Propane dealer services
The services propane dealers offer may significantly influence your choice of propane company. This is all the more reason to request quotes from as many companies as possible in your area to find out what dealer best suits your needs.
Propane and propane prices
The main service propane dealers offer consumers is propane. Your propane price will probably be your first consideration when requesting quotes from different dealers. You should know that propane prices vary significantly from one company to another and from one customer to another.
Mostly, propane prices depend on:
- location (the further you are from a major distribution source, the higher the propane price; the colder your climate, the higher the propane demand and the higher the propane price);
- supply and demand (propane prices increase during the winter season);
- usage (the higher your propane usage – because your home is not well isolated, because of a high number of occupants or because most of your appliances are propane-run – the lower your propane price will be); and
- the price of oil (not only does this affect propane price because propane is derived from oil but it impacts on propane dealer transportation costs, which they factor into propane prices).
Furthermore, propane prices tend to be lower for customers who own their propane tank than for customers who lease a propane tank from a propane dealer.
Of the three companies that cover the entire country (Amerigas, Suburban Propane and Ferrellgas), Amerigas seems to offer better pricing than Ferrellgas, which beats Suburban Propane prices. This assumption is based on a study of Ohio prices (Ohio is the state closest to the national average propane price).
First fill (dollars/gallon)
Next fill (dollars/gallon)
The graph below illustrates national and Ohio residential propane price trends over the 2012-2013 winter/heating season.
Source: US Energy Information Administration
Propane tanks and installation
Homeowners can buy propane tanks from propane dealers for anything between $450 and $3,500 depending on whether the tank is aboveground (cheaper) or underground (more expensive) and what size it is (the larger the tank, the more expensive it will be).
The advantage of buying a propane tank from a propane dealer is that you can ask their technicians to maintain it for you and installation is usually quoted in the price (it will vary according to labor rates and how long the tank takes to install). Furthermore, propane users who have purchased their tank are able to shop around the propane market for the best propane price.
Most propane users lease a propane tank from their propane dealer. Rented tanks are mostly aboveground while rental fees vary between $25 and $250 per year they depend on tank size and the propane dealer you select. Propane dealers usually require a certain commitment when leasing a tank, usually for a minimum of three years. If you lease a tank, you will also be forced to buy propane from a single company. Propane prices for rented tanks are higher than for purchased tanks. However, tank maintenance will mostly be included in your agreement.
When considering propane dealer services and renting or buying a propane tank, bear in mind that the size of your tank will considerably influence your propane price, regardless of whether you have bought or leased the tank. Propane users with larger tanks will likely be offered a cheaper propane price than users with smaller tanks. Therefore, it might be worth considering asking for a larger tank: not only are you likely to pay less for propane but you can plan propane deliveries when the price is lower (if you are on will-call, which means you call your propane dealer whenever you need a delivery).
Propane equipment, inspection and maintenance
An increasing number of propane dealers offer propane equipment, such as appliances or fittings. If you are building or renovating your house, this can be a convenient service to have. This is all the more true since propane dealers have qualified service technicians who will ensure your appliances are installed properly and to the highest safety standards.
It is recommended to have your entire propane installation inspected once a year. Most propane dealers offer this service, which entails having a qualified service technician have a look at your tank, fittings and appliances to ensure that there is no safety risk and that your appliances are functioning as best they can.
Another convenient service that propane dealers offer is maintenance. It is useful to have a single number to call for any customer service needs, including appliance servicing and repairs. For inspections and maintenance, propane dealers charge local labor rates so if such services interest you, you should enquire as to what you might have to pay for them in your area.
Advice on home design and energy efficiency
Propane dealers have considerable expertise regarding energy consumption. Some have converted this expertise into useful advice for those building a home or wishing to optimize their energy usage.
An increasing number of propane dealers offer services to people building new homes who want propane to be their main source of energy. This can be convenient because you receive qualified advice on where to place the tank, what size tank you will need, what appliances are best given your propane uses, etc. If you are in this situation, you should mention it to propane dealers as you request quotes: you might get useful input on building a propane-run energy-efficient home.
Similarly, propane dealers offer advice on how to maximize energy efficiency in your home. Increasing energy efficiency can significantly reduce your propane usage, and therefore your propane bills. It is also better for the environment. If you are getting quotes from propane dealers for a home that is already equipped, or in which you are installing new propane appliances, you might as well ensure that it is as efficient as possible and propane dealers tend to offer such advisory services.