Propane is used by many as a source of fuel, including to heat homes and cook. The two ways of getting propane are by refilling your tank or exchanging it for a different tank. While each method has its pros and cons, refilling is the most popular choice among many people because they are hoping to spend less and still have gas reserves when they need it. So, how much does it cost to fill a 500-gallon propane tank?
The size of your tank will determine the cost for a gallon, but the price typically ranges from $600 to $800 to get your 500-gallon propane tank filled. The market price at any time will affect the total cost of propane. In an average American household, this amount will last about 6 months.
The most cost-effective option is always to refill your propane tank, and this service is often available at gas stations or, for bigger home-tanks, through come-to-you propane refilling services. If you have access to a retailer that refills on the spot for the actual quantity of gas that you need, it will be cheaper than replacing the tank, but sometimes replacing is the only option if there’s simply no companies around who can refill your tank.
What’s the Average Propane Consumption in the US?
An average household in the US uses about 750 gallons of propane during winter, and a 500-gallon propane tank lasts for 2 to 14 months. The specific duration varies for different homes.
For instance, a 2,300 sq. ft. household (the average size of a single-family household in the US) will use around 700 to 1,014 gallons. Most households use about two full 500 gallons of propane tanks per winter.
What Factors Affect Propane Consumption in Your Home?
- The size of your home: A bigger home will require more heat and so will use more. A 4,000 sq. ft. home will use up a 500-gallon propane tank faster than an average 2,000 sq. ft. home.
- Winter conditions: Consumption is higher during harsh winters with extreme weather than during a normal winter. The harshest winter in recent times was in 2013-2014, during which the average US household used up around 830 gallons of propane. Compared to that, we use only 750 gallons of propane during most winters.
- Heating requirements by location: In the Northeast USA, a household will need a considerably greater BTU heating output compared to households that are in the Southern region of the USA. For instance, a New Jersey home will use up a 500-gallon propane faster than an Oklahoma home.
- The energy efficiency of the device: Propane furnaces with high-energy efficiency and over 90 AFUE will use considerably less propane in delivering the same heating. This is different from a furnace with a 70 AFUE rating for instance. The propane tank will have more longevity with a 90 AFUE furnace.
- 80% safety rule: Despite what the name says, a 500-gallon propane tank precisely contains 400 gallons of propane. There must be space in the tank to accommodate the expanding nature of propane, and it is potentially dangerous to fill it to the brim. As a safety precaution, you should never fill a 500-gallon propane tank beyond 80% capacity.
What’s the Cost to Fill a 500 Gallon Propane Tank?
If a gallon of propane costs $1.50-$2.00 in the market, 400 gallons (following the 80% safety rule) will cost about $600 to $800. The frequency of your refills depends on the amount of propane you use as a homeowner. Generally, 100 gallons will be used up in 30-45 days in a household of over 2,500 square feet. At this rate, they may get a tank refill up to 3-5 times a year, which costs between $1,800 and $3,000.
Similar to demand and supply for most commodities, the price for propane varies year-round. Propane usually costs less during warmer months and the price gradually increases in the winter.
Most people have long since stopped their heating during spring, but this is the best time to refill your home’s propane gas tank ahead of the coming year. Prices for propane gas can be considerably less in spring compared to high winter prices.
How Long Does a 500 Gallon Propane Tank Last?
First, we need to determine the quantity of propane that can fill a 500-gallon tank. We automatically think it is 500 gallons, but it is really 400 gallons.
The propane tanks are only filled to 80% of their full volumetric capacity each. This is a safety measure. Under heat, the propane in a tank would expand and put pressure on the outer parts of the tank.
This means that a 500-gallon propane tank contains 400 gallons of propane when full. The overall energy content is 36,600,000 BTUs (100% efficiency).
Before taking a look at the table showing how long different home sizes will use a 500-gallon tank, let’s consider an example of how to calculate that:
Example: How long will a 1,500 sq. ft. house use a 500-gallon propane tank?
From average calculations, we know that 510 gallons of propane will be used up in 6 winter months in a 1,500 sq. ft. household. Also, we know that there are 400 gallons of propane in a full 500-gallon tank. The calculation is shown below:
- 510 gallons of propane is used in 6 months
400 gallons (full 500-gallon tank) will be used in how many months?
- 400 Gallons × 6 Months ÷ 510 Gallons = 4.706 Months
That shows that in a 1,500 sq. ft. home, a full 500-gallon propane tank lasts for 4 months and 6 days.
This principle can be used to calculate how long it takes to empty a 500-gallon tank in different home sizes:
|House Size (sq. ft.):||How Long Can You Use A 500-Gallon Propane Tank?|
|4,000 sq. ft.||1 month and 23 days|
|3,500 sq. ft.||2 months and 1 day|
|3,000 sq. ft.||2 months and 11 days|
|2,500 sq. ft.||2 months and 25 days|
|2,000 sq. ft.||3 months and 25 days|
|1,500 sq. ft.||4 months and 6 days|
|1,000 sq. ft.||7 months and 2 days|
|500 sq. ft.||14 months and 4 days|
These are only estimations from statistic averages.
