How To Figure Out The Grilling Hours You'll Get From A Propane Tank

The debate between charcoal-fueled and gas-powered grills is ongoing, with seasoned grillers having firm opinions on the matter. However, gas grills are faster at heating up, have cleaner fuel, are easier to set up and clean up, and are better for the casual griller. One issue with propane fuel, though, is that you can't visually gauge how much is still inside the tank, unlike charcoal, which is often sold in large bags. And while the gallons can be a helpful indicator, it can be hard to understand what that number translates to in grilling hours. 

Most home grills use 20-gallon propane tanks and expend 1 to 2 gallons each time you grill, primarily if you use higher heat. This evens to anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of grill time on average. However, this is estimated for medium-sized home grills. But this isn't an accurate assumption if you have a smaller gas grill. The same can be said for large, heavy-duty home grills. No one wants to unexpectedly run out of propane before a grill out. Luckily, there's a way you can calculate the specific burn rate for your grill and propane tank.

Calculating the burn rate

You'll need to know a few things before jumping into the burn rate calculations. For one, determine how many BTUs your grill uses in an hour. This will usually be available on the box, in the operation manual, or online. This will determine how many pounds of propane the appliance will consume per hour. A grill that burns through 10,000 BTUs per hour only uses 0.5 pounds of propane, whereas a 20,000 BTU grill uses 0.9 pounds, and a 30,000 BTU grill uses 1.4 pounds.

Next, you'll need to locate the weight of your propane tank. Most grills use 15 to 20-pound tanks, which should be indicated somewhere on the top of the tank, if not on the label itself. Take this number, and divide it by the propane used per hour. So, if you have a 20-pound propane tank and a grill with 20,000 BTUs, divide 20 by 0.9, which will get you the total hours the tank will burn — 22.22 hours, in this instance.