Running out of propane

Propane is popular because it is delivered directly on your property and you control your energy supply. But if you forget to control how much propane there is in your propane tank, you run the risk of running out of propane and your appliances will cease to function.

Consequences of running out of propane

Running out of propane has two main consequences. First, it is inconvenient because your propane appliances cannot operate. This is particularly inconvenient in winter if you use propane for indoor heating. It requires you to place an urgent propane delivery with your propane company and you are likely to incur special costs (“special delivery charge” for urgent or afterhours delivery; costs vary depending on supplier but can be as high as $200), notwithstanding the fact that you will have little choice as to the price you pay for propane.

Second, the National Fire Protection Association requires that if gas service is interrupted, the entire system needs to be checked for potential leaks. This is called a leak check. Only once the leak check as been performed and qualified service technicians conclude that there is no leak risk can you resume using propane. Propane companies also charge extra for leak checks (price also depends on dealer but is usually around $50).

Knowing when you might run out of propane

The average yearly American propane consumption is 464 gallons. But propane usage depends on a variety of factors including location, climate, usage, etc. It is estimated that a 2,200 sq foot home using mostly propane for energy will use between 1,200 and 1,500 gallons of propane per year. Depending on the size of your tank, such a home will require propane deliveries between three and four times a year if using a 500-gallon tank (which is what most propane-fuelled homes have).

Ultimately it is up to you to avoid running out of propane by figuring out what your consumption is, either by calculating total BTU load (measuring appliance output and consumption) or, more simply, by asking your propane company for an estimate.

Avoiding running out of propane

Clearly, it is crucial to ensure you do not run out of propane. There are two ways of doing this:

  • The easiest way never to run out of propane is to choose the automatic delivery option when signing a propane supply agreement. The propane company will monitor your usage based on historic consumption, estimated usage and weather factors and fill your tank when appropriate. However, with automatic delivery you do not always know what you are being charged per gallon unless you subscribe to a fixed rate payment service.
  • The other way of avoiding running out of propane is to monitor your fixed dial gauge closely. When it is between 20% and 30%, you should call your propane company and ask for a delivery. It is in your interest to order propane when the price per gallon is as low as possible (for example, in seasons other than winter).