How Much Propane Does an RV Stove Use?


how much propane stove lg

Propane is a safe and affordable fuel source that’s used on virtually all RVs. Naturally, the last thing you want is to discover you don’t have enough. If you use the cooktop a lot, you may have wondered how much propane does an RV stove use?

Here’s what I know from mine:

RV stoves use relatively little propane. On average, a gallon of propane approximates 92,000 BTU. And the average RV stove has 1 main burner that is 9000 BTUs, with 2 adjacent burners that are 6500 BTUs. Even with all 3 burners used daily, it would still take months for the average RV to need a refill.

One has to divide this by the specific stove’s BTU rating to determine how much propane is used.

Because of the many factors that go into propane use, it is difficult to get an exact figure that represents actual usage. But one can always get a very close estimate, and that’s good enough.

It’s smart to use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of the stove’s propane consumption for the first few weeks. Over time, you’ll be able to have an estimate of how much propane the other appliances consume too.

In this article, we’ll explore how long the most common propane tank sizes would last and the BTU of the average stove.

By the way, did you know that propane tanks are filled to 80% capacity? The 20% that’s not filled is to allow the propane space to expand. This is done to prevent the risk of explosion.

Let’s dive right in.

What are the different RV propane tank sizes?

Class C RVs have propane tanks ranging between 20-40 gallons, Fifth Wheel RVs often have tank sizes between 40-60, while Class A RVs often have propane tanks of 80-100 gallons. Travel trailers and Class B RVs often have 20-gallon tanks.

Let’s check out the different available sizes. I’ll share their distinguishing characteristics. Also, be aware that these tanks get referred to by both pounds and gallons, and those numbers are not going to be the same.

20 lb tank:

It’s the most common size and is naturally portable.

It can be easily exchanged or taken to be refilled. Its capacity is 5 gallons. It is 18” tall and has a diameter of 12”.

You could buy 4 so that you always have a couple available in case you run out. There’ll be no need to worry, seeing as you’ll still have about 2 or 3 left.

Of course, how often you’ll run out ultimately depends on how heavy your consumption is. 20 lb tanks are used a lot for grills and barbecues.

33 lb tank:

This is also incredibly common as it’s portable, too. It has a capacity of 8 gallons, and it’s 2 feet tall and 1 foot in diameter. You can easily exchange it at a refill station for a fresh tank.

100 lb tank:

It has a capacity of about 25 gallons, and it’s 4 feet tall with an 18” diameter. It’s not portable and is typically built into Class A RVs, but they are easy to refill at campgrounds that offer propane refilling services.

2x 100-lb tank setup:

Here, two tanks are connected, and there’s a switchover valve that ensures that when one is exhausted, it automatically switches to the spare. There is a red/green indicator showing when to replace the first tank.

My RV, a 2020 Newmar Bay Star, has a 106 lb tank that holds 25 gallons of propane. I’ve taken it out on 2 month-long trips in addition to a few shorter trips and only had to refill my tank once.

Even then, it was only down to 50% when I opted to fill it up. So propane is incredibly efficient.

Considering living in your RV full time?

I devoted a recent article of mine to this issue. In it, I explored 25 crucial pros and cons of living in an RV. You can move to where the weather is better, and you save money on ongoing maintenance. Some of the cons include being away from family and friends, having to shop for groceries more often, and having to place stuff in storage.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Are RV propane tanks measured in pounds or gallons?

RV propane tanks are often expressed both in the gallon capacity as well as the weight of the tank itself. Generally speaking, the number of gallons will typically be 25% of the number of pounds.

For example, my tank holds 25 gallons of propane and is a 106-pound tank.

So don’t be surprised when you see one set of numbers or the other. Ultimately the gallons number is the one you want to pay attention to. The larger that number, the less often you’ll have to fill it up.

How long does a 20 lb propane tank last in an RV?

A 20 lb propane tank should last the average family of 4 approximately 3 weeks of fairly regular usage, assuming it is powering the heat, the hot water heater, refrigerator, and the stove.

Let’s unpack the above.

The BTU is used to measure the output of the stove’s burners. If you’re using 3 burners at once (if that’s your thing), you’ll naturally consume more propane, and the combined BTUs would be greater than if you were just using one burner.

It’s a no-brainer, right?

You’ll need to know the BTU for the furnace, the heater, refrigerator, barbecue grills…Now, the fact that an appliance has a BTU of 2000 does not mean that’s what’s used each time.

Take the stove, if the burners are being used to warm something you’ve cooked before, the flames would most likely be turned down low, as against if you wanted to cook something for the first time.

