Get quotes from propane companies

Propane is a convenient energy source since you control supply (your tank is located directly on your property) that is cheaper than electricity and particularly popular if you are not connected to the natural gas pipelines network.

Yet like all other energy installations, propane requires some thought to ensure your propane contract is the best given your needs and constraints. The safest way of ensuring you end up selecting the best possible companies for your home is to compare offers between suppliers by requesting detailed quotes.

Safety first

Propane is not a dangerous fuel: very few propane-related accidents happen; companies are subject to strict rules to comply with federal, state and local regulations; companies usually offer extensive staff and customer training programs on safety issues. Yet it is reassuring to have a propane company that is available all the time should you have any safety-related doubts so you might want to check which companies have a 24/7/365 safety hotline.

Responsive customer care

If you need propane delivered (especially if you have run out), if you have a question on your bill, or if you want to check the company’s daily propane price, it is important to have a reliable, friendly and responsive customer care service. The easiest way of finding this out is to get a quote and see how quickly it comes and whether it is accurate given your needs or to call the local company number and see what the staff is like.

Propane prices

Your third consideration will be how much you spend on propane. The US average yearly residential expenditure on propane is $973. This is no mean sum so check what companies propose in terms of pricing, knowing that it will depend on your usage, location, climate, etc. This is why it is useful to have thought about these issues beforehand. Your propane price will make a difference in your budget: a 10c per gallon difference on the average US residential consumption (464 gallons/year) amounts to $46.

Three propane companies (Amerigas, Ferrellgas and Suburban Propane) cover the entire country and it is difficult to establish for certain which offers the cheapest propane prices. Nevertheless, in the state that has the propane price per gallon that is closest to the national average (Ohio at $2.430/gal compared to the US $$2.492/gal average in the first week of March 2013), Amerigas seems to beat Ferrellgas, which in turn offers better prices than Suburban Propane.

Company

First fill (dollars/gallon)

Next fill (dollars/gallon)

Amerigas

1.699

2.099

Ferrellgas

1.499

2.370

Suburban Propane

1.799

2.599

The following graph shows national and Ohio residential propane price trends over the 2012-2013 winter/heating season.

Source: US Energy Information Administration

Tank type

Whether you rent or have bought your tank influences your comfort and the price you pay for propane. First, propane prices are higher if you have a leased tank than if the tank is yours. Second, propane prices are higher if you order small amounts of propane (so the size of your tank can affect your propane price). Third, underground propane tanks are more expensive but less visible than aboveground propane tanks. It is up to you to find out which combination (rented or purchased; size) suits your preferences.

Delivery options

Propane companies tend to encourage customers to have propane ordered automatically when the company works out that you need it. If peace of mind is your priority, enquire as to what this service entails (especially in terms of propane price). However, if you are ready to monitor your own propane tank level, you might be able to plan deliveries when propane prices are advantageous (but, if you run out, you will need a leak test and have to pay an emergency delivery fee if you want propane immediately).

Payment options

Filling a propane tank represents a significant lump sum (400 gallons needed to fill a 500-gallon propane tank to the usual 80% capacity, at December 2012’s national $2.413/gallon propane price amounts to $965. You might be able to afford this in one payment, but if you prefer to have such an amount spread out over several months, ask propane companies if they offer such payment solutions.

Services and fees

If you want a single contact for your propane, your tank and your maintenance, you should consider asking propane companies what types of equipment services they offer. Similarly, companies have different fee structures for issues such as deliveries, minimum propane order, special trips, maintenance, late payments, etc. Depending on your situation, you might ask what fees could apply to know what you will be paying for beyond the propane price per gallon.