Forklift Propane Tanks: Power and Sizes

An image of a forklift in a warehouse.

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Propane-powered forklifts are the favorite of most businesses when it comes to their loading needs. Whether unloading or loading tracks, vending machines, hoisting merchandise on shelves, or moving materials on project sites, propane-powered forklifts will get the job done. 

Propane-fueled forklifts are more powerful, efficient, and easy to operate when compared to electric or diesel ones. Of course, you know propane forklifts are fueled by mounted propane tanks.

But do you know forklift propane tanks come in different powers and sizes? Understanding this is essential to matching the right tank with forklift power needs and model. This is the essence of today’s article. 
We will discuss everything you need to know about propane tanks for forklifts: their sizes, power, material, and weight, among other details.

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What Kind of Propane Tank Is in a Forklift?

Most forklifts, or over 90%, use the 8-gallon/33 pounds propane tanks. When filled, an 8-gallon tank can run the forklift for up to 8 hours, equivalent to a whole workday. But keep in mind all forklift propane tank sizes are not equal. Therefore the kind of propane tank on a forklift depends on several other factors.

Here are a few of them below.

The Size and Model of Forklift

The 8-gallon forklift is not the only propane tank used by forklifts. Using 10-gallon(43-pound) tanks is also an option. The 10-gallon are mounted on larger forklifts with larger engines to provide more power for heavier loading requirements. 

But in general, these types of forklifts are uncommon as though powerful they are inefficient too. In contrast, the 8-gallon propane tank size lasts 8 hours, and the 10-gallon tanks only last 6 hours.

Attachments on the Forklift

Some forklifts have double-load carriers meaning they can lift more than one pallet. But of course, that means they carry more loads and hence do more work. That is why they consume more fuel and require larger forklift propane tank sizes.

Engine Fuel Efficiency

Whether using the 8-gallon or the 10-gallon tanks, fuel usage also depends on the engine’s efficiency. Properly maintained engines consume less propane and need a smaller tank.

Can I Use a Regular Propane Tank on a Forklift?

So your forklift tank has finished, and the only available option is to use the home-use propane tank. You can substitute it, right? No, you can’t. And there is a good reason for that. Manufacturers configure both types of tanks for specific uses because of the way they consume propane. Just like propane pool heaters, forklift engines utilize propane in liquid form, unlike cooking appliances or fireplace that use it in gaseous form.

Consequently, the two tanks differ on several levels. This ranges from their fittings, connections, and positioning of the tank – therefore the way tank parts are positioned varies. Regular home-use tanks lack some of the fittings in the forklift tanks because of the difference in the functioning mechanism.

In addition, you place your propane tanks for forklifts horizontally so that it is easy to draw propane in liquid form. We know some users buy adaptors and modify them for this purpose. But is it worth all the risk?

Propane is a highly flammable and hazardous substance. Manufacturers go through a rigorous process to configure the right setting. Therefore, making modifications is upsetting these configurations, a recipe for fire or explosion hazards. That is why even government energy use regulators recommend only tanks designed explicitly for powering forklifts.

Forklift Tank Materials and Weight

The material used in making forklift tanks fall into either of two categories; steel and aluminum. Each of the materials has its pros and cons. Steel is generally sturdier than aluminum, making their tanks more fitting in industrial settings. 

However, with the benefit of sturdiness also comes its major downside; its weight. Steel is heavier than aluminum by far. For example, an 8-gallon steel cylinder weighs 35 pounds when empty and 70 when filled. 

In contrast, an empty aluminum one is much lighter. The tank weighs 23 pounds and 56 pounds when full. The difference might look minor but can be significant when refilling the gallons. More time and effort are required in removing and returning them from the forklift.
And that is why aluminum types are the preferred tanks in establishments with low use requirements for forklifts. Other benefits of aluminum are its versatility and ability to withstand areas with possible corrosive effects.

How Do You Fill a Propane Tank on a Forklift?

Propane tanks for forklifts filling are mostly done within establishments but in designated areas. This method is more convenient and allows work to continue without much interruption.

Typically, forklift tanks are filled from larger propane reserve tanks, for example, 500-gallon propane tanks installed with the requisite refill fittings. However, remember that it is a regulatory requirement that only qualified professionals should do the refilling.

Before embarking on the process, we recommend standard measures to avoid hazards.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Ensure to wear personal protective equipment such as gloves and eye protection. Other than flammability, propane can affect your health. Inhaling a significant amount of propane can cause asphyxia and these scenarios are known to happen in garage settings. Also, wearing protective gloves keeps you from frostbite.
  • Avoid smoking or any flame within 25ft. We have flammability numerous times in this discussion. And that is because of how critical it is when using propane. Using propane is just a minor mistake away from fire. You should do the refilling adhering to the stipulated safety distances.
  • Ensure the tank is in good condition. Before commencing the refilling, make sure to do a thorough inspection of it. Look out for dents, tank pressure, corrosion, and other weaknesses in its structure. Avoid refilling tanks with these weaknesses.
  • The tanks should have all the fittings and connections working. This is another essential part to check out for its weaknesses. Especially inspect the service valves for leakages and proper functioning.
  • Make sure that the tank is empty by slightly opening the bleeder gauge. It is critical that you only fill empty tanks. Filling when they have residual gas or are half full will not work. Once you open the bleeder gauge, only vapor will come out if the tank is empty. Make sure you fill up the tank with an industry-standard 80% rule.

Another thing is to check that it is well-mounted. Improperly mounted tanks might appear empty, even when half full, stalling the forklift engine. An adequately installed tank should have its dip tube at the bottom of the horizontally placed tank. Placing it that way ensures the entire propane is drawn.

Once satisfied with the precautionary checking, you can fill the propane tank. 

Here is how to do it in a few simple steps.

  • 1. Park the forklift and stabilize it with a parking brake. You do not want the forklift to wobble or move around as you refuel. You need a stable environment.
  • 2. Turn the tank service valve clockwise to shut it off
  • 3. Open the male quick connection from the female connection by turning it anticlockwise.
  • 4. Unclump the tank from the fastened position on the forklift and lift it down.
  • 5. Open the storage tank outlet valve by turning it anticlockwise until it is open. How wide you open depends on whether it is a globe or a ball valve. For the globe valve, turn it until it is entirely open. For ball valves, a quarter turn is enough.
  • 6. Gently open the hose end valve and open the maximum level propane gauge.
  • 7. Release the fuel until up to the instant where you observe white fog from the maximum liquid level propane gauge.
  • 8. Shut the hose end valve, switch off the pump, and close the gauge.
  • 9. Gently unscrew the hose end valve to ensure sufficient venting and complete pressure relief before removing it.
  • 10.  Return the hose to its holder, and close the outlet valve on the storage tank.

That is it! You filled your tank. You can now mount it back to the forklift and continue with the loading work.

Final Thoughts

Powering your forklifts is an excellent way to move your merchandise around your business premises. As we found, it is not only efficient but convenient. But without understanding forklift tanks, this can be challenging. 

It is only by knowing you can figure out the best-fit tank for your forklift. Is it the 8-gallon or the 10-gallon? How long will the tank last? How do you refill it? In addition, you need to know the best-fit material for your forklift needs. This article has provided all the information you need to determine the best forklift propane tank sizes for your work.

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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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