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We bought a house that has a propane tank. Only the central heating is on propane. It is currently 65% full (500 gallon tank). It is in SE Nebraska. I understand Nebraska has relatively low propane costs.

My question is...how much does the price of propane fluctuate? I know it's cheaper to buy in the summer. But, are we talking $.30 difference or $3.00 difference? In other words, how much will we be kicking ourselves if we don't lock in a price now?

Also, as a related question, how long do you think the 325 gallons in there now would last a family of 4 in a 1400 sqft house (2 stories plus basement)? BTW, the house is old (1925) and probably isn't exactly air tight. Are we talking 2 winter months or 5 or 6? Could we possibly make it until next summer? I know you can't possibly tell me for sure, but for those experienced with propane, surely you have a guess?

Thanks for you help!
 

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we lived in a 600 sq ft duplex in MO (much warmer than where you are). It was old and not air tight. and only had a wall heater running on propane. Would empty a 500 gallon tank every 60 days (in the winter) And it was dang chilly in there.

I'd expect to fill it 2-3 times up there.. maybe more.

Propane around here doesn't fluctuate a whole lot I'd say .30 is a good guess. Certainly not $3 like auto fuel. Last I heard, dad prepaid for winter at $1.69/gal
 

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I use prop for hot water and stove top and have filled 250 gal tank twice in a year. Price about $1 max difference I think. I buy the price guarantee- probably saved me a bit last year, might not this year. If I had a 500 gal tank (all I use in a year) I'd just be sure to have it full before winter started. In your case I expect you'll go through well more than one tank so a price guarantee is a good idea. Mine was for a certain number gal so again you still have to guess. How much did the last folks use? Use that as a ballpark estimate.

It's like stamps (with this forever stamp) but more so since 500 gal x $2-4 is a lot! Would spending over $500 to take tank from half full to full be a good investment of your money? Yes, if the price would be $100 higher for that same # gal in winter, and you need it before next spring's price drop: you've earned 20% return in 6 months.... Guess wrong (price stays same all winter, unlikely) and you've had $500 in your tank instead of paying 3 months early on a credit bill or whatever else you'd do with $500 in cash not propane (get $5 interest waiting a fw months to spend it.)
 

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I don't know bout your area but here in Central TX it is probably a little cheaper now than it will be in the winter. Last year bout this time it was 2 bux a gallon. It's MUCH more expensive to heat with here than natural gas (which is not available out here in the country) & oil heat is unheard of here.

I'd look into an alternative source if possible; we had a mild winter in 2005-2006 & I used bout 500-550 gallons I think. The winter of 2006-2007 was unusually cold but I'd bought a pellet stove. Kept the house MUCH more comfortable using pellets; used bout 1/2 ton (bout 250 bux worth) & bout 150-175 gallons of propane. I just set the furnace to come on (have a programmable thermostat set on 60 deg F) & heat up to 75 deg F from 6 am to 9 am (don't like letting the pellet stove burn all night though many folks do) & HATE getting up in the cold! By 9 am I have the pellet stove getting the house nice & toasty. A wood stove would be even cheaper if you have a wood lot but I don't.

BTW I leave the central heat blower going 24-7 to even out the heat.

Hope this helps!

Lew near Waco, TX
 

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Fill it up before the end of august, all the programs in co-op around here start with Sept.1 of each heating season. Call the coop in your area to find out about purchase/refill programs, then find out what may work best for you.

Depending on your comfort requirement, it would be wise to invest in the 3M window kits if the current windows are old or drafty, they really make a difference, and if you are careful, you can reuse the plastic year after year, I'm on my 3rd year on the same plastic and just buy the tape.

We also have a 500 gal tank, max fill is 85% to allow for expansion, the gauges are not very accurate either. Our first year we paid for 2000 gals upfront, and before the first winter was over I installed a woodburning furnace in parrallel with the LP furnace , we were going through one tank per month with the thermostat set at 65*. Our dryer/stove/water heater are also LP, but they only use about 250gls/year.

Our house was built in the mid 1800's, and still has original windows, no insulation except the attic and is roughly 3000sqft. We figure that at winter prices, it would cost us $7-800 per month to heat with LP, so wood is the way for us untill we can upgrade the house.

Hope this helps
 

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U-Turn said:
We bought a house that has a propane tank. Only the central heating is on propane. It is currently 65% full (500 gallon tank). It is in SE Nebraska. I understand Nebraska has relatively low propane costs.

My question is...how much does the price of propane fluctuate? I know it's cheaper to buy in the summer. But, are we talking $.30 difference or $3.00 difference? In other words, how much will we be kicking ourselves if we don't lock in a price now?

