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Propane tank - above or below ground?

Post in 'It's a Gas!' started by Knots, Sep 18, 2013.

  1. Knots

    Knots Member

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    I'm building a new house in southern Maine. Most heating will be by wood stove, but when I'm not around it will be propane.

    Also, hot water will be on-demand propane, the cooking will be propane, and the 6kw back-up generator will be propane.

    I'm looking for guidance on whether an in-ground or above-ground tank would be better. Also, what the price difference is on the two. Any advice on owning the tank vs having a company own it?

    Thanks in advance...

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  2. lukem

    lukem Minister of Fire

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    I'm not sure how much advice I can offer. I have an in-ground 500 gallon tank that was already installed when I bought the house. For me, the only real advantage is that I don't have to look at it.
  3. MishMouse

    MishMouse Minister of Fire

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    Depends on how much space you have. Ours is an above ground tank, and it does get in the way.

    As for owning vs. renting I pay yearly rent on mine and if I had the opportunity I would purchase my own tank so I wouldn't be tied to a specific company.
    By renting the tank from a company it tied me to that company FG, if I owned my own I could shop for the best price.
  4. Knots

    Knots Member

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    Thanks. I was under the impression that an underground tank could be filled more than an above ground. Not sure if that's true though.

    Also, I read somewhere that above ground tanks can have flow problems below 20 below zero.
  5. Knots

    Knots Member

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    If you want to own it, who do you call to install it? I would imagine the gas companies don't really want to sell you a tank.
  6. MishMouse

    MishMouse Minister of Fire

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    They will sell you one, but it will be very expensive. Which is why I still rent.

    As for who do you call to install it, I would assume any gas company would be glad to install it for a price.

    I think your best bet would be to call around in your area and do some pricing.
    An above ground tank should be cheaper to install then a below ground tank.
    So depending on what you want you may want to ask them about that also.

    If I didn't own a wood stove I would definitely purchase the tank, as shopping around would save me major money.
    But, since I only use it for occasional heating and to cook with I really do not go through enough to justify purchasing it.
    If I was burning through a tank a month during the burning season like I was before the wood stove, yes I would buy the tank.
  7. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

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    Loc:
    Averill Park, NY, on Burden Lake II...
    I asked my LP company if I could get an underground tank & they told me no problem. I just had to dig the hole & pour a concrete pad to support the tank & they'd install it. I decided to burn pellets for heat instead...
  8. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    I looked at it but be careful. A lot of propane companies I talked to said they would only fill their tanks, which made shopping around for the best price impractical. They will put in the tank for free but if you don't use enough they charge.
  9. Knots

    Knots Member

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    Yikes. This is what I'm worried about.
  10. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    I know, they want to be your best friend before they bind you to their company. In most areas its illegal (illegal, like you're a criminal) to fill another company's propane tank.

    I've got a friend who had them drop a 1000g tank in the ground for him. Its been 4 years and yes only used about 50g/yr and they're threatening him to use more or they will come and take the tank. He said he purposely buried the tank to discourage them.

    I understand propane companies are trying to make money, but I've had nothing but bad experiences when it comes to their service. I had 2x250 gallon tanks for a pool heater we removed so the tanks just hung out for a year till they told me I'd have to pay a rental fee. I told them to come and get the tanks that were 100% full, meaning approx 200 gallons(80% fill) in each. My rebate back was for 288 gallons and when I called to complain I had a 20 minute discussion about how a full propane tank is really an arbitrary state of reality. Total b.s. They stole from me.

    My only other contact was for an apt heated with propane. It was automatic delivery, and they never failed to fill us up right before the price took a dive, usually after New Years and mid May.

    Bastards. 20yrs later and I'm still pissed about that.
  11. Knots

    Knots Member

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    Marvelous. Now I'm reminded why I like my wood stove so much.
  12. lukem

    lukem Minister of Fire

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    Same here. I wasn't buying enough propane so they tried to charge me the rental fee. I told them to come get it...better bring your hoe...

    They didn't come. Oh well.
  13. Trail_Time

    Trail_Time Member

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    Buy the tank. Especially if you plan to be there a while. I have had the pleasure of a company owned tank vs owning my own tank and I will NEVER go back to the former. Way too much aggrivation and way overcharged. Now all I do is call a couple suppliers and buy from whoever is the cheapest and or best service.

    I would guess you would save enough to pay for the tank and install in 4-5 tank fills.

