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Checking A Propane Tank Gauge: What To Know

Date: December 21, 2020

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The last thing you need is to run out of propane, especially if you rely on this versatile fuel to heat your home and/or hot water. If you’re like many people who are working from home now, it’s safe to assume you will be using more propane than you did last winter. Here’s a brief review about what you should know about checking your propane tank gauge.

First, 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.

How Many Gallons Of Propane Are Left?

Multiply the capacity of the cylinder or tank by the percentage. For example, if you have a 120-gallon cylinder and the gauge reads 70%, multiply 120 x .70. This equals 84 gallons.
If the gauge reads 30% or less on your tank or cylinder, you should arrange for a delivery from your local propane company.

If you’re having trouble reading your gauge or don’t know the capacity of your storage, contact your local propane company for assistance.

Propane Tank Gauges Should Never Read 100%

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 is known as the “80/20 rule.” It’s 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.

Preventing Run-outs

How often you need to schedule deliveries depends on frequency of use. If you use propane every day, you will see a pattern for when you will need more. Your propane company can tell you, based on your number of appliances and estimated use, how often you will need deliveries.

If this is the case, they may be able to put you on an automatic delivery schedule. Their computer system tracks how much fuel your home will typically use. They will then deliver fuel automatically to you, usually when your tank gets to be 25-30% full. The result: no more run-outs and no more wasting time calling for a delivery.

If you already get automatic deliveries, please let your propane company know if your heating habits have changed so they can adjust their delivery projections. This ensures your delivery schedule will remain accurate and you will still get your fuel before you run too low.

If you have any questions about your propane deliveries, please reach out to your local propane company.