How to Read Oil and Propane Tank Gauge: Newbie Friendly Guide

How to Read Oil and Propane Tank Gauge: Newbie Friendly Guide

Have faith in me, to know how to read a tank gauge is arguably the most important thing if you have an oil or propane tank. Not having this skill might source a disastrous accident. And nobody wants such incidents, right?

Hearing the phrase “reading a tank gauge” might evoke two different reactions – either “it’s the simplest job” or “is it that important?”. However, in both cases – if you ignore its importance or don’t know what it is – you might encounter unexpected incidents centering the oil or propane tank.

Within a short time, you’ll know why.

Yes, it’s quite a simple job to read a tank gauge. But the problem is if you make a mistake while taking the reading of the tank gauge, it might cause you and your family members a lot of sufferings. There is a proverb that says “A stitch in time saves nine.” I hope you can relate.

In this article, I’ll discuss the process of how to take readings from an oil or propane tank. Just sit tight and read till the end carefully.

First things first. As oil and propane tank gauge measurements have slight but important difference, I’ll deal with them separately.

Oil Tank Gauge

Generally, oil tank is a huge metal tank and is usually located in the basement of your house. If it’s not there, it must be outside but close to your house. There is no chance that the oil tank will remain unnoticed if your house has one. I’m sure you already know where it is.

If you look at the tank, you’ll easily find a transparent tube made of glass or plastic on top of the tank. Look closely; there is a red float inside the tube. And the transparent tube has some labels on it that might read like these: ¼, ½, ¾, F.

These marks will tell you how much fuel is there in the tank. If the red float is at mark ¼, it means three fourth of the fuel is already consumed.

Now, you may ask how do I determine the specific amount? Well, it solely depends on the size of your tank. In general, the red float reads F or Full when the oil tank is approximately 80%-85% full. So, you can make a quick calculation if you know the size of your tank.

For example, if the tank that is marked as 275-gallon, it will contain around 225 gallons of oil when the red float is at mark F. This is the most common size of tank that is used in oil-heated houses.

So, the red float at mark ¼ means some 55 gallons of oil; at mark ½ means 110 gallons and at mark ¾ means approximately 170 gallons remaining.

How do I Know that the Gauge is Properly Working?

Now, this is a very important question. Because it is quite natural that you won’t visit your oil tank very often. If you get confused whether the gauge is working or not, carefully open the outer case of the tube. Then press the red float softly downward. If the gauge is properly working, the red float will bump up to its previous position.

Otherwise, you must contact an expert to handle the situation. When you are done with checking, don’t forget to put the outer case as it was.

Propane Tank Gauge

Now, if you look at a propane tank, you’ll find the fill pipe, the emergency vent, the shut-off vent and the gauge on the top of the tank. In some cases, you might find a regulator valve as well.

If the gauge is not on the top, you’ll find it at any side of the tank connected to the valve. The propane tank gauge is something like a circular dial that has big black numbers on it.

You should know that propane tank must not be filled 100%. Why? Because, the boiling temperature of propane is -44 degree Fahrenheit. So, when propane liquid is stored in the tank, it is boiling inside. I was astonished when I heard the first time!

As you know a gaseous form of any substance consumes more space than the liquid form. That’s why some space of the tank is left empty for the propane gas to fill that space.

And the propane gas that gets stored in the upper side of the tank is used through the valve to run your appliances. When an empty space is created due to the usage of the gas, the propane liquid automatically turns into vapor and fill up that space.

So, it doesn’t matter how big your tank is, consider your tank full if the gauge reads 80% full. Generally, your propane provider won’t attempt refilling your tank if the gauge reads nearly 65% to avoid overloading your tank.

The best time to call for a refill delivery is when the gauge reads 30% to 25% or bellow.

Here are two charts that will tell you the amount of fuel based on the gauge reading:

Propane Tank

Tank Size

Gauge Reading

25% 50% 65% 80%
28 gallon 7 14 28 22
58 gallon 15 29 38 46
118 gallon 30 59 77 94
120 gallon 30 60 78 96
250 gallon 63 125 163 200
325 gallon 81 163 211 260
500 gallon 125 250 325 400
1000 gallon 250 500 650 800



Tank Size

Gauge Reading

¼ ½ ¾ Full
275 gallon 60 120 180 240
330 gallon 75 150 225 300
550 gallon 120 240 360 480

Finally, a bit of advice. Don’t neglect to take reading of your oil or propane tank gauge periodically. Fuel consumption varies time to time depending on the usage of your home appliances. And the usage eventually depends on weather, occasions, parties, etc.

So, if you take the gauge reading periodically, you’ll be able to order for refueling your tank without facing any emergency situation. Nobody likes to face an emergency, or do you? Plus,it’s hard to make the right decision in case of emergency. I’m sure you don’t like that either.

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