It always happens right after the burgers go on the grill (or when you’re trying to heat up your outdoor space). The propane tank goes, and you are left with two options.
You can run to the store to either refill or exchange a propane tank.
While the Captain’s family always has a spare propane tank lying around, I know many folks haven’t prepared for this emergency. To the store you go!
However, while you’re there you may wonder whether it’s cheaper to refill or exchange a propane tank. If this describes you, read on!
Advantages of Exchanging Your Propane Tank
There are many advantages of exchanging your propane instead of refilling it.
Exchanging is Easy
It is effortless to find a place to exchange a tank.
Almost any grocery store and many gas stations have an area where you can exchange a propane tank. This is great when you need an exchange at a later or earlier time of the day.
Exchanging Doesn’t Require an Inspection
When you exchange a tank, you hand it over to the store employee, and they hand you a new one.
The process takes no time at all. There is usually no inspecting of tanks as long as you have one that was recently inspected.
Exchanging is Safe
When you get the propane tank from the employee, do a quick once over to make sure there is no noticeable damage or rust. Then, you should be good to go!
If you have a problem with the tank, many local retailers will help to remedy this issue for you. Since these retailers have to inspect tanks continually, chances are your tank should have no problems.
Disadvantages of Exchanging Your Propane Tank
You don’t really know what you are getting.
Sure, you know that it is propane, but you also aren’t exactly sure how much is really in it. Exchange tanks are partially empty to allow room for the gas to expand, but exchange tanks are only filled about ¾ of the way.
Higher Cost Per Gallon
An exchange tank is only guaranteed to be about 15 pounds out of a max of 20 pounds. A refill tank can be filled more, and the cost per gallon is quite a bit lower.
You May Not Be Able To
If you have an ancient propane tank that has not been inspected in a long time, you will likely not be able to exchange it. At this point, you will be left having to purchase an entirely new tank and have it filled.
It’s hard to say which one is truly the cheapest when you take into consideration the fact that the refilled tanks have quite a bit more propane in them than the exchange.
When it comes to convenience, many people will say that the exchange tank is the way to go.
You won’t have to worry about maintenance or inspections on your tank, and you can simply hand it over and get a new one. For most people who are using propane tanks for grills or gas fireplaces, this exchange will likely only happen a few times a year.
How To Know If Your Propane Tank is Ready for Refill Or Exchange
There are two pretty simple ways to determine if your propane tank is empty.
The first option is to pour some warm water down the side of the tank. After you pour the water, then you can rub your hand along the side and feel for the cold spot. This should give you a general idea of where the propane level is in the tank.
Another option is to weigh the propane tank physically. On the label of the propane tank, you should see a number displaying the Tare Weight. The Tare Weight is the weight of the container when it is empty. If you weigh your tank and it is 25 lbs, and the tare weight is 17lbs, then you know you have about 8lbs of propane left in your tank.
One of the best ways to save money on a propane exchange is to make sure that you use all of the propane in your tank before bringing it in!
Where Can I Refill/Exchange My Outdoor Propane Tank?
If you’ve never dealt with an empty propane tank before, you may be wondering where to go when you want to refill or exchange yours.
I’m happy to tell you that most gas stations and grocery stores offer the ability to exchange your old propane tank for a new one. This makes exchanging propane tanks a very convenient option!
However, if you want to refill one, you may have to take a different approach. Dedicated propane sellers exist, and searching for “propane vendors near me” might produce some great results.
Alternatively, U-Haul and other movers often have large propane tanks on site. You could call and ask them!