Useful Benefits of Propane for Apartment Preppers

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Written by Ron Brown 2021

My wife and I are good friends with a widow in Toronto who lives on the twelfth floor of a high-rise apartment building. Many times have I sat on her balcony and pondered the situation — the ground far below and the other apartments jostling for their own spot in heaven far above. In a lights-out situation, with the elevators not working, 12 floors is a long ways for an elderly person to lug groceries.

And blackouts do happen. I was working in Toronto in August 2003 when the lights went out over the entire Northeast. And I remember apartment hunting back then. Our choices ranged from high-rises down to basement apartments — where somebody in a single-family home had finished off their basement with a bathroom and a kitchen to create a rentable unit.

Our choices between apartments varied widely but our needs did not. In all cases we needed heat, lights, water, a place to sleep, a means to cook, and a place to go to the bathroom — be it in normal times or in a lights-out emergency.

Water was a particular concern. Toronto borders Lake Ontario (one of the Great Lakes) and had lots of water towers. Water was pumped from the lake into the towers and the city was then served with gravity-feed water from the towers. Unless you lived above the fourth floor in a high-rise. Oops. In that case you depended on your landlord to have pumps and stored-ahead-of-time fuel to run the pumps with which to fill the tanks on the top of the building.

So how might propane help with all this? Fair question.


For sure, propane can provide lighting. Propane camping lanterns are inexpensive, propane is readily available, and propane is free of the spill-and-stink problems you’ll for-sure encounter with Coleman fuel and kerosene. Propane can be purchased in one-pound cylinders and in 20-pound tanks.

Adapter kits are available that will let you run a propane camping lantern (designed for a one-pounder) from a 20-lb. tank. I, myself, bought such an adapter at Walmart so this is not exotic stuff. Coleman and Century and Mr Heater all sell kits with fittings and extension hoses. (Should you search eBay or Amazon for these adapters, they are called “distribution posts.”)


As for cooking, propane camp stoves come in all flavors — one and two and three burners as well as ovens. Of the various designs available, the one I don’t like is the one where the fuel cylinder stands on end (inserted in a plastic foot at the bottom) and a single stove burner screws directly into the fuel cylinder. I owned one. It was top-heavy (given a teakettle of water). It made me nervous. I gave it away.


Radiant propane heaters are available and do a nice job of keeping you warm. My barber has several times used one in a pinch to keep his shop warm. Just remember you need some ventilation so keep a window cracked open with all of these (unvented) devices. And, on the topic of keeping warm, a camping tent pitched inside your living room will be warmer than the living room itself.

Plus it can be an improvised “tent.” Sleep under the dining room table, for example. Hang blankets and comforters over the top of the table for insulated walls. Put sofa cushions on the floor for a mattress. You might not even need a radiant propane heater, eh?

So with lights, heating, and cooking, propane can help — even in a high-rise. That leaves our widow with the remaining concerns of water, toilet, and the physical strength to carry groceries up twelve stories. Maybe that’s why she goes to church and networks with people who live in the suburbs. “You’re only as strong as your friends are.”

About the Author

I’m a retired engineer. I live in the countryside in upstate New York (not to be confused with New York City). My only real claim to fame is a series of eight books on Amazon entitled “The Non-Electric Lighting Series.” Each book in the series is available in both Kindle and paper format. The series has been well received. Whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself I review the readers’ comments. And I always come away smiling. Gee, maybe I’m not such a bad guy after all.

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  1. Propane doesn’t good bad like other fuels. Is readily available and easy to get. I’ve even found a few empty 20 lb cylinders in the alley that were thrown away by neighbors. I just exchange them at the gas station for a new filled one for under $18. I now have 6 of them. Five in the shed and one on the grill.
    I have the Big buddy heater and it works pretty good. Highly recommended if you live in a part of the county that gets cold.

  2. You made a good point that propane is one of the most efficient fuels to use for heating during winter storms. I’d like to start working on improving the heating in my home as I prepare for the colder months of the year. Hopefully, it will be easy enough to find a good propane delivery service in my local area.

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