How Long Do Propane Tanks Last?


When grilling in the backyard, do you wonder how long does a small propane tank last on a grill?

Homeowners and businesses are alike. If they rely on propane, they have the same question about how long a propane tank should last. Imagine your production halting in the middle of an operation or taking a shower with ice-cold water in the winter because the propane ran out. Knowing the average propane gas consumption for better planning, budgeting, and reordering in time is important.

Other valid questions concerning the propane tank life are, how long can you use a propane tank, and how many years does a propane tank last?

This article will show you the different factors that impact propane consumption, the propane tank lifespan, and a few suggestions for keeping the propane fuel tank in good shape.

Understanding Tank Sizes

The smallest residential propane tank in the market is the 20-pound barbeque tank. The empty tank weighs about 20 pounds and holds 4.6 gallons of propane.

The next propane tank size up is the 100 lb. tank which holds approximately 23.6 gallons. At 4.2 pounds per gallon, the tank holds 99.12 pounds of propane. They are relatively light and can move to other locations depending on the need, such as drying drywall in new construction.

The remaining tank sizes are large stationary propane tanks. Here are their specifications:

  • 120-gallon tank – It’s also called a “420” tank because it holds 100 gallons or 420 lb. of propane. They are the right size for a supplemental gas fireplace. Installing two tanks together is a low-profile heat source for a home and an alternative to a larger horizontal tank. 
  • 300-gallon (underground) – This model is narrower and longer than above-ground tanks. Underground tanks are best for propane stoves, propane furnaces, and water heating systems. Only the filler valve and gauge extend above ground for a cleaner look.
  • 500-gallon – Restaurants and light industrial applications that require a larger propane supply use this tank. There are above-ground and underground models.
  • 1,000-gallon (Underground) – Underground tanks must be 10 feet from the home, property line, and electrical ignition source. 

Most suppliers can install a wireless electronic meter that monitors how much propane remains in the tank. It can schedule an automatic propane delivery at the right time to avoid service interruptions. Homeowners can purchase Wi-Fi or GSM Cellular propane tank monitors that notify them when the fuel tank is low. 

Typical Propane Home Usage Factors

There are three primary uses for propane as a heat source. Here are typical usage or burn rates for each.

1. Recreational Grilling

Anyone who owns a backyard gas barbeque grill uses the 20-pound tank. Typically, one 20-lb. propane tank lasts between 18 to 20 hours on a medium-sized grill. Larger grills with multiple burners can go through 20-pounds of propane in as little as 10 hours.

We can break it down another way. Using the highest setting, cooking on a medium-sized grill will consume 1 to 2 pounds of fuel per grilling session. That’s the equivalent of 8 meals per tank.

2. Home Furnaces

The heating industry measures heat output as BTUs or British Thermal Units. The furnace for an average single-family unit puts out approximately 100,000 BTUs per hour. A gallon of propane produces about 92,000 BTUs. That means a propane-powered furnace uses about one gallon of propane per hour during the heating season. Depending on the season and personal preference, a home can burn between 500 to 1,200 gallons of propane during the winter months.

3. Hot Water Heaters

Hot water usage depends on variables like the number of people in the home, the number of bathrooms, and how long people take a shower. The average house burns 1.5 gallons of propane per day just for the water heater. Using that average consumption rate, homeowners will burn 200 to 300 gallons of propane per year to heat water.

Combining heating and hot water, the propane consumption for the average homeowner is about two and a half 500-gallon tanks per year. 

Next, we’ll show you how to calculate propane gas consumption to help you determine the correct tank size and budget.

Calculating Consumption or “Burn Rate” of Propane

This calculation can help answer the question, how many hours does a propane tank last?

  1. First, find the tank’s tare or empty weight. It’s usually a number stamped on the tank’s collar.
  2. Next, weigh the tank with the fuel.
  3. Subtract the tare weight to find the weight of the propane.
  4. Divide the total weight of your fuel by 4.24 to determine the gallons. Use 4.24 pounds of propane = one gallon.

Let’s look at an example.

Your gas grill or other appliance will provide an estimated burn rate measured in BTUs. Use this formula to calculate the burn rate:

BTUs per gallon/BTU burn rate of the appliance = hours of burn time

The calculation is 92,000 BTUs per gallon of propane/60,000 BTUs (the burn rate of the appliance) = 1.53 hours.

If the grill uses 60,000 BTUs per hour, 1 gallon of propane will last about 1.5 hours.

If you know the weight of fuel left in the tank, you can convert it to gallons and then divide the total gallons by the hourly burn rate of your appliance. This figure will give an accurate answer to the question of how many hours will a propane tank last and the fuel you have left.

