How Much Propane Is in the Tank?
It’s the age-old question asked by campers, RVers, and grill masters. How much propane do I have left? You don’t want to have to make a trip to get your propane tanks refilled only to find out that they are still half full. And you don’t want to run out of propane in the middle cooking a magnificent outdoor meal.
Sure you can pick up the tank and give it a shake to try and get an idea of how much is left in there but it’s never really accurate enough to know for sure. You can buy a propane gas pressure gauge like this one on Amazon. But what if you need to know now?
The good news is there is a fast, easy, and free way to check the propane levels in your tanks, and it’s actually pretty darn accurate.
That’s right, hot water is the key to knowing how much propane is left in your tanks right now. You see, propane is in a liquid state when it’s in the tank and it keeps a constant high pressure by turning into gas as the liquid levels get lower and lower.
The gas form is what you use to make a flame with and that’s what comes out of the top of the tank. You don’t ever want to get liquid propane in your grill or any other propane appliance and that’s why it’s important to have the tank sitting on a level surface, facing the right direction, and not let the tank get overfilled.
When the liquid propane turns into gas the process absorbs heat and it gets very cold. If you have your grill or heater set on high for a long time you may see condensation start to form on your propane tank. That’s because the high demand for propane is causing the propane to change state as fast as it can and the tank is getting very cold.
All of this is the reason why using hot water works when checking your propane tank levels.
Put at least 4 cups of water in a kettle or a pan and boil it. You want it to be as hot as it can be right from the start so you can more accurately feel the temperature change on the propane tank.
Dump the hot water down one side of your propane tank.
As soon as you can touch the area where the water was dumped without burning your hand (it won’t take long for the water to cool down) run your hand from the top of the propane tank to the bottom. You should feel a definite temperature change at some point. The colder area is where the liquid propane is sitting. The liquid propane level tells you how full or empty your propane tank is.
You may need to try it out a few times to get the hang of it and the hotter the water is the easier it is to feel the colder liquid propane. Sometimes the hot water will even condense around the liquid part of the propane and you will be able to see the propane level.
This method comes in handy when you need to know how much propane you have without having to buy any gadgets. I trust this method so much that I’ve never felt the need to buy a propane gauge.
Have any questions about the hot water method of estimating propane tank levels? Leave a comment below.