Furnaces, Fireplaces, Water Heaters, and Much More
Here’s a look at the many propane appliances and other propane-powered equipment you can use in and around your Tennessee home.
Furnace: Heat Your Entire Home
When outdoor temperatures drop, a propane furnace will keep your home warm and cozy. Heat from your high-powered propane furnace will get the job done rather than leave you with a big chill like electric heat often does.
Propane furnaces can generate higher indoor temperatures than the typical electric heat pump. They’re highly efficient and will heat your home with thermal energy that does not require a backup system, saving you money on heating expenses.
Dry Your Clothes
Cut your clothes-drying costs in half with a propane-fueled dryer! These units take less time than electric dryers to reach the temperatures needed to dry clothes evenly.
Their moist heat also causes less wear and tear on your clothing, while the heat from electric dryers has been known to burn or discolor fabrics. Once your selected level of dryness is achieved, moisture-sensing controls turn your propane dryer off.
Keep these benefits in mind as you look for the propane dryer that’s right for you—whether it’s for a weekly laundry marathon or the occasional light load.
Cozy Ambiance with A Propane Fireplace
If you have an old wood-burning fireplace, it’s easy to convert to a safe, clean-burning propane gas insert. Here are several reasons to consider doing so.
- Propane gas fireplaces are virtually maintenance-free and come in many different styles.
- There’s no need for you to ever add another log or discard ashes afterward.
- Propane gas fireplaces are less of a fire risk than wood.
- Propane fireplaces produce a much lighter environmental footprint than traditional wood fireplaces. They produce fewer particulate emissions and less carbon monoxide compared with wood-burning fireplaces.
- Propane gas fireplaces provide higher efficiency than other options, producing twice as much heat as wood fireplaces but only costing about a third of the price.
- Propane fireplaces require minimal maintenance.
Find out more about propane fireplaces.
Now You’re Cooking
Looking for more precise temperature control when you cook? A propane gas stove/cooktop is your answer, without the many limitations that come with an electric stove. First and foremost, your propane gas stove will keep running during a power outage. And you’ll enjoy a quicker response to temperature changes, especially when you’re lowering the temperature or shutting off the heat entirely.
Plenty of Hot Water with Propane
For both traditional propane storage tanks and propane tankless on-demand water heaters, you’ll see more than just an uptick in your supply of hot water.
You’ll also see savings since propane water heaters are generally less expensive to run when compared to electric heating units – even with a hot water recovery rate that’s about double that of electric models.
Taking up less space than other options, propane water heaters offer a higher level of accuracy in temperature adjustments and more choices when it comes to size and installation. Read about propane water heaters.
Use Propane in Your Yard
Enjoy the advantages of propane in your backyard as well! Your options include propane patio heaters, propane pool heaters, propane-fueled firepits and propane lighting.
Of course, the most popular use of propane outdoors is the reliable propane grill, which lets you skip the dangerous chemicals, starter-fluid smell and mess. You’ll enjoy improved cooking performance also, whether you’re using a simple, portable grill or a high-tech, built-in design. A propane gas grill is clean burning precision at its best.
Power Up with A Propane Generator
Make the investment in a whole-house propane generator. You’ll maintain control of the situation in the event of a power outage, without missing a beat when it comes to temperature control, refrigeration, lighting and more, including security systems, medical equipment and sump pumps.
Read more about propane appliances.
Propane-Fueled Vehicles Have an Edge
Propane autogas describes propane when it is used as a fuel for vehicles. Propane autogas is the world’s most popular alternative fuel, which is defined as any product that bypasses the two big traditional petroleum fuels: gasoline and diesel.
Here are three key areas where propane-fueled vehicles have an edge over those that rely on diesel or gasoline.
Fuel: You can generally count on an average savings of 30 to 40 % per mile driven with propane autogas, considering both the cost of the fuel itself and expected fuel economy. Historically, propane has been 30% less than gasoline, and the savings are even greater compared to diesel, especially in the wake of the alarming diesel price increases we’ve seen this year.
Fluids: New, lower emissions diesel technology presents extra costs because diesel emissions fluid needs to be purchased, stored and changed. Plus, in cold temperatures, diesel vehicles need anti-gel fluids to prevent fuel filters and fuel lines from clogging. If your fleet runs on propane autogas, however, you will benefit from reliable performance in any type of weather without the need and extra expense of additional fluids.
