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The Different Propane Tank Sizes

Different propane tank sizes

When it comes to choosing a propane tank for your New York home, one-size-fits-all is not an option.

You have several choices, and your local New York propane supplier will gladly assist you in making a decision. Here’s a look at the wide range propane storage tanks available.

20-pound propane tank

This is the size that most people are familiar with, especially for the folks who just use propane for outdoor cooking. With a capacity of about five gallons, these portable cylinders are used to fuel outdoor gas grills and patio heaters. If you only have a propane fireplace or hearth you use occasionally, this can be option since you can store multiple tanks outside (NEVER indoors!) for backup and you can easily refill or exchange 20-pound tanks at a propane retailer.

100-pound propane tank

These tanks are the next step up from 20-pound propane tanks, and can be filled onsite. Here are some reasons to choose a 100-pound propane tank:

  • You have an indoor fireplace but don’t want to travel to exchange propane tanks frequently
  • Your only propane appliance is a gas range or cooktop with wall ovens

420-pound propane tank/100 gallon propane tank

Depending on your propane provider, this tank is referred to as a 420-pound propane tank or a 100-gallon propane tank. If you only have two or three propane appliances like a water heater, fireplace, clothes dryer or stove, this tank could be right for you.

150-gallon propane tank

This size propane tank is used for low BTU appliances and smaller demand uses like water heating and cooking. It can also power propane space heaters and wall heaters. But it is generally not enough for whole house heating.

250-gallon propane tank

If you have more than three propane appliances such as a fireplace, clothes dryer, water heater and stove, this may be a good size. It can also be used for whole house heating depending on your square footage. Your New York propane supplier can help you calculate your propane needs.

500-gallon propane tank

If you heat your home with propane as well as run your stove, fireplace, water heater and clothes dryer, you’ll need a larger propane tank like this. A 500-gallon tank is 10-feet long and shaped like a submarine.

1,000-gallon propane tank

Often used in commercial applications, this tank has the same shape as a 500-gallon storage tank, but it’s about six-feet longer. If you have a large home, use a lot of propane appliances and heat your pool with a propane pool heater, you may need to go this big.

What size propane tank is right for me?

Your local New York propane provider has the knowledge and experience to help you select the right size propane tank for your home.

With a propane tank for a home, deciding on the correct size is pretty simple, although there are some variables. Your New York propane supplier has a deep knowledge of typical winter weather in your neck of the woods, so they’ll know what your propane heating needs are. Here are some of the other factors they will take into consideration:

  • The square footage of your home
  • What propane appliances you have in your home, such as heating, water heating, cooktop, stove, ovens or clothes dryer
  • The total BTUs of all of your propane appliances
  • Whether you have a pool heater, as they are high BTU appliances

If you are concerned about price spikes in the propane market, you could get a larger propane tank to get yourself fully supplied before winter. It also means you will require fewer deliveries. Your New York propane supplier can help you decide if that’s the right choice for you.

Depending on the size of your propane tank, you can also choose whether you want an above-ground propane tank or an underground propane tank.

Understanding the 80/20 rule

If you’re a keen observer, you’ve probably noticed that the gauge on your propane tank never reads 100%–even right after you’ve received a delivery from your propane company. But that’s strictly by design and for safety purposes. Here’s why.

The propane in your tank is stored as a liquid. The liquid changes to gas before it leaves the tank. That’s why it’s called liquid petroleum gas (LPG).

Like any liquid, propane will expand when its temperature rises. The difference with propane is that it expands a lot, and quickly –its volume increases nearly 17 times the volume of water over the same temperature increase.

This is why your delivery driver needs to leave extra space in your tank to allow for propane to safely expand. Aboveground propane tanks are typically filled to about 80 percent capacity; underground tanks can be filled slightly higher because they are insulated against the heat. The extra space in the tank provides a cushion against the pressure that builds up in a tank.

As an example, a 500-gallon tank filled to 80% will safely hold 400 gallons of propane.

This so-called 80/20 rule is especially important in hot weather—when liquid propane will expand the most. If you notice that the tank gauge reading fluctuates during quick temperature swings (hot days, cool nights), don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. Also keep in mind that the amount of gas in the tank doesn’t actually change during periods of expansion and contraction–only its density does.

Propane gas expansion is also a reason why you should never paint your outdoor propane tank a dark color, since dark colors absorb more heat.

How to read your tank gauge

Most propane tanks are equipped with a gauge. Look for a round dial (like a clock face) on your cylinders or tanks. Often, the dial is under the lid of the cylinder or tank, although sometimes it’s located on the top of a cylinder.

Next, see what number the hand is on. That number is the percentage (not the gallon count) of propane in your cylinder or tank.

To determine the number of gallons, multiply the capacity of the cylinder or tank by the percentage. If you have a 120-gallon cylinder and the gauge reads 70%, multiply 120 x .70, which would give you 84 gallons.

If the gauge reads 30% or less, you should arrange for a delivery from your local propane company.

What happens if your tank runs out of propane?

You may think that running out of propane will just affect the ability to heat your house. But the truth is running out of gas can cause a number of problems – and potential propane safety issues – for your propane-powered home. Here are some of the consequences of having your propane tank run out.

  • 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 – a 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 – paid for by you.

When it comes down to it, running out of propane is just not worth the hassle or risks – especially when your local propane company may be able to set you up on an automatic delivery schedule. Why not check in with them to see if you would qualify for this service?