Propane is a popular source of energy with many American families because it is such a versatile gas. Various appliances run on propane (outdoor lighting, stoves, indoor space heating, central heating, pool heating and water heating are the most common).
How many and what kind of appliances a home has will determine the propane tank size needed. So will the home’s square footage (the larger the home, the more propane is necessary), location (a colder region will require more propane), and number of occupants (a higher number of occupants will use more propane).
Tank size overview
Propane tanks come is different sizes, above- and underground. Aboveground tanks come in sizes that usually range from 100 to 1,000 gallons and underground tank capacities range from 500 to 1,500 gallons. The simplest way to establish what size tank your home requires is to get quotes from propane dealers and propane tank suppliers.
As a general rule, a four-bedroom home using mostly propane for energy will need a 500-gallon tank (the average for residential US propane consumption is 464 gallons per year). The larger the propane tank, the higher the purchase or rental cost: this means it is important to find the right size tank for your propane usage.
Matching propane tank size with consumption
Working out your propane usage on your own is also possible by using appliance BTU ratings and calculating total BTU load. This is the unit used to measure energy output per hour for each appliance. For example, take a furnace with an 80,000 BTU/hr rating. Since a gallon of propane has a 91,500 BTU output it becomes relatively easy to work out your propane requirements in gallons for each appliance.
At full capacity an 80,000 BTU furnace will use 0.87 gallons of propane for running at full capacity for an hour. If used a third of the time, propane consumption will amount to 210 gallons per month. Following a similar pattern to work out how much propane each home appliance will use can give a rough idea of yearly propane consumption and the appropriate propane tank size for your home. However, it is unlikely to be very accurate and can be a lengthy process, which is why you may choose to get professional advice.
Larger propane tanks allow for better planning
Although larger propane tanks are more expensive to buy or rent, they have several advantages that you may want to take into account when making a decision or comparing quotes from propane companies:
- If you are attentive to variations in the propane price, having a larger propane tank enables you to buy propane when prices are low rather than be forced to buy propane when you hit 20% of total capacity.
- Similarly, larger propane tanks allow you to ride out the colder months without having to fill your tank: not only do you save on propane since prices tend to increase over the winter months but you avoid the hassle of organizing an extra delivery.
Therefore, some will consider it a worthwhile investment to get a propane tank that exceeds propane usage. This is less important if your propane supply agreement with a propane company includes automatic delivery since, in this case, the propane dealer will deliver propane whenever the tank level gets to a certain point (around 20%).