How Long Does Propane Last?

Delivering propane to food lineWhether you rely on propane to heat your home or power your barbecue, having enough fuel on hand is essential to avoiding the expense and inconvenience of running out. Fortunately, the shelf life of propane gas is practically indefinite, so long as your fuel is stored properly and securely in a well-maintained tank.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the factors affecting propane gas lifespan, as well as some tips for keeping your fuel tank in excellent condition.

Propane Basics

Propane is a fossil fuel created as a byproduct of natural gas and petroleum refining. Under normal conditions, it is a colorless, odorless gas, though for commercial storage and transport it is compressed to a liquid form, with special odorants added for safety’s sake.

Propane is used most commonly in gas barbecues and stoves. A smaller number of homes rely on propane for powering furnaces and water heaters. It is also used in campers and RVs to provide heat and drive certain appliances.

How Long Does a Barbecue Propane Tank Last?

Since it is one of the most common applications, we’ll look at barbecue propane first. Most of us who grill regularly know the frustration of running out of fuel in the middle of cooking something. Since many grills don’t have reliable fuel gauges, knowing how long a propane tank will last is critical.

Most gas grills use standard 20-pound propane tanks. On a mid-size barbecue, one tank can usually be counted on to provide between 18-20 hours of grilling time. Larger grills, on the other hand, may burn through a single tank in as little as 10 hours. While there are complex formulas for estimating how much fuel you have left, it’s usually easier to play it by ear. As you become more familiar with how your grill performs, you will likely be able to sense when it is running low.

How Much Fuel Does a Propane Furnace Need?

If you’re using propane to heat your home during a long winter, it’s especially important to estimate burn rates properly. To know with accuracy how long a full tank will last:

  • First, look up the BTUH rating of your furnace.
  • A gallon of propane contains 95,000 BTU. Divide that by the BTUH rating of your furnace to determine how long a gallon of fuel will allow it to run for at full capacity.
  • Determine the capacity of your tank. A typical 40-pound portable tank can store up to 9.5 gallons of actual fuel.
  • Multiply propane burn rate by capacity to find out how long you can expect a single tank to last.

How Long Does a Propane Tank Last?

Large stationary propane tanks must be recertified 10 years after their date of manufacture and every five years following that. A propane delivery company can refuse to fill your tank if it is not certified or if it is rusted or in poor condition.

To keep a propane tank in good condition for longer, regular preventive maintenance is a must. This can include a visual inspection of the tank as well as leak testing, fuel quality monitoring and more. For more information, contact a Foster Fuels representative today.

3 thoughts on “How Long Does Propane Last?”

  1. Mari hennessy says:

    How long will a 20lb propane tank last powering a RV refrigerator?

    1. fosterfuels says:

      Good question. It really depends on how hot it is in the RV but a 20lb propane tank would last almost a week just running the refrigerator. If there is anything we can help you with, let us know!

  2. Hannah Schroeder says:

    Thanks for mentioning that a propane gas delivery company can refill the tank if it isn’t in good condition. My parents have had a tank for over twenty years and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been certified. I’m worried about them running out of gas, so it might be a good idea to sign them up for a delivery system.

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