Best Propane Tank Gauges

Updated November 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best propane tank gauges

Propane is widely available, convenient, and relatively inexpensive. The only problem is that it has a nasty habit of running out when it’s most inconvenient — like when you’re in the middle of grilling those juicy steaks. You could keep a spare tank, of course, but it’s still a pain to have to change it when you’re in the middle of cooking … or if you’re using a propane heater when it’s snowing outside.

The solution is a propane tank gauge, a quick and easy-to-use indicator of the amount of gas you’ve got left. Propane tank gauges are very affordable, but when choosing one, there are one or two things you’ll want to consider. In this guide, we investigate those important issues, so you walk away with the correct gauge.

Read on for a detailed account of your options, answers to several important questions, and our offering of the best propane tank gauges on the market.

Before you order, check the fitting carefully. If you have the older POL connector, you may need a converter for a newer QCC1/Type 1 connector now found on most gas bottles.

Gauges, indicators, and scales

The most popular type of propane tank gauge is the simple dial gauge. This straightforward screw-in device fits in moments and offers the quick and easy-to-read information you need. We’ll look at the key points in a moment, but before we do, we ought to take a look at two alternatives.

The first alternative is the magnetic gas tank bottle indicator. These devices cost very little and simply stick to the outside of the tank. They are temperature activated and designed to show where the gas level is because, inside the tank, the temperature where it’s filled with propane differs from the temperature where it’s filled with air.

Note that around 20% of buyers say these devices don’t work. The correct positioning is critical. A metal gas tank bottle indicator can show you the level if it’s placed close to where it can sense the difference, but with a near-full or near-empty bottle, that’s more difficult. Performance is improved if gas is actually being used because the temperature difference is more pronounced. Still, it’s still a bit hit-and-miss for our liking.

The second alternative is the propane tank gauge scale. The concept is straightforward: a standard 20-pound propane tank has a known weight when full. As gas is used, it gets lighter. Using a scale with an indicator attached, you hook it onto the handle, lift the tank, and learn how full it is.

The drawback here is that you have to physically lift the propane tank. That’s feasible if the tank is a freestanding one, but many barbecues, grills, and heaters have their propane tank contained within the cabinet. Taking your propane tank out of the cabinet every time you want to weigh it is not really practical.

Due to the aforementioned reasons, screw-in propane tank gauges are often the devices of choice. What exactly should you look for when choosing? Here’s a look at the key features.

Caution
Don’t leave a propane tank in a vehicle for longer than it takes to transport it and never store a propane tank in the house or basement. If you don’t have traditional outdoor storage, cover it with a tarp.
STAFF
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Features

Material: Many of the best propane tank gauges are made mostly of brass. Because brass is slightly softer than steel, the fittings tend to create a better seal when tightened. Brass is also highly resistant to corrosion. The threaded connector is usually made of hard plastic or nylon and is designed to be manipulated by hand so you don’t need any additional tools.

Connector type: It’s important to choose the right kind of connector. There are two. One is the POL connector, originally called Prest-O-Lite. Older equipment may have this connector, which is also often seen on 100-pound residential propane tanks. The other is QCC1/Type 1, which you’ll generally find on the common 20-pound propane tanks. If you use the latter often and have a POL fitting on your grill or stove, it may be worth looking at a converter. They aren’t expensive.

Dial: The dial itself usually has very basic markings. The cover can be glass or plastic. You may prefer a plastic dial because it doesn’t scratch as easily as glass.

Splitter: A splitter can be very convenient. It allows you to hook up two propane gas tanks at the same time. You can either run them together or quickly switch from one to the other when one runs out.

Gauge body length: You might want to think about the length of the gauge body, particularly if you’re combining it with a regulator. If your gauge has to fit inside a cabinet, this is particularly important.

Leak detection: Some propane tank gauges are purported to offer leak detection, but that’s a bit dubious. Basically, if the gauge is going down faster than expected, you’ve got a leak. Notably, these gauges don’t provide any kind of audible warning.

Dust cap: Most propane tank gauges have a dust cap to prevent crud from getting in when not in use, though only on one end. It’s probably a good idea to keep it in a poly bag or similar, as it would be all too easy for particles of dirt or grit to block the narrow hole where the gauge attaches to the tank.

Expert Tip
If you have a large propane gas storage tank, it’s usually recommended that you call your supplier for a refill when the gauge shows 25%. Below 10%, the pressure drop makes readings unreliable, and you may be closer to running out than you think. If it runs out, your supplier will probably have to conduct a leak test before they resupply.
STAFF
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Propane tank gauge prices

Prices for propane tank gauges are all very similar. We like the fact that price isn’t much of a factor because you can concentrate on finding the right solution for your needs.

Magnetic tank level indicators tend to cost $6 to $8. Tank scales and in-line gauges range from $10 to $15. The only time you’d pay more is if you needed a converter or you wanted a gauge with a longer hose. Even then, you’d be unlikely to pay more than $25.

Caution
Propane tanks are tough but not indestructible. If you suspect yours is damaged, do not attempt to use it.
STAFF
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Tips

  • Be aware of carbon monoxide dangers. While it’s in the tank, propane is in liquid form and is nontoxic. However, when it burns, it gives off carbon monoxide gas. You can’t see or smell it, but it’s poisonous and can be lethal.
  • Understand where it’s safe to use your propane-fueled item. Barbecues and grills should only be used outdoors. Some propane gas fires are safe to use indoors because they have sensors that can detect excess carbon monoxide and will turn the flame off. If that happens, ventilate the space to allow the carbon monoxide to dissipate. Your equipment should not reignite until the level has fallen.
  • Inspect your equipment for faults that could lead to danger. Watch for perished or cracked rubber tubing, and replace at the first sign of damage. Check pipework on barbecues and grills at the start of the season for rust or loose connections, too.
  • Never use a propane gas device if you can smell gas. Depending on the installation, you should find the source of the leak yourself or call a professional.
Propane and butane are both liquified petroleum gases (LPGs), but they are not the same. Equipment is usually designed to run on one or the other, and while conversion is often technically possible, performance may suffer.

FAQ

Q. Is a propane gas gauge the same as a regulator?
A.
No. A regulator controls the flow of gas. In effect, it restricts flow in order to maintain equal pressure as the tank empties (though in practice, pressure does usually drop a little as the tank drains). A gas tank gauge monitors pressure, so as it starts to drop, the indicator moves into the “Low gas” or “Refill” areas.

Many appliances, barbecues for instance, need a constant pressure supply. Therefore, you may need a regulator and gas gauge in tandem. Grills and barbecues are often supplied with a regulator, so you may have one of those already.
 

Q. Can I use a propane tank gauge on a 1-pound bottle?
A:
We weren’t able to find one, and we’re not sure if there’s sufficient flow from a tank that small to make a gas gauge worthwhile. However, if you want to upgrade, you can get an adapter hose to convert your 1-pound device to use a 20-pound tank with a propane gas gauge built in.
 

Q. Can I use a propane tank gauge on a butane gas bottle?
A.
No. There are two reasons for this. First, the fitting is different, so you can’t accidentally put propane on a butane device or vice versa. Second, butane is kept at a much lower pressure, so the gauge wouldn’t read properly.

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