Propane storage tanks come in multiple sizes and capacities to meet the fuel’s numerous uses. The smallest units operate portable camp stoves while the largest of these supply propane for commercial operations or groups of homes.
Get the right tank for your needs by learning more about the different sizes and dimensions available and their most common applications for homes, businesses and other applications.
What Size Propane Tank Do You Need?
When identifying the ideal size of propane tank for your needs, you must address several questions concerning the use and placement of the tank and the size of the building the propane will fuel. These answers will help you to sort through the different types of propane tanks to find the ideal option to suit your home or business’s needs.
What Do You Need to Fuel?
What are you fueling with the propane tank? Will you use it for a single appliance, such as a grill or outdoor heater, or an entire business? Of course, the more things you need to operate with one of these tanks, the larger the tank capacity will need to be.
Where Do You Want to Install Your Propane Tank?
Additionally, where you place the tank will determine the size you need.
A large stationary tank can sit above ground or be buried underground. An above-ground tank can take up spaces sized 10 feet or more. These tanks are easy to maintain, and you may prefer them so long as you have enough room. An underground tank is best for concealment and smaller spaces, but they require higher installation costs.
How Big Is Your Home or Business?
The square footage of a building relates to the amount of heating needed. Plus, larger spaces tend to have more propane-using appliances that require more fuel. Account for all appliances that use propane alongside the square footage, especially when you’ll use propane for whole-building heating.
Small homes and businesses can typically use 500-gallon tanks for comprehensive propane needs that include heating. Larger homes, businesses or multiple homes will require tanks of at least 1,000 gallons to supply enough propane for heating and appliances.
Common Propane Tank Sizes for Your Home or Business
Tanks come in a variety of sizes for home and business use. Some types are portable tanks that require returning to a store to exchange for a full unit. Other tanks stay in place, either above ground or underground, and need trucks to deliver fuel to them.
Propane tank dimensions will help you find a place where the tank can safely fit. Larger tanks may have vertical cylindrical orientations that take up smaller footprints or horizontal shapes that require more square footage for storage.
The right size propane tank for your application depends on the size of your home or business and why you need the fuel. All propane tanks have a total tank capacity of 80% of their full volume to allow for gas expansion. Given dimensions may vary slightly, depending on the tank manufacturer.
20-Pound Propane Tank
The small propane tank size, commonly used for home and business use, is a 20-pound tank. 20-pound propane tanks measure 8-by-4-by-4 inches and have a total capacity of 16 pounds, equal to about 4.6 gallons of propane.
Their small size makes them ideal for use with barbecue grills, outdoor heaters and small generators. Refilling these tanks requires taking them to a store to exchange for a full tank.
120-Gallon Propane Tank
Sometimes, 120-gallon propane tanks go by the term “420-pound tanks.” Statistics for these tanks are as follows:
- Measure 48-by-16-by-16 inches in a vertical orientation
- A maximum capacity of 96 gallons of propane
Their larger size requires permanent installation on-site and a truck to deliver propane for any tank refills. Placement can’t be within 5 feet of windows or doors or 10 feet of ignition sources.
These tanks fuel one or two small home appliances. Often, they’ll operate propane water heaters, pool heaters, generators, clothes dryers or fireplaces. Many places will use two to four of these together to provide enough fuel for the entire building’s propane needs.
250-Gallon Propane Tank
Medium-sized 250-gallon propane tanks have the following specifications:
- Measure 96-by-30-by-30 inches
- A capacity of 200 gallons of propane
Like 120-gallon tanks, these remain stationary on the property. They typically have a horizontal orientation and can supply fuel for most home applications except whole-home heating. Many use these tanks to provide fuel for supplementary heating, pool heaters, generators and water heaters.
500-Gallon Propane Tank
Large 500-gallon tanks have the following specifications:
- Measure 120-by-37-by-37 inches
- A capacity of 400 gallons when filled
These tanks lie on their sides in horizontal orientations above or below ground. Refills come delivered via a propane delivery service. To prevent fires or damage to the tank, these tanks require installation at least 10 feet from property lines, buildings and ignition sources.
Most often, these tanks are used for all of the fuel needs for homes or small businesses. They can provide adequate fuel needs for whole-home or business heating for structures up to 4,500 square feet. Other applications for these tanks include commercial kitchens, dry cleaning or drying crops.
1,000-Gallon Propane Tank
The 1,000-gallon propane tank is the largest propane tank size commonly used. This tank size measures 190-by-41-by-41 inches and has a capacity of 800 gallons of propane.
These horizontal tanks can go above or below ground and require on-site propane refills. Individual tanks require a clearance of 10 feet from ignition sources, property lines and buildings. However, when using a pair of these tanks with a distance of 3 feet between them, clearances increase to 25 feet from property lines, flames and structures.
This large size can provide fuel for small groups of homes or commercial buildings with metered propane service. It also provides whole home or business heating and propane needs for buildings larger than 4,500 square feet.
Other Common Propane Tank Sizes
Propane tanks have applications outside of homes and commercial businesses. Smaller sizes offer portable fuel for camping or operating forklifts. These uses of propane require special-sized tanks that don’t fit into the more frequent sizes for homes and businesses.
RV Propane Tanks
You’ll find both permanent and removable propane storage tanks for RVs. The former type adheres to requirements from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), while the latter variation meets Department of Transportation (DOT) standards. Common sizes for RV propane tanks include the following:
- 20-pound tanks
- 30-pound tanks
- 40-pound tanks
The smallest of these often appear in travel trailers and smaller RVs. Most RVs use 30-pound tanks, while the largest vehicles require 40-pound tanks.
