Guide To Residential Propane

Author: CC

Feb. 04, 2024

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Tags: Measurement & Analysis Instruments

From keeping your home warm to fueling a summer barbecue, propane does it all. Thanks to its convenient, safe and eco-friendly qualities, propane is the fuel of choice for many homeowners and businesses. If you’re thinking of switching to propane, you probably have questions about what it entails. Read this handy guide to learn everything you need to know about propane.

What Is Propane?

Propane is another word for liquified petroleum gas, a clean-burning fuel that’s nontoxic and colorless, with a distinct, sulphuric smell added. When pressurized, the propane gas becomes a liquid we can store in tanks for easy transportation. Releasing the pressure turns the liquid into a combustible gas. Propane fuels various appliances,  including cars as an autogas.

Though we started using propane as fuel in 1910, it’s a relatively new fuel source. Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency has dubbed it an alternative clean fuel. Now, homes and businesses nationwide use propane as an eco-friendly solution offering excellent performance.

Where Does Propane Come From?

Propane isn’t “produced” in the typical sense. Instead, we get it from one of two processes.

  1. Natural gas separation: Before natural gas can move through pipelines, it undergoes processing to remove unwanted components, including propane. The separated propane gets sent off for further processing.
  2. Oil refinery byproducts: Several stages of oil refining produce LPG and other hydrocarbons. Again, the separated propane gases require extra processing before consumers can use them as fuel.

After isolating propane, producers remove contaminants and pressurize it until it reaches its liquid form. By itself, propane is odorless, but producers add an ingredient that gives its distinct rotten-egg smell, allowing people to detect leaks more easily.

The fully processed propane gets stored in large tanks and transported in special pressurized trucks and rail cars. Then, a supplier finishes the journey by delivering propane to homes and businesses in smaller tanks.

Propane Pros and Cons

People use propane for many reasons that range from ease of use to environmental advantages. Some propane benefits include the following.

  • Low carbon emissions: While it still emits some carbon, propane releases much less than other popular fuel sources, making it an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Environmental safety: Another eco-friendly bonus of propane comes from its physical characteristics. Since propane turns into a gas when depressurized, it won’t spill or pool, so it doesn’t contaminate groundwater or soil. If propane leaks, it dissipates into the atmosphere, making residential propane a lower environmental risk.
  • Affordability: Like all fuels, propane prices fluctuate, but this fuel is usually very cost-effective. You can even take advantage of how much propane costs by stocking up in the warmer months when demand is lower.
  • Versatility: Today’s homeowners have numerous options for propane appliances. You can use propane for everything from furnaces and water heaters to grills and pool heaters. It also offers dependable fuel for standby generators.
  • Easy storage: Unlike diesel fuel and gasoline, propane doesn’t degrade over time. Plus, storage tanks offer high capacities, so you can stay stocked up with fewer deliveries.
  • Efficiency: If we compare propane vs. natural gas, propane creates more heating energy per gallon, making it a more efficient fuel source.
  • Reliability: When you use propane to heat your home, you can remain independent from the grid. If outages occur, you still have all the supply you need. You can fill up far before inclement weather, and the United States’ abundance of propane makes it a dependable choice.

Of course, no solution is perfect. If you opt for propane, you’ll need to remember these potential drawbacks.

  • Tank maintenance: Storing propane requires having a tank on your property, which you can buy or lease. If you buy your tank, you must keep it in good condition with regular inspections. Fortunately, propane tanks are low-maintenance, so you’ll mostly need to keep an eye out for problems. You can avoid these responsibilities by renting your tank and allowing the propane supplier to maintain it.
  • Safety requirements: Like all fuel sources, propane comes with some hazards. It is a flammable gas, and improper combustion can create carbon monoxide. You’ll need to be a responsible propane owner and abide by safety best practices like not keeping tanks in the house, checking for leaks and maintaining a carbon monoxide alarm. Our knowledgeable team members can walk you through propane safety practices to stay as safe as possible.

What Is Propane For?

