Propane users, please check in

We are looking for a new place to rent. Some of the areas we are looking only have propane. I cannot get a real answer on how much my utilities will be with propane. The owners claim that they cannot estimate. I do not if they do not know because they have not lived in that house, or if they are afraid the number will scare us off.

So, if you use propane, please answer the following:

  1. What is your climate? Does it snow? Regularly below 32 for long stretches?

  2. How warm do you keep your home? 68 degrees? 70? More?

  3. How much do you spend on propane per month?

Thanks in advance.

A major point about propane is that the price varies tremendously throughout the country. For example propane is twice as expensive in New Jersey as it is in Iowa. See:
http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/heatingoilpropane/
[click on the little ‘+’ marks (besides Midwest for example) to see individual states.]

Then use a Fuel Cost Comparison Calculator after getting prices to find best energy source in your area:
http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/articles/fuel_cost_comparison_calculator/

Forgot to add:

  1. In warm weather, when you are only using it for hot water, what is the monthly bill then?

As PastTense said, prices vary across the country. Also, propane prices are like gasoline prices in that they fluctuate wildly. Depending on the size of your tank and how often you use the fuel, it’s easy to lose track of how much it is per gallon.

I’m as far north and west as you can get and still be in the continental U.S. (Unless you count Point Roberts, which is attached to the continent but you have to go through Canada to get there.) Winter nights can be in the teens and twenties, but generally they’re in the upper-20s to upper-30s. Winter highs might be in the 20s, but generally they’ll be in the 30s and 40s. There’s a mild El Niño in effect this year, so it’s been pretty toasty with lows in the 30s to 40s and highs in the 40s and even into the low 50s.

It snows most years. Generally the amount of snow on the ground is a foot or less; certainly usually less than two feet. As I said, this is a warm year so we had one accumulation of about six inches and one accumulation of about two inches. The latter didn’t last a day. OTOH, there was one year where we got a few feet and I lost a 30-foot limb from a tree. Overall, some snow; but not a lot.

Summers usually get into the mid-80s, with lows in the 60s. This part of the country is famous for its rain (even though we get less rain than, say, New York City). It’s often overcast and ‘misty’, or it drizzles, or there’s light rain. We do get heavy rain, but mostly it’s fairly light. The rainy season is usually October through May or early-June.

That’s hard to say. I set the thermostat to 60º, but sometimes I’ll boost it to 65º. If I’m chilled, I’ll kick it up to 70º. The SO doesn’t look at the setting. If she’s cold she turns it up, and when she’s too warm she turns it all the way down (50º). We turn the thermostat all the way down when we go to bed.

Again, it’s hard to say because of the fluctuating cost per gallon. Also, we don’t necessarily get it every month. In cold years we get the 124 gallon tank filled (to 80%) every five weeks. This year I don’t remember the interval. The gas truck came sometime in December. When prices were high, I think my highest bill was something like $298; and that was a cold year when we were using more than we are now. The last bill was under $200. The gas man comes round every so often and checks the gauge on the tank. If he thinks we need gas, he fills it; otherwise he goes away and comes back another day. Another factor in the cost of heating is that we have a wood-burning insert in the fireplace. It does a good job of heating, so the furnace isn’t used when there’s a fire going. I think if I planned on $200 every six weeks for propane, that would be a safe estimate. Many buildings and houses use electric baseboard heaters. Based on anecdotal evidence, those appear to cost 50% more than propane. Oh, one more thing: I had the heater serviced a few months ago after it had been turned off all Summer. Turns out there was a gas leak that I thought I’d been smelling for years. Now that it’s fixed, that will reduce the cost.

As for warm weather, the monthly bill is zero. We don’t use the heater when it’s warm, and once the weather is not going to get too chilly we turn off the pilot light.

This house was built in 1934. It had a fireplace (with a decrepit and non-functional wood stove insert) when I bought it. My friend, from whom I bought the house, had disconnected the baseboard heaters that were the main source of heat. He had the propane furnace installed. The furnace is the only propane-fueled device in the house. Everything else - the water heater, the dryer, and the stove – is electric. Obviously the cost of fuel would increase substantially if any or all of those things used propane.