    Check around. Tank prices vary. You can even find used or refurbished tanks.
  14. Knots

    Knots Member

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    Yeah - the local installer says if it's below ground the tank is mine, above and it's his. I'm going to meet with the excavator soon and try to make arrangements to bury a 1000 gallon.
  15. turbosporsche

    turbosporsche Member

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    Buy the tank and place it in ground. They hold the same amount in or above ground only can fill them 80 %. Need room for expansion. Lp is a gas but when compresses turns to liquid. Heat affects when that happens so that's y u can't fill to the top. Also when buried you don't have to worry about a tree falling on it or when it rusts turning brown. Plus when buried some people clam a more constant pressure in the tank. So.
  16. Prairie Pucker

    Prairie Pucker New Member

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    I've been using LP for 35 years and went through the same thought process when we built our new house ~20 years ago. Not a fan of the above ground tank, so putting it underground sounded good. But I was advised not to due to LP's heavier-than-air ability to infiltrate through the ground or creep along the outside of buried pipe if the tank should spring a leak. Think basement filled with fumes and flipping the wall switch. I don't recall whether local code here prohibits an in-ground tank, but there's something to be said for having visual access to monitor the condition of the tank. Even above ground in a relatively "dry" environment the paint chips and rust begins, but at least you know it and can take care of it. Personally, if I were considering the purchase of a house I would consider a buried tank in questionable condition to be a liability instead of an asset. As far as buying/leasing, the lease costs me $100/year. I grumble about it, but when the tank regulator went bad the company replaced it. When the paint chips and rust start to accumulate, they're the ones who do the touch-up work. A nice concrete pad with an attractive privacy screen minimizes the visual impact.

    PP
  17. Knots

    Knots Member

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    Mr. Pucker - those are some very good points. My only concern about leasing is that I will be primarily heating with wood, so my usage may be so low that they start to charge me a penalty fee.
  18. RockyMtnHigh

    RockyMtnHigh Feeling the Heat

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    A lot of people in my area do underground tanks due to forest fire issues. Other than that, I'm not much help lol
  19. Knots

    Knots Member

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    A large part of southern Maine burned to the ground in 1947, so that is a valid consideration. Thanks.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fires_of_1947
  20. T-Bear

    T-Bear New Member

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    I have a home in the southern Adirondacks. When I purchased the house ( not my primary residence) it had two 100 gallon above ground tanks. The house had two propane space heaters supplementing wood and electric. The tanks were rented which locked me into Suburban Propane. At the time they were charging 3.50 plus per gallon. I converted to a high efficiency propane boiler as primary heat and added a 15KVA generator for back up power.

    I wanted to buy a 500 gallon underground tank. Suburban kept telling me these were not available. That was BS. I learned that many propane companies will only rent because they want you locked into them and they want to control the price. I found a family owned but fairly large dealer who sold me the tank.
    I had an excavator dig the hole, I did not need concrete in my area. After the tank was installed they buried it. The whole job including the tank fill was about $2800 and was done in one afternoon.

    I can buy from anyone but the small dealer has multiple plans and is very cost competitive. I pay the season in advance for a fixed price. This year $1.89 per gallon for 850 gallons delivered as needed. If I need more it is sold to me at the going rate. If I have propane left over I get the propane in the tank and credit for more. Propane tanks are only filled to about 80% capacity, so at best you get 400 gallons for a 500 gallon tank. That works out to 3 fills a year for me.

    This works great for me and I pay way less for propane then my neighbors. In my situation, the tank install costs were paid off in savings within 3 years.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
    Knots and CenterTree like this.
  21. Knots

    Knots Member

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    Thanks for the info. That's what I want to do, but with a 1000 gallon tank.
  22. bigdaddy11

    bigdaddy11 New Member

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    11 years ago I insisted the propane company let bury the tank because I didn't want to look at it. Then we argued over the years about being locked into them as a supplier and who owned the tank. Original company was absorbed by a new one. Now the gauge is broken. I guess it's their tank now ==c ;ex
  23. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    it happened quite a few times besides '47...

    as to the original question.... buy the tank, bury it.... and make sure it complies with the AHD.... your FD can be a bit of a PITA....
  24. Bret Chase

    Bret Chase Minister of Fire

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    It's actually no to support the tank.. but to keep it in the ground.... a LPG tank is naturally buoyant and will breach the ground like a Seawolf class sub...
  25. WiscWoody

    WiscWoody Minister of Fire

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    I used to lease my tank but when I got my wood stove in 2010 I called my LP supplier and asked if I could buy the tank as used. They said sure, no problem and I bought it on the spot. It cost me $700 for the 500 gallon above ground tank and I have repainted it since. They fill tanks here to 85% and it has not caused any problems. It gets very cold up here, some nights can be close to -40F and the boiling or evaporation point of LP is -44F. A underground tank can give you the assurance that your tank won't go into a vacuum on the coldest of night but not many areas get that cold. Just where us fools live....

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