Filters: To meet emissions requirements, today’s diesel technology requires diesel particulate filters that must be cleaned. Excessive idling accelerates cleaning intervals. These extra maintenance expenses just add more to the total cost of ownership.
Propane Vs. Electric Vehicles
There has been much talk about achieving net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, and transitioning to all-electric vehicles has been a big part of the conversation because electricity is considered a “clean fuel” by many.
Although a battery-powered electric car itself doesn’t produce any emissions, the power plant that generates the electricity used to charge those batteries probably does. And those power plants are among the largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States.
Other obstacles slowing the move toward electric vehicles include low supply, charging infrastructure challenges, expensive upfront costs and limited mileage range.
Converting Engines to Propane Autogas
For fleet owners who want the cost benefits of propane autogas but need the flexibility of a gasoline backup or who aren’t ready to purchase new vehicles, EPA-certified bi-fuel conversion kits can be installed on existing vehicles.
You can count on propane refueling technology to deliver as dependably as the vehicles themselves. Refueling with propane autogas is quick, quiet and safe. It’s the same experience as refueling with diesel or gasoline, making the transition to propane autogas easy for fleets.
Propane Autogas Safety Facts
- Propane autogas is a very safe alternative fuel that is nontoxic, non-corrosive and insoluble in water. Fueling your vehicle with autogas is safe and simple.
- Should the rare accidental release of propane autogas occur, the fuel would dissipate into the atmosphere with no harmful contaminants released into the air, soil or water.
- Autogas fuel tanks are 20 times more puncture resistant than gasoline tanks.
- In terms of flammability, the ignition temperature of autogas is a minimum of 920˚. Conventional gasoline has a much lower ignition point: 430 ˚-500˚. Diesel fuel can ignite at 410˚.
Read more facts about propane autogas.
Besides propane autogas, there are many other commercial uses for propane.
Which One Will Keep Tennessee Homes Warmer?
Every winter brings extreme weather to some parts of the country, and along with that comes widespread power failures that leave many people without heat, sometimes for prolonged periods of time.
Fortunately, millions of people–including many in Tennessee– have been able to rely on propane for warmth, hot water, and cooking– even if their power goes out.
Surveys have shown that people like heating their homes and water with propane because they know they will have a reliable supply of propane on hand whenever they need it. The benefit of having a propane tank on their property gives them the ability to store a plentiful supply that’s always ready for immediate use. And with programs including automatic propane delivery, most suppliers offer a range of methods for ensuring that there is plenty of clean-burning propane on hand
The Rush to Electricity
That’s why it’s so alarming that many officials in government—at the federal, state, and municipal levels– continue to push for the increased use of electricity in favor of other fuels. In the case of homes, that may mean replacing propane, natural gas, and oil-fired heating systems with electric heat pumps.
But heat pump conversions are expensive–$20,000 or more– and do not work very efficiently when the weather gets cold. Plus, electricity is not a clean fuel. It is mostly generated at power plants. Electricity production generates the second largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 63% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas.*
Our Aging Power Grid
It is feared that an all-out “electrify everything” policy would increase the average residential household cost, result in minimal reductions in emissions and put a severe strain on our aging electric grid.
The fact is, the electric infrastructure in this country fails us time and time again, causing massive disruption, frustration, and discomfort. Remember the tragic energy disaster that occurred in Texas in February 2021?
Here’s another alarming fact: most of today’s grid was built in the years following World War II. But now, it’s reaching capacity and old equipment is failing.
Considering that the U.S. Department of Energy has called the electric grid in our country the largest machine on the planet, upgrading our electric infrastructure will be a massive—and ultra-expensive–undertaking.
Propane: Energy for Everyone
Because propane has such a low carbon content, it produces minimal greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants, making it a clean-burning energy source that can reliably fuel homes, heat water, and even power vehicles.
Propane generates more BTUs than an equivalent amount of electricity, so you need much less propane to produce the same amount of heat energy. Also, clean-burning propane appliances are efficient, because they waste very little fuel in the combustion process, unlike electric-powered appliances.
That’s why, hands down, propane is better for the environment and for your home.
Want to know more about the costs of propane versus electricity? Interested in converting your old electric appliances to propane? Contact your propane company today!
