How Much Gas Is in My Propane BBQ Cylinder?

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We’re just about at the halfway point of summer here in the Connecticut– which means your propane barbecue grill has probably been getting quite a workout for a least a couple of months.

With that kind of heavy use, it’s important to keep an eye on your 20-lb propane cylinder so you don’t run out of gas in the middle of your next summer cookout. The problem is, most 20-lb propane tanks don’t have a fuel gauge…so how can you tell when you need a propane cylinder refill?

Here are three tricks for doing just that.

1. Use hot water. The folks at YouTube’s FiX IT Home Improvement Channel share this safe and simple trick to determine the level of propane in your tank:

  • Fill a small bucket with warm to hot tap water.
  • Pour the water down the side of the tank.
  • With your hand, feel for a cool spot on the side of the tank.

The top of the cool spot is the fill level of the tank. Why is it cool? Simple: Liquid propane inside the tank absorbs heat from the water, making the metal wall of the tank cool to the touch.

2. Weigh the tank. Most propane grill tanks come with two numbers stamped on the handle: the water capacity (“WC”) and “Tare Weight” (TW – the weight of the empty tank). Most BBQ Tanks weigh about 17 pounds when empty and hold about 20 pounds of gas. To measure how many pounds of propane are left in your tank, simply weigh it on a scale and subtract the TW number. For example, if a tank weighing 27 pounds has a TW of 17 pounds, there are 10 pounds of propane gas left – about half a tank.

3. Install a gauge. You can also add an inexpensive propane tank gauge to your cylinder. They typically cost about $15 and are available at hardware stores and online.

Three types of gauges are common, including:

  • Inline pressure gauges, which are installed between the grill’s as line and the cut-off valve on the tank;
  • Analog propane scales, which look like luggage scales and are pre-set to take your tank’s TW into account; and
  • Digital propane tank scales, which provide a digital readout of remaining cook time and gas fill percentage.

Don’t come up short at your next grilling session – follow these tips to know how much propane gas is left in your tank! And if you run out of propane, don’t panic – just visit one of Hocon’s convenient Connecticut locations for a propane tank refill!

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