dipshits with trucks.) It takes complex gear to deliver propane. Ironically, the higher equipment buy in suggests a more professional level of service (but not cheaper). On the other hand, propane delivery to my house is offered by one and only one company and I’d have to “rent” a propane tank. I hate renting anything.
Did I want a fuel that requires specialized equipment? Did I want to buy into a monopoly’s delivery system? Propane is vastly superior as a fuel but the supply chain for compressed gas is pretty complex.
Do supply chains matter? To this monkey they do.
I installed another oil furnace. Obsolete technology in a world where everyone wanted propane. What a chump!
I kept muddling along trying to get off road diesel from gas stations to my house. Neglecting the tank (which I wouldn’t forgive for landing on my foot) I decided to haul fuel in 5 gallon fuel cans. It worked! Yes, a 5 gallon fuel jug will indeed haul 5 gallons of fuel. Who knew? Sometimes monkeys think too much. That kept me limping along a few more winters. It was nice to know I could “get by” with a plastic jug but even I had to admit that hauling jugs stinks.
By now I had a “new” truck. The truck was taller than the trailer I’d been using. Surely the siphon drain system would work now? I stuck the tank and skids in the truck, strapped it down very well, slapped duct tape over the broken fixture on the top, and gave it a shot.
Failure! The tank rode like a pregnant rhino and the siphon wasn’t much better. I delivered a meager 20 gallons and went back to the drawing board.
I talked to several guys about mounting the tank. Everyone was more than willing to charge me a crapload to drill holes in my truck bed and bolt the sucker down. Once mounted it would be a bitch to remove. But, they reasoned, it would be awesome for filling my hypothetical bulldozer. I called dug in my heels. I use my truck bed to its fullest extent. If I wanted a shortbed I’d have bought a shortbed.
I have a removable gooseneck hitch. It’s a big beefy steel sucker that mounts right thought the bed to an awesome subframe. It’s strong enough to pull the biggest horse trailer out there, yet I can pull a pin and pop the ball right out. Once the ball is removed my bed is flat again for hauling stuff.
Why not a tank with a pin… just like the horse trailer hitch? Mechanics insisted it was impossible. This is what happens when the word “mechanic” really means “parts changer”. If we had more mechanics who are up to custom installations, the world would be a better place. Just a few people for whom the word “fabricate” isn’t terrifying would be a good start.
After weeks of searching I found a welder. He went at it with hammer and tongs. Soon I had a beefy steel “skid” on the tank. It had a massive removable pin that slid into the gooseneck hitch receptacle.
Success! It locks down like God wants it to be there. Once pinned down, Godzilla couldn’t budge it. Full or empty, it rides like a dream.
I shook off my usual cheapskate nature and bought a transfer pump. The welder fixed up the broken top with threads and we installed the pump. Because this was a removable tank I wanted removable power to the pump. I set up a beefy set of fused leads that can be coiled up when not in use. When I need them they stretch from the pump to the truck’s battery. Sweet!
Last fall I tried it out. At the gas station I bought 30 gallons of “off road” fuel. I drove onto my lawn, adjacent to the inlet for my fuel oil tank, clipped the jumper cables to the truck’s battery, flipped the switch, and whoosh!
Success! I did a little monkey dance on the lawn!
Winter arrived with the intention of killing first Al Gore and then the rest of us. Snow piled up. My carefully laid plans went haywire. Because of the drifting snow I couldn’t get the truck close enough to the inlet.
Failure! Life is full of surprises.
Back at the hardware store I bought an extension to the fuel delivery hose. Now I can reach a good 25′ past my truck’s bed.
Did it work?
Yes! Another monkey dance.
There you have it. For a couple hundred bucks I supplanted the entire fuel delivery industry with an old tank, a pump, some welded hardware, and extra hose. It works very well. I don’t mind a long R&D period because the end result is just what I wanted.