During winter, you are bound to consume greater amounts of heating fuel to warm your house. You are also likelier to use warmer water. To keep your energy costs down during the colder months and also boost the efficiency of your heating fuel, one of the best things you could do is switch to propane. While there are many reasons to heat your home with propane, questions often arise about the fuel.
The advantages of heating your home with propane range from reduced emissions to boosted efficiency. For starters, propane is a clean-burning fuel that is better for the environment. By using propane for heat and kitchen appliances, you can live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Propane is also better for the nation’s economy because 90% of the propane used in U.S. homes is produced domestically. By using propane, you can help this country reduce its reliance on foreign oil. This also makes propane one of the more affordable fueling options since supplies of the fuel are less impacted by overseas political instability.
Another advantage of propane is that it works as more than a heating fuel. You can also use propane to heat your stove, oven, grill and dryer. If you have a propane fireplace, that too could draw from your propane tank. Propane appliances take less time to heat and generate fuller, more evenly dispersed heat for cooking purposes. Propane tanks generally last twice as long as units built for other types of fuel.
One of the benefits of heating your home with propane is that the fuel can also be used to power appliances in your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. For each function, propane is more efficient than standard electrical energy.
Ovens and stovetops that run on propane are more energy-efficient than their electric counterparts. On a propane burner, the heating begins and ends the moment you turn the knob. There is little wait time for warm-ups and cool-downs. In propane ovens, heat disperses more evenly and retains moisture within foods. Propane grills have also become popular because they can run on secondary tanks or a primary heating tank. Grills that run on propane also emit less carbon monoxide or soot.
Dryers that run on propane are better on fabrics and less wasteful of heating energy. Propane dryers can connect to the same ventilators as an electric model, but they work faster and get clothes soft and dry. Traditional dryers can take up to an hour to dry a load, so by saving time, propane dryers also save energy and are therefore less costly when it comes to monthly energy expenses. Moreover, propane dryers leave fabrics with a gentle texture, free of creases or static cling.
A wise investment for today’s homeowners is a propane tankless water heater, which heats water with greater efficiency and without the waste associated with traditional water heaters. Tankless water heaters can warm up water in just a fraction of the time it takes for regular heaters to do the trick. Tankless heaters do not store hot water when the faucets are not in use. Therefore, energy is not wasted keeping water heated during the hours when you have no use for hot water.
One feature that has grown in popularity in American living rooms is the propane fireplace, which is safer and more efficient than traditional wood-burning fireplaces. In a propane fireplace, the heating occurs more evenly than in a natural gas or traditional fireplace. Propane fireplaces can also be installed in areas with no nearby gas lines. Best of all, propane fireplaces produce no ash or soot.
The longevity of a given fuel supply will depend on the size of the tank and the number of hours you rely on propane during a typical day. One gallon of propane fuel contains 91,333 BTU. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, which is a measurement of heat in a fuel source. To determine the number of gallons your furnace uses in one hour, divide the BTUH rating on your tank by the standard BTU for one gallon. BTUH stands for British Thermal Units per Hour. Then take that number and multiply it by the number of gallons that your tank can hold. That will give you the answer of how many hours of energy you can get from your propane tank when it is filled to capacity.
For example, a propane furnace with a BTUH rating of 100,000, when divided by 91,333, would come to 1.09 gallons of fuel consumption per hour. Therefore, if you have a 120-gallon propane tank and it is filled to 80% capacity, you would have approximately 96 gallons of fuel in the tank. Multiply 96 gallons by 1.09 gallons per hour, and you would have 104.64 hours of heat and energy still to go on your current propane fuel supply. If you take that number and divide it by three — imagining three as the number of hours that propane is consumed in your house — you would have approximately 34 days left on that one tank of propane.
A propane tank needs space at the top to allow the fuel to evaporate, as this is the process that turns the fuel into gas. Therefore, a propane tank cannot be filled to its maximum capacity. However, allowances vary according to the type of propane tank. If the tank is an above-ground unit, the tank can only be filled to about 80% space capacity. If the tank is an underground unit, it can be filled to about 85% capacity.
Since a full tank is never actually full, you must take adjustments into account to determine whether your supply is at an ideal level or whether you need to schedule a refill. If you have an above-ground propane tank, a reading of 80% would indicate that your tank is filled to its limit. Likewise, if you have a reading of 60%, the tank is probably filled to 75% of its limit.
Just as you would divide 100 by four to determine whether you are half or three-quarters full, dividing 80 by four can help you determine the health of your fuel supply. If the reading on the tank gauge drops to 40%, your tank would be about half-full, indicating that a refill should soon be in order.