Looking at the Purposes of Different Propane Tank Sizes
When it comes to choosing a propane tank for your Tennessee home, one-size-fits-all is not an option. You actually have a lot to select from and your local Tennessee propane supplier will gladly assist you in making a decision when it comes to propane tank sizes.
And when you have a built-in supply of fuel on your property, you will have many options at your fingertips every time you fill up with a propane delivery.
Here’s a look at the wide range of propane tank sizes available and how they can fit the needs of your household.
20-Pound Propane Tank
This is the size that most people are familiar with, especially for the folks who just use propane for outdoor cooking. With a capacity of about five gallons, these portable cylinders are used to fuel outdoor gas grills and outdoor heaters. If you only have a propane fireplace or hearth you use occasionally, this can be option since you can store multiple tanks outside (NEVER indoors!) for backup and you can easily refill or exchange 20-pound tanks at a propane retailer.
100-Pound Propane Tank
These tanks are the next step up from 20-pound propane tanks, and can be refilled onsite. Here are some reasons to choose a 100-pound propane tank:
- You have an indoor fireplace but don’t want to travel to exchange propane tanks frequently.
- Your only propane appliance is a gas range or cooktop with wall ovens.
420-Pound Propane Tank/100-Gallon Propane Tank
Depending on your propane provider, this tank is referred to as a 420-pound propane tank or a 100-gallon propane tank. (A gallon of propane weighs 4.2 pounds). If you only have two or three propane appliances like a water heater, fireplace, clothes dryer or stove, this tank could be right for you.
150-Gallon Propane Tank
This propane tank size is used for low-BTU appliances and smaller demand uses like water heating and cooking. It can also fuel propane space heaters and wall heaters. But it is generally not enough for whole house heating.
250-Gallon Propane Tank
If you have more than three propane appliances such as a fireplace, clothes dryer, water heater and stove, this may be a good size. It can also be used for whole-house heating depending on your square footage.
500-Gallon Propane Tank
If you heat your home with propane as well as run your stove, fireplace, water heater and clothes dryer, you’ll need a larger propane tank like this. A 500-gallon tank is 10-feet long and shaped like a submarine.
1,000-Gallon Propane Tank
Often used in commercial applications, this tank has the same shape as a 500-gallon storage tank, but it’s about six-feet longer. If you have a large home, use a lot of propane appliances and heat your pool with a propane pool heater, you may need to go this big.
What Propane Tank Is Right for My Home?
With a propane tank for your home, deciding on the correct size can be pretty simple, although there are some variables. Your Tennessee propane supplier has a deep knowledge of typical winter weather, so they’ll know what your propane heating needs are. Here are some of the other factors they will take into consideration:
- The square footage of your home
- What propane appliances you have in your home, such as a furnace, water heater, cooktop/stove, and clothes dryer.
- The total BTUs of all of your propane appliances
- Whether you have a pool heater, as they are high BTU appliances
If you are concerned about price spikes in the propane market, you could upgrade to a larger propane tank to get yourself fully supplied before winter. It also means you will require fewer propane deliveries. Your Tennessee propane supplier can help you decide if that’s the right choice for you.
Depending on the size of your propane tank, you can also choose whether you want an above-ground propane tank or an underground propane tank.
Reach out to your local propane supplier if you have questions about residential propane tank sizes.
Usage Depends on the Generator Size
Summer electrical storms and power outages go hand-in-hand. As just one of many examples, in mid-June, about 36,000 Tennessee residents lost their power after a storm knocked down trees and power lines. Many of the reported outages, which happened in the midst of sweltering temperatures, occurred in the Nashville area.
Fortunately, many Tennesseans have found a solution to wide-scale power outages: whole-house propane gas generators, which are available in varying sizes to power as much or as little as you need to keep your family and home safe and comfortable.
Once considered a luxury, whole-house generators are growing in use because they ensure your sump pump, home security systems, heating and cooling equipment and any needed medical devices will continue to run in the event of a prolonged electrical power stoppage. (A smaller, portable generator is much more limited in capacity).
The question is, how do you pick the right generator unit for your Tennessee home? People also wonder, “how much propane will my generator use?” If you’ve been considering purchasing a whole-house generator for your home, here is vital information to consider.
Generator Size and Capacity
The size of the generator you will need depends on two factors: the square-footage of your home and what appliances you want to power during an outage. A good way to think about the “electric load” in your home is to break your usage down into two categories:
- Essentials: medical equipment, lights, refrigerator, sump pump, furnace fan, security system, TV/computers.