Today’s homeowners can find propane appliances for nearly any purpose. Some homebuilders even use an approach called the propane energy pod to merge space heating, water heating, clothes drying, cooking and fireplaces into one high-efficiency system.

Here are some other uses for propane:

  • Propane furnaces
  • Propane tankless water heaters
  • Propane dryers
  • Propane ranges
  • Propane grills
  • Propane fire pits and patio heaters
  • Propane log sets
  • Lighting
  • Pool heating

If you want to use equipment while going off-grid, some propane appliances have features to make them usable without other forms of power. For example, a stove or oven might have a battery to provide a spark when grid electricity is unavailable, so you can still cook during a power outage. Propane generators can also help you get electricity during outages.

Many businesses choose propane, too. Organizations can use propane for many of the same purposes as homeowners, like heating an office or retail space. A construction crew might have a propane generator to bring electricity to the job site, while a farmer could use propane to dry grains for storage.

Should You Use Propane as Your Home Fuel Source?

Whether you already own your home or are considering buying a propane-run house, this fuel source is an excellent choice. Many homeowners can convert their houses to run on propane with some remodeling. You’ll need to prepare for switching to home propane heating, such as installing special fittings to natural gas appliances and having a professional evaluate your home for a propane conversion.

If you’re looking at buying a home with residential propane, ask the right questions about its propane supply and infrastructure to ensure it will fit your needs.

However you get there, propane can help your appliances run better, and some are more user-friendly. Plus, you have plenty of choices. Your propane tank comes with options, too, so you can find a size and style that fits your space. Using propane is an excellent way to maximize your fuel. Explore a virtual model to see some of the possibilities of a propane home.

Choosing a Propane Supplier for Your Home

Deciding where to buy propane is crucial to your overall experience with this fuel source. After all, if your supplier is unreliable and leaves you with an empty tank, you won’t enjoy any of the benefits of residential propane. Before switching to a new propane supplier, evaluate them for the following qualities.

  • Responsive: Your supplier should be easy to contact and quick to respond to any issues.
  • Well-respected: Look for a propane supplier with a long track record of success. Talk to your neighbors and friends and look up reviews online to learn more about their reputation.
  • Cost-effective: Propane costs should fit your budget, but remember that the lowest price may not always be the best. Consider the value of additional services and reliability. You might be happy to pay a little more if it means you’ll never worry about an empty tank in the middle of winter.

If you fill your tank manually, you must monitor the fuel level yourself and call for deliveries when needed. With a propane auto-fill program, your supplier monitors tank levels and delivers propane on time. At Foster Fuels, our skilled technicians check tank levels along a regular route and set up deliveries before you get too low. You can avoid the cost of an expedited delivery, stay prepared for bad weather and take one more thing off your to-do list.

Common Propane FAQs

Propane is unique, so you’re not alone if you still have questions. We’ve answered some common ones here, but if you have any other questions, our team is happy to answer them!

Is Propane Environmentally Friendly?

Propane is an eco-friendly fuel for a few reasons.

  • Low carbon: Burning propane releases less carbon than other fuels, like gasoline and coal.
  • Less pollution: As a clean-burning fuel, propane doesn’t emit pollutants like sulfur dioxide or methane.
  • Less transportation: Most propane comes from domestic sources, so it doesn’t involve the additional emissions and energy usage involved with overseas shipping.
  • No contamination: Since propane dissipates into the environment, a spill won’t contaminate groundwater and soil.

Propane fits the bill if you want an eco-friendly fuel without sacrificing performance and reliability.

What Do You Do When You Smell Propane?

Propane is naturally odorless, but all propane sold today has an additive that makes it smell like rotten eggs or a skunk’s spray. If you notice this smell, take action immediately with the following steps.

