Types Of Propane Tanks
There are two primary types of propane tanks: a built-in, or ASME tank, and a portable, or department of transportation (DOT) cylinder tank.
What Is An ASME RV Propane Tank?
Typically ASME propane tanks are found in larger RVs and motorhomes. They’re built-in tanks that are mounted horizontally outside of the RV – for this reason they’re sometimes referred to as horizontal RV propane tanks.
ASME RV Propane Tank Sizes
Built-in ASME propane tank sizes vary. A smaller RV can have a 20 lb ASME tank, but larger RVs and motorhomes can have ASME tanks up to 100 lbs.
What Is A DOT Cylinder Propane Tank?
Department of Transportation DOT cylinder propane tanks are portable and can be removed from your van or RV. This is especially convenient for refilling your propane tanks.
DOT propane tanks are much more versatile, but they’re also smaller and hold less fuel than ASME tanks.
Common Propane Tank Sizes
Propane tanks come in many sizes. Each tank is labeled based on the amount of propane it can hold in pounds, when full. This is slightly deceiving because a tank should not be 100% filled due to safety concerns, instead the tank should only be filled to 80% of its capacity.
For example, a 100 lb propane tank should never hold more than 80 lbs of propane.
A gallon of propane weighs 4.2 pounds. In order to determine how many gallons a propane tank can hold you can divide the pound rating by 4.2. You’ll then multiply that number by 80% (because of the safety protocol).
In our example of a 100 lb propane tank the math would look like this:
100 lbs / 4.2 lbs per gallon = 23.8 gallons (at 100% full)
23.8 gallons x 80% = 19 gallons (at 80% full)
Here are some quick stats for the most common propane tank sizes available. We’ll cover BTU’s in more detail further on.
Portable Propane Tank Sizes
1 Pound Propane Tank Size
Empty Tank Weight: 1 lbs
Propane Tank Capacity: .2 gallons
Full Tank Weight: 2 lbs
Energy: 18,300 BTU’s
5 Pound Propane Tank Size
Empty Tank Weight: 4 lbs
Propane Tank Capacity: 1 gallons
Full Tank Weight: 8 lbs
Energy: 91,500 BTU’s
11 Pound Propane Tank Size
Empty Tank Weight: 8 lbs
Propane Tank Capacity: 2 gallons
Full Tank Weight: 16 lbs
Energy: 183,000 BTU’s
20 Pound Propane Tank Size
Empty Tank Weight: 14 lbs
Propane Tank Capacity: 4 gallons
Full Tank Weight: 31 lbs
Energy: 366,000 BTU’s
30 Pound Propane Tank Size
Empty Tank Weight: 21 lbs
Propane Tank Capacity: 6 gallons
Full Tank Weight: 46 lbs
Energy: 549,000 BTU’s
40 Pound Propane Tank Size
Empty Tank Weight: 28 lbs
Propane Tank Capacity: 8 gallons
Full Tank Weight: 62 lbs
Energy: 732,000 BTU’s
60 Pound Propane Tank Size
Empty Tank Weight: 42 lbs
Propane Tank Capacity: 15 gallons
Full Tank Weight: 105 lbs
Energy: 1,372,500 BTU’s
100 Pound Propane Tank Size
Empty Tank Weight: 80 lbs
Propane Tank Capacity: 24 gallons
Full Tank Weight: 180 lbs
Energy: 2,196,000 BTU’s
Things To Consider When Choosing A Propane Tank Size
Propane weighs 4.2 pounds per gallon. If you’re traveling light or have a maximum weight to consider then you’ll want to buy a smaller tank which weighs less.
Exchange programs typically allow for 20 lb propane tanks to be exchanged. Having this size will give you the most convenience and availability for refilling your propane tank.
Propane tanks should be stored in a cool location, out of the sun, with the ability to vent in case of a leak. You’ll want to take this into consideration when deciding which propane tank size to buy based on its dimensions and your available storage space.
How Much Propane You’ll Use
Consider how often you’ll use your propane – are you cooking every day? Using it to heat your van or RV? If you’ll be using your propane tank often you may want to consider a larger tank that requires less frequent refills.
If, however, you plan to infrequently use your propane tank then a smaller tank that is easier to store and does not take up much space is a better option.
Appliances Using Propane
Consider which appliances you will use propane to power and what type of connection they require. While you can buy an adapter for mis-matched connections it’s much easier if you buy the size propane tank that matches your appliances.
For example, most tabletop or camping grills use a one pound propane tank size. You can use a larger propane tank size but you’ll need the appropriate adaptor.
Refilling 1 Pound Propane Cylinders
Never refill a 1 pound propane tank! This is dangerous!
The US Department of Transportation cautions against refilling 1 pound propane tanks as they were designed to be disposable and cannot withstand the pressure change from emptying and refilling.