- High-wattage items: air conditioning, heating, clothes dryer, water heater, oven/stove.
Generators come in a range of sizes and prices; a small, easy-to-place 8-kilowatt (kW) unit, for example, can operate power essentials such as lights, refrigerator, TV, and other small appliances. A large 25 kW commercial-grade generator, on the other hand, can easily run an HVAC system in addition to those smaller items.
According to Generac, a leading manufacturer of generators, a 22-kW generator would burn approximately two gallons per hour (gph) at a 50% electrical load and 3.6 gph at full load. A larger 38- kW unit would burn three gallons of propane per hour at half-load and 5.4 gph at full load.
This may sound confusing, but an experienced licensed electrician can help you with all of these load calculations to ensure you choose a generator that can handle the desired emergency electrical power needs of your household.
Other key points to understand when researching generator fuel usage, in addition to a particular generator’s fuel consumption rate, are the characteristics of the fuel that powers that engine.
Propane offers advantages that other fuel sources can’t match. Propane doesn’t degrade over time, unlike diesel or gasoline. This makes propane the ideal stand-by power fuel.
How Does a Propane Generator Work?
A whole-house propane generator is a permanent fixture located outside your home. It’s connected to your home’s electrical system with its own fuel source. Basically, it looks like an outdoor central air conditioning unit with a cap on it.
The generator is designed to start automatically when you lose power from your utility –usually between 10-30 seconds after an outage. When utility power is restored, the generator will shut itself down. All of this happens whether or not you’re at home.
Benefits of a Whole House Propane Generator
The biggest benefit to a whole house generator, of course, is that you’ll never be without power again! Being able to switch between the grid and generator power is a priceless convenience.
Imagine never having to suffer through the inconveniences of a power outage again – no more unexpected nights at a hotel or friend’s house, no more spoiled food, no more loss of TV, phone or computer service, no sweaty nights without your air conditioner or cold nights without heat, and no pipes bursting due to lack of heat in the house, to name just a few of the hassles—and costs–you have to deal with during an extended power outage.
To learn more about propane gas generators, please reach out to your Tennessee propane company and they’ll be glad to give you expert advice. If they don’t install propane generators, they’ll most likely be able to refer you to a trusted contractor who does.
Checking Your Grill’s Propane Supply
About the fastest way to throw a damper on your backyard barbecue is having your propane cylinder run out of fuel—right when those fat and juicy steaks have just started to cook.
Since most propane portable cylinders don’t come with a built-in gauge, you need another way to figure out how much fuel is left in your tank. You obviously don’t want to wait until your grill shuts off to tell you that your propane tank is empty. (That’s why it’s best to always have a back-up propane cylinder on hand—just in case.)
3 Simple Methods to Measure Your Cylinder Level
- Use water. You can determine the approximate level of propane in a tank by using a little bit of water. Here’s how:
- Fill a small bucket with hot tap water.
- Pour the water down the side of the tank.
- Run your hand along the side of the tank and feel for a cool spot.
The top of the cool spot is the fill level of the tank – it’s cool because liquid propane inside the tank is absorbing the heat from the water, which makes the metal wall of the tank cool to the touch.
- Weigh the tank. Most propane grill tanks come with two numbers stamped on the handle – the water capacity (“WC”) and Tare Weight (TW – the weight of the tank when it’s empty). Most grilling tanks weigh about 17 pounds when empty. To measure how many pounds of propane are left in your tank, simply weigh it on a scale and subtract the TW number. For example, if a tank weighing 27 pounds has a TW of 17 pounds, there’s about 10 pounds of gas left—or about 2.5 gallons.
- Use an external gauge. External propane tank gauges come in several different forms
- inline pressure gauges install between the gas line from the grill and the cut-off valve on the tank, measuring pressures to determine how full the tank is.
- analog propane scales look like luggage scales and are pre-set to take your tank’s TW into account.
- digital propane tank scales provide a digital readout of remaining cook time and gas fill percentage. Some even come with smartphone apps.
Pick the device that you’re most comfortable with and give it a try!
