Factors to Consider Before Installing an Underground Propane Tank

An image of an underground propane tank.

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Are you considering installing an underground propane tank for your home or commercial building? You’re not alone — National Gas Propane Association statistics show that over 50 million American homes use propane as their primary or secondary energy source.

Underground propane tanks are usually landscape-friendly and safer than above-ground alternatives. If leaks were to occur, their content would seep into the soil or local water, preventing rotten-egg smell or worse fire accidents that would arise if the propane gas leaked into the air. 

Also, buried propane tanks are less exposed to extreme winter or summer temperatures, enabling them to preserve the integrity of their gas content. Despite their numerous benefits, it’s not cast in stone that underground propane tanks will always be the best option. 

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Before installing them, you should assess if they fit your needs. Hence, ensure a successful installation of an underground propane tank by considering important factors beforehand. Let us look at them in detail.

Consider Your Propane Tank Needs

Running out of propane can be a hazard and a burden. Knowing how long your propane tank will last is crucial to avoid running out of fuel during a cookout or heating oil in the wee hours of a freezing winter night.

Before installing underground propane tanks, consider your home’s propane needs. Most tanks range in size from 100 lb, 500 lb, to 1,500 gallons. Usually, residential propane tanks can hold between 100 to 1,000 gallons. 

If your home or building covers 3,300 ft or thereabout, install a 500-gallon underground propane tank. Tanks larger than this are usually reserved for commercial use or higher square footage homes and buildings.

Besides your home’s square footage, here are other factors that might affect your propane consumption:


The more appliances you have relying on the energy from your propane tank, the faster you’ll run out of gas. 

For instance, if your home has just one stove (35 gallons annually) and one clothes dryer (20 gallons annually) plugged into the tank, you’ll only use 55 gallons yearly. 

Comparatively, a building with several furnaces (1,000 gallons annually), water heaters (250 gallons annually), and fireplaces (200 gallons annually) will need a bigger tank and schedule regular refills.

Insulation levels

Is your house properly insulated or prone to heat loss through drafts? A poorly ventilated home requires more heating, leading to higher propane consumption. Therefore, such houses need bigger propane tanks.

Thermostat setting

Higher thermostat settings usually overburden propane furnaces. They force the propane to work harder, causing higher propane consumption.

Several households refill their underground propane tanks once or twice a year. Find a tank that can last this long to avoid too many refills.

What about having a big propane tank in a smaller home? Will the gas go bad after staying too long underground? Fortunately, no — you can store propane forever without affecting its effectiveness. However, propane tanks can only last 20 – 30 years.

Address Your Safety Concerns

While not common, propane tanks can burst and cause fatal fire accidents. Research shows that 600 propane tanks explode in the US every year. While most of these explosions don’t cause severe injuries or loss of property, you shouldn’t throw caution to the wind. You should also educate yourself more on the matter of propane tank pressure.

Extreme temperature fluctuation is one of the leading causes of propane tank explosions. As the temperature increases, the gas in the tank expands.  As a result, the pressure inside the tank increases, forcing it to explode. 

That explains why above-ground propane tanks have the 80% fill rule. If you’ve been keen, you must have noticed standard propane gas gauges never read above 80%, even after a recent refill. The 20% allowance leaves room for expansion. 

If your neighborhood experiences extreme summer temperatures, storing your propane tanks underground is best. As outlined above, underground propane tanks are less exposed to adverse weather conditions. 

As a result, their content will not expand as much as that of an above-ground tank, reducing the possibility of explosions and fire accidents.

Another common cause of propane tank explosions is leaks. When leaks occur in an above-ground tank, the gas escapes into the air. If there’s any flame around the tank, the leaked propane will ignite, causing an explosion. 

Comparatively, in underground propane tanks, leaks seep into the surrounding soil and local water, where they’re not exposed to flames.

Isn’t it dangerous when propane from underground tanks seeps into the local water that surrounding communities tap for their home use? No, it’s not. Propane is an odorless and nontoxic fuel. It cannot contaminate groundwater or soil.

Are Underground Propane Tanks More Expensive?

It’s also crucial to consider the installation cost. Generally, installing underground tanks is more expensive than installing above-ground tanks.

Research shows that the average cost of installing a 100-gallon above-ground tank is about $300. Based on this, a standard 500-gallon above-ground tank would cost approximately $1,500 or less. 

Comparatively, similar studies indicate the median cost of installing 500-gallon propane tanks underground is about $2,500.

Installing buried propane tanks is usually more laborious, explaining the price difference. To correctly install them, you must excavate the ground, dig trenches, lay the tank and pipe, and cover them.  

Also, underground propane tanks are usually larger than above-ground tanks, leading to higher purchase costs. However, when considering cost, you shouldn’t stop at installation. Instead, consider the maintenance expenditures. 

Underground propane tanks usually have less maintenance costs. 

And reasonably so — they’re less exposed to damages from harsh weather conditions and intentional sabotage. Because of this, underground tanks will likely save you more money in the long run.

Underground Tanks Installation Time

In most cases, installing an above-ground propane tank takes a day. However, installing the propane tanks underground will require more time.

Assuming you’re engaging professionals, you first must contact them to schedule the installation. Also, you might need to contact your local government environmental agencies to get the requisite permits. 

These processes can delay the installation process for a few days or weeks. Once the company arrives at your home, they must follow the steps below:

  • Inspection: The installation company will quickly inspect your property to identify an ideal location for laying the tank. We’ll discuss the factors to consider during inspection in subsequent sections of this guide.
  • The prep work: Next, the company will dig a trench for the tank and holes to lay pipes connecting the tank to your house. If you were installing an above-ground tank, they’d level the ground using concrete to ensure the tank has a flat platform.
  • The set-up: The third step is laying the tank in the trench and using pipes to connect it to your home. They’ll then return the soil to over the holes.
  • The test: The final step is testing the propane tank to ensure it functions properly.

As you can see, installing underground tanks is a more detailed process. The whole procedure can take a couple of days.

Scouting A Suitable Location

The rule of thumb is that underground propane tanks should be installed at least 10 feet from your home and exterior appliances. The tank should also be 10 feet from your property’s edge. 

These precautions ensure the tank isn’t exposed to flames that might spark explosions during leaks. Also, ensure the tank has a firm foundation and secure its perimeters, especially if you have vehicular traffic nearby.

Pick A Reputable Company

Identify a trustworthy company with experience installing underground propane tanks in your locality. If you heard the company that’s currently licencing your propane tank is not approaching the installation process seriously, consider switching propane company. Below are a few questions to ask prospects:

  • Which homes or buildings have they served in your area?
  • For how many years have they been installing buried propane tanks?
  • Do they offer 24/7 emergency support?
  • Which tank options do they have?
  • Do they offer regular leak checks?
  • Are they insured?
  • Do they have flexible budget plans?


Compare Propane can help you find reliable, pre-certified propane dealers in your locality. We’ve been connecting consumers with the best propane services companies since 2014. Contact Us today, and let’s help you lower your propane costs.

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Ryan McCabe

Ryan McCabe

Ryan is a home and small business energy expert, having overseen retail propane, heating oil, and HVAC services companies. On ComparePropane, Ryan writes about things that people should know when shopping for or using propane in their homes and businesses. 

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