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What can I let my 500 gal propane tank go down to?

Post in 'It's a Gas!' started by TheFlame, Jan 21, 2009.

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  1. TheFlame

    TheFlame New Member

    Joined:
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    I have a 500 gallon propane tank that I own. I have propane central heat, gas range, gas hot water, and gas dryer.

    Although my Jotul Oslo puts a nice big dent in my propane usage, our house is too big for it and I still burn propane at the rate of just over 300 gal/year.

    Right now I'm at about at 28% left in my tank, and I want to know how far I can let it go before I really need to fill it up. I spent a few minutes calling around to propane suppliers in my area, since last year when I filled up with my usual supplier I suspected they were not the best deal in town any more. They were bought out by a large outfit just over a year ago. It turns out my suspicion was right, they were one of the highest priced of the suppliers I called.

    The bummer is the lower priced suppliers are not taking new customers right now, probably because they're the lowest priced and are getting swarmed. Unfortunately I have myself on the worst possible fill cycle, since I always need to get filled up in the February-March time frame each year. I'd like to get that adjusted to a late summer fill cycle, when hopefully prices are at their cheapest each year.

    It will probably be another 2-3 weeks until I am at 20% on the meter. How low is too low?

    I know this has been discussed before, but it seems that the companies got caught filling up their tanks before the big drop, and it is taking forever to bring the consumer price back down.

    The following site is one I've watched for a few years now, and they're pretty accurate. They have the wholesale propane price at $0.90/gal right now, yet the average consumer price is $2.39/gal!!!!

    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/hopu/hopu.asp

    For reference, my normal supplier is at $2.39/gal, and the best I've found is $2.15 from somebody who will take a new customer. Just up the road a bit (but outside fo my delivery area) is a company getting $1.99/gal cash price. Another one local to me not taking new customers is at $1.87/gal.

    My only other thought is to get about a 100 gallons dumped to tide me over and then do the big fill right before winter starts. I'll have to see what the companies say about only dropping 100 gallons.

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  2. MishMouse

    MishMouse Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2008
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Verndale, MN
    From what I heard, (from my propain dealer, so I take it with a grain of salt) that you shouldn't let it go below 30% else there are pressure problems.

    So, if Iwere you I would put enough in to get me by maybe 100 gallons, then do the big fill when the propain companies are begging for customers.
  3. fueldude

    fueldude Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2008
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    US
    20% would still be 100 gallons. Knowing that, it might be best to wait a bit and see what the prices do. While wholesale is cheap, most suppliers bought their winter gas a much higher prices and they are stuck buying it instead of the cheaper stuff, thus no drastic reduction in retail pricing... yet.

    We reccomend to our customers that they call between 15 and 20% so that we can get them in the routing schedule. Also, it doesn't hurt to call them up and offer to pay cash upfront, you might get a better deal.

    As for just getting 100 gallons, most companies have minimum delivery amounts that are usually in the 150-200+ gallons.

    I would start to panic around the 5% level. That is when pressure/ delivery timing issues usually arise.
  4. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Central New York State
    I'm in the Catskills/Adiondacks region of New York, a rural farming/logging area. I've always had trouble getting propane. I did find a small company a few years back that told me they'd fill me at the cheapest rate if I bought and installed my own 500 or 1000 gallon tank. So I did. They been fine since, but it now looks like they might go out of business (marital problems with the owner). I only need one fill a year, if that. We heat our home and barns with wood, but use propane for clothes drying, cooking, and hot water in the summer.

    So, I called some other places and they all gave me a hard time about owning my own tank. Then I saw this in the Adirondacks newspaper. Kind of nice to see at least one business spell it all out.

    Attached Files:

  5. Galroc

    Galroc New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2008
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Hubbardston
    That is an interesting figure.

    I knew that owning your own tank gave you better prices but that owning larger tanks gets you much better prices.

    I was thinking of buying a 500 gallon tank, which would only take about 300 gallons to fill. That would add an additional $1.20/gallon.

    If I had a 1000 gallon tank, then I would be buying over 401gallons/fill for only $.65/gallon extra.

    The 1000 gallon tank would pay for itself after a few fill ups.

    Of course, they wouldn't install their 1000 gallon tank on your property unless you actually used that much propane/year, which means you have to buy the larger tanks yourself to get the cheaper rates.
  6. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    Loc:
    Central New York State
    That seems to be the main idea with most suppliers. They want you to have a tank small enough that you need a fill every time they come your way on an established route. The less gas they sell you at each fill, the higher the rate. If you own your tank, and it's big enough that they sell you a lot of gas at each visit, they still make their money - but in bulk instead of a higher percentage per gallon. subsequently, many will sell you gas at the lowest rate this way.

