How Long Does a Propane Tank Last?

The Short Answer is:  It Depends

Whether you use propane to heat your home or to fire up the grill, having enough propane is important. But how long does a propane tank last and how do you know when it’s getting low? Knowing these two things can save you from running out of propane when you need it most.

How Long Portable Propane Tanks Last

Small, portable propane tanks, also called DOT tanks, are used for grills, water heaters, and fireplaces. They can be 20lbs to 100lbs. The life you get out of it depends on the size of your grill and how often you use your heater or fireplace.

As a rule of thumb, a medium-sized grill on high heat will use approximately two pounds of fuel per meal. Following this rule, a 20lb propane tank will provide 18-20 hours of cooking time on a medium grill. A larger grill can burn through 20lbs of propane in as little as 10 hours.

The Lifespan of Non-Portable Propane Tanks for The Home

While running out of propane in the middle of a backyard barbecue is a bummer, running out of the propane that heats your home or water can be dangerous in the middle of winter. It’s important to know how much you use and how to know when you’re getting low.

Large propane tanks, also called ASME tanks, are not portable and are typically used to heat the home and other home applications such as stoves and water heaters.

Take these hypothetical usage stats:

  • Furnace - 85,000 BTUs
  • Cook stove - 63,000 BTUs
  • Water heater - 199,000 BTUs

For a total home BTU usage of 347,000. Divide that by the number of BTUs in a gallon of propane (91,502) and you get approximately 3.79 gallons of propane burned per hour.

That is, if each propane-burning appliance is running at high for the entire hour. That isn't how we use our furnaces, stoves, or water heaters, though. Your furnace may kick on for 10 minutes out of the hour and you may spend half an hour using the stove. Maybe your water heater only turns on for 15-20 minutes out of the hour. With normal usage like this, you'll burn much less than 3.79 gallons per hour.

How much you actually burn per hour also depends on the size of your home and how hard your furnace has to work to heat it. A smaller home requires less propane than a large home.

Key Propane Usage Statistics

  • A home furnace burns 500-1,200 gallons of propane per year, depending on how often it is used.
  • The average homeowner uses between 200-300 gallons of propane per year for hot water.
  • The average homeowner uses approximately 2.5, 500-gallon tanks (~1,250 gallons total) of propane annually for heating and cooking.

If you don’t have regular fill-ups scheduled with us, you can learn to read your propane gauge to know when you need to call for refueling.

How Long Does a Propane Tank Last?

In addition to understanding how quickly you use propane, it’s important to know how long the tank itself lasts.

Large stationary propane tanks like those used to heat homes and water will be visually inspected at each refill. We may refuse to fill your tank and recommend replacement if it is in poor condition.

Regular preventive maintenance is a must to keep a propane tank in good condition. Regular maintenance includes a visual inspection of the tank, testing for leaks, monitoring fuel quality, and more. Couch Oil Company provides routine maintenance and monitoring at each fill-up. Need maintenance between refuelings? Just give us a call!

Make Couch Oil Company Your Choice for Propane

With a propane plant conveniently located in Old West Durham and delivery service to the surrounding areas, we make fueling your home with propane convenient. To schedule your first service, fill out our new propane customer application (existing customers can order online) or give us a call at 919-286-5408.

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Durham Office

2907 Hillsborough Rd.

Durham, NC 27705

Phone: 919-286-5408

Apex Office

1009 Schieffelin Rd.

Apex, NC 27502

Phone: 919-552-8393

Propane Office

4630 Hillsborough Rd.

Durham, NC 27705

Phone: 919-375-2912


Durham Main Office

2907 Hillsborough Road Durham, NC 27705


Apex Office

1009 Schieffelin Road

Apex, NC 27702


Propane Office

4630 Hillsborough Rd

Durham, NC 27705


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