Propane is the third most preferred source of fuel in the United States and more and more homes are discovering the utility and advantages of this unique fossil fuel. Switching from a current source of energy to a propane-based system, however, is a process that needs adequate research, professional consultation, and of course, the right decision-making. So, if you happen to be in the market for a propane tank and are thinking of looking up local propane gas companies, propane for home heating, propane tank delivery in Philadelphia, or even propane gas companies near me, hold on. Browse through this expert-compiled article on propane which will help you understand everything about propane, propane tanks, and propane suppliers.
Some basics about Propane
Propane is an element found in the earth’s crust along with other fossil fuels like natural gas and oil. Propane was first discovered in 1911 as a compound in gasoline and the decades that followed have seen it getting endorsed and accepted as one of the world’s most reliable and efficient fuels. This fossil fuel is separated from natural gas during processing and from oil while refining. The isolated propane gas is pressurized and stored as a liquid in tanks as this makes it convenient to transport and store propane. Because propane is virtually odorless, commercial facilities add an odorant – ethyl mercaptan, to give it a signature odor to detect leaks in time.
Where does the world use Propane?
According to the US Department of Energy, Propane accounts for about 2% of the energy used in the United States. From homes and businesses to facilities and industries, propane helps power day-to-day necessities in more ways than one can imagine.
1) Cooking and Heating
Propane is the fuel behind the flavors in an increasing number of American homes. Its non-toxic nature and clean-burning capability make it a preferred energy resource for home kitchens that prefer energy without the risk. Examples of propane appliances found commonly in kitchens would include ovens and cooktops. The utility of propane isn’t restricted to the kitchen area; this environment-friendly fuel also is what facilitates those refreshingly warm showers at the end of the day or the comforting warm drafts of air during the cold season.
A refrigerant is a compound that absorbs heat from the environment and when combined with other elements of a cooling or refrigeration system, provides cool air in both refrigeration and air conditioning systems. Propane finds an edge over conventional refrigerants because of its high efficiency, negligible direct emissions, and low price.
3) Industrial applications
As a clean and reliable energy source, propane finds application in power generators, vehicles, and other equipment in manufacturing facilities. Its high burning temperature makes it the perfect compound for the metal melting industry where furnaces melt metals like aluminum, brass, and money as well as precious metals such as gold and silver. The printing industry deploys hot propane gas to quickly dry ink in large-scale printing jobs, and also to burn off printing rolls.
The industry that puts food on American tables uses propane for wide-ranging applications, mainly in crop drying, irrigation and flame weeding. Some of the crop drying equipment that uses propane gas include soybean dryers, peanut dryers, corn dryers, and tobacco dryers.
Low cost and maintenance expenses coupled with negligible impact on the environment make propane a leading alternative fuel and the third most common fuel after gasoline and diesel. In fact, propane autogas provides a driving range that’s 250 % farther than natural gas, 60 % farther than methanol, and 25 % farther than ethanol.
What is the lifespan of a Propane Tank?
The lifespan of a propane tank depends on a few factors: size, use, and maintenance. Studies indicate a high-quality, well-maintained galvanized propane tank can power a home and its needs for 30 years or more. Here are a few ways to ensure the maximum possible life expectancy for your propane tank.
- Do leak testing on a routine basis
- Monitor the fuel quality
- Check the appliance vents
- Inspect the anti-corrosion coating for underground tanks
- Disconnect the tank when not in use
- Ensure the propane tank is positioned level to the ground
- Check the appliance connectors
How much Propane does an average home use?
How long your propane tank continues to fuel your home’s requirements depends on two things. The size of the tank and the extent of usage. Here are a few facts that will help you understand how long you can expect your propane tank to last until the next refill.
1) For grilling: Assuming that you use a 20-pound tank and a medium-sized grill, one tank will last anywhere between 18 to 20 hours. If you have a larger grill, it will burn through your tank in half the time. On average, you can expect 8 grill sessions from a single tank.
2) For heating water: The average home burns around 1.5 gallons of propane/day for its water heating requirement. This adds up to 200 to 300 gallons of propane/year for heating water which would mean roughly two and a half 500-gallon tanks per year for heating and cooking.
3) For the furnace: A home furnace on average, runs on nearly 100,000 BTUs (A BTU is the industry standard to measure the heating efficiency of appliances within a home) and 1 gallon of propane equals 92,000 BTUs. This means an average home furnace will burn around 1 gallon of propane per hour.