The SO was on a monthly plan when she was living in Tennessee where she would pay a set amount for propane and her tank would be filled when it needed to be filled. The benefit is that she knew how much it would cost every month and could budget for it. The downside was that it could cost more than if she was on an as-needed basis. You might ask the local propane companies if they have such a plan, and how much they charge.

Johhny LA saved me most of the description- except I’m farther west and a little south of him. We use propane for heat AND hot water. We have a 500 gallon tank, which got filled February, July, and November last year. The February was a major ouch. Price fluctuations made that one $600+. November fill was done to avoid that, and was only $300 (and the tank wasn’t empty). It averages out $125/month.
With in floor heating we keep the thermostat 60-65. Upstairs is kept 55-60. We are both over 60 and really appreciate the wood stove- and burn about 5 cords of fir/soft maple per year. That will boost the temp to 68-72. Oh- our stovetop is propane too. The oven’s electric.

It’a a log house, Swedish coped and currently unchinked, and leaks heat like a sieve. (I plan to get the south, or weather side chinked this summer). Anything you do to decrease heat loss will lower your bill.

You might get with the propane company that serviced/filled tank. It is not unheard of that they can give you past records of usage/costs of that property. The owners could/should easily do this, too, if they want to be up-front with you. If they balk at your asking, get suspicious, of course.

Usage/cost-per-month may vary a bit from what you would use, especially if there were more folks residing there than would be if you rented (hot water usage, etc). But past usge will get you a close-enough number to consider. Just a thought for ya.

Fwiw, I have never lived in a propane-using place, but my oldest son had a propane-fuel truck and worked for a distributor of propane for a year or so, and he told me that that company would provide past records without any questions asked if it sounded like it wasn’t for some fraud-like reason, etc. Maybe take in the ‘ad’ or whatever gave you notice of place’s being on-the-market, so to speak. Couldn’t hurt if owners are too lazy to do it.

Just a thought to consider…

I live in the high desert, back side of the Sierras. Its hot in summer and cold in winter. It snow some and can stay cold for long periods of time. I keep the house at 68-ish. Propane for heat, water and cooking.

Right now, propane is $2.99/gal and my last fill was $500. I estimate about $1500/year. The company I use is not the cheapest, but they have the best service. I own my own tank, so I can switch willy-nilly.

Other extreme for me.

Tropical island so no snow and no heating system or thermostat at all.

We use propane only for the stove/oven and nothing else. A 100lb tank costs US$125 and lasted 11 months. We must not have done much cooking as it used to be that every six months.

also how the home is insulated is a factor in heating costs.

propane might have agricultural uses in your area which will be a competing use for fuel.

a cooperative supplier may have better price and availability.

  1. What is your climate? Does it snow? Regularly below 32 for long stretches?
    –Yes and yes.

  2. How warm do you keep your home? 68 degrees? 70? More?
    –62 during the day, 50 at night

  3. How much do you spend on propane per month?
    We’re in a buying group and hope the 1000 gallons for this year will last all winter. $2500.

This is for a largish house, though. How big of a place are you looking for?

It was getting a bit warm in here. The SO turned the thermostat up past 80º. I turned it down to 60º. The way she uses the thermostat kind of defeats the purpose of a thermostat.

My house is about 1,000 sq. ft. Snow country. Below freezing is common Dec-Feb, at least. I sign a contract in August to purchase x number of gallons at y price. If I use more propane than contracted for, then I pay whatever the rate is at that time. I have an automatic delivery minimum payment per month plan. I have a gas furnace and a non-electric gas fireplace in the basement, where all the pipes are, so nothing will freeze if power goes out. I keep the house around 64. I budget $250-$300 per month for propane. That usually gives me a month or two in the summer with no heating bill.

If it’s an investment property they may not honestly know.

Last winter, especially in the Northeast/mid-Atlantic there was one of those “perfect storms” of conditions including heavy rains in the Midwest, a Polar Vortex in the East, & some supply being committed to ship overseas that made supply tight (So tight that we had trouble getting non-essential propane a few times.) & drove prices up. If you’re looking at last year’s #s they are probably higher than an average year.