    So, if you own your own tank, but only get fill ups on request instead of automatic delivery, you can make sure they get to sell you a lot gas when they DO have to come.

    Our farm and home does not use a lot of gas, and we had trouble for years with running out. That because we live on a steep dirt mountain road that often gets snowed in. Many times, if the road was bad during the time of the company's scheduled delivery, they'd skip us, and we'd run out since they usually timed things so they'd be coming when we were low. They usually had us on a once every three months fill up, and if they skipped us, they wouldn' try to come back for another three months.

    I own my own tanks now on three different properties, and in most cases, it's cheaper and easier this way. Tanks are getting pretty pricey though.
  7. jdboy9

    jdboy9 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Burton Ohio
    I ran my down to 2% everything still worked fine from what I could tell.
  8. Der Fuirmeister

    Der Fuirmeister Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2009
    Messages:
    219
    Loc:
    WI
    I've run out a few times. Not a big deal in the short term according to the delivery driver. He said the pressure keeps moisture out. When we ran out there's still a small amount (below the regulator / gas valve operating limit.

    We paid $2.04 back in November from our co-op for a 800 gal. fill The buyer at the co-op said many co-ops and suppliers across the country typically lock in their futures contract price in early summer. We also get a profit sharing check from them each Feb. of about 10% of whatever we charged. I've asked them about buying our own tank and having them fill it up (because I wanted a 1000 gal tank). They only give a $.01 discount. Eventually they gave me the larger tank.

    I haven't found prices to be cheaper in fall these past few years. It's actually higher then based on the NYMEX. Below is a link to the latest wholesale price at the port in TX. Currently at $.71. You can see the historical prices. They follow crude prices very closely.


    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/hist/rpnc1d.htm
  9. Biglumber

    Biglumber Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2008
    Messages:
    73
    Loc:
    Colorado
    I'm with jd,

    Ours went down to 2 or 3 percent with no issues. Couldn't tell a difference in propane performance.
    They recommend calling them at 20 percent.

    We contract prebuy. Bought the whole year at 2.39.

    300 gallons a year would be a dream.

    Peace
  10. Der Fuirmeister

    Der Fuirmeister Member

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    Messages:
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    Loc:
    WI
    Five years ago we were paying $.89/ gal., diesel fuel was less than $1.50 / gal. and the crude prices were about what they are today.

    The price swings down a lot slower than up..........
  11. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    Loc:
    Central New York State
    10 years ago, the Agway salesman came around in the early spring trying to sell off their left-over winter-mix farm-diesel (cut with 40% kerosene). 62 cents a gallon for all we wanted. Wish I could get that deal now.
  12. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    1,995
    Loc:
    Rochester,ny
    I saw a propane tank in someone's yard the other day that had the line disconnected and hooked to a 20lb. tank that was laying on top of the 500gal. tank.
    I'm not sure what that was all about but it couldn't be good.
  13. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Rider Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Averill Park, NY, on Burden Lake II...
    Generally, the 20 lb tanks are what the service techs carry to charge the big tanks in order
    to get someone up and running after they've run out of LP...
    They may hafta use more than one for furnace/boiler folks...
    For most situations, this will get the customer thru the night...
    The refill tanker usually follows the next day...
  14. jdboy9

    jdboy9 New Member

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    Loc:
    Burton Ohio
    I think the main reason for the 20%-30% deal is because it makes you have to fill up more in the heating season a higher prices. If you fill up 3 times in the winter that is 60-90% of fuel you could have used and that is a whole tank or so depending. Go down to 5% play the market and fill up when its lowest. The propane companies try to give you excuses on why you shouldn't run it that low but I don't believe it. Maybe in the really cold temps at a low percentage you might have a problem with it vaporizing but I'm not sure on that one. All I know is I have been through three different companies in the past 10 years and the last two times I had my tank switched over they filled it to less than 10% and let me go almost a week on that.
  15. spadafore

    spadafore New Member

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    Loc:
    northwest ohio
    From my experience, 10 percent as been the benchmark. I own my own tank as well and call around when I get low they usually ask what I'm at I say 10 percent. The companies never said anything about that being good or bad. Been doing it for years like that, no problems yet. Knock on wood (my head).
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