Understand the Safety Behind the 80/20 Rule
When you take your portable 20-lb propane tank to a refill station or tank exchange, you should get four gallons (or 17 pounds of propane; propane weighs 4.25 pounds per gallon). For safety reasons, the propane cylinder should only be filled to 80% of its maximum capacity. Leaving it 20% empty leaves room for the LP gas to expand, which it will do when the temperature rises. A propane cylinder illegally filled to 100% capacity could burst. This same 80/20 rule also applies to your home heating propane tank.
Storage and Transportation of Propane Cylinders
Please review these safety handling tips for your portable propane cylinders.
- ALWAYS store or place a propane cylinder outdoors and in an open area, and not in a basement, garage, shed or tent.
- ALWAYS keep cylinders away from a stove, fireplace, or other heat source. This is also why you should not store a spare cylinder under or near your barbecue grill.
- ALWAYS stay aware when you are handling cylinders. You don’t want anyone smoking near it and make sure your cylinder does not come into contact with ignition sources such as flames or spark-producing electrical tools.
- ALWAYS leave the care and repair of a cylinder in the hands of a skilled propane professional. You should not make any attempt to modify or repair valves, regulators, or other cylinder or appliance parts.
That’s because propane cylinders incorporate special components such as valves, connectors, and other parts to keep them safe for use with grills and other propane appliances. Damage to any component can cause a gas leak. Don’t risk it! Instead, contact a qualified propane service provider for assistance.
We want to make sure you know how to approach propane safety in and around your home or business, no matter how you’re using propane. We encourage you to go here to review propane safety and operation tips, courtesy of the Propane Education and Research Council.
Enjoy Your Pool More, Heat It with Propane
In our previous post, we took a quick look at some of the ways we Tennesseans use propane to enhance our outdoor living at home. Although propane pool heaters were mentioned, we think a deeper dive into their benefits is in order.
Now, with all of the sunny, warm days we enjoy in the Volunteer State, it may seem like a pool heater is an unnecessary luxury. But while average temperatures enable the typical swim season to last from May through September, we still have to contend with some below-average temperature days and evenings during that time.
And what will your plan be or the rest of the year—especially if you’re someone who enjoys a daily swim as a fun form of aerobic exercise? It seems a shame to travel elsewhere and just let that backyard swimming pool go to waste.
That’s where the best pool heaters come in. There are a few different types, each of which offers its own benefits to help keep your pool warmer when the temperatures cool down.
It goes without saying—but we’ll say it anyway—that our obvious choice would be a high-efficiency propane pool heater (sometimes referred to as a gas pool heater). It’s a popular option because propane pool heaters can quickly heat your pool to your desired temperature. Many people feel that this is the best pool heater around.
If you rely on one propane fuel and service provider, they know your home’s heating source and can seamlessly integrate your pool heater and install it quickly and properly for you. Your propane service professional can also take care of annual maintenance to ensure your heater runs problem-free.
How a Propane Pool Heater Works
A propane pool heater simply burns gas to warm water from the pool pump, then cycles the water back into the pool. That’s why propane pool heaters are an ideal choice for in-ground and aboveground pools and spas.
The best propane pool heaters are:
- easy to install and maintain
- durable and reliable
- available in a number of sizes and colors
Propane Pool Heaters Vs. Other Options
Propane pool heaters have distinct advantages over other pool heater types, including:
- Electric heat pump heaters – While this system is more cost-effective than using a simple electric element pool heater, it needs to use surrounding air to warm water in the pool – which means it can only produce water that’s slightly warmer than the temperature of the air. That’s a problem if you feel like a swim when there’s a chill in the air.
- Solar pool heaters –These have higher upfront costs and take longer to heat your pool compared to a propane pool heater. A solar system also doesn’t work at night or on cloudy days when the sun isn’t at its brightest. Since these heaters can only heat the pool when the sun is shining, this type of pool heater is limited in how much heat they can provide. So if you enjoy midnight swims, solar pool heaters aren’t for you.
- Natural gas pool heaters – If you have natural gas service in your neighborhood, keep in mind that propane pool heaters give you the same performance of natural gas heaters without the expensive hardware and hassle needed to connect the pool heater to your home’s gas line.
To learn more about propane pool heaters and the many other ways you can take full advantage of propane inside and outside your home, please contact your Tennessee propane service provider and they’ll be glad to give you advice.
Read more about how propane raises the bar on outdoor living.
Propane Provides Energy for Everyone
Are you familiar with all the of ways propane can enhance outdoor living right here in Tennessee? Here are some ideas to add more fun to your summer—without leaving home.