Some Propane Tank FAQs

Here are the questions people ask most often regarding propane tanks:

How long will 20 lb. propane tank last?

There are two variables in barbeque gas grills: the burners’ size and how high you set the grill. A 20-lb. tank will last from 10 to 20 hours of cooking, depending on the chef and the grill. 

How long does a 500-gallon propane tank last?

Based on U.S. Energy Information Administration figures, the average household consumption of propane is 750 gallons during the winter heating months of October to March. Using that figure means an average home requires about 2 full 500-gallon propane tanks per winter. Keep in mind that tanks are “full” at 80% of their stated capacity. Suppliers can only fill a 500-gallon tank to 400 gallons of propane for safety requirements.

Installing a propane tank heater is one way to get more out of your tank and prevent freezing during the harshest weather. 

How do you know when to replace your propane tank?

Stationary propane tanks can last for decades with proper maintenance (See Below). They must be recertified after 10 years from the manufacturing date, then every five years. 

How often does a propane tank need to be filled?

Modern permanent propane tanks have an electronic monitor that notifies the supplier when to refill before the tank runs out. If your tank doesn’t have this feature, you’ll need to monitor the tank’s gauge physically. It’s best to order between 20 to 10% of the tank’s capacity.

How often depends upon individual consumption. A commercial kitchen cooking with propane will run through a tank much faster than a homeowner.

How long can propane sit in a tank before it goes bad?

Propane is a hydrocarbon molecule, C3H8, and a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining. It’s called liquefied petroleum gas, LP-gas, and LPG. Unlike gasoline, it doesn’t degrade or go bad.

How long does a propane tank last for a house?

As we mentioned above, an average home requires 2 to 2.5 500-gallon tanks per winter heating season. Variables include the number of bathrooms, people, and gas appliances such as fireplaces and clothes dryers.

If we’re talking about the steel tank, they can last for 30 years with proper care and maintenance.

Industrial and Commercial Propane Tanks

Industrial high volume propane usage includes commercial kitchens, fleet fueling, agricultural heating, forklift refueling, and propane reselling. Some commercial users measure their consumption in gallons per minute instead of gallons per hour. 

Commercial tanks will be 500 to 1,000-gallon capacity and can have multiple tanks hooked together in a series for continuous flow. How long will a propane tank last under commercial conditions depends on the hourly consumption.

Unlike a home, commercial users require a steady flow rate of up to 24 hours per day, depending on the operation. 

For example, a load of 1 million BTUs requires 11 gallons per hour. For a 10-hour shift, that’s 110 gallons per day. The business should have at least a 2,000-gallon storage capacity.

Proper Vaporization Requires Heat

Cold weather can make maintaining optimal pressure in gas cylinders very difficult. Freezing temperatures prevent the gas from vaporizing efficiently. In some cases, it makes the gas cylinders unusable.

Commercial and home propane users need the gas delivered as a vapor, not liquified. To help the process, installing propane tank heaters keeps the propane in the tank at a constant temperature and pressure. Tank heaters are one of the best industrial heating solutions, and they can also prevent valves and regulators from freezing during the winter months.

Proper Propane Tank Maintenance

How long do propane tanks last? The propane tank lifespan can be up to 30 years, but the 20 lb. propane tank lifespan is less due to the damage from constant handling. It’s all about safety. Tanks must be inspected and recertified after ten years from the manufacturing date and every five years. 

Whether you are inspecting a 20-lb. tank or a 1,000-gallon tank, you want to check for the following issues:

  1. Ensure that the paint is intact and that there is no corrosion.
  2. Check for leaks around valves or other connections
  3. Ensure that the tank sits on a stable and level platform where there is no danger of tipping over.
  4. Look for damaged gauges or valves
  5. Any kinks in the gas line or dents to the tank
  6. Soot accumulation around appliance burners indicates that the gas isn’t operating properly
  7. Proper ventilation 

Propane is heavier than air. Burning propane produces Carbon Monoxide (CO), so all propane equipment and appliances must have proper ventilation. 

If you find a problem with any component of the propane system, only use a qualified professional for propane tank maintenance or repairs.

See Our Propane Tank Heaters

How Can I Prevent My Propane Tank from Freezing?

Whether you’re on the jobsite, tailgating before the game, or taking your RV out in winter months, you’ll need to put your trust in your propane tank to keep the operation rolling. 

Propane, sometimes referred to as liquid petroleum gas, is an eco-friendly, safe, and low-cost option for powering your home appliances or business operation. Propane is multifunctional, stores easily, and has a long shelf life. It’s still crucial, though, to store propane tanks or cylinders properly to keep you and your propane safe all year long. 