Energy efficiency is another important thing about your propane-powered appliances that can add to or reduce the specific duration that a 500-gallon propane tank will last. This generally means your propane furnace.
Less propane is required for the same heating delivery of a greater energy efficiency propane furnace (with over 90 AFUE) rating. These amazing units can extend the time it takes to use up a 500-gallon propane tank by as much as 25%.
How Far Does a 500 Gallon Propane Tank Need to Be From House?
The most important thing you should know is how much distance there should be between a propane tank and buildings, houses, property lines, awnings, and driveways to make sure your underground or above-ground propane tank is safely and legally placed.
The most commonly used tank for residential purposes is the 500-gallon one as it is suitable for operating everyday appliances, powering generators, home heating, and more. A bigger tank saves you the stress of several refills, but there are additional rules you need to follow during installation:
- It should be at least 10 feet away from the entrance of a building
- It should be at least 10 feet away from any property line
- It should be at least 10 feet away from any source of ignition
Underground tanks should not only adhere to the clearance requirements but also the depth guidelines. A 500-gallon tank will have the following measurements:
- 500-gallon tanks: L (14′) x W (5′) x Depth (4′ 6″)
How Can You Tell How Much Propane Is Left in a 500 Gallon Tank?
You can find out the quantity of propane left in the tank using a propane tank gauge like this (on Amazon). You can also take it along when purchasing gas in order to know the exact quantity of propane you are getting with your refill.
One crucial thing about your propane tank to take note of is that the fuel level is displayed on the fuel gauge as a percentage of your tank’s capacity and not the total quantity of gallons in your tank.
Though all propane tanks may not have the same gauge, they still have the same purpose: to display the amount of propane remaining in the tank. Nearly all gauges are “float gauges” (similar to a vehicle’s fuel gauge), which uses a floating arm to read the liquid propane level of the tank.
The lower the level, the lower the float gauge. It helps to know how to interpret the gauge, so you know when to get a refill. If you are using a propane tank for home energy, then you may have noticed that the reading on the tank gauge is 80%.
There’s no cause for alarm. It’s not a scam, and your tank and the gauge are fine. Though the propane is used in gas form, it is stored in your tank as a liquid to give room for it to expand and contract according to the rising and falling of the environmental temperature. The highest fill percentage is 80% at all times.
You can find out the amount of gas in your propane tank using some simple math. Simply multiply the capacity of the tank by whatever the tank gauge reads. For instance, if the gauge reading is 60% on your 500-gallon tank, then it means there are 300 gallons of gas (500×0.6).
As an alternative to the calculations, check out this handy chart that lets you know the amount of gas remaining in your propane tank using your gauge reading and the size of your tank:
|Gauge Reads||1,000-Gallon Tank||500-Gallon Tank||250-Gallon Tank||120-Gallon Tank|
|10%||100 gallons||50 gallons||25 gallons||12 gallons|
|20%||200 gallons||100 gallons||50 gallons||24 gallons|
|30%||300 gallons||150 gallons||75 gallons||36 gallons|
|40%||400 gallons||200 gallons||100 gallons||48 gallons|
|50%||500 gallons||250 gallons||125 gallons||60 gallons|
|60%||600 gallons||300 gallons||150 gallons||72 gallons|
|70%||700 gallons||450 gallons||175 gallons||84 gallons|
|80%||800 gallons||500 gallons||200 gallons||96 gallons|
Refill at 20% Capacity
To be on the safer side, get a refill as soon as the reading on your fuel gauge is 20%.
It is important to prevent the fuel level from dropping below 20% for certain reasons. First and foremost is safety.
A completely drained propane tank means that air is the only remaining content inside. The potentially moist air can cause the formation of rust if allowed to linger inside. If you repeatedly allow the tank to be empty before getting a refill, the inner walls may begin to rust and weaken.
Another issue is leaking. The gas lines may be left open because you failed to close them with the tank drained. When the tank is then newly refilled, those gas lines may leak some of the propane.
The price of propane gas fluctuates seasonally, and spring is usually the best time to refill your propane tank. The cost per gallon tends to vary according to tank size.
One thing you should never try to do yourself is refill your propane tank. Like most things, you can find online tutorials on how to get a propane tank refilled, but it is very dangerous, and you can end up getting hurt if it’s not done the right way. Don’t try to save the $15 and just let a professional do it for you – you can get it filled at home or just exchange the tank.
Another thing to keep in mind is to never let your tank go empty, as it is way more expensive to get an emergency gas refill.