There are many reasons why propane grills are overwhelmingly the most commonly owned grills in America.
Nothing beats the clean-burning precision of a propane gas grill. Whether you cook on a simple portable or a high-tech built-in model, you’ll get the same even-cooking performance time after time, with no starter fluid smell, dangerous chemicals, or mess.
When your cookout is done, propane gives you even more advantages. Instead of having to wait an hour or more for coal embers to cool, you can simply turn off the grill, shut off the propane, and clean the grate. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Propane Fire Pits
There’s nothing like gathering with family and friends around a fire pit on a cool night. Whether the kids are toasting marshmallows for s’mores, or you’re relaxing over a glass of wine with friends, propane just makes the night more enjoyable.
A propane fire pit gives you plenty of heat with just the flip of a switch. No need to lug firewood, or wait for it to ignite. And, when you’re ready to go inside, just turn off your fire pit and that’s that. Many fire pit models have ignition systems that can be turned on and off with a smartphone.
Propane Outdoor Space Heaters
It can get a bit chilly when the sun goes down. With propane patio and deck heaters, you can stay outside later this summer and even extend your outdoor season well into the fall!
With freestanding or wall-mounted models available, you’re sure to find a propane outdoor heater that meets your needs and budget – and one that will work even if the power goes out.
Before electricity became widely used, gas was the common source for both indoor and outdoor lighting for homes. With propane, you can get that classic warm light to make your patio and pathways glow. In most cases, it’s cheaper than electricity and works even when the power is out. Propane-powered outdoor lights can burn for just pennies per hour, and they can be matched with almost any outdoor décor.
Propane Pool and Spa Heaters
Enjoy a swim or a soak in your backyard spa throughout the season by investing in a propane pool heater, which will heat your pool water quickly and efficiently – and far more effectively than an electric model.
Please go here to read more about the benefits of propane—inside and outside your home!
Understanding the Propane Gas Markets & Price Fluctuations
The impact of the war in Ukraine continues to send shock waves through the world’s energy markets. Natural gas rates have doubled. Electricity costs are surging. And heating oil, gasoline and yes, propane, have all spiked skyward.
Your local propane company knows this is hard for you; it’s hard for them too. When prices spike like this, people tend to think that their propane supplier makes more money. In fact, the opposite is true. Customers cut back on fuel use. They have trouble paying their bills. Meanwhile, your propane company has to pay their wholesale suppliers promptly at much higher rates. Plus, supply chain issues haven’t improved very much. All in all, it’s an awful mess for everyone involved.
While facing the current challenge of higher propane prices can be stressful, try to take comfort in the fact that propane remains one of the most cost-efficient, eco-friendly ways to heat your home and fuel your appliances.
Plus, historical trends have shown us that, when it comes to prices, what goes up must come down. It’s just a matter of when. For all local propane companies and the industry in general, the feeling is, the sooner the better.
Propane Price Swings Are More Moderate than Oil
You may have noticed price swing trends with propane tend to be more moderate compared to heating oil, gasoline, and other fuels derived from a barrel of crude oil.
This is because propane is a completely domestic form of energy. The U.S. actually exports about twice as much propane to the rest of the world than we use in our own country.
Even though propane is still priced in the world market like oil is, this abundance of domestic North American supply gives us supply security and helps moderate the pricing in the U.S.
In contrast, crude oil–while we produce a lot of it here–is still an imported product as well, and we still get it from some countries that really don’t like us very much.
Supply and Demand
The combination of high demand and lower-than-average inventory is always a common driver for higher propane prices. While you may just think of propane demand for home heating and appliance use, it goes well beyond that.
As an example, global demand for propane has risen because of its increased use as a petrochemical feedstock, the vast majority of which are derived from crude oil and natural gas. These petrochemicals serve as the basis of many end products, including plastic, paper, adhesives and detergents. Petrochemical manufacturers are the largest consumers of propane.
Global demand for U.S. propane has remained steady despite higher U.S. prices because international prices for propane and other feedstocks have also increased, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Here are a few more of the multiple factors that can affect the price you ultimately pay for your propane.
Global Conflicts and Natural Disasters
When war, political strife, conflict, or natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes or hurricanes occur in other regions of the world, this can impact crude oil and natural gas prices. Since propane is a by-product of both crude oil and natural gas, rising prices for these fuels have a ripple effect on propane.