This year, be prepared when colder weather arrives. Cold temperatures often have adverse effects on equipment and materials like propane tanks, especially when the job requires every moving part to go smoothly. Without an effective solution to these freezing temperature problems, the project stops, time and money are lost, and you suffer. 

Learn how to keep propane tanks from freezing and make the most of your propane tanks pressure by preparing it for cold weather conditions.

Does Propane Freeze?

Technically speaking, yes, propane can freeze. The propane isn’t what you should be worried about, though, but rather the tank. If liquid propane falls below -306°F, it will freeze. Inside of the tank, propane is found in a liquid form. Luckily, propane tanks are built to protect propane and utilize its heating capabilities in its gas form.  As liquid propane leaves the tank, it reaches its boiling point (-44°F) and returns to a gaseous state, powering your grill, water heater, or other appliances. 

While it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll find yourself or your propane tank in temperatures this cold, your tank and its functions will still be affected by general cold weather. Low pressure, minimal production, and weathered or deteriorated tanks are a few of those effects. Read on to learn some helpful tips for protecting your propane tanks from freezing conditions. 

Keep It Full

What’s one of the best ways to prevent your propane tank from freezing? The answer’s simple: keep it full. Skip the exchange and refill your tank more often. Not only is it cheaper, you’ll save yourself from the inconvenience of a frozen tank. According to U-Haul, a company that many are surprised to learn offers propane refill services, you can save an average of $1.76 per gallon if you refill your propane tank instead of exchanging it. Not only that, you won’t let any propane go to waste if you choose to fill it up before it’s completely empty.

Keep Up the Pressure

Propane contracts as temperatures drop, so the colder the ambient weather, the slower the flow will be. This change in the rate of pressure can cause your tank to “freeze up”. As the temperature drops, the total volume of liquid propane in your tank drops, and so does pressure. In conditions as high as 60°F, you may have noticed an obvious change in the pressure of your propane tank. 

There are more than a few ways to avoid low pressure propane tanks. One of those is by keeping it full as often as possible. Depew Energy suggests that you keep your propane tank at least 30% full at all times to maintain positive pressure. 

The warmer your propane tank is kept, the higher your pressure output will be. Refer to the chart below to determine the ideal temperature for your desired PSI. 

When utilizing an option like a heated blanket to keep your propane tank warm, it is important to know how many watts are necessary to obtain the PSI levels desired or required. If it is not possible to calculate this yourself, you will want to look for a solution that can provide that information for you before you make the investment. 

Propane tank temperature efficiency

Check out this article for more helpful information on propane pressure upkeep. 

Ways to avoid pressure problems:

  • Keep propane tanks and regulators clear of snow
  • Maintain propane tank warmth using a heating blanket
  • Keep the tank full, never let it drop below 30%
  • Always store propane cylinders in an upright position, never upside-down or on their side
  • Protect your tank from freezing due to outdoor elements, but always keep it outdoors in a well-ventilated area
  • When not in use, be certain that the propane tanks gas valve is turned to “off”

Keep It Stored

Where should you store your propane tank? It’s best to store your propane tanks in a well-ventilated and cool area. While it can be tempting to keep your propane in a temperature-regulated area like a garage or a basement, the potential dangers aren’t worth the risk. 

The ideal place to store your propane tanks is outdoors in a shaded, dry place. Rain, snow, and humidity cause rusting which deteriorates the tank and decreases its lifespan. 

What sort of temperatures can a propane tank withstand? According to Amerigas, you should avoid storing propane tanks at or subjecting them to any temperatures above 120°F and below -40°F. While those are both extreme temperatures on both ends of the spectrum, it’s wise to take extra care by never storing your propane tanks in direct sunlight and always keeping them clear of ice and snow.

Keep It Warm

Depending on where you work or live, storing propane tanks outdoors means keeping them in freezing conditions. We get that it’s not an ideal situation and likely a recipe for low tank pressure and a bad headache. There are plenty of solutions, however, for when you need to store propane tanks outside in winter conditions.

To avoid tank freezing and low pressure, keep the tank free from any ice, sleet, or snow buildup. If it snows, clear off the tanks, valves, and regulators immediately. Not only will this keep them warm and well-pressurized, you’ll save them from rust and unnecessary wear. 

Another solution would be to utilize propane tank heating systems. Try to find a heating method with safe heat, such as a heating blanket or insulated blanket, depending upon the amount of pressure needed. Look for a heating solution that offers consistent heat and complete coverage. Keeping liquid propane at warmer temperatures will increase the pressure output and save you the headaches that come with low PSI. This constant regulation of tank temperature could be what saves your bacon during winter conditions.