This would also affect the BTU since it implies that when the flames are low, the BTU would be low, too. This applies to all appliances. If they’re turned up to a high setting, you’ll have higher BTUs and higher propane consumption.

Now, we have a background for understanding how long the propane in a 20lb tank would last. We’ll need to know the BTUs of the 20lb propane tank and the total BTU rating of all the appliances we’re using. To know how long, we‘ll divide the former by the latter.

A 20lb tank holds about 4.6 gallons of propane when full, and a gallon of propane is approximately equivalent to 92,000 BTUs. Say all the appliances have a BTU rating of 45,000 combined. A gallon would last for about 2 hours (92,000/45000), while the whole tank of 20lb would last 9.2 hours (that’s 2hours x 4.6).

A 20lb tank would last about 9.2 hours (based on the assumptions we made above). That’s, of course, running continuously, which you wouldn’t be doing.

How long does a 30 lb propane tank last in an RV?

A 30 lb propane tank should last the average family of 4 approximately 4.5 weeks of fairly regular usage, assuming it is powering the heat, the hot water heater, refrigerator, and the stove.

Let’s explore what the above implies.

Virtually everything we’ve explored in the section above applies here, too. So, just as we did earlier, we are going to divide the total number of BTU we’ll get from the 30lb tank propane with the total BTU of all the appliances you’re using in the RV.

A 30lb tank size holds 7 gallons. A gallon of propane is about 92,000 BTUs. So, total BTUs of the 30lb tank size is 92,000 x 7 = 644,000 BTUs. Let’s assume that the combined BTUs of all appliances used is 60,000. The tank would last for 10.7 hours (644,000/60,000).

The number of hours is an estimate. After all, it’s based on some assumption. In real life, it’s good to have a spreadsheet to track the actual numbers (in so far as they can be accurately tracked).

To know the actual BTU of an appliance, check the owner’s manual. In some cases, it’s often written on a tag attached to the appliance.

What are some of the reasons why your RV’s furnace may not be working? 

In a recent article of mine, I explained that it’s often because of dirty air filters or insufficient battery voltage. If you have checked your air filters, it may be time to connect to shore power to recharge your batteries.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How long does a 100 lb propane tank last in an RV?

A 100 lb propane tank should last the average family of 4 approximately 3.75 months of fairly regular usage, assuming it is powering the heat, the hot water heater, refrigerator, and the stove.

Let’s unpack the above.

What we explored in the section above applies here, too. So, just as we did earlier, we are going to divide the total number of BTU we’ll get from the 100lb tank propane with the total BTU of all the appliances you’re using in the RV.

A 100lb tank size holds 25 gallons.

A gallon of propane is about 92,000 BTUs. So, total BTUs of the 100lb tank size is 92,000 x 25 = 2,300,000 BTUs. Let’s assume that the combined BTUs of all appliances used is 230,000 (for ease of computation). The tank would last for 10 hours (2,300,000/230,000).

The number of hours above is an estimate. After all, it’s based on assumptions. In real life, it’s good to have a spreadsheet to track the actual numbers (in so far as they can be accurately tracked).

To know the actual BTU of an appliance, check the owner’s manual. In some cases, it’s also written on a tag attached to the appliance.

How many BTUs is the average RV stove?

As a general rule, in most newer RVs, the front burner will be 9000 BTU, while the two back burners will be 6,500 each. That’s a total of 22,000 BTU.

The fact is that because there are different designs, the BTU rating varies.

If you’ve got a small RV, it would most likely come with a small stove, while some rigs (the bigger ones) would most likely come with a range, a combo that’s got a stove, and an oven. It stands to reason that the BTU would be higher.

The most common are the two-burner designs with a combined average BTU of 13,000.

So, you’re considering dry camping? Awesome. You won’t have access to freshwater, dump stations, or electricity. So, you’ve got to be proactive.

How long can you enjoy dry camping before you run out of power and holding tank capacity?

I bet that’s a crucial question on your mind. It’s all in the planning. In a recent article of mine, I showed that 14 days is typically the time frame most RVers dry camp before needing to charge their batteries, dump their tanks, and add gas or oil to their generator. Check it out for the full lowdown.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

We looked at the different propane tank sizes available, the number of gallons in each, and an estimate of how long they would last.

We looked at how much a 20lb, 30lb, and 100lb propane tank would last.

Some rigs come already installed with the appropriate tank, while some allow you to decide. If it’s the latter, you want to have at least one extra cylinder.

We found out that a couple of variables determine actual consumption and that it’s difficult to get an exact figure. But, essentially, we’re considering the total BTU of the specific propane tank divided by the combined total of the BTUs of all the appliances being powered by propane.

And, we concluded by checking out the average BTU of an average RV stove.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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