  1. Identify the problem: Look for other signs of a leak. If you’ve recently turned on your stove or your furnace’s pilot light went out, you might notice the smell briefly. A lingering or particularly noxious odor could indicate a problem. A hissing sound is another red flag.
  2. Get away from the leak: If you notice any of these concerns, it’s urgent to get yourself, your family and your pets out of the house. Do not use anything that could generate a spark or an electrical charge, such as a lighter, light switch, doorbell or thermostat. If you notice a leak outdoors, leave the area and avoid vehicles or electrical equipment.
  3. Shut off the gas supply: If you can safely do so, shut off the main gas supply on your propane tank.
  4. Contact your propane provider or 911: Leaks require professional intervention. Call your propane provider immediately. They’ll send out a professional to inspect the situation. If you don’t have a supplier, 911 can also help.

How Long Does Propane Last?

Propane is one of the easiest fuels to store. It has no expiration date and doesn’t degrade over time, so it has an extremely long shelf life. Your tank will require more upkeep than the propane, as it requires recertification 10 years after manufacturing and every five years after that.

In usability terms, a 20-pound tank for a small grill might last around 18 to 20 hours. Estimating how long a propane tank will last for your home can be trickier because it depends on many factors. Our technicians can help evaluate your system and identify an appropriate tank size for your needs.

How Much Propane Does the Average Home Use?

Again, these numbers can vary widely due to factors like your home size, your appliances, the climate and your usage, but we can use some ballpark estimates. The United States Energy Administration predicts that between November 2023 and March 2024, homeowners will use 545 gallons of propane, on average. Homeowners typically use far less during summer, and many households will only need one or two refills throughout the year.

You can get a better idea of how much propane a home will use by adding up your heating requirements. Check out these propane use averages for different appliances to get started.

How Do Temperature Changes Affect Propane?

Propane’s performance in cold temperatures is one reason it’s a popular choice for home heating. It would take temperatures of minus 44 degrees Fahrenheit to turn LPG back into a liquid — temperatures we rarely see in the mid-Atlantic region. However, cold weather can cause propane to shrink in volume, reducing a tank’s internal pressure.

If you take readings yourself, you’ll need to remember this behavior because it can make your tank appear to have less propane. When experienced technicians take tank readings, they compensate for the temperature to ensure accuracy.

Make the Switch to Foster Fuels

Whether you want to save costs, improve reliability, support the planet or take advantage of something else propane has to offer, Foster Fuels is here to help you make the most of it. We’ve served Virginians for over a century, bringing top-tier service to homeowners and businesses alike. Our knowledgeable team provides unmatched reliability and an auto-fill program to make propane delivery as smooth as possible.

Reach out today to learn more about our services or request an estimate!

Seven Ways to Use Propane in Your Home

You might be surprised by all that >a href=”/fuels/propane/”>propane fuel has to offer. Not only does it deliver comfort. You’ll also enjoy greater efficiency, energy savings, and the flexibility to live where and how you want. Here are seven ways you can use propane in your home.

1. Home Heating
Propane furnaces are the best choice for eliminating cold pockets in your home during the winter. You’ll get consistent, comfortable heat when you want it.

2. Water Heaters
With new efficiency standards, tankless propane water heaters are a far better alternative over electric water hears. They’re compact to fit into tight spaces, heat twice as much water in an hour and are more cost effective.

3. Cooking
Everyone should experience the joys of cooking with propane – more precise temperature control, pans heat quicker and more evenly than electric cook tops and ovens.

4. Laundry
Propane-powered dryers are gentler on your clothing, dry items faster, save money and produce fewer wrinkles.

5. Fireplaces
Propane-fueled gas fireplaces are designed for efficiency. They offer adjustable heat output for personal comfort and can be turned on with a switch, remote control or even your smartphone!

6. Outdoor Living
Expand your living space with features that add comfort to your life. Have a dedicated propane line to your gas grill. Never run out of propane as you’re getting ready for dinner. Add a fire pit or fireplace to your patio to raise the outdoor temperature. Add a propane-powered heater to your pool to extend the swimming season.

7. Standby Generator
Whether you want the convenience of charging your phone or opening your garage door during a bad storm or saving your food in your refrigerator or keeping your sump pump running during an extended power outage, a standby generator can be your propane-powered lifesaver.

If you would like to maximize the performance and efficiency of your home using propane, contact us.

Guide To Residential Propane

Seven Ways to Use Propane in Your Home

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