Need to protect your propane tank from freezing? Give us a call and talk to a Powerblanket heating expert today. 888-316-6324, or visit our Propane Tank Heater page HERE.


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Welcome To Powerblanket

The Powerblanket family began our journey back in 2005.  Since then, our patented, American-made temperature control products have solidified our expertise the industrial heating and cooling community. We excel at helping the industrial and manufacturing community get back to work. 

With our ever-expanding range of customizable heating during the winter, and cooling during the summer, Powerblanket helps businesses stay operational year-round. By finding new ways to remove temperature roadblocks, Powerblanket empowers companies to preserve workplace safety, prolong equipment life, prepare for emergencies, and get back to work.

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We are the leading provider of standard and custom-designed industrial heating blankets. No matter what industry you’re in, Powerblanket can help you improve your business. We have created custom heating solutions for companies all over the world. Our blankets are extremely versatile and can be used across a wide variety of industries. 

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If you can build it, haul it, or store it…we can heat it. Because pre-fabricated options are not always a good fit, our engineers are at the ready to create tailor made heating to spec. We specialize in engineering custom solutions for even the trickiest of heating problems. Powerblanket has the quickest lead time in the market for custom products. First, our world-class engineering team learns your specific heating needs. Next, we provide you with your custom quote within 1-3 days. Then, we deliver your custom heating products within 3 weeks. 

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Our heating blankets save you time, energy, and money by putting the heat precisely where it is needed. After a simple installation, you are now harnessing the power of conduction and heating your materials with direct and even heat. Our advanced weather-proof insulation provides a protective barrier from the elements and reduces heat loss. We then combine insulation with efficient heating elements to direct heat downward right into the item that needs heating instead of losing it to the ambient air.

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Powerblanket Product Families

Barrel and Bucket Heaters

Protect your fluid storage during the winter with a wide range of drum, barrel, and bucket heaters.  Direct, evenly distributed heat eliminates hot and colds spots, solves viscosity issues, and prevent your fluids from freezing. We also provide a range of specially calibrated blankets for coconut oil, honey, and wax. These blankets are programmed to stay within the exact temperatures these specific fluids need.

Tote and DEF Tote Heaters

For larger volume industrial fluids, these specially designed tote heating blankets are perfectly sized and shaped for steel, poly, and DEF totes. Our tote heaters protect the chemical composition of your fluids while still giving you pump access during winter conditions.

Gas Cylinder Heaters

When gas tanks drop in temperature, the pressure of their contents drops as well. As a result, it very difficult to get any gas flow from a tank during the winter. Gas cylinder warmers evenly and safely heat the cylinder so that flow rate increases and operations can continue running.

Bulk Material Heaters

How do you heat multiple containers of all shapes and sizes, or bulky pallets of materials? Hot box bulk material warmers provide even heating to anything stored within.

Ground Thawing Blankets

Frozen ground can bring a number of industries to a full halt during the winter. During sub-freezing temperatures, our high powered ground thaw blankets direct heat deep into the frost line to prep ground for digging, utility work, concrete pouring, and more.

Concrete Curing Blankets

Winter concreting is notoriously difficult. Construction heating can have a huge impact on jobs, deadlines, and the overall bottomline. From roofing, to spray foam, painting, and concrete, so many aspects are affected by the weather. Curing problems can derail entire construction projects and cause costly delays. Our concrete curing blankets provide heat, insulation, and cure concrete 2.8x faster than conventional insulation blankets. Electric concrete blankets are hands down the most efficient solution for strong and fast winter concrete curing.

Snow Melting Safety Mats

Free your hands and your time during the winter by setting your snow shovel aside. Simply lay down our Summerstep snow and ice melting mats on your doorway, stairs, and walkways. In addition, Summerstep mats provide traction and reduce injuries from slips and falls all winter long.

Smart Controllers

For an added level of control and automation, our Beacon Smart Controllers put temperature control at your fingertips. With the user friendly app, you have access to continuous remote temperature monitoring. You can also set heating schedules and receive temperature alerts right from your phone or tablet.

Industrial Cooling from North Slope Chillers

Our North Slope Chillers line represents the flip-side of our total temperature control expertise. Our industrial chillers, Fluxwrap fluid channel blankets, Keg Coolers, and Ice Wraps provide the perfect cooling solutions for when the heat is high.

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When your business feels the sting of wasted revenue through equipment damage, product loss, or the financial crunch of the “off season” due to unworkable climate conditions, Powerblanket has the solution. With Powerblanket, there is no “off season.” Contact us to find the perfect temperature control solutions to keep your work flowing at 855.993.6294 or [email protected]


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