Does Cold Temperature Truly Affect the Level Gauge on a Propane Tank?
Similar to nearly all other kinds of materials, propane is affected by cold temperatures. When the temperature declines, the propane gas contracts. That reduced level of gas inside the tank is reflected by the gauge which reflects the tank level. Usually, this comes into play whenever a homeowner checks the gauge during cold conditions and sees the amount of the tank level before and after delivery. Depending on the conditions, the level on the tank may not go up as much as expected.
Propane Tank Level Gauge
The propane tank's gauge shows you what percentage of the tank is full. Normally, tanks are not filled more than 80% so as to allow the gas to expand during warm temperatures. For example, a 500 gallon tank, at a reading of 80% at normal temperatures reflects about 400 gallons of propane in the tank. This is roughly the amount that is able to be stored.
The web site Propane 101, that is operated by the propane industry, considers an exterior temperature of 60 degrees to be the baseline or reference point. Like for example, if the gauge reads 50% of capacity on a day when the temperature is near 60 degrees, then a 500 gallon tank will contain approximately 250 gallons of propane. If the temperature that same day is much lower than 60 degrees, the gauge will read lower. In the same way, if the temperature is a lot higher than 60 degrees, the gauge will actually read higher due to the expansion of the gas.
Effect of Expansion and Contraction
According to the information provided by the propane industry website, the amount of energy contained in the tank does not really change as the gas expands or contracts. The amount of propane itself has not changed, but only the density of the gas has changed.
The homeowner who orders 100 gallons of propane would be given roughly 424 lbs. of propane. With the delivery of 100 gallons, the homeowner with a 1000 gallon propane tank could expect the guage to go up by 10%. These numbers will be correct if the temperatures were close to 60 degrees at the time of delivery. If the delivery took place during colder weather conditions, these chillier temperatures will cause a smaller increase reading on the propane gauge.