How to Tell If Your Propane Tank Is Empty (With & Without a Gauge)

Everyone should know how to tell the level of their propane tank before it’s empty. After all, you wouldn’t want to run out of propane on a cold day. So, how can you tell if your propane tank is empty?

Gauges are used to measure the propane level in the tank. The readings will be in percentages to let you know how much fuel is left. If you don’t have a gauge, you can get an estimate of how much propane is left by pouring water on the tank and using your hand to feel where the temperature changes.

There are a few different ways that you can tell if your propane tank is empty. Today, we’re going to explain the different ways that you can check the propane level so you never have to worry about running out. Read on to find out what you need to do.

Find Your Propane Tank

The first step in checking how much propane is left in your tank is locating the propane tank. If you have a small barbecue propane tank or an above-ground tank, this won’t be an issue. However, if your tank is installed underground, you will need to know exactly where it’s located.

More homeowners are interested in having their propane tanks installed underground. This prevents the tank from becoming an eyesore on the property. It’s also safer because it can keep the tank at a steady temperature and protect it from nature’s elements.

Underground propane tanks need to be installed at least 10 feet away from the house on the property. While the tank will be underground, you’ll be able to locate it by the dome that is installed on top to protect the valves and fittings.

If you didn’t already know where your underground propane tank is located it’s important that you find out. This is because it’s a safety hazard to place heavy objects on top of it.

How To Read Your Propane Tank Gauge

Most propane tanks come with a gauge. If yours doesn’t you can also buy a gauge to attach to it. This is the most efficient way to keep an eye on how much propane is left in your tank.

You will need to know how to read a gauge in order to understand how much fuel is left in your don’t. Don’t worry, this is very easy to monitor. You can locate the gauge underneath the dome to underground propane tanks.

The gauge will have numbers ranging from 5 to 95. These represent the percentage of fuel that’s left in the tank. You may notice a gauge that has numbers ranging from 0 to 300. That gauge is to measure the pressure level in the tank.

The gouge will have a red section that ranges between 5 to 25. When the gouge hits this level, it’s a good idea to order more propane. This is because you won’t want to completely empty the tank.

Determine How Many Gallons Are Left

The gouge will let you know how full or empty your tank is. However, you may be left wondering how many gallons of propane is left. This is something you can figure out with the help of your calculator.

Before you do this, it’s important to know the size of your propane tank. You can determine how many gallons of propane are left by calculating the tank size by the percentage of fuel left.

For example, let’s pretend you have a 250-gallon tank that has a 65% reading. To figure out how many gallons you have, you would calculate 250 X 0.65. In this situation, you would have 162.5 gallons left.

How To Tell If Your Tank Is Empty Without a Gauge 

Do you have a propane tank but no gauge? No problem! We have two different ways that you can get an accurate estimate of how much propane you have left in the tank.

  1. Use a scale to weigh the tank
  2. Use hot water and your hand the find the propane level

Both of these methods are very easy and don’t require any special equipment. Let’s take a look at what you need to do.

Weigh The Tank

Did you know that you can get an accurate estimate of how much fuel is in your tank by weighing it? Keep in mind, this method can only be used for barbecue tanks. Propane tanks used to heat your home are too big for this method.

Propane can be measured in pounds. Before you start, check the side of your propane tank to find the tank’s weight when it’s empty. This information is usually listed near the logo.

Now, in order to get the most accurate measurement, you should have a full propane tank to weigh. Start by weighing the full propane tank. Once you have the weight, subtract the tank’s empty weight from that number. That will let you know how many pounds of fuel it holds.

Over time, you can use this method to keep track of how much propane is left in your tank.

Do The Hot Water Test

The hot water test is a great way to measure the propane level of any size of tank. All you need to perform this test is a glass of warm water and your hand. Propane absorbs heat. You can determine where the propane is because the tank will feel cool. This is what you need to do.

  1. Get a tall glass of warm to hot water ready.
  2. Pour the hot water down the tank from the top.
  3. Use your hand to feel the temperature of the tank where the water was poured. Start at the top and work your way down. Stop when it no longer feels warm.
  4. Where the tank begins to feel cool is where the propane level is at. While this doesn’t give you an exact measurement, it does provide you with a very good estimate.

Don’t Let Your Tank Fall Below 18%

You should always consider it time to order more propane when the gauge has a reading between 20 and 25%. This is because you never want to risk running out of propane. Running out is a big inconvenience. However, what many people don’t realize is that it’s also a safety hazard.

One of the minor problems that can occur is rust. This is because when there’s no propane, the tank is filled with air. The moisture in the air leads to rust, which can cause damage and weaken the tank. This will cause homeowners to need a replacement earlier than expected.

Another major problem with rust is that eliminates the odor from propane. This can cause leaks to go by undetected.

This isn’t the worst of the problems an empty tank can cause. Did you know that an empty propane tank could lead to an explosion? This is because the valves and gas lines are open and stray gas could reach an ignition source.

Don’t Fill Your Tank Above 85%

Don’t let our last tidbit of information scare you into thinking your tank needs to be 100% full all the time. In fact, you shouldn’t fill your tank higher than 85%. Propane needs extra room in the tank to expand.

You didn’t get ripped off if you asked for your propane tank to be filled and see it sitting at 80%. It’s normal for propane to expand in the heat. The empty 15 to 20% is to give the propane enough room.

Should You Use a Gauge or Not?

It’s possible to tell the amount of propane left without a gauge. However, having a gauge will make your life a lot easier. You likely don’t want to pull out a scale or glass of hot water every time you are curious about how much fuel is left.

Energy experts recommend having a gauge for your household’s safety. This prevents the risk of the tank running on empty without your knowledge.

If your propane tank doesn’t come with a gauge, you can buy one. However, make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions to find out what type of gauge you need. This is because there are different types and sizes.


Whether you’re grilling burgers on the barbecue or heating your home during a snowstorm, running out of propane, or using an unsafe tank is never a good thing. If you ever smell the odor of propane while you’re using it, this is a sign that you’re almost out. Make sure you turn it off immediately and refill the tank before further use.

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