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Open Roads Forum  >  Beginning RVing

 > How to tell if you're running low on propane

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Posted: 10/10/09 08:55pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hello...I'm a newbie to this group and camping in general. We recently took our first long trip out west and ran into some very cold weather. We ran the camper's heater that night and at about 4 am we ran out of propane. I am wondering if there is any kind of gauge that one can buy to put on the propane tanks so one can tell at a glance how much propane is left (without having to remove them and take them to a propane dealer?)


Treasure Coast Florida - East Tennessee

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Posted: 10/10/09 09:01pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Would something like this work for you? Hope it helps. Clicky

Ours has a gauge at the tank and an LED indicator on our control panel.

In cold weather, if we are going to be connected to shore power, we use ceramic heaters and then use the furnace more like a back up. Save a dollar.

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Topeka or somewhere else

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Posted: 10/10/09 09:32pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have no idea what type of RV you are using or how it's equipped but the easiest way to handle Propane monitoring is with a trailer (5th wheel or travel trailer, you have two propane bottles with an automatic switching regulator. When one tank is empty it automatically switches to the second tank and signals that it has done so. this allows you to just glance at it the next morning and you can tell that you are working on the second of two tanks. At that time you remove the empty tank, switch the indicator lever to point at the tank that is now in use and take the empty to the LP dealer to be filled again. Using this system there should NEVER be a time you would run out of LP unless you just don't care enough to check the site glass.
Good luck skip

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Calgary Alberta Canada

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Posted: 10/10/09 09:47pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow Skip that's hi tech!!!

With my old barge I have to wander out at 4 AM in my underwear and change it by hand. [emoticon] Done that more than once![emoticon] Sure does get chilly on the . . . . . . uhhhh bare legs [emoticon]

Only way I can tell if its running low is to rap on it with my knuckles and "Guess" by the hollow sound if its empty or not, or pull the bottle off, still attached to the hose, and give it a shake.

I gotta git me one of them thar fancy fangled things!!

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Sterling Heights, MI

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Posted: 10/10/09 10:00pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My tanks have a guage taped right on the tank. It tells you to pour hot water over the guage, and part of it will turn orange, thereby telling you how full the tank is.

I tried it once, with somewhat inclusive results. Now I rely on Skip's method.

I know that sometimes when I use the small one-pound cylinder, the bottom portion turns frosty and that tells you what is left in them. Seems like a connection to the hot water trick I mentioned above.

Thanks, Larry

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Posted: 10/10/09 10:51pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

For the temperature strip to work best you need to have some propane on for a couple minutes to drop the temperature of the liquid propane.

Automatic regulator with indicator

Remote indicator

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Posted: 10/11/09 07:35am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

One way is to take a spray bottle with hot water in it,when the tank is open,spray the tank with the hot water.There should be a line of were the liquid is in the tank.Since the propane is colder then the hot liquid.


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Posted: 10/11/09 12:15am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator


Propane is a liquid that will change to a gas as you use gas from the tank. The cubic foot of liquid propane in the tank turns into about 400 cubic feet of LP gas.

When you pour warm water onto the propane tank, the top portion that only contains gas will get warm, while the bottom section that is full of liquid, the liquid will absorb the heat, so that 1/2 of the tank will stay cold, if the tank is 1/2 full.

As the tank reached empty, then the whole tank side will stay warm.

Do you have auto changeover tanks? If you leave one closed, and when the first is empty, then you will know, because you will have to open the second tank manually. Then on a cold night, if you know you are down to 1 gallon in say the left tank, you can open the right and close the left, changing to that tank, so you know you have 1 gallon of reserve.

The furnace can use up the tanks fairly quickly. If you have a 30,000 Btu furnace, then you can use a gallon of propane in 3 hours of furnace run time.

The other things that use gas are the refrigerator, with a 2,200 Btu burner will run the burner for about 40 hours per gallon, and that can take 3-5 days to use a gallon.

The 6 gallon water heater will run about 15 hours per gallon, and 10 gallon water heaters use a larger burner, about 10 hours per gallon.

The stove had 10,000 Btu burners, and usually are not on high for very long. You could camp a week without using a whole gallon with only the stove.

When I dry camp, I normally use a Olympic Catalytic Heater, because it does not use any 12 volt power. It is rated at 6,000 Btu's and will run about 15 hours on a gallon of propane. It heats my 30' RV fine down to about 20F outside. At that point, I run the furnace a little bit to blow warm air into the basement to keep the tanks above freezing, and also the floor stays a little warmer, and blows heat to the corners of the RV.

My RV has a 18 gallon tank, that is frame mounted, and more difficult to go into town to fill it. But it will last about 6 weeks when not using the furnace, and about 2 weeks if I use the heater a lot.

Good Luck,



Clinton, Illinois

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Posted: 10/11/09 01:00am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have been curious of the same question tonight. I normally do not use the furnace but tonight where I am is getting unseasonably cold and down into the mid twenties. Because of this, I have turned my catalytic heater off and am running the furnace to heat as completely as possible and prevent freezing pipes. Some new TT, mine included, are not equipped with an automatic change regulator. If you turn on both tanks, they will equalize and you will run out both tanks before any warning. I have one tank on, the one I have used for the past year and have no idea when I will be needing to make the dreaded trek outside and turn off the empty and turn on the full tank. I see an auto change over regulator in my future!!!

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Posted: 10/11/09 10:24am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

To answer the OP's question-No-There is not a gauge that will tell you how full your portable tank is that is any good. The only "accurate" way to tell is to weight the tank.


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