In short, it’s just not worth the risk. Don’t do it.
Refilling Larger Propane Tanks
There are plenty of options when it comes to refilling larger propane tanks. The most cost effective way to refill your propane is by visiting an RV propane filling station, or a local AmeriGas, Ferrell Gas or Suburban Propane facility.
How Many Propane Tanks Do I Need For Camping, RVing or Van Life?
How much propane you need depends on what you plan to use it for. There’s a simple method to calculate how much propane you’ll need.
First, make a list of all the propane fueled appliances you plan on using.
Next, figure out how many BTU’s each of these appliances will use and determine the total BTU’s needed for each appliance during your trip. The information is listed in the owner’s manual or on the appliance. BTU’s are measured per hour. To determine how many BTU’s you’ll need multiple the rating by the number of hours you’ll power that appliance.
Finally, sum the total BTU’s for all your appliances.
Earlier, we included total BTU’s for each of the portable propane tank sizes. Be sure to pick a propane tank size that has enough BTU energy to fuel your entire trip’s propane needs.
|Appliance||BTU Rating||Hours Used||Total BTUs Per Day|
In this example scenario I’d be using 25,200 BTUs per day. For a 3 day trip I’d need a total of 75,600 BTUs. A 5 lb propane tank size would be best for this trip.
How Long Does A 1 lb Propane Tank Last?
A 1 lb propane tank can last for a long time depending on what you’re fueling with it. Approximately 18,300 BTUs are in a 1 lb propane tank.
1 lb propane tanks are popular for camp stoves, personal heaters and lanterns. It took me several months to use up a one pound propane tank used for my camp stove.
1 lb Propane Consumption For Common Camping Gear
Here are a few common items that use 1 lb propane and how many BTU’s each use.
Eureka Camping Stove – 10,000 BTU
Outdoor camping oven – 7,500 BTU per burner, 3,000 BTU for oven
Indoor propane heater – 3,800 BTU
Propane lantern – 2,800 BTU
Propane Tank Storage
It’s important to know how to safely store propane tanks.
Propane is a non-toxic gas, so it won’t poison you. However, breathing in propane can cause Oxygen in your lungs to be replaced with propane which causes asphyxiation.
Additionally, propane is highly flammable. If you detect a leak you’ll want to vent the area (if you can do so safely), exit and call 911 immediately.
Store propane tanks in an upright position. Propane tanks are designed with several safety mechanisms and they work best when in the correct position.
Propane tank storage should be well ventilated. Propane is heavier than air. If there’s a propane leak the gas will sink so it’s best to have ventilation at the lowest point to allow the propane gas to escape.
Do not store propane tanks in living or sleeping spaces. If you do not have exterior storage then install a propane storage locker with the proper ventilation.
Always store propane tanks with the valve turned off. Should the other safety mechanisms fail, the valve will help stop a leak.
Do not store propane tanks in high heat or direct sunlight. Store propane tanks between -40℉ and 120℉. Propane expands when it gets warm. In order to prevent the propane tank from exploding under increased pressure the built-in pressure relief valve allows expanding propane gas to be released. While this pressure relief valve is helpful in preventing an explosion, it will result in propane gas being emitted into the air which can cause an explosion if met with a spark. It’s best to avoid this all together and store your propane tank somewhere with relatively little temperature fluctuations.
Don’t store propane tanks near water or moisture. Propane tanks are constructed of metal, which means they’re susceptible to rust. Over time, rust will weaken the structure of the metal and compromise the safety of the propane tank. Water, moisture and high humidity levels (especially near salt water) will increase the risk of rust.
Portable Propane Tank Sizes FAQs
What is the standard propane tank size?
The standard propane tank size is 20 lbs. A standard pound propane tank weighs 14 lbs when empty and 31 lbs when full. The standard propane tank capacity is 4 gallons of propane, or approximately 366,000 BTUs.
What is the difference in a 30 lb vs 40 lb propane tank?
A 30 pound propane tank capacity is 6 gallons of propane while a 40 pound propane tank capacity is 8 gallons of propane.
A 30 lb vs 40 lb propane tank is 46 lbs when full vs 62 lbs when full.
What are 20 lb propane tank dimensions?
20 lb propane tank dimensions are 17.6 inches tall by 12.1 inches wide.
What are propane tank dimensions 30 lb?
30 lb propane tank dimensions are 24 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide.
What are 40 lb propane tank dimensions?
40 lb. propane tank dimensions are 29 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide. Compared to a 30 lb propane tank, a 40 lb propane tank is 5 inches taller.
Written by Claire Fleming
I’m a travel enthusiast who spends half the year in my self-built camper van with my dog, Oscar, and the other half at my home in Raleigh, North Carolina or on international adventures.