Most RVs run on propane. While some RVs have generators that will keep the RV running off of gas, most propane is used for heating and cooking. That’s why it’s important to know how long your propane tank will last.
If you have an RV longer than about 30 feet, then you probably have a 30-pound propane tank. In the winter, when your propane tank has to run your appliances and your heat, 30 pounds will probably last about 24 hours.
In the summer, when you don’t need heat, your 30-pound propane tank will last much longer – up to 30 days.
Common RV Propane Tank Sizes Explained
There are two main sizes of propane tanks that RVs use: 20-pound and the 30-pound. While some RVs may have other non-standard sizes, these two are the most common.
The 20-pound tank is also called a 5-gallon tank because it holds approximately five gallons of propane. The 20-pound tank is the most common size for RVers.
It’s small enough that it can be easily carried and stored, but it’s also large enough to power most RV appliances.
It’s common to find 20-pound tanks on smaller travel trailers and destination trailers, because you won’t need as much propane to power your smaller appliances or heat the entire space.
However, in the winter, these tanks don’t last very long at all, because travel trailers typically aren’t very well insulated, so the propane has to work very hard to keep the space heated.
You may find that a 20-pound tank only lasts about 12 hours.
- Height: 17-inches
- Diameter: 12-inches
- Weight: 37 pounds (full)
You can also get 16 oz tanks, we have covered them separately here.
The 30-pound tank is also called a 7.5-gallon tank because it holds approximately seven and a half gallons of propane.
The 30-pound tank is the second most common size for RVers. It’s a bit large and bulky, but it will last longer than a 20-pound tank.
Most fifth wheels and travel trailers longer than about 30 feet will have 30-pound tanks. That’s because you need more propane to power larger appliances and heat the space in the winter.
How long it lasts will depend on how high you turn up the heat or how often you cook, but in general, this tank will last up to 24 hours in the winter, and much longer in the summer.
- Height: 18-inches
- Diameter: 14-inches
- Weight: 54 pounds (full)
While the 20-pound and 30-pound tanks are the most common, there are some RVs that have other tank sizes.
The 40-pound tank is also called a 10-gallon tank because it holds approximately 10 gallons of propane. This tank is less common, but it’s often used on larger fifth wheels and motorhomes.
Tanks this large have the potential to last a lot longer than 20 or 30-pound tanks.
- Height: 20-inches
- Diameter: 16-inches
- Weight: 68 pounds (full)
The 100-pound tank is also called a 25-gallon tank because it hold approximately 25 gallons of propane.
These tanks are extremely large and bulky, so they’re not very common. They’re often used on larger RVs that have multiple propane appliances or for those who dry camp often.
You won’t want to carry this propane tank around with you full. It adds an extra 100 pounds to your load and can cause even worse gas mileage.
These are better to fill up closer to your destination so you don’t have to transport them very far.
- Height: 30-inches
- Diameter: 18-inches
- Weight: 170 pounds (full)
There are even larger propane tanks that some people will affix to their trailers if they’re semi-permanent.
Travel trailers and full-timers who move very infrequently may purchase a propane tank anywhere from 150-500 pounds.
These tanks won’t move with your trailer, but they give you a large supply of propane if you’re parked somewhere permanently. They can be especially useful in the winter.
If you choose to go this route, you’ll need to find a place where you can place your propane tank permanently and then have a propane company come fill it up on location.
How Long Does a 30-Pound Propane Tank Last in an RV?
Now that we’ve gone over the different sizes and descriptions of propane tanks, let’s answer the question: how long does a 30-pound propane tank last in an RV?
The answer to this question largely depends on how you’re using your RV. If you have a smaller RV or travel trailer, your 30-pound tank may last you several days.
However, if you have a larger RV or motorhome, your 30-pound tank may only last you one day.
It also depends on the weather. In the winter, your propane will run out more quickly because you’ll need to use it for heat. In the summer, your propane will last much longer because you won’t need to use it for heat as often.
Here are some general estimates for how long a 30-pound propane tank will last in an RV:
- In the winter: 1.5-2 days for a small RV or travel trailer, up to 24 hours for a large RV or motorhome
- In the summer: Up to 30 days for any size RV
Of course, these are just estimates. The best way to know how long your propane tank will last is to keep track of your usage.
Check the gauge on your tank regularly and refill it when it gets low. This way, you’ll always have a full tank and you won’t have to worry about running out of propane.
What Are BTUs?
BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are a way of measuring the amount of heat that is required to raise or lower the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. The higher the BTU, the more heat is required.
