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How can I tell how much gas is left in my propane barbecue cylinder?

It’s prime barbecue season here in Tennessee – time to get out and cooking on your propane grill! Just make sure you have enough propane on board before your next big summer cookout.

Since most propane barbecue cylinders don’t come with a gauge, you will need another way to figure out how much fuel is left in your tank. Here are three simple ideas for you to try:

  1. Use water. The FiX IT Home Improvement Channel shared this simple trick for determining the approximate level of propane in a tank using a little bit of water.

To do it,

  • Fill a small bucket with hot tap water.
  • Pour the water down the side of the tank.
  • Run your hand along the side of the tank and feel for a cool spot.

The top of the cool spot is the fill level of the tank – it’s cool because liquid propane inside the tank is absorbing the heat from the water, which makes the metal wall of the tank cool to the touch.

  1. Weigh the tank. Most propane grill tanks come with two numbers stamped on the handle – the water capacity (“WC”) and Tare Weight (TW – the weight of the tank when it’s empty). Most grilling tanks weigh about 17 pounds when empty and hold about 20 pounds of gas.

To measure how many pounds of propane are left in your tank, simply weigh it on a scale and subtract the TW number. For example, if a tank weighing 27 pounds has a TW of 17 pounds, there’s about 10 pounds of gas left – a little more than half a tank.

  1. Use an external gauge. External propane tank gauges come in several different forms, including:
  • Inline pressure gauges install between the gas line from the grill and the cut-off valve on the tank, measuring pressures to determine how full the tank is.
  • Analog propane scales look like luggage scales and are pre-set to take your tank’s TW into account.
  • Digital propane tank scales provide a digital readout of remaining cook time and gas fill percentage. Some even come with smart phone apps.

Pick the device that you’re most comfortable with and give it a go!

Don’t grill blind – try these tips to know how much gas is left in your tank before your 4th of July celebration!