A Guide to Monitoring Your RV Propane Tank Levels

A Guide to Monitoring Your RV Propane Tank Levels

Your propane tank is the key to comfortable camping in an RV, camper van, or travel trailer. It fuels everything you need to cook, clean, shower, and even sleep comfortably. Running out of propane is a camper’s worst nightmare, but it can be hard to tell when you’re running low.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of propane tanks so you can set out on your next adventure with confidence:

All About RV Propane Tanks

A propane tank is full of liquified petroleum gas (LP gas), a colorless, odorless fuel that is compressed and stored so you can safely and compactly carry it with you.

When it comes to RVing, propane is a reliable fuel source for all kinds of systems, including the water heater, refrigerator, stove, furnace, and other small appliances.

Types of RV Propane Tanks: DOT Cylinders and ASME Tanks

DOT cylinders are what you would normally think of when you hear the term ‘propane tank.’ DOT cylinders (named for their Department of Transportation endorsement) are mounted vertically on the tongue or back bumper of towable trailers like campers, fifth-wheels, and popups.

DOT tanks are not permanently fixed to the RV, so they’re easy to move to a different location or swap them out when they’re empty. Sometimes you’ll see them in pairs on RVs because they’re smaller and easier to carry or change out.

ASME tanks are most often found on larger, motorized RVs. Unlike a DOT cylinder, the ASME tank mount is permanently built into the frame of the motorhome itself, so ASME tanks are not removable. You’ll usually find a stand-alone tank positioned horizontally underneath the cabin close to the main entryway.

Each remote temperature sensor should be battery-powered, wireless, water-resistant, and designed to easily fit—and stay—in its desired location.

RV Propane Tank Sizes

There are two common DOT cylinder tank sizes: 20-pounds and 33-pounds.

20-pound tanks are what you find at a grocery store or gas station, and though 33-pound tanks hold more, they’re typically only found at home improvement or specialty stores.

For smaller RVs or camper vans, you can also find 5-pound and 11-pound DOT tanks or under-slung propane tanks that can be installed vertically under a camper van.

Since ASME tanks are permanently attached to the RV, they come in all sizes— anywhere from 20 pounds to 420 pounds!

Is your RV Propane Tank Empty?

Running out of propane can really set your camping trip off course. It is much cheaper to refill your propane tank than it is to replace it. But if you think your tank is totally empty, it can be hard to tell. There are two routes you can take to measure your propane level. You can manually check it or you can use a remote monitoring system. Let’s explore all the options.

Three Methods for Manually Monitoring Propane Levels

  1. Hot Water, Cool Touch Method
  • Grab a small bucket or glass of hot tap water.
  • Pour the water slowly down one side of the tank.
  • Run your bare hand vertically along the side of the tank to feel the temperature change. The tank will be warm at the top where there is no propane inside and it will be cool to the touch at the bottom where there is gas inside.
  • The position on the tank where you feel the difference indicates how much liquid propane you have left. The tank is probably completely empty if you don’t feel any difference as you move your hand across the tank.
  1. Gauge Method

For this method, you’ll want to pick up a propane gauge on Amazon or at a camping/hardware store. The benefit of this method is you can leave your tank installed on the RV while making your measurement. 

  • Attach the gauge between the propane tank and the hose that feeds into your RV.
  • Read the gauge to see the amount of propane in the tank.
  • The best propane tank gauge level indicators take into account the outside air temperature so you can have an accurate estimate of the amount of propane in your tank.
  1. Weight Method

For this method, you’ll need to make sure you have a scale and a good old-fashioned pen and paper because you’re going to have to do some math.

  • First, you need to determine how much your empty propane tank weighs.
  • Look at the “tare weight” (or the weight of the empty tank) that is stamped on the collar/handle of the propane tank.
  • Disconnect your tank from the RV and close the valve.
  • Put your propane tank on a scale and write down the current weight.
  • If the reading matches the tare weight, then your tank is definitely empty.
  • Subtract the tare weight (TW) from the current weight. This number is the approximate amount of propane currently in your tank.
  • Divide that number by 4.2 (the weight of one gallon of propane) to calculate the approximate number of gallons of propane remaining in the tank.

The manual methods are useful to know but can be time-consuming and still leave you feeling unsure about the final weight. If lifting heavy tanks and pulling out extra equipment isn’t exactly the adventure you planned, you might consider a remote monitoring system.

The Foolproof Way to Measure Propane Levels: Remote Propane Monitoring

The most reliable way to monitor your propane tank is with a remote system. No more warm water testing, repeatedly weighing tanks, or fortune-telling. With Bluetooth and a smartphone, you can monitor multiple tanks at once, and you’ll never run out of fuel again.

We’ve spent a lot of time helping campers solve this problem and have developed a Bluetooth-enabled propane monitoring system to meet their needs. We call it SmartSense.

SmartSense product shot

How to Add Bluetooth Propane Monitoring Sensors to your RV

Take the guesswork out of your propane tank level with BMPRO’s SmartSense. The compact, lightweight, tough, dust and water-resistant sensors allow you to keep tabs on your fuel level at all times so you’ll never run out. It’s simple to get started.

  • Download the SmartSense app to your smartphone in the App Store or Google Play.
  • Sync your Bluetooth device to your smartphone by clicking a simple button.
  • Attach the sensor with BMPRO’s extra-strong magnets to your propane tank.
  • The sensor detects the gas level remaining and sends the information via Bluetooth to your smartphone.
  • Set alarms in your app for when your levels get low.

Tips for Monitoring Propane Levels

  • Clean the bottom of your tank before attaching your magnets.
  • Put your sensors in the middle of the bottom underside base of your propane tank.
  • Be patient after refilling your tanks—it can take the sensor up to 30 minutes for the gas to settle and the sensor to register your new level.
  • The sensor comes with a standard non-rechargeable 3V round battery CR2032 which lasts about a year, but it’s a good idea to keep an extra battery handy.
  • Take your sensor off the tank if you’re driving on rough roads.

Propane Peace-of-Mind

Take propane level concerns off your to-do list with a reliable remote monitoring tool for your RV propane tanks. With propane to fuel all your RV systems, you’ll be equipped to enjoy your next adventure without any surprises. See you out on the road!

SmartSense is just one of the many remote monitoring tools offered by Australian adventure brand BMPRO. BMPRO’s ProSmart is a DIY-friendly system that allows you to easily monitor water levels, gas levels, tire pressure, temperatures, and battery charge while on your adventures, all from an easy-to-use app on your smartphone.

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