For example, if you have a propane appliance with a BTU rating of 80,000, it will require 80,000 BTUs of heat to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Using the BTU rating of your appliances, you can calculate how much propane you’ll actually need. Just follow these steps:
- Find the BTU rating of all of your propane appliances. You should be able to find this information in the owner’s manual or on the appliance itself.
- Add them up. Once you have the BTU rating of each appliance, add them all up.
- Find the BTU per hour rating of your propane tank. Each pound of propane contains roughly 21,548 BTUs.
- Calculate the hours. Once you have this number, divide it by the total BTU rating of your appliances. This will give you the number of hours your tank will last.
- Here’s the calculation: TOTAL BTU RATING OF ALL APPLIANCES / TOTAL BTU RATING OF PROPANE TANK = NUMBER OF HOURS PROPANE TANK WILL LAST.
For example, let’s say you have a propane fridge with a BTU rating of 1,500 and a propane stove with a BTU rating of 10,000. In this case, your appliances have a total BTU rating of 11,500.
If you have a 30-pound propane tank, it has 646,440 BTUs. That means your propane tank will last about 56 hours running only the fridge and the stove, because 646,440 / 11,500 = 56.2.
Of course, this is just a rough estimate. The actual amount of time your propane will last will depend on how much you use your appliances.
What Appliances Use Propane In An RV?
There are a few different appliances that use propane in an RV. The most common ones are the fridge, the stove, and the furnace.
However, there are also some RVs that have propane-powered hot water heaters and generators.
|Refrigerator||The fridge is one of the biggest propane consumers in an RV. A typical RV fridge will use about 1-2 pounds of propane per day. However, most RVs have a fridge that can toggle between propane power and electrical power, so if you’re hooked up to shore power, you won’t need to use propane.|
|Stove||The stove is another big consumer of propane. A typical RV stove will use about 0.5-1 pound of propane per day. Depending on how often you use your stove, you may run out of propane faster or slower than expected.|
|Furnace||The furnace is the third biggest consumer of propane in an RV. A typical RV furnace will use about 0.5-1 pound of propane per day. Like the stove, the amount of propane you use will depend on how often you use the furnace. You’ll run out of propane a lot faster in the winter than you will in the summer.|
|Hot Water Heater||Some RVs have a propane-powered hot water heater. These typically use about 0.25-0.5 pounds of propane per day. However, some RVs have electric hot water heaters that are powered by shore power or a generator.|
|Generator||Some RVs have a propane-powered generator. These typically use about 0.5-1 pound of propane per day. However, generators are not needed to run most RV appliances. They’re only needed if you want to use them while you’re not hooked up to shore power. There are also gasoline and diesel-powered generators. Opting for one of those means you’re not using propane for your generator.|
How To Tell If Your Propane Tank Is Empty
If you think your propane tank might be empty, there are a few ways to check. The easiest way is to look at the gauge on your tank.
Most tanks have a gauge that shows how much propane is left. If your tank doesn’t have a gauge, you can purchase one separately.
Simply attach the gauge to the nozzle of your propane tank and then open the propane tank valve. The gauge will register the pressure from the tank and tell you how full it is.
Another way to tell if your tank is empty is by weight. A full 20-pound tank should weigh about 38 pounds. A full 30-pound tank should weigh about 57 pounds. If your tank is lighter than this, it’s probably empty.
If your tank is empty, you’ll need to refill it or swap it out for a new one. To do this, you’ll need to find a propane dealer.
Most RV parks and campgrounds have a propane dealer on-site. You can also find propane refills and exchanges at farming stores, grocery stores, and hardware stores.
How Often Do I Need to Refill My Propane Tank?
This depends on how often you use your propane-powered appliances. If you use them frequently, you may need to refill your tank every week or two.
However, if you only use them occasionally, you may be able to go a month or more between refills.
For very heavy winter usage, you may need to refill it daily. It’s always a good idea to have several extras on hand during months when you use more propane than usual so you can ensure you always have enough without running out.
Tips to Make Your Propane Last Longer
There are a few things you can do to make your propane last longer.
- Insulate your RV. This will help keep the heat in and reduce how often you need to use your furnace.
- Use LED light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs use less power and will reduce how often you need to use your generator when you’re dry camping.
- Use a slow cooker or electric pressure cooker instead of your stove. These appliances use less power and will help you conserve propane.
- Don’t leave the fridge door open for long periods of time. This will allow cold air to escape and make the fridge work harder, using more propane.
- Only heat water when you need it. Heating water takes a lot of energy, so only do it when necessary.
A 30-pound propane tank will last for about 2-3 weeks if you’re using it to power your RV appliances. However, this depends on how often you use those appliances.
If you use them frequently, you may need to refill your tank more often. If you use them sparingly, you may be able to go longer between refills.