In an RV, the propane operates the furnace, stove, water heater and refrigerator. The more appliances your RV has, the greater the likelihood is you need a large 40-pound tank. The same is true if you operate it in cold climates that require the furnace to heat the interior more often.
Portable Grill Tanks
Small portable grills have several tank size options, depending on the grill and its heat output. Common tank sizes for grills include the following:
- 20-pound tanks
- 5-pound tanks
- 1-pound bottles
Freestanding barbecue grills usually use 20-pound tanks that will provide enough fuel for multiple uses. These tanks require exchanging for fresh propane tanks after they empty.
For short weekend camping trips that require more portable fuel sources, 5-pound tanks are common. These tanks also require exchanging for fresh tanks when empty.
The smallest 1-pound bottles operate propane camping stoves or portable heaters. These devices don’t put out as much heat as large freestanding grills, but they fit into a backpack, making them ideal sources for backpacking. These bottles come in refillable and single-use options.
Forklift Propane Tanks
Several forklift owners opt for propane instead of electricity to have powerful lifting capabilities while meeting the air quality requirements of their industries. Agriculture facilities, warehouses and construction sites often use these types of lift trucks. Tanks for these forklifts may be either of the following:
- 33-pound tanks
- 43-pound tanks
The smaller tanks are more commonly found on forklifts. Larger tanks run bigger trucks with more heavy-duty engines. Both types of tanks require exchanging when empty.
Propane Tank FAQs
Propane fuels home furnaces, water heaters, pool heaters, commercial kitchens, warehouse forklifts, RV cooktops, camping stoves and much more. With so many applications, thousands use this fuel daily. The following are some frequently asked questions about propane and the fuel’s storage tank options:
1. What Is the Difference Between Weight and Gallons?
Propane tanks typically have sizes stated in pounds with the largest tanks referred to by gallons. The weight of a propane tank refers to the total capacity of the tank. The full weight will be 80% of this capacity because propane tanks need space to allow for expansion in warmer temperatures.
For instance, a 20-pound tank holds 16 pounds of propane. Add the amount of propane to the empty tank weight to calculate the total weight of the tank when full. A 20-pound tank typically weighs 13.5 pounds when empty and 39.5 pounds when full.
Weight is helpful to know when calculating how much propane a portable tank has left. Place the tank on a scale to find out its total weight and see if you need to exchange it.
For larger tanks, you’ll see capacity in gallons. This unit makes identifying how much propane you have left easier since these tanks often include gauges.
2. How Many Gallons Is a Standard Propane Tank?
The standard propane tank size for residential use varies on the size of the home. Smaller homes typically use 500-gallon tanks, while homes larger than 4500 square feet often need 1000-gallon tanks to provide enough fuel for heating and appliances. These sizes provide whole-home heating and operation of water heaters, pool heaters and other propane-fueled appliances.
Some smaller homes that have multiple propane appliances may need 1,000-gallon tanks to operate appliances at once. For instance, in a smaller home with more than two or three propane-fueled appliances and a furnace, a 1,000-gallon tank will provide enough fuel to operate everything. If several small residences share a tank, the larger 1,000-gallon tank is a better option to give everyone in all the residences the fuel they need.
3. Are All 20-Pound Propane Tanks the Same?
Generally, 20-pound propane tanks are similar enough to allow for exchanges. Therefore, if you need a barbecue grill tank, the type of refilled tank you get from an exchange place will have the same type of propane you need. The construction of these tanks may be steel or aluminum, depending on the manufacturer.
4. How Do You Size a Propane Tank?
Sizing a propane tank depends on your need for the tank.
The size of the tank you need comes from the amount of British thermal units (BTUs) the fuel generates compared to how much you need. Calculate the number of BTUs your home or business requires and find the propane tank that will meet those needs. Since 1 gallon of propane generates 91,452 BTUs, multiply the number of gallons in a tank by this number to find out how much heat the propane produces.
To see if a tank meets your home or business’s needs, look at the number of appliances you have that require propane and how many BTUs they need per hour. Add those values together to calculate the total maximum BTUs per hour you need.
Whole-building furnace systems typically rated at 100,000 BTUs will use more than 1 gallon of propane for an hour of heating. If you need to use a propane tank for a furnace, you’ll need a medium or large tank that can hold 400 gallons or more. For smaller applications, such as operating a single appliance or providing fuel for a generator, opt for smaller portable or stationary tanks.
Most people can skip the complexity of calculating the exact number of gallons of propane they need. Instead, you can follow the general guidelines for residential or commercial tanks. Choose 500-gallon tanks for small homes or businesses under 4,500 square feet. Larger spaces need 1,000-gallon tanks to fuel. Only choose smaller tanks for applications that don’t include whole-building furnace operation.
View Our Propane Service Trucks
Finding the right size propane tank is only one step. Most tanks, aside from the smallest, require refueling by onsite delivery services. To bring the fuel to the site, propane companies use trucks like those we build at Fisk Tank Carrier.
We work closely with our customers to ensure they have the perfect propane trucks to provide services for their customers. Those interested in custom-designed propane service trucks should check out our trucks page. Find out more about the various options Fisk Tank Carrier can provide and how we build custom propane tank service and installation trucks.