To sum up, here’s an overview of propane consumption as per a household’s needs:
- Gas cooktops: 5-10 gallons per month
- Water heaters: 1.5 gallons per day
- Furnaces: 1 gallon per hour
- Dryers: Under 1 gallon per day
- Fireplaces: 1 gallon every 3 hours
The Pros and Cons of Propane
1) Safe and clean-burning
Propane is a non-toxic gas that emits almost no pollutants upon burning. Propane only releases water vapor and carbon dioxide and not carbon monoxide like some other fuels, which is toxic and therefore harmful to human health.
2) Single fuel source
With Propane, you won’t need to have multiple energy sources to run different appliances within your home. For instance, you won’t need to rely on expensive electricity to run your cooking stove or water heater. Propane can virtually power every appliance in and around your home.
3) Stock up
Propane tanks can hold up to 1000 gallons of fuel. This gives you the comfort of fewer refills as well the cushion to wait until the off-season to cash in on low prices and deals.
1) Less heat-producing than Oil
Technically, propane produces fewer BTUs per gallon than oil. This means you’ll need a higher quantity of propane to match the amount of heat generated by a lesser quantity of oil. This, in a way, offsets the price advantage that you enjoy with propane.
2) High Upfront Costs
Switching to a propane heating system can be an expensive affair since it requires a professional-grade installation. Recovering this heavy investment via savings made on fuel refills will take a while.
3) High Maintenance
Propane tanks can either be bought or rented. If you own the propane tank, it becomes your responsibility to ensure periodic maintenance, timely repairs, and in the worst of scenarios, a complete replacement.
What are the Propane tank placement laws you should know about?
Although propane is a non-toxic gas, it is a flammable compound. It’s the reason that every state sets in place safety rules that are meant to be followed when setting up a propane tank within a residential property. Here are the rules you need to consider when setting up a propane tank on your premises.
1) For 100-pound Propane tanks
*Minimum distance from the opening of a building: 3 feet
*Minimum distance from any source of ignition: 5 feet
2) For 100-gallon Propane tanks
*Minimum distance from the opening of a building: 5 feet
*Minimum distance from any source of ignition: 10 feet
Note: No more than four 100-gallon tanks can be placed next to each other as long as the placement rules are adhered to.
3) For 500-gallon Propane tanks
*Minimum distance from the opening of a building: 10 feet
*Minimum distance from any source of ignition: 10 feet
*Minimum distance from a property line: 10 feet
4) For 1000-gallon Propane tanks
*Minimum distance from the opening of a building: 10 feet
*Minimum distance from any source of ignition:10 feet
*Minimum distance from a property line: 10 feet
Note: If you place two 1000-gallon tanks within 3 feet of each other, the above clearance requirements increase from 10 to 25 feet.
5) For Underground Propane Tanks
*100-gallon tanks: 9′ 6″ L x 4′ W x 44″ deep
*500-gallon tanks: 14′ L x 5′ W x 4′ 6″ deep
*1000-gallon tanks: 20′ L x 5′ 6″ W x 4′ 6″ deep
Are there any dangers to watch out for with Propane?
Propane is odorless in nature and is therefore hard to detect during a leak. Leaks can happen due to loose connections or damage to the gas line that connects to the propane appliance.
2) Incomplete Combustion
Although propane is a clean-burning fuel, appliance malfunctions can result in incomplete combustion of the gas. The outcome of this is the release of carbon monoxide, which is extremely harmful to inhalation. You can detect incomplete gas combustion through variations in the flame color of appliances that run on propane.
Propane is a highly flammable compound and even the smallest of sparks can pose a deadly risk to life and property in an enclosed space that has a propane leak. For safety reasons, propane comes combined with a leak detection chemical that imparts a distinctive smell to the odorless gas. If you smell this odor, shut off your tank and appliances immediately and open your doors and windows to let the gas out.
4) Tank Damage
Propane is a naturally occurring gas that’s converted into liquid form under extremely high pressure. It’s pumped into your propane tank as a pressurized liquid which is likely to cause dents and other damage, resulting from the high pressure of propane in its liquid form. Since a ruptured tank can easily trigger an explosion, it is important to check your propane tank routinely for signs of pressure and damage.
A build-up of propane can be potentially lethal because breathing in the gas can lead to hypoxia – a form of the oxygen deprivation that can lead to death.
How to stay safe when using Propane
It’s always better to be safe than to face a hazard. Here are some practices you can follow to ensure America’s preferred energy source facilitates your daily household activities in the safest, smoothest way possible.
1) Keep it in the open
Do not place a propane tank in your garage. In the event of a leak, the spark resulting from starting up your car can result in a fire.