To determine the fuel level of an underground tank, you would need to adjust the calculation to account for the extra 5% of allowance. Dividing 85% by four gets you 21.25%. Therefore, a three-quarters full underground tank would have a gauge reading of around 63.75%. A half-full underground tank would have a gauge reading of around 42.50%. Basically, once the reading on an underground tank dips down to the low 30s, it is time to schedule a refill.
Propane tanks generally last for many years as long as the units are properly situated and maintained. However, large propane tanks need to be recertified once 10 years have passed since the manufacturing date. Beyond that, a tank must be recertified every five years to ensure that the unit is safe and free of defects. If your tank appears damaged or corroded with rust in certain spots, a propane deliverer might refuse to refill the tank.
In order to properly gauge how long your tank will last, it’s important to first understand your usage frequency. If you know your tank is being used to fuel an appliance you use regularly, its lifespan will be shorter than when used for an appliance you only need sporadically.
As a general rule, we advise understanding several elements of your propane consumption to better determine how long your tank will last. Along with your home’s size and how much energy your appliances require to power it, the main elements you should know include:
To ensure that your tank passes the recertification process, inspect the unit periodically for signs of leaks or rust formation. The fuel quality should also be examined at regular intervals. If rust has developed along the outside of the tank, turn off the furnace and call a technician immediately. Rust can eat holes through metal and if corrosion has made its way to the outside, there is no telling how extensive the rust might be along the interior walls of the tank. A propane technician can provide you with more information on these steps.
If your propane tank is more than 25 years old, you might want to consider a new propane tank, even if your existing unit has continued to pass recertification. After 20 years, unit designs will have changed, and you might be able to find a more efficient and practical model.
If you run out of propane, the problems could extend well beyond the inconvenience of not having heat for your home. In fact, a lack of propane will affect every appliance in your home that runs on the fuel. If you rely on propane for your stove and oven, you would not be able to use those appliances until you get a refill. If your refrigerator is powered by a generator that runs on propane fuel, an empty tank would cause all of your perishable food items to go to waste. If you have a propane water heater, you’ll be left with ice-cold baths and showers.
An empty propane tank could also render the components of your heating system more prone to damage and corrosion. With no fuel to pass through the system, the pipes could become brittle and crack in certain spots. An empty propane tank is also vulnerable to ambient air and moisture, which can seep into the tank and cause internal rusting. Once rust takes hold, it can quickly spread along the interior walls of the tank and cause holes to form in some of the most heavily corroded areas. These problems could all lead to costly system repairs and necessitate the replacement of key parts.
If you discover that your tank has run dry, you are required by law to have it inspected by a propane-tank technician. The purpose here is to determine the cause of the issue and whether it involves a failure to check the gauge or a physical leak from the tank. If this happens during a time of year when tank techs are generally booked with appointments, you might have to wait in line for the next available date on their calendar. Depending on the company that sends the technician to your address, the inspection could cost anywhere from $50 to $100.
There are several ways that a propane tank might run out of fuel. If you neglect the tank and don’t keep track of the gauge readings, the tank could run out before you even realize. Unexpected tank depletion is common in the winter months when the weather drops to subzero temperatures. If the temperatures in your area plummet from moderate to freezing levels, your heat consumption will no doubt soar for the duration of the cold spell. If you had done your propane-usage math according to an average day’s heat consumption, you would need to adjust the math to account for the higher usage.
You could also run out of fuel if a leak forms in the tank. If the tank is tucked away or situated underground, you might not even notice the problem until the damage becomes extensive.
When it comes to maintaining your fuel supply, there are many benefits to an automatic delivery service, which can relieve you of some of the maintenance aspects of tank upkeep. With automatic delivery, you never have to worry about scheduling your next appointment because the refill intervals of your tank are kept in a system. That way, the propane fuel company will know when to contact you to arrange your next refill.
Another advantage of automatic delivery is that it spares you from having to check the gauge on your fuel tank. Instead of walking out in the snow to see whether the readings are low, the refill company will already know if and when your tank is running low on fuel.
With automatic delivery, you never have to wait days for a refill or worry about your supplier being booked for service. Once you enroll in automatic delivery, your address will already be on the recurrent schedule of houses that the refill technicians will visit once your current fuel supply drops to a lower level.
The greatest advantage of automatic delivery is that it ensures that you never run out of fuel. This can be especially important during the winter months when you are bound to use more heat, just like everyone else in your community. Despite this being the time of year when propane companies are often booked for service, you won’t have to schedule a day in advance because your address will already be on the priority list.
Propane is the most affordable and energy-efficient heating fuel. Whether you already use propane or are thinking about making the switch, you can be stocked with a healthy fuel supply at all times by signing up for automatic delivery service. For homeowners in Maryland and Pennsylvania, Shipley Energy has been a leading supplier of heating options for 85 years. Contact Shipley Energy to learn more about our residential propane delivery and service plans.