How to tell the level of your propane tank | 4 easy ways

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 13, 2022

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So you are just ready to put on a sizzling BBQ party in your backyard. The meat is simmering on the grill, and the smell is delicious!

You and your friends cannot wait to bite that juicy cut you’ve marinated for hours. But as your craving reaches its peak, your grill runs out of propane!

Now you have two things to make you angry. First, your party is ruined. Second, you have to run to the gas pump to fill or swap your propane tank.

Painful, isn’t it? Well, you don’t have to go through this!

How to tell the level of your propane tank | 4 easy ways

There are many ways you can check the level of your propane tank, including using a gauge, a propane tank monitor, a scale, or simply some hot water. There’s also a nerdy mathematician method that includes checking by weight, but you won’t really need it if you have the right tools on hand.

Below are some of the most accurate techniques you can use to check your propane tank level and fill it on time.

4 easy ways to indicate your propane gas level

Almost everyone who has newly bought a propane tank for fueling their gas grill has had it unexpectedly run empty.

How to buy a bbq smoker video
How to buy a bbq smoker video

But you don’t need to let this happen to you!

By the end of this article, you will be a pro at indicating the propane level in your tank.

The warm water method

Of all the methods you could use to check the propane level, this one has to be the most old-school one and perhaps the simplest one.

However, keep in mind that I wouldn’t call it the most “laser-accurate” practice.

This means you should only rely on it when there’s no other way of checking how much propane is left in the smoker.

The instructions are simple. Just pour down some warm water on the propane tank wall and run your hand on it from top to bottom.

If you feel a cold spot on the tank wall at some point, it will indicate the propane level in the cylinder and give you a rough idea of how much propane is there to consume.

The cooling on the tank wall is caused due to a physical reaction between the water and propane.

As the water gets to the surface of the cylinder, it triggers the propane gas, consequently resulting in a reaction that cools down the propane cylinder.

Using a propane tank gauge

For those who just want to know the propane tank level in the most straightforward and accurate way, using a propane gauge is one of the best options.

Typical propane gauges, Inline, for example, tell you how much gas is left inside the tank by giving readings starting from full to empty, indicating by color (green for full, red for empty), depending on the internal pressure.

You’ll see the propane gauge needle standing at ‘full’ (green) when the propane tank is full. At that moment, the pressure is maximum.

As the level of propane drops, the internal pressure decreases, and thus the needle drops to red in the end.

At that stage, the propane tank is nearly empty and would require a refill before you use it.

The biggest benefit of using a propane tank gauge is its convenience. It is easy to find, easy to install, and very easy to read. Moreover, it is obscenely inexpensive.

Just buy a high-quality propane gauge, install it, and read it.

GASPRO Propane Tank Gauge Level Indicator, Accurate Propane Gauge for Propane Tanks

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You can even remove it when one tank is depleted and install it on another one directly. Some propane tanks even come with pre-built gauges for extra convenience.

Just so you know, propane tank gauges come in three types, including:

  1. Inline pressure gauges: These are the most typical pressure scales installed between the grill’s gas line and the grill’s cut-off valve. Inline pressure gauges work by calculating the pressure and providing readings based on pressure fluctuations. E.g., high pressure means a full tank, and low pressure means a depleted tank.
  2. Analog propane scales: The working mechanism of analog propane scales is simple. As they are already tared for the tank weight, all you need to do is to slip the hook through the tank handle, pick it up, and it’ll tell you the exact amount of propane left. Analog propane scales are one of the most convenient and most affordable options for just checking propane levels.
  3. Digital propane tank scales: Digital propane scales take the level of convenience a step ahead and tell you both about propane tank levels and the cooking time left in your tank. Guess what? You get a two in one.

Propane tank monitor for propane delivery

If you want to monitor your propane tank levels more efficiently, propane tank monitors are made for you! They use smart technology that frees you from a lot of stress.

Must have bbq accessorie e efficiently, propane tank monitors

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You can look at propane tank monitors as a two-in-one (must-have) BBQ accessory.

They will read the propane tank levels while also working as automated alarms to tell the gas suppliers when the tank needs refilling.

In other words, you get benefitted in two ways. First, you’ll automatically know when the propane level is low.

Second, your propane tanks will get refilled through automated delivery services even if you are on the other side of the world.

Tipping the scale method

There are two reasons you might like to try the scale method.

First, if you want to get the most accurate measurement despite lacking the necessary tools. Second, if you just like to do things the nerd’s way.

In any case, it will require a bit of effort from your side.

To masterfully execute this method, you will need to disconnect your propane tank from the grill.

Plus, you will also need to pick up a pen and copy. Not to forget a scale.

This can be your normal family scale, but I find a hanging scale is the easiest.

Use a scale to measure the level in your propane tank

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If you have the tools, you will need some data, to begin with, e.g., the tare weight of your propane tank.

Most propane tanks have a tare weight of 17-19 pounds, which when filled with propane increases to 20 pounds.

Once you identify the tare weight of your tank, just put it on a scale and find out the total weight.

Afterward, subtract the tare weight from this total weight, and it should give you the exact amount of propane left in the tank.

If you want to be a bit nerdier and wish to convert the readings into gallons, just get the net weight and divide it by 4.2.

Just so you know, a full tank or one gallon of propane has about 92,000 BTUs. You can measure the cooking time of the whole tank by comparing it to the per-hour BTUs of your grill.

This should give you the exact estimate of the number of hours you can expect.

Ready to really invest in a proper grill? These are the best gas grills under $1000

Conclusion

You must have heard the all-time classic dialog from Spiderman that goes as; “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Owning a propane tank is just the same.

As fun and convenient as it is to grill with propane, it’s equally important to look after it to keep your backyard parties fun and smooth.

Otherwise, you would be running to the propane pump station with half-cooked meat resting on the grill!

Keeping that into account, I discussed some of the easiest ways you can track the propane levels and swap or fill them back up on time to avoid any party-spoiling situations.

Did you know smoking can also be done with propane? I’ve reviewed the best propane smokers here

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.