2) Away from the sun
A hot summer day can cause the temperature of a propane tank stored outside to go above 120 degrees(Fahrenheit). The heat will exert pressure on the propane inside the tank, which when released by a relief valve could end up getting ignited. The safety advice here is, to keep your propane tank in a shaded area.
3) Make sure it’s upright
A level placement of the tank will ensure it doesn’t get knocked over to its side, which could end up damaging the valve on top. A damaged top valve can end up in a gas release which could lead to a fire hazard.
4) Keep tanks at a safe distance
Keeping backup tanks is a good idea and will protect you in times of fuel shortages or peak seasons. However, ensure proper and recommended distancing of at least 10 feet between the tanks and any object that’s potentially flammable.
5) Close the valve
Keep the valve closed when not using any of your propane appliances. The right way to do this is to close the valve first and then the burners, which will allow the excess gas to clear the lines.
6) Don’t use a damaged tank
If you spot dents, rust, or any other form of damage, stop using your tank immediately as the integrity of your tank may be compromised. Call up a professional right away to check whether your tank needs to be repaired or replaced.
How to look for Propane suppliers
1) Check the prices
The cost at which you procure your yearly propane supply is one of the most important factors in choosing your supplier. Look at different pricing plans in order to determine which makes the best sense for you. Also look at details like installation fees, termination fees, and minimum monthly purchase when comparing propane dealers. The ideal choice would be a supplier who offers you the best of everything, including the propane pricing plan.
2) Look at delivery options
The convenience you experience in having your propane delivered to your doorstep is another important factor. Look for options like automatic delivery – where your supplier will automatically know when to fill your tank, timed delivery – where you can schedule your propane deliveries, will-call delivery – where you’ll receive a delivery only when you ask for it and fall delivery – where your propane deliveries only happen during fall when your propane needs rise more than in other seasons.
3) Rate the customer service
Notice how the supplier responds to you in person or even over a phone call. Look for qualities like promptness, professionalism, politeness, timeliness, and resourcefulness in dealing with your needs. In an emergency, a supplier who you rate high on customer service is more likely to bail you out than suppliers who fall short on service standards.
4) Ask for credentials
There are a number of regulations and laws governing the storage, transportation, handling, and use of propane. Check whether your propane supplier adheres to these quality and safety regulations and also, has the requisite qualifications and licenses to be in the field.
5) Look for reviews
A great way to know whether you’re hiring a professional standard supplier is to look at the customer reviews. The experiences of fellow customers are the best indicators of the quality, standard, and comfort that you can expect from a supplier.
How to choose the right Propane tank
When it comes to installing a propane tank, one size or type doesn’t fit all. Your needs and home dynamics would be different from any other home in your neighborhood, and therefore you need to arrive at a choice that not only matches your requirements but also your space and budget. Here’s how you can go about finding a propane tank that’s right for your home.
1) The size of your home
Some families end up buying a tank that’s either too small or too large for their requirements. A tank that’s small will not be able to provide enough heating and a tank that’s too large will give you more propane than you actually need. Ideally, the size of the tank should be based on the area of your home. A roughly 2,500 square feet home would need a 500-gallon tank, while a home that is 5,000 square feet in size would require a 1,000-gallon tank.
2) Number of Propane appliances
Look at the total number of appliances in your home other than just those used for heating. These would include your dryer, fireplace, refrigerator, freezer, and so on. Calculating the total requirement of all your appliances will give you a fair idea of the capacity you need.
3) The size of your family
The number of people in your family to has a bearing on your home’s propane consumption. Your home may be the same size as another down the street but a comparatively larger family will mean more propane usage and therefore, a larger tank to have your day-to-day propane needs to be fulfilled.
4) Available Space
You may need a large-sized tank but can your property accommodate it? Look at the size of your property to determine whether your tank needs to be vertical or horizontal, small or big.
Where you live also has a role to play when it comes to choosing the right tank. A region that’s known for long and harsh winters will need you to install a larger than usual tank so that you don’t get stretched for fuel during days when the weather makes transportation difficult.
Choosing a propane tank that checks all your boxes is not an easy task by any means. But we hope this comprehensive read will put you on the path to making the right choice. If you’re looking for propane companies in pa, propane dealers in Chester County or Delaware County, local propane companies, propane tank delivery in Philadelphia, or even propane dealers near you, give us a call. We’re Boyle Energy, a family-driven business that’s been serving homes and families with service that’s honest, professional, and affordable since 1937. Our propane technicians and experts are some of the finest in the industry and we look forward to an opportunity to serve your propane-related needs in the distinctive Boyle way.