I once found myself halfway through a 3-week road trip when, to my dismay, the propane supply in my RV ran out unexpectedly. With freezing temperatures and no way to run my furnace or stove, I was forced to cut the trip short. It was a rude awakening to the importance of properly sizing your RV’s propane tank capacity before embarking on any extended journey.
The right propane tank size can make or break your long RV trips. With some careful calculations and planning ahead of time, you can ensure a consistent fuel supply to power all your propane appliances smoothly throughout your travels. This guide covers all the key factors to consider when deciding how big of a propane tank you need.
Basically, an RV propane tank size of around 20 to 30 gallons is commonly recommended for extended trips. This range typically accommodates the needs of various appliances, and strikes a balance between capacity and storage convenience, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free journey.
What to Consider When Sizing Your RV Propane Tank?
Choosing the optimum propane tank capacity involves weighing a variety of elements. It’s crucial to strike a balance between ensuring an adequate fuel supply for seamless operations and avoiding unnecessary bulk that may impede storage or transportation convenience.
Length of Your Trip
The longer you plan to travel, the larger your propane supply needs to be. Make rough estimates of your expected propane usage per day based on which appliances you utilize and how often. This will help you determine how many days’ worth of fuel you should carry. Having surplus capacity as a buffer is ideal in case of unexpected delays.
For a 2-week trip, a 30 lb tank is likely sufficient if you conserve usage. For 1 month or longer trips, consider upgrading to a 40 lb capacity or bringing extra tanks as backup reserves.
Number of Propane Appliances
The more propane devices your RV has on board, the faster you will consume fuel. Make a list of all your propane appliances and estimate how many hours per day you are likely to run each one. Frequent use of appliances like furnaces, stoves, ovens, refrigerators, generators, and water heaters can quickly diminish a small tank.
An RV with just basic cooking and lighting needs far less fuel than one operating a furnace, hot water heater, and refrigerator simultaneously on propane. Audit your intended appliances closely.
Colder climates increase propane furnace usage drastically. If you will be traveling through icy or snowy areas, size up your tank to account for near-constant heat requirements. Also, factor in contingencies for extreme weather potentially impacting propane refill station access.
In warm weather, you may only require 1-2 gallons per day. But in freezing temperatures, this can jump to 4-6 gallons used daily just for heating needs.
Ability to Refill En Route
In remote camping areas, finding a place to refill may prove challenging. Bring an adapter to fill at RV parks, gas stations, or hardware store pumps when needed. If refueling options are very limited where you are going, carrying extra reserve capacity is all the more critical.
Always have a list of locations en route where you can refill if needed as a backup option in case you underestimate tank capacity requirements.
Common RV Propane Tank Sizes
RV propane tanks come in a variety of shapes and capacities to suit different needs. Such as –
The smallest are 5-20 pound cylinders that connect via the typical POL valve fittings. These offer portability and backup uses but require frequent swap-outs which can grow costly over long trips.
For extended outings, most RVers rely on the 30 or 40-pound tanks mounted in compartment bays. These high-capacity tanks can run for weeks without needing a refill but are pricier upfront.
I recommend the 40-pound tank for the greatest range and value for full-time or very long RV trips. The 30-pound tank is adequate for moderately long excursions while 20 pounds or less is best reserved for short weekend trips unless refill stations are highly accessible.
Make sure to account for all propane needs like generators or propane fireplaces in your tank sizing, not just basic appliances.
Calculating Your Ideal Propane Tank Size
Figuring out the optimum tank size involves some quick math.
Step 1. Estimate Your Total Fuel Consumption
Tally your expected propane consumption from each appliance per day. Multiply this by the number of travel days. This tells you your total usage.
Step 2. Factor in a Reserve Supply
Add an extra 20-30% margin as a contingency buffer. This reserves a surplus in case of heavier than predicted usage.
Step 3. Consider Bringing Extra Tanks
For very long trips or cold regions, bringing an extra spare 20-pound cylinder may prove useful as added insurance. This saves you in a pinch if you run lower than intended.
As an example, suppose I calculate my RV furnace, refrigerator, stove, and water heater will use about 5 gallons of propane per day. For a 60-day winter trip, that’s 300 gallons total. After adding 30% extra capacity as a safety buffer, I would want to carry at least a 390-gallon propane supply. Two 40-gallon tanks would cover this with room to spare.
When in doubt, always err on the side of bringing more propane capacity than you estimate needing to avoid any shortages.
Propane Safety Tips for a Convenient Trip
Proper handling, storage, and usage habits are paramount to safely enjoying the benefits of RV propane –
a) Adhere to all codes and restrictions regarding transporting, mounting, and refilling propane tanks. Keep detectors well maintained and replace outdated appliances.
b) Only refill to 80% capacity. Do not overfill the tank beyond the maximum safe level.
c) Shut propane valves off at the tank immediately if you smell gas or have a leak. Evacuate the area and address issues before continuing use.
d) Avoid running large propane appliances simultaneously for long durations. Monitor your fuel gauges closely as you go.
Also, be vigilant to never allow any sparks or open flames around propane systems and exercise caution when handling.
Exercising common sense propane safety measures drastically reduces the risks of fire hazards, explosions, or accidents putting a damper on your road trip.
People Also Ask
How long does a 20 lb propane tank last in an RV?
Approximately 7-14 days for average RV usage before needing a refill. But this varies widely depending on specific appliances used and frequency.
How do you calculate how long propane will last?
Estimate consumption per day based on your appliance usage amounts. Multiply by days traveled. Add 20-30% extra to determine how much total capacity you need.
How much propane does a full-time RV use?
Full-time RVers often report using 30-50 gallons of propane per month on average depending on the factors discussed. Much more is required in freezing weather.
How much propane should I go through in a month?
This varies dramatically based on your RV lifestyle and travel patterns. Typical ranges are 5-15 gallons per month for limited use, 15-30 gallons average use per month, and 30-60+ gallons per month for full-time extensive use.
How do you store propane on a road trip?
Transport propane tanks securely fastened in the RV’s exterior compartments. Adhere to all safety handling, storage, and refilling regulations. Shut tank valves when not in use.
Choosing the right propane tank capacity for your RV’s extended trips is critical. Carefully assess your expected fuel consumption based on appliances used, trip duration, weather, and refill access. Typical 30-40 gallon tanks suit most long vacations, but bringing extra reserves never hurts. Propane is an exceptionally useful fuel for off-grid travelers when handled properly. With the right preparations, it can reliably power all the comforts you need for weeks of memorable adventures on the road.