All of which could be factored into decision by looking at weather-records during times of what the propane past-usage records obtained from supplier indicate. Suppliers keep good records of how much is delivered and when, etc and doesn’t take much effort to corelate costs -v- condtions at the time(s). I have done this more than a few times myself (natural gas/electric average costs) and changed mind a couple times from average cost of heating, etc.

In particular, a potential renter could see what costs were in worst-case weather times, right? Of course, the costs may/will vary from market conditions, but its that way with electric companies, and most other ‘utilities’. Just like gasoline has dropped considerably recently, reducing operational cost of driving, but its easy to find conditions of why costs changed, blah-blah. Worth the effort to try if it is an important concern for OP, IMHO, and takes, at most, a bit of ‘research’ for comparisons of different year’s month’s usage(s) and what was happening weather-wise at time of billing indicated from records obtained.

What are the alternatives in the area?

While propane does vary widely, it is in line with much of them. Where they tend to get you is if you don’t use enough they tend around here, to jack up the price per gallon. This is generally if you use it for cooking/hot water/drying. For home heating you should easily make the lowest cost per gallon.

I own a rental house that has propane heat. If new renters asked me how much it cost I would have no earthly idea because of how the accounts work here in Georgia. As the landlord I pay the tank rental fee to have the gas company’s tank at my rental house. The policy with propane companies around here is that if you own the home you can apply to have your gas bill broken down into equal monthly payments so that it can be budgeted like most utilities at a set expenditure per month. In this scenario they will also develop a schedule to come by and check your tank and top it off without you having to call them.

However, if you do not own the property, then you have to monitor the level of gas in the tank and call them to request a fill up which is a C.O.D. bill. And they don’t like to do these special stops unless you are below 20% of the tank volume so they get to pump a fair amount of gas to offset having to make an ‘unscheduled’ stop. A good rule of thumb in my area is that propane will be at least as expensive as premium gas, and maybe more. 250 gallon tanks are the norm around here, so that’s a 200 gallon actual capacity, so a 150-175 gallon delivery at about $3 a gallon equates to a $400-500 bill that in my experience always falls right around Christmas :frowning:

Good lord, that’s ridiculously expensive. Is there no way to get natural gas where you live?

2100 sq ft. house, with gas furnace and gas water heater. Winter gas bills are $75 or less, and summer ones are actually a hair higher (nat. gas prices rise with summer cooling electricity demand), but still not over $85 per month.

There are two gas mains where I live, one at each end of the street. The nearer one serves houses that are (estimating, and I’m bad at that) 150 feet down the hill. The other one is… a quarter of a mile?

In order to get gas service, there would have to be enough neighbours who want it before Cascade Gas will put in a line. This can be problematic, as many of the houses around here are owned by Canadians who only use them in Summer. Some of my neighbours are renters who would have no say in getting piped-in gas.

A couple of years ago, a neighbour left door hangers on everyone’s house. He got enough signatures to get Cascade Gas to agree to put in a line. But there’s a catch: Each homeowner would have to agree to pay for the cost of putting in the pipeline and to have his or her house piped. (If anyone else ‘signed on’ after the installation, the charter members would receive money back.) The costs involved cut the project short. The proposed pipeline would only extend to the block where the initiator was building his new house. My house would be left out in the cold, as it were. Nevertheless, I supported the efforts because I thought I’d eventually get piped-in gas.

After jumping through numerous hoops – the number of which seemed to be added to continuously – the neighbour pushing for the pipe ran into an insurmountable snag. He had found contractors who would dig the trench and cover it up again once the pipe was in. Cascade Gas told him he’d have to use their contractors, who only cost three times as much.

In my area, we have a utility that will not work in good faith with residents. We have a law that says the utility must recoup their investment through gas sales within a certain amount of time. We have absentee homeowners, renters, and people who can’t afford the installation. So unlike many cities in the 19th Century, and many, many more in the 20th Century, we don’t have a reasonable option for piped-in gas.

If your propane company does it, you sometimes can lock in a price for the heating season and they will fill your tank for you whenever it gets low.

I can answer this one, with one good data point! For some reason I never understood, the last place I rented had propane only for the hot water heater (Oil was used for heating). Our average use was 9 gallons/month, which cost us $26/month. This was for just my wife and I – we both both tend to take long hot showers, and we also used hot water for the dishwasher and washing clothes with occasional warm or hot water cycles.