How to tell if your propane tank is empty
Homeowners often wonder whether they’ll run out of fuel during a barbeque. No one wants their cook time cut short by an empty propane tank, which can prompt a trip to the store in the middle of a cookout.
Most tanks don’t show the level of propane. Fortunately, there are ways to see how much propane is left or at least determine whether the tank is empty or not.
4 Ways to Check How Much Propane Is Left
There are four ways to see how much liquid propane there is in your tank.
1. With WaterPouring hot water on the side of the tank is a low-tech method. Hot tap water will do just fine. Just fill a cup or bucket and pour the water on the tank. Next, feel the side of the tank. If the tank feels cool, there is propane inside; the fuel absorbs heat from the water. The side of the tank will feel warmer where there isn’t any propane. Although this won’t tell you exactly how much is left, you can use your touch to approximate the level based on where the tank feels warm or cool.
2. By WeightYou can also weigh the tank on a scale. Assuming the typical tank holds 20 pounds of propane and the weight of an empty propane tank is 17 pounds,1 you can weigh the unit and subtract 17 from the value you get. For exact numbers to use, check the water capacity and empty tank weight listed on the side of the unit. If the scale registers 30, for example, then subtract 17 to get 13, which is how many pounds of propane are left. The average grill uses around 1.5 pounds per hour.2 So, based on tank weight, you can assume there’s plenty of time left for cooking.
3. By Cooking TimeThe time you’ve used a gas grill on the same tank may help estimate how much fuel is left. Each grill has a BTU rating. About 92,000 BTUs are produced by one gallon of propane, and a 20-pound tank holds 4.7 gallons of fuel. You can approximate the fuel remaining by dividing the number of BTUs per gallon by the BTUs per hour (BTUH) the grill is rated for and then multiplying the number of hours by how many gallons are in the tank. For a 4.7-gallon tank with a 32,000-BTUH output, cooking time is approximately 13.5 hours.3 It also helps to track cooking times. Actual fuel use can vary, depending on factors such as heat settings.
4. With a GaugeA gauge provides a precise measurement rather than an estimate like using water, the weight of the tank or cooking time. Brinkmann’s Hardware stocks various types of gauges you can use. The most economical gauges display temperature changes or detect liquid or gas ultrasonically. More effective solutions include inline pressure gauges, which install between the gas line and the tank’s cut-off valve. Analog propane scales show the remaining gas level when you lift the unit using the device. You can also use a digital propane tank scale, which offers the most precision. It constantly weighs the tank. Meanwhile, a digital readout displays the percentage of fuel remaining and how much cooking time is left.
Find Your Gauge at Brinkmann’s Hardware
Brinkmann’s is the store to go to for all your barbeque needs this summer. You’ll find the right equipment at our Sayville, Blue Point, Holbrook, and Miller Place stores on Long Island. For information, visit or contact one of our local stores today.