Before the start of the war in Ukraine in late February, energy prices had been rising in anticipation of the potential sanctions that could be levied on the Russian energy sector if the country went ahead and invaded Ukraine.
Russia carries clout because it is one of the largest petroleum and liquid fuels producer in the world. It’s a major exporter of both crude oil and natural gas.
Even the hint of a possible disruption in energy supply will heavily influence the buying and selling done by commodities traders. In the frenzied world of investment, this is known as the fear factor.
When Russia eventually invaded and the U.S. placed a ban on Russian imported oil and petroleum products–with other countries expected to follow–that meant there would be a big energy void to fill, particularly in western Europe.
Many people don’t realize that the U.S. is a large exporter of propane, and that the export business continues to grow. This is good business for the large wholesale propane suppliers, but it increases demand even further in an industry that traditionally doesn’t store huge quantities of propane at once. Many propane suppliers are obligated to provide the quantity of propane they’ve committed to export, leaving even less of propane inventory for domestic consumption.
If a reduction in supply occurs during a time of high demand, such as the colder months, a scarcer market develops. When a cold snap is especially extreme or lasts longer than usual, this scarcity gets further compounded. People may start to panic buy, similar to what we saw at the start of the pandemic with the toilet paper shortage.
And it’s not just cold temperatures that can increase propane demand. Heavy rains during the agricultural growing season create bumper crops that need to be dried rapidly, in great volume. Propane is among the fuels used for crop drying. Propane consumption in corn-producing states typically rises in September and October with the corn harvest, followed by a larger rise related to space-heating needs in January.
Other Factors That Influence Price
Long-time factors that have always influenced where prices go include proximity of supply, transportation bottlenecks, energy policy, and manufacturing trends. More recently, these issues have also come into play:
- the actual cost of delivering fuel has risen.
- new expenses have occurred because of COVID-19 related workforce issues.
- supply chain problems have caused shortages, resulting in shipment delays and inflated prices for supplies, parts, tanks and other materials.
What Will Happen Next?
Nobody can say for certain where things will go from here, but if history is a guide, we can expect to see prices drop pretty significantly in the not-too-distant future. And nothing will make your local propane company happier than when prices return to normal.
Until then, trust your propane supplier to look out for you and let’s hope that—regardless of what happens with propane and other energy prices—we will soon be living in a more peaceful world.
You May Not Have a Gas Pilot Light
Many Tennessee homeowners who grew up in a gas-heated home may be surprised when they find out that their new propane gas furnace doesn’t have a pilot light (also known as a standing pilot or safety pilot). But pilot lights have become outdated technology for gas-powered furnaces and most other gas-burning appliances, like water heaters, fireplaces, and stoves. Today’s furnaces ignite propane gas through advanced technologies.
If you have an older gas furnace, your heating unit relies on a small blue flame known as a pilot light to ensure the ignition of the burners. Water heaters, gas fireplaces, and old gas stoves often have similar pilot lights. If your furnace has a round knob on the gas valve with the words OFF/ON/PILOT/, you have what’s known as a standing pilot ignition.
As you probably know from experience, the biggest drawback to pilot lights is that they will get extinguished at times, causing you to lose your heat. Common reasons include a nearby draft, dirt buildup, or a malfunctioning thermocouple.
Another pilot light drawback is energy waste. Since the pilot light needs to remain active, your furnace is always consuming some propane gas. It’s not a lot, but that obviously adds up over time.
There is a safety issue as well. Pilot lights can develop problems that cause them to burn inefficiently. When this happens, a small amount of carbon monoxide can be released into your home.
Modern Furnaces and Electronic Ignition
All of these problems are not an issue when you have a modern propane gas furnace, which uses electronic ignition instead of an old-fashioned pilot light.
Most furnaces with electronic ignition have a device called a hot surface igniter. This is a small electronic device that receives an electrical current whenever your thermostat calls for heat. The ignition heats up to a temperature that is hot enough to ignite the gas to your burners, and then it shuts off after it has done its job.
Another type of electronic ignition is an intermittent pilot light. This uses a small flame to ignite the burners just like a conventional pilot light. The difference is that the flame is only lit (by an electronic spark) when your furnace is ready for a heating cycle. When the pilot light is not needed, it is completely off, saving you money on propane gas.