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How to Implement a Remote Propane Tank Monitor System

By Haley Zeigler

December 22, 2022


We all know how disastrous network downtime is to your organization. The remote monitoring of LP fuel tanks can be vital to your network, especially at unmanned sites.

Maybe you have propane as a back-up power source at your remote site. It's there to ensure you never have a gap in your network uptime. But that can all fail if you run out of fuel without realizing it.

Often, there are also legal obligations to remotely monitor the propane levels at remote sites (including NFPA 58 and NFPA 99).

Remote snowy mountaintop telecom site.
Hard-to-reach remote sites can be easily monitored with NetGuardian RTUs.

Why LP Tank Level Monitoring is So Important

Many clients come to us needing a remote monitoring solution for their propane tanks. Remotely monitoring your fuel level is important to help you save windshield time and (more importantly) to prevent network downtime.

Remotely monitoring your LP fuel level will let you know exactly what the status of your propane level is, from anywhere. This will help you prevent a network outage because you'll know when you need to send someone to refill the tank.

It will also prevent spending time and money sending technicians out periodically to physically check on the propane level at each site.

A remote propane tank monitor system is a small investment in comparison to the cost of a network outage, wasted windshield time, and citations for a code violation.

New Building Codes Require Remote LP Level Monitoring

There are plenty of good reasons to remotely monitor the fuel level of your propane tanks. In some places, though, it's a legal obligation. For example, in the state of Washington, building codes require remote monitoring of LP tank levels.

And in some places, it's now legally required to remotely monitor your fuel level. I collaborated with two clients in the last year who needed an LP fuel monitoring system within a week to get up to code before an inspection. Both clients had a tight time restraint due to updated State Building codes.

This is a section of NFPA 99, which is a national code: Alarm Annunciator. A remote annunciator that is storage battery powered shall be provided to operate outside of the generating room in a location readily observed by operating personnel at a regular work station (see 700.12 of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code). The annunciator shall be hard-wired to indicate alarm conditions of the emergency or auxiliary power source as follows:
(1) Individual visual signals shall indicate the following:
(d) Low fuel when the main fuel storage tank contains less than a 4-hour operating supply

In other words, the regulation states that the LP fuel level must be remotely monitored with a visual alarm panel.

Specifics and even tighter regulations may apply, depending on the state.

Remote Propane Tank Monitoring is Easy to Implement

What you'll need to enable the remote monitoring of your existing LP tank level:

  1. Potting Cap Sensor
    Physical propane tank level gauges are usually easily convertible to remote monitors. You can swap your existing Rochester Jr. or Sr. gauge for a potting cap sensor to relay your LP fuel level to an RTU.
  2. RTU (Remote Terminal Unit)
    An RTU will receive the fuel level data from the potting cap sensor via analog inputs. It can also receive data from any other sensors you may have at your remote site. (For example: sensors monitoring environmentals, HVAC units, telecom equipment, UPS batteries, or entry points.) The RTU will then send alarm notifications via LAN to a mobile device, laptop, email address, and/or alarm master.
  3. Wiring
    Copper wiring is the most common conduit to relay data from your potting cap sensor to the RTU. It's also possible, though, to use fiber optic cable or a wireless connection. There are benefits and drawbacks to each option.
Propane remote monitoring topology.
A remote propane tank monitoring system would look something like this. This diagram, with a potting cap sensor and RTU, includes the solution I provided for a client in Washington.

Remotely Monitor LP Tank Levels with a Potting Cap Sensor and an RTU

One client I worked with recently, a construction company in Washington, needed a remote monitoring solution to satisfy the Building Code requirements listed above. This is the solution I proposed:

From a technical perspective, I understand that you need:

  1. A small device that will reliably latch a contact closure when low fuel is detected. You need the ability to detect and react automatically to your level of propane in order to meet your code requirements (2 hours running time) so that the surgery center can open on time.
  2. A device that can survive both high heat and sub-freezing temperatures.
  3. Alarm notification that has the ability to loop back to your alarm panel.
  4. Rush delivery.

Based on your needs I have quoted you two options:

  1. Our NetGuardian LT G2- perfect amount of inputs for this scenario. You also have a 5VDC power supply on the NetGuardian to power your sensor if you choose so.
  2. Our NetGuardian DIN which has more than the required analog inputs and relay outputs to meet your requirement. Provides multiple relay outputs that have the ability to connect to your fire panel and/or district office.
  3. A potting cap sensor to connect to your propane tank R3D Remote Ready gauge. This sensor provides a seamless method of connecting the NetGuardian to your propane tank.
  4. An AC power transformer for the NetGuardian and another for the 5 VDC required by the propane sensor.
  5. Optional D-Wire Sensor. Using this will provide power to the sensor, cutting the need to run multiple wires.
  6. Our standard Expedite Fee.

This client went with the NetGuardian LT G2 without the D-Wire propane sensor node. This was a perfect fit for their setup, with no extras. The products were shipped out to them within just three days, so they could get the propane tank remotely monitored before an inspection.

Invest in a Remote Propane Monitoring Solution that Will Prevent Downtime and Wasted Money

Remote monitoring often pays for itself in no time. Just the elimination of unnecessary truck rolls will save your organization plenty of time and money. And just one network outage can be much more costly.

For more information about implementing a remote propane tank monitoring system, give me a call at 559-454-1600. I can help you prevent network downtime and get your organization inspection-ready in no time.

Haley Zeigler

Haley Zeigler

Haley is a Technical Marketing Writer at DPS Telecom. She works closely alongside the Sales and Marketing teams, as well as DPS engineers, resulting in a broad understanding of DPS products, clients, and the network monitoring industry.