Although more expensive than standard steel propane tanks, the relatively new fiberglass propane tanks from Lite Cylinder and Clear View offer a number of advantages for different uses, including as the fuel tank for Lehr propane outboard engines on boats. Fiberglass tanks are available in the standard 20 lb size as well as 10 and 25 lb sizes.
Advantages of Fiberglass Tanks
- Fiberglass is lighter than steel. The 20 lb Lite Cylinder fiberglass tank weighs less than 13 lbs empty, compared to about 17 lbs for an average steel tank. This makes a real difference when lugging the tank in for a refill.
- Fiberglass doesn't rust. While few steel tanks rust seriously in their 12-year lifespan, fiberglass (encased in a heavy plastic carrying case) never rusts or leaves rust stains where it is used. This is even more important when using the tank on a boat in a harsh marine environment.
- The fiberglass is translucent, allowing easy inspection of the propane level remaining. With a steel tank you have to weigh it or pour hot water over it to feel the propane level by temperature difference.
- Like steel, the fiberglass tank carries no significant risk of fire or explosion.
- The fiberglass tank has a flat bottom and is easily stacked.
- These fiberglass tanks meet all standards for approval.
I tested the 20 lb Lite Cylinder tank both at home on an outdoor grill and on a small sailboat running a propane outboard motor. It performed flawlessly as advertised, was easy to carry and move about, and wiped clean of spills. Being able to see the remaining propane fuel remaining in the tank was for me an advantage worth the cost.
- The primary disadvantage is the higher cost. The best price I found online with free shipping was $89 for a standard 20 lb tank, compared to an average steel tank cost of about $40 to $45.
- Because the top of the fiberglass tank is somewhat different from the steel tank, it may not easily fit some outdoor grills in which the tank is mounted in part by the steel ring on the top. (The actual tank dimensions are virtually the same, however, so the tank will fit inside a standard compartment.)
- Although I could find no data on the force required to puncture or crack the fiberglass tank, it would seem as strong as a standard steel tank and has no vulnerable seams or welds.
Since this is a boating site, and primary use for a propane tank is either to power a propane outboard or a propane cooking stove, the great benefit is the durability of fiberglass in marine environments, as well as the secondary benefit of its lighter weight when the tank is carried onto the boat or wrestled into its storage compartment. Along with the ability to determine how much fuel remains, which can be of critical importance when leaving on a cruise, these benefits clearly outweigh the cost disadvantage.