Buying A Propane Tank - The Ultimate Guide
Updated: Jul 11
Propane, also known as LP Gas or Liquefied Petroleum Gas, has become standard in many American homes and businesses.
According to a study by the National Propane Gas Association in 2017, over 50 million American households use propane fuel in their homes.
With its clean and reliable heat and energy source, propane power and heat are here to stay, but something is slowly changing in the industry:
More home and business owners are buying propane tanks.
What is causing this trend? What are the benefits of owning your propane tank? Should you be looking at local propane tanks for sale and consider purchasing one? What size tank is right for you?
To help answer these questions, the team at Affordable Tank Services is ready to help you. We will take a deep dive into everything you need to know about buying your propane tank!
Let’s get started!
Benefits of Buying A Propane Tank
When you get propane power to a house, business, or farm, you usually have a choice:
You can lease your propane tank from a propane supplier in your area or purchase a tank for yourself.
The default option is to lease a tank, and most Americans take this route. Only 25-30% of propane customers own their propane tank.
So, if the default option is leasing a propane tank, why consider buying your tank?
This is a great question, and let’s get to the answers!
1 - Find the best propane pricing
Flexible propane pricing is the biggest reason why homeowners and businesses choose to buy a propane tank. When you lease a tank, you are required to purchase your propane from that supplier.
This means you are also stuck with their rates and pricing on propane (LP gas).
However, if you buy and own your propane tank, you are free to purchase your propane from any local supplier. This gives you the freedom to shop around and find the best pricing and deals!
2 - No contracts, fees, or minimums
Every propane lease is different, but many come with annual contracts, fees, or pricing minimums.
Many propane companies are happy to lock in a specific price, but they require a certain amount of propane to be purchased. Some providers have a penalty if this minimum isn’t met, and some require annual fees to ensure the pricing.
If you own your propane tank, you are not tied to any company, so you don’t need to worry about any fees, contracts, or minimum usage.
3 - No feeling “trapped” or “stuck”
Leasing a propane tank can quickly feel like you are working with a monopoly. After all, if your contract, pricing, and delivery come from one company, you don’t have much freedom, do you?
Many propane companies have good customer service and treat their customers fairly, but owning your tank gives you complete freedom!
How does owning your tank free you from that “trapped” feeling?
You don’t need to worry about being stuck or trapped with a single company’s customer service or business model. Instead, if you don’t like a particular company’s business model or service, the solution is easy - buy your propane from another company!
4 - Tank customization
When you lease a propane tank, you are not usually allowed to modify the tank or customize it. For some businesses or homeowners, this is not an issue if they can plant bushes around the tanks or hide them.
For others, however, the tank becomes an eyesore on their property.
Owning your propane tank gives freedom to paint and customize your tank. You can paint it to blend better with the surroundings. For safety reasons, there are several recommendations on how this should be done, and you should talk with your local propane installer to make sure you are not violating any safety codes.
Here are a few tips to get you started customizing:
Choose a color that reflects sunlight and heat. White, silver, and other light shades work best.
Remove any rust with a wire brush or heavy sandpaper before painting.
Paint as necessary over time - when you see paint peeling off or rust accumulating
Cons Of Owning Your Propane Tank
Everything has its drawbacks, including owning your propane tank.
Although it comes with many benefits, especially the freedom to price-shop and work with the company you want, buying a propane tank comes with several negatives.
1 - The initial investment cost
Buying a tank is not cheap, and it requires an upfront investment cost to purchase and install the tank.
However, many homes and businesses using large amounts of propane for heating or machinery find they are able to pay off the tank with the propane price savings.
We discuss the cost of propane tanks more in the upcoming section, Choosing The Correct Propane Tank Size.
2- You are liable for your tank
Like everything else you own, you are liable for your tank, service, and installation when you own your tank.
Thankfully, choosing a certified and reliable propane tank installer and service team ensures this liability is minimal. We discuss finding a qualified propane contractor in the section, Hiring the Right Propane Tank Installer.
3 - What happens when you move?
If you are thinking of moving soon, then you need to consider what happens to your tank.
If you don’t have plans to move soon, then this isn’t a concern. However, if you are planning to move, here are some suggestions for dealing with your tank:
Sell your tank to the next owner
Take your tank with you
Sell your tank to a propane tank vendor
Now that we have looked at the pros and cons of owning your propane tank let’s look at some things to watch for when purchasing a tank.
What To Look For With Propane Tanks For Sale
When purchasing a tank, look primarily at the tank’s key features and don't worry about the installation.
Because legally, you need to have a certified and licensed propane contractor do the tank installation and hook up to your propane lines. Unless you are licensed, you should not be installing the tank yourself or connecting the lines.
Safety is a considerable concern with propane, and you don’t want to risk a leak or explosion because the connections and lines were not run correctly.
We'll discuss choosing a reputable installer more in an upcoming section, but for now, here are several things to look for when buying a propane tank.
1 - Is it used or new?
Make sure you know the condition of the tank you are buying!
Used tanks may be cheaper, but their quality is probably lower (depending on their age and care), and they usually have limited or no manufacturer warranty.
2 - Is it a high-quality tank?
Like anything else, propane tanks vary in quality, and you usually “get what you pay for.”
