Imagine reaching the campground, setting up the tent, setting up the cooking stove, and after hours of driving and setting up, when you finally switch the burner on to cook a hearty meal or take a hot cuppa, all you hear is a faint hiss â€“ the hiss of disappointment â€“ your tank is empty. Nightmarish, isnâ€™t it? In this article, we bring to you everything you need to know about the shelf life of propane.
Running out of gas is both â€“ very annoying, and very risky. In this article, we bring to you the ultimate guide for checking, maintaining and extending the shelf life of your propane tanks.
If this is your first time knowing about camping gas, or if you have unanswered questions and queries like what is camping gas, or how to choose the right fit for you from the overwhelming varieties available, or even how to attach a propane tank to your stove; we recommend that you go through our previous articles:
Camping Propane In Car: Helpful Tips For Safe & Easy Storage
Now, to the issue at hand â€“ letâ€™s dive right into it so that we never have to go camping without an empty tank ever again!
#1 The Risks of An Empty Tank
As unbelievable as it may sound, not having fire to heat water and cook hearty meals isnâ€™t the worst thing to happen to you with an empty propane tank.
Whatâ€™s worse, you might wonder. Well, here are a few consequences of having an empty tank â€“
- If you leave a valve or gas line open when the propane supply runs out, it can cause a leak when the system is recharged.
- Air and moisture that accumulates in an empty tank can cause rust build-up; rust reduces the rotten egg smell of propane, making a leak more difficult to detect.
- If you run out of gas, your pilot lights will go out â€“ a very dangerous situation if not handled properly.
- By federal code, all out-of-gas calls require a visit from a qualified technician to perform a leak test in your home â€“ paid for by you.
Boy, now THAT is a lot of hassle caused by a simple forgetful moment of not checking the level of gas in your propane tanks. It makes it important that you check your propane tanks regularly â€“ whether recently used or not.
#2 How to Check the Amount of Gas in Your Propane Tank?
Before we go on to knowing the shelf life or how to extend it, it is important to know how to check the level of propane youâ€™re left with.
Here are 4 ways by which you can easily check the amount of propane remaining â€“
1. By warm water.
The easiest way to find out how long do propane tanks last and how much gas you have left in your Propane bottle is simple. Just follow these step by step instructions:
- Fill up a small jug with warm water
- Pour it down the side of the gas bottle.
- Wait for just 5 seconds.
- Then using your hands, slide them down the side of the bottle.
When you detect a change in temperature (it gets colder), thatâ€™s where the gas level is.
Note that when you purchase a gas bottle, it will only actually be 80% full. They do this to allow for expansion on a hot day.
2. By weight.
If you’ve been dealing with propane tanks for a long time, you can approximate whether it’s time to get it refilled simply by picking it up. But to get a better idea of how much gas is remaining, you will need a scale.
All propane tanks come with a few numbers stamped on the handle â€“ most commonly the WC (water capacity) and TW (the weight of the tank when it’s empty).
Most propane tanks for grilling weigh around 17 pounds (8 kilograms) when empty and hold roughly 20 pounds (9 kilograms) of propane.
To measure how many pounds of propane are remaining, weigh the tank and subtract the tare weight.
For instance, if you weigh the tank and have 27 pounds (12 kilograms) total and have a tare weight of 17 pounds (8 kilograms), you have 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of propane — approximately half a tank — remaining.
3. By cook time.
Now this method is especially for the mathematics lovers out there. Who knew, a little math could go a long way when it came to keeping us warm in the middle of nowhere?!
Let us understand this method with the example of a grill:
- First, consider that one gallon (3.8 liters) of propane produces approximately 92,000 BTUs.
- Divide that number by the BTUH (BTUs per hour) rating of your grill. This leaves you with the number of hours it will take for you to use one gallon of propane at the grill’s maximum heat setting.
- Finally, multiply the number of hours by the number of gallons in the tank. A full 20-pound (9-kilogram) propane tank holds 4.7 gallons (17.8 liters) of propane.
If your grill has an output of 32,000 BTUH, you would get approximately 13.5 hours of cook time out of a standard propane tank if you were cooking at maximum heat.
If you’re only using two out of four burners, you could estimate that the approximate cook time would be double.
4. Buy a gauge.
If youâ€™re willing to spend a few bucks to avoid all the hassle of water and math, then the simplest way will be to buy a gauge.
Note that you need to purchase a PROPANE TANK GAUGE and not a pressure gauge.
Here are a few options you can check:
- LONGADS 2 Pack Upgraded Propane Tank Gauge Level Indicator with Type 1 Connection, Propane Gas Pressure Gauge for 5-40lb Propane Tank, Universal for RV Camper, BBQ Gas Grill, Cylinder, Heater
- 2 Pack Propane Gas Gauge Pressure Meter Leak Detector with Qcc1/Type1 Connection, Propane Tank Gauge Level Indicator Compatible with Propane Appliances – RV camper, BBQ gas grill, Cylinder and more
- GasOne 50120 Propane Gauge for Propane Tanks
- SHINESTAR 2 Pack Upgraded Propane Gas Pressure Gauge for 5-40lb Propane Tank with Type 1 Connection, Stay Accurate at Different Temperatures
- GasSaf Propane Tank Gas Gauge Leak Detector – Universal for QCC1 Type1 Propane Tank Gas Pressure Meter(2-Pack)
#3 When Should You Order More Propane?
With the calculations set and done, it is still important to know when to get a new propane tank, or a refill to your refillable tank.
Propane doesnâ€™t expire. So, with its long shelf-life, the only reason youâ€™ll need to order more propane is when youâ€™re running low.
Unless your propane delivery service provider monitors your fuel level and delivers to you automatically, youâ€™ll need to learn how to read the gauge on your propane tank.
The most important number to know when reading your gauge is the fuel level. It should never be more than 80% full. The reason is thermal expansion.
Keeping your tank filled less than 100% ensures the fuel in your tank can expand with no risk to the tank or your safety.
Once your gauge reads 20%, itâ€™s time to reorder your supply of propane.
If youâ€™re still a little unsure, here is a video thatâ€™ll help you â€“
#4 How Long Does a Propane Tank Last?
While the life of a tank depends on many factors, an approximation can be made about a standard propane tank.
- A standard 1-lb propane tank will provide approximately 1Â½ hours of cooking time on high heat.
- A disposable 14 or 16 ounce propane tank will also last about 1.5 to 2 hours.
- A standard 20-lb propane tank should last about 18-20 hours on most grills.
Having said that, it is still advisable that you have a thorough check of the amount of propane remaining in your propane tank regularly â€“ and especially when planning a camping trip. You do not want to land in a situation where you spend a week in the middle of nowhere with an empty gas tank.
#5 Maintenance Checklist for Propane Tanks
While youâ€™re at it, make sure you check for a little more than just the amount of gas remaining. For starters, hereâ€™s a handy checklist of things to check for:
- Check the anti-corrosion coating on your underground tank
- Inspect appliance connectors
- Check appliance vents
- Leak testing
- Fuel quality monitoring
- Ensure you disconnect your fuel tank when itâ€™s not in use
- Check that your propane tank is always sitting level to the ground
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know how to calculate the burn rate and life of your propane tank, letâ€™s get to work with checking the propane tanks!
With a little extra work put into the pre-packing checks can save you from a wide range of nightmares â€“ from risks associated with empty tanks, to harsh winters without heat.