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Straight Talk about Propane

February 24, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Business No Comments

What’s In Your Tank?
By Dale Schulz

Question: Where does propane come from?

Answer: Propane is a by-product of drilling for oil and natural gas. Propane, along with methane, butane, and others are separated at the well head and furthered processed at a refinery. Virtually all propane currently used in North America is produced in North America. The day is rapidly approaching where the U.S. will be a net exporter of natural gas and propane.

Question: Why do I have propane and not natural gas?

Answer: Although propane and natural gas are very similar, propane when placed under slight pressure in a container returns to its liquid form and can easily be transported by rail or truck. Natural gas is best transported via pipelines. If there is not enough density of homes or businesses in an area, the best alternative to natural gas is propane. Most gas appliances can easily be converted from operating on natural gas to propane.

Question: How is the price of propane determined?

Answer: Propane is a commodity. Its priced fluctuates on a daily and seasonal basis. Propane is generally cheapest in the warm weather months when the demand is the weakest. It just takes a 5-minute call to see what your price is. We often suggest to Hunt Country Propane members they Pre-Buy their propane needs for a season and lock-in the lowest price.

Question: Why do most back-up residential back-up generators use propane?

Answer: Back-up generators go months, and even years, with only minimal use. Other fuels, such as, gasoline and diesel, tend to degrade over time sitting in a tank. Propane can go years with no change in its character. You need the generator to operate when you lose power – every time. Incidentally, we install Consumer Report’s top-rate brand of stand-by generators, Kohler.

Questions: When I purchased my home I was told that my tank was owned by the propane company. I wasn’t happy. How did that happen?

Answer: When the builder built your home rather than purchasing a 500 or 1,000 gallon tank they had your propane company provide it without charge with the requirement that you, the homeowner, must purchase propane from only that propane company indefinitely. It is similar to purchasing a new car, for example, a Ford, and being told that for the life of the auto you can only purchase gasoline from one company, for example, Shell. Typically, year after year homeowners who do not own their propane tank pay significantly more for propane than homeowners who own their tank. Company-owned tanks were a good deal for your builder and the propane supplier, but a rotten deal for you, the consumer. In 25-years of building custom homes in the area we never installed a company owned tank. All the custom homes we built in the area the homeowner owned their tank when the home was completed.

Question: Can any propane company fill up my tank if I do not own it? What alternative do I have?

Answer: No, only the company who owns your tank can fill it. Your best course of action is to negotiate the purchase of the tank with the company that owns your tank. Typically, your savings will pay for the tank purchase in a one – two year period. The sooner you own your own tank, the sooner you can start saving on your fuel bill. You may wish to tell the builder of your home that you were unhappy to learn that you don’t your propane tank.

Question: Is propane clean energy?

Answer: Propane, along with natural gas, is one of the cleanest burning fossil-fuels. Electrical generation plants throughout the Country are being converted from burning coal to natural gas. Propane produces 50 percent harmful emissions as home heating oil. If propane didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. No other substance comes close when it comes to energy density, ease of handling or flexibility.

About the Author: Dale Schulz is the President of Hunt Country Propane, www.huntcountrypropane.com., located in Middleburg. Hunt Country Propane is a local, lower priced area propane supplier. You can contact them at 540-687-3608.

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