Most of us are familiar with the standard 20 lb. propane tank for backyard grilling, but other recreational activities require different sizes. Learn what size propane tank is generally best for different purposes as well as how to calculate the specific consumption of propane for your appliances below. Remember: every appliance is unique. When you choose your propane tank, for the most accurate conclusion to which propane tank is right for you, check its British thermal unit (BTU) consumption.
Check the BTU rating on the appliance you are buying propane for before choosing your tank. A BTU is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit. If your appliance consumes propane at a high rate, you will need a tank with a larger propane capacity to compensate. In the same sense, if your tank has a lower consumption rate, a smaller tank will work just fine so long as you remember to re-fill it. 91,500 BTU’s roughly measures to 1 gallon of propane. Understanding this will make choosing the right propane tank for your specific appliance much easier.
To make the consumption rate in BTU’s easier to understand: The Mr. Heater Single Tank Top Portable Heater has a consumption rate of about 14,000 BTU/HR. This means that if you ran this specific outdoor heater for one hour, it would use up about 0.15lbs of propane. On the other hand, if you were using the Mr. Heater Triple Tank Top Portable Heater which has a consumption rate of 42,000 BTU/HR, 0.46lbs of propane would be consumed in 1 hour.
The Right Propane Tank for an RV or Boat
When using propane for an RV you are generally using it for more than just cooking. Propane tanks are also used to heat water and even air in your RV. Because of this, it will generally require a tank that is a little bit larger, somewhere between 30lbs – 40lbs. The 33lb Aluminum forklift cylinder should do the job. If you want to do some grilling on your boat or outside of your RV, use a smaller propane tank with a smaller portable grill. Look into a Manchester Tank, with sizes as small as 5lbs or 10lbs.
The Right Propane Tank for Camping
When camping, think about where you are going to be. If you plan on packing a small portable grill, then a smaller propane tank will do the job. If you need to bring propane for a campsite grill or are bringing a fire ring with you to enjoy a campfire, you will need the 20 lb. propane tank. Keep in mind the sort of camping activities that you have planned — both the fire ring and 20 lb. tank are a lot less portable so if you don’t have a solid campsite to set items up in near your vehicle, the more portable propane options will be better suited for your camping trip.
The Right Propane Tank for an Outdoor Heater
When it starts to get chillier outside, particularly at night, an outdoor propane heater can be extremely useful. Different outdoor heaters require different sizes of propane. If you are using a single tank-top portable heater, a smaller Manchester Tank will do the job and be easy to move around. A double or triple tank-top portable heater will require a larger tank, closer to 20 lbs.
The Right Propane Tank for Your Home
If you are heating the entire home with propane, you will need a very large tank, at least 60lbs. Propane is one method for heating the air or water in your home and keeping your house at a comfortable temperature. Keep in mind how much you use the home appliances that are heated using propane to make sure that you don’t choose a tank that is too small as well as double checking the BTU ratings of each appliance.
Calculate your own propane consumption using this formula:
(1 gal of propane/91500 BTUs) x (X gal of propane/your appliance’s BTU rate)
See the full-sized infographic here:
How do you choose the right propane tank for your needs? Share in the comments below!