Some manufacturers offer a cheaper tank because they use lower-quality materials or outsource the manufacturing. While this is not always bad, it usually shortens the tank’s life and causes extra repairs and service.
Ask the supplier for a high-quality tank. It may not always be the cheapest, but it saves headaches and cost in the long run!
3 - What is the manufacturer’s warranty?
Quality tank manufacturers are not afraid to stand behind their products - especially when installed by a certified contractor.
Check with your contractor or seller to see what warranties are available. For example, the propane tanks we sell at Affordable Tank Services come with a 5-year warranty on above-ground tanks and a 1-year warranty on underground tanks.
Choosing The Correct Propane Tank Size
There are many propane tank sizes available for a home or business. Custom configurations are possible by coupling several tanks together, depending on your situation.
For example, if you want the tank to be against the building (to avoid trenching and burying the propane lines from the building to the tank), then you need to have a 120-gallon propane tank or smaller.
If you need a lot of propane, you could have several of these placed beside each other. Four of these 120-gallon tanks provide the same amount as a 500-gallon tank.
So, what are the best scenarios to use three of the most common tank sizes - the 120, 500, and 1000-gallon tanks?
If you are interested in a wider variety of sizes, view our blog post on choosing the right propane tank size.
Let’s take a look!
120 Gallon Propane Tank
A quality 120-gallon propane tank has several advantages over larger tanks:
They are the largest propane tank legally allowed against a building (provided they are at least 5 feet from a building vent and at least 10 feet from a source of ignition).
Being installed alongside a building avoids trenching and related costs.
The problem is these tanks are not very large, and when servicing the average home or business, you probably need more than one tank. While multiple tanks work well, it does drive up the cost quickly compared to purchasing a single larger tank.
Smaller homes, such as single or double-wide trailers, usually do well with only one 120-gallon tank.
500 Gallon Propane Tank
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), propane tanks over 120 gallons need to be a minimum of 10 feet from the building. Therefore, you need trenching to install a 500-gallon propane tank and the connecting lines.
500-gallon propane tanks work well for medium-sized homes with propane appliances, such as ovens, water heaters, or central heaters.
These tanks also work for small businesses if the business is only running a water heater and central heater for small office spaces (1500-2000 square feet).
1000 Gallon Propane Tank
The NFPA requires tanks over 500 gallons to be installed a minimum of 25’ from the building for above-ground installations, 10 feet minimum for underground tank installations, and 10’ minimum from a property line.
Knowing these required dimensions is important if your business or home has limited space.
These large tanks work well for large homes or large businesses or farms. Depending on your business’s size, you may need to have several larger tanks installed and connected.
If you aren’t sure which setup is right for you and you are looking for a propane tank installer in Southeast PA, contact the team at Affordable Tank Services - we would love to help you in the process!
See the specifications for both above and underground installations from the NFPA below:
Hiring The Right Installer
As we mentioned previously, part of owning your propane tank is having a certified propane contractor install it for you and take care of connecting all the lines and fittings.
Because propane (LP gas) is explosive and dangerous, codes don't allow “just any contractor” to install and connect your new tank and lines.
As you look for a local propane tank installer, keep the following checklist in mind.
1 - Are they insured?
Because working with propane is dangerous, and because fire and other accidents can occur if something is installed incorrectly, make sure the contractor is fully insured if something goes wrong.
Thankfully, these accidents rarely happen if the installers are properly trained, but it is still a possibility.
2 - Are they licensed and certified?
Each state has different requirements to be a licensed installer in their state. For example, Pennsylvania’s requirements for propane and liquified petroleum gas requirements are here.
Your installer needs to be state-certified! Make sure they have passed all the training and regulations necessary for a safe propane tank installation.
3 - What is their warranty?
New tanks and equipment usually come with a manufacturer’s warranty, but what workmanship or labor warranty does your installer provide?
Again, most of the time, nothing goes wrong. But mistakes do happen, and your contractor should be willing to correct any mistakes they make.
4 - Do they have good customer service?
Many people own their tank to choose a propane provider with good pricing and great customer service, so don’t choose a contractor with poor customer service!
If something should go wrong, you want to be working with a company that stands by its word and its work.
5 - Is the contract clear and specific?
When reviewing the proposal and quote, make sure everything is clear, specific, and easy to understand.
For example, if trenching is required, does the contractor take care of repairing the yard and driveway after trenching, or is this something you need to do?
Or, if you have an underground propane tank, is the contractor responsible for getting rid of the excess dirt, or are you?
Having these things clearly laid out in the proposal keeps you and the contractor on the same page during your installation.
By now, you should have a good idea of knowing whether you should own a propane tank at your home or business. You should have an idea of which size is the best fit for you and several questions you want to ask a contractor before hiring them.
Remember - you can experience the freedom to find the best propane pricing in your area and not be tied down to a propane contract with its fees, penalties, and poor customer service!
If you are ready to work with a local propane tank installer in Southeast PA, contact the team at Affordable Tank Services today by calling 717-548-3926. We offer a variety of tanks for sale and ongoing propane tank services as well. If you are uncertain which tank size or configuration is best for your home or business, we also provide free estimates and advice for your situation.
Experience the freedom of finding the best propane pricing and customer service in your area by having Affordable Tank Services install your complete propane setup. Call us today at 717-548-3926!