Anyone unfamiliar with propane can find themselves stepping into a pool of jargon when they simply need to find what they want.
Different sizes, different types (DOT Tanks? ASME??), there’s a lot of options out there. This guide is here to simplify things. In summary:
Propane tanks typically come in a set standard of sizes. Portable (DOT) tanks are generally listed by weight (1lb, 20lb, 33lb, 100lb, 420lb) while residential (ASME) tanks are listed by capacity (100-gal, 500-gal, 1000-gal).
Propane Tank Sizes
The table below shows all the standard propane tank sizes from major vendors. There are some more unique sizes from individual manufacturers, but those listed below can be found almost anywhere.
(Length x Dia)
|0.13||1||9" x 4"|
|0.6||5||12" x 8.5"|
|5||20||18" x 12"|
|7||33||2' x 1'|
|25||100||4' x 1.5'|
|100||420||4' x 3'|
|Vertical Residential Tanks|
|120||500||4.3' x 2.5'|
|Horizontal Residential Tanks|
|500||2,100||10' x 5'|
|1,000||4,200||16' x 5'|
For more information, read on as we dive into more detail on what each size is best suited for, how to know what size suits you, and other useful tips.
Portable Propane Size Recommendations
This section covers portable propane tanks for uses around the home and outdoors. If you’re a proud RV-owner, check out our full guide to the propane tank sizes for RV’s.
Unlike residential propane tanks, these smaller portable versions are a lot simpler. Let’s tackle them by walking through each common size.
20-lb Propane Tanks (5 Gallons)
These universal tanks are the bread-and-butter of any propane appliance. They’re everywhere. The ultimate in convenience and ease of access. You can’t go wrong with them, especially given they’re the cheapest up-front cost.
33-lb Propane Tanks (7 Gallons)
The bigger brother to the popular choice above, 33-lb tanks are a bit more niche. Not that they’re not popular – it’s just hard for anything to even slightly compare to the popularity of 20lb tanks.
100-lb Propane Tanks (25 Gallons)
‘Portable’ – but not by one person. These typically need two people to shift, and there’s good reason why. They’re complete overkill for a single appliance – more suited to powering multiple appliances, or as backup power generation.
Tip: A common tactic is to pair two of these together for a hybrid between portable convenience, and residential-sized capacity.
Which Propane Tank Should You Get?
The bottom line for portable is a decision between 20 or 33lb tanks. If you need a 100lb heavy-hitter, it will be pretty obvious!
For the main choice (20lb vs 33lb), it’s between the convenience of space and convenience of refills. 33lb tanks give you more propane for roughly the same floor space – but aren’t nearly as convenient to refill or exchange. On the other hand, 20lb tanks are super easy to get your hands on, cheap, and can always serve as a back-up if you end up going for a larger tank.
If you have the floor/storage space, it’s often better to grab multiple 20lb tanks – rotating them out for full containers while you refill/exchange the others. If your floor space is limited then less 33-lb tanks can be a great option, too. Just try to make sure you know where you’ll fill them up before you purchase.
How Much Propane Do Portable Appliances Use?
The amount of propane varies, of course, depending on the appliance. While I can’t answer for every appliance in the world, here are some basic figures:
How Long Will My Tank Last?
Two things to remember are:
- A gallon of propane gives us 91,500 BTU worth of heat.
- A pound of propane gives us 21,500 BTU worth of heat.
These two simple figures, combined with the rating listed on your appliance and capacity of your tank, we can estimate how long your tank will last.
For the common example of a good grill and small propane tank (20lb), you can expect one tank to give you around 34 straight hours of grilling. Tip: Bear in mind that propane tanks are only filled to 80% of their capacity. More on this below. [(16 * 21,500)/10,000]=34.
Residential Propane Tank Size Recommendations
Residential propane tanks are a BIG deal.
We’re talking about a system that will serve your property for over a decade – if not multiple!
Residential propane tanks typically come in 100, 500, or 1,000-gallon tanks. These sizes suit back-up generators, small homes, and larger homes/businesses respectively (see sizing guide near the top of the post). Other sizing options are available from specific manufacturers.
For a residential home, the smallest size you should consider starts at a 100 gallon (or 420lb) tank. The other end of the scale, though? It’s almost limitless. Amerigas do tanks 3,000 gallons and more in capacity!
Which Size Should You Get?
The capacity of your tank should reflect the size of your home, as well as what you’ll use the tank for.
Here’s a few questions you could ask yourself that will match up to the sizes above.
