Not having enough propane on hand can be both a burden and a danger. From running out of fuel during the middle of a cookout to not having heating oil on a cold winter’s night, it’s important to know the specifics of propane tank maintenance, how quickly the fuel burns, and how to tell if you’re running low on fuel.
What are the most common propane tank sizes?
Residential propane tanks range in size from 100 gallons to 1,000 gallons. Smaller tanks, like 20-pound tanks, are sold for modest needs like outdoor barbecuing or small appliances like fireplaces.
A 2,500 square foot home (or larger) that has multiple appliances running on propane, will most likely use a 500-gallon tank. Propane tanks any larger than 500-gallons are often reserved for commercial use.
How you put your propane to use will play a role in how long your fuel source will last. Consider the most common uses for propane:
As mentioned above, 20-pound propane tanks are used for modest tasks like cooking individual meals. As a rule of thumb, one tank of propane will typically last between 18-20 hours if you’re grilling on a medium-sized grill. Whereas larger grills can burn through 20-pounds of propane in as little as 10 hours.
On average, you’ll use one or two pounds of fuel per meal if you use a medium-sized grill on high heat. That equals roughly 8 grilling sessions per tank.
British Thermal Unit, or BTUs, is the industry standard used to measure the heating efficiency of household appliances. The average home furnace runs on roughly 100,000 BTUs, and one gallon of propane equals 92,000 BTUs. That means the average home furnace burns roughly one gallon of propane per hour.
In this example, a home furnace will burn anywhere from 500 gallons – 1,200 gallons of propane per year, depending on how often you turn on your furnace.
Hot Water Heaters
Your hot water heater usage will vary based on how many bathrooms you have in your home, and how many people are in and out of your home. As a rule of thumb, the average home uses about 1.5 gallons of propane a day for typical hot water heating use.
The average homeowner can expect to use somewhere between 200 gallons to 300 gallons of propane per year for hot water.
Overall, the average homeowner will use roughly 2 1/2 (two and one-half) 500-gallon tanks of propane each year for home heating and cooking.
How to Calculate Your Burn Rate
For even more customized calculations, you can follow the steps below:
First, find out how much your physical tank weighs. This measurement, also known as the tare weight, should be indicated on the tank itself.
Subtract the tare weight from the total weight of your tank (with fuel inside).
Then, divide the total weight of your tank by 4.24. (4.24 pounds of propane = one gallon and makes for easier conversion moving forward.)
If you have a propane grill that burns at a rate of 60,000 BTU per hour, that’s the same as saying it will take 1.53 hours to burn 1 gallon of propane. (92,000 BTUs for one gallon of propane/60,000 the burn rate of the appliance = 1.53 hours)
Divide the total gallons of your tank by the hourly burn rate of your appliance to see how many hours of fuel you have left.
Repeat this process to see how varied appliances, with different BTU rates, will burn fuel.
As you can see, the calculation is slightly complex so it might be wise to consult with a professional if you need assistance.