Also, as a related question, how long do you think the 325 gallons in there now would last a family of 4 in a 1400 sqft house (2 stories plus basement)? BTW, the house is old (1925) and probably isn't exactly air tight. Are we talking 2 winter months or 5 or 6? Could we possibly make it until next summer? I know you can't possibly tell me for sure, but for those experienced with propane, surely you have a guess?

Thanks for you help!
First off - I wouldn't trust the existing gauge to be anywhere near accurate except after the tank has been filled and when the tank is empty! I say that from experience of buying an old house in winter, trusting the gauge to be accurate and finding out one very chilly morning that it wasn't.

I would expect 325 gallons to last maybe 2 Winter months if you have an older house, but fairly efficient furnace. It definitely won't last thru winter.

We get our propane from a farmer's coop that gives us 2 ways of locking in our propane price:

One way is to pay in full in summer for x number gallons of propane for the coming heating season and this price will be the lowest per gallon price.

The second way is to commit to buying x number gallons of propane for the heating season, paying a 10% deposit now and paying off the balance in 10 monthly payments. Buying propane the second method costs about $0.05 more per gallon.

We have always gone wtih the second method and we have always committed to buying more propane than we expect to use. I know this sounds crazy since we committed to buying x number of gallons of propane, it really does make sense based upon the way our farmer's coop works.

The deposit and monthly payments go into a holding account which slowly increases over time. The total cost of any propane deliveries are charged against that holding account at the agreed $ cost and the number of gallons of propane delivered is subtrated from your contract amount. If you didn't commit to enough propane for the winter, you will use up all of your contract gallons early then you have to buy propane for the rest of the winter at premium prices and you will still have to pay your monthly contract payments.


We always contract for extra gallons and pay a slightly higher deposit. The deposit and monthly payments go into a holding account which increases over time. The total cost of any propane deliveries are charged against that holding account at the agreed $ cost and the number of gallons of propane delivered is subtrated from the contract amount.

Since we committed to enough propane for the winter, we never pay more than contracted propane price and our only propane cost is our monthly payment amount which we already figured into our budget. Sometime in early spring, we get our tank refilled one last time and the cost of that refill is deducted from the holding account. The heating season ends and we get a statement showing that we still have a $$ dollars left in our holding account from the propane we didn't get. The Farmer's coop doesn't touch the money in the holding account (it is still our money)...and it can be used against the cost for the next winters propane supply.

The money left in the holding account isn't drawing interest, but in a way it is our propane safety net. We are prepared for a hard winter without paying more than we expect for propane, we don't go over our monthly budget and our holding account stores any remaining money so it can be used against the next years propane supply.

hope this helps
deb
in WI
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks everyone for the experience & help. I had no idea that a tank wasn't filled to the top! That is good to know.

Well, I guess we'll do the contract this year & lock in our price. See how it goes for the winter & then re-evaluate next year. We'd love to put in a wood stove, so it was great to hear how much that offset the price of the LP. That will be a big motivator to go ahead and get that done.

Luckily, all but one window has been replaced, so it is probably more efficient than it could have been!

Thanks a bunch.
 

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THE GAGE OPERATES ON A SWING ARM SO IT IS ESPECIALLY INACCURATE NEAR THE TOP AND BOTTOM OF THE SWING
The filling process agitates and the inside a lot and it stops at 85% so its pretty accurate for filling but when using the last of a tank the opposite occurs. Be suspicious if sometime in the last 20% it seems like the gas is lasting a LONNNNNNNG time! It helps to pound the tank with a rubber mallet each time you read it.
Tie the mallet to the tank and you wont forget it.
The pressure to make the system work comes from the liquid propane boiling inside the
tank.Propane at atmospheric pressure boils at -44 degrees so if it gets REALLY cold there an exposed tank system might get a bit week. I'm not sure where in NE you are but its not likely to be a problem
 

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another very accurate way to check the tank level in the winter is to pour hot warer on it (end easiest in horizontal tank). At the liquid propane level the tank will stay cold & the vapor area will get warmer. in the summer sun you can often feel the temperature difference without pouring water on (sun must be shining directly on it to work well though).

Lew near Waco, TX
 

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Hi,
Our propane was $2.20/gal last winter and went down to $1.65/gal when we filled up around August 1. This seems pretty typical for the few years we have been on propane. But, the trend has been steadily up.

Propane at $2.20/gal is equivalent to 8 cents per KWH electricity, or $2.02 per therm natural gas -- it has become a pretty expensive fuel.

You can make a rough estimate of how much propane you will use in a year from this calculator:
http://www.builditsolar.com/References/Calculators/HeatLoss/HeatLoss.htm

It will not only give you a rough idea of usage, but it will tell you where most of the heat is going, so you can work on these areas.

I have had the propane gage on our tank hangup, so that it just read a steady 80% for months -- the propane guy said this was fairly common.
We installed a 2nd propane tank and worked our usage down to the point where we can fill up once at the good summer price for the full year.

Gary
 
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