- Do I need propane solely for back-up power generation? -> Get a 100-gallon tank.
- Do I need propane to power some appliances, but not my furnace? -> Get between a 100 to 500-gallon, depending on the amount and demand of the appliances.
- Do I need propane to power my furnace, as well as various appliances? -> Get at least a 500-gallon tank; based on the size of your home and demand of your appliances. Starting at around 2,500 square feet. See below.
- Do I need propane to power my business, using commercial-grade propane appliances? -> Expect to need a 1,000-gallon tank.
Aim to get as large a tank as your budget allows, as this saves you money in refueling costs over the long run (fewer deliveries required).
The above assumptions are to provide an idea only. Consult the advice of a propane contractor before making a buying decision.
How Much Propane Do Residential Appliances Use?
As a (very) rough guide, here are some usage estimates put together by HomeGuide:
|Fireplace||1 gallon/3 hours|
|Water Heater||1 gallon/day|
|Hot Tub||4 gallons/hour|
In terms of your furnace, it can vary quite a lot between homes. A smaller home (up to 2,500 sq.ft) will be just fine with a 500-gallon tank, while a large home with a greater heating demand may benefit from larger capacities.
How Much Will It Cost?
The cost of a residential tank can vary highly – depending on the capacity, vendor, and installation (above or below ground).
You can expect the following approximate costs for each main size:
- 100-gallon: $450 – $750
- 500-gallon: $900-$1,800
- 1000-gallon: $2000-$3000
The latter two prices may increase by around a third for an underground installation. Please bear in mind these are rules of thumb – contact your local vendors for accurate, up-to-date figures!
Propane Tank FAQ’s & Recommendations
Underground or Above Ground Propane Tanks?
A key decision with residential propane tanks is whether to install them underground. Weighing this up can mostly be translated into a pros and cons table:
|Underground Propane Tanks|
|Avoids extreme weather||Higher cost|
|Safer; less likely to leak. Any leaks are contained (propane harmless to water).||Ground needs dug up|
|Out of sight||Labor needs contracted|
|Can raise property value|
Should You Buy Or Rent A Residential Propane Tank?
If you’re going through a lot of home renovations at once, leasing your propane tank can be a great way to offset the initial cost. You’ll also often have it paid off entirely within a few years – not long if you’ll be sticking around.
There’s benefits to both sides, though. The best way to compare, as above, is a table!
|Leasing a Propane Tank|
|Cheaper in Short-Term. Great If Moving Soon||Expensive in Long Term|
|Any Maintenance Issues with the Vendor||You Must Get Your Propane From The Vendor. At Any Price|
|Leaked Propane Isn’t Yours to Pay For||Can’t Bring The Tank If You Move|
|Less Headache For You|
Why Only Fill to 80%?
Propane has the potential to expand when warmed up. For this reason, we can’t risk filling a propane tank all the way to it’s full capacity.
If we did, and there was an especially hot day, all of that expansion inside the tank would NOT be a good thing! It would create a ton of pressure as the gas can’t escape, possibly causing a pressure explosion. Not to mention the outburst that would happen as soon as we slightly opened a valve.
All propane tanks should only ever be filled to 80% of their capacity.
How Do You Check If Your Tank Is Leaking?
It’s important to make sure your tank is checked for leaks regularly. This should be initially done post-installation, but a good knowledge of how to do your own check never hurts.
You should also make sure that a check is performed after it’s refilled following being completely out of gas, if the whole system’s been turned off for a season, or if there’s any change to the piping systems. In addition, if you notice any gas smells, or spot potential damage, it’s worth a check.
Tip: Propane is actually odorless, so manufacturers deliberately put in a bad smell to make it detectable. In other words, yes – someone’s job is literally to make an otherwise odorless gas super stinky!
Typically these checks are performed by covering the area around the valve and regular connection in soapy water (or a special solution). While you can do this yourself, it’s definitely worth calling a technician if you’re unsure (or think you found something).
If you’d like to know more, here’s some recommended propane companies to check out. They each have their own great guides to help make sure you’re making the best decision for your home:
1 – Amerigas
2 – Propane 101
3 – HomeAdvisor
Deciding on which propane tank to go for can be a huge decision. Particularly if you’re looking to put a residential tank underground.
I hope this guide’s helped you clear up a few things around propane tanks, and wrap your head around which kind might suit your home (or appliance) best.
Remember to always consult a technician or contractor before you take the plunge for a residential tank – don’t just trust strangers on the internet! No matter how amazing they are.
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Best wishes, and have a great day.