Where natural gas is available, it is the fuel of choice for gas-fired furnaces, stoves, water heaters, and other fossil-fuel appliances. Natural gas is a relatively safe and inexpensive fuel, and it is widely available in most communities where utilities have run the permanent piping necessary to deliver the gas to individual homes.
But in many rural locations, seasonal housing developments, and smaller communities, there may not be the piping for delivering natural gas. Here, it is liquid propane (LP) that is normally used to power furnaces and other gas-burning appliances. This is exactly the same fuel used for barbecue grills, but when it is used as the principal home fuel, LP is generally stored in larger tanks, either buried underground or free-standing in the yard. These tanks are replenished by tanker trucks that visit on a regular schedule.
Propane is one of the component gases found in natural gas, but because it is a refined fuel, propane is typically more expensive than natural gas. Depending on the fluctuating market, LP can be up to twice as expensive as natural gas. Thus, homeowners have a very real incentive for using as little LP as possible and getting the best possible price when buying it.
Here are eight tips for saving money on your propane bills.
01 of 08
Get a Bigger Tank
LP prices fluctuate seasonally based on supply and demand, and the cost in the winter can be substantially higher. If you have a tank that's big enough to hold a year's worth of fuel, then you can have it filled in the summer when propane prices are at their lowest. The simple fact that you are buying in volume may also get you a better rate.
Ask your propane company if it offers a better deal for bigger fill-ups. If so, investing in a bigger tank might pay for itself in cost savings. If you're not sure what size tank you have, look over your bills from previous years or ask your propane provider for the history of your account.
02 of 08
Lock in Your Rate
Propane prices fluctuate, but many companies will allow you to lock in your rate for a small fee. This price-lock caps the amount you'll have to pay to fill up and lets you fill up for less if the current market prices are better than your locked rate.
Lock in once a year, and you will always know how to budget correctly for propane. If possible, lock in your prices during the summer, when you can usually get the best deal. Set a reminder on your calendar so you don't forget to call and check rates.
03 of 08
In some regions, there may be several providers of propane, and the prices can vary between them. Try an online comparison site to make sure you're getting the best rate for your area, or call around to ask about rates. If there are several providers in your area, they are probably eager to compete. And some suppliers may send their tanker trucks long distances to get your business—especially if you have a large tank.
04 of 08
Seek Out Discounts
Local propane companies sometimes offer discounts for senior citizens, U.S. military veterans, and for large fill orders. Talk to your provider to see if you qualify for any discounts. Get in the habit of asking annually; the answer may change from year to year.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Join a Propane Co-Op
A propane co-op can negotiate for special rates with suppliers in your area. You may spend $25 to $30 on your annual membership, but a small fee could easily save you hundreds of dollars a year.
06 of 08
Propane companies often tack on extra fees. Some standard fees are fuel surcharges and additional charges for deliveries made during inclement weather, after-hours, holidays, or weekends. You can avoid such charges by careful scheduling of the delivery. When you call to schedule your next delivery, ask for a break down of all related charges. If any fee seems excessive, question it.
07 of 08
Invest in a Smart Thermostat
A smart "learning" thermostat can learn your family's heating habits and dial down the temperature when you aren't home. Some models connect to your alarm system, automatically adjusting any time you put your alarm system in "away" mode. Another great benefit of a smart thermostat is if you want your house to be warm when you get home, an app can bump up the temperature when you're on your way.
08 of 08
Use Less Propane
Extend the time between fill-ups (and bills) by finding ways to use less propane. Consider these ways to reduce propane use:
- Service your furnace and hot water heater annually to ensure they're working as efficiently as possible; change filters monthly.
- Conduct an energy audit on your home, improve insulation, and seal cracks.
- Consider replacing old propane-based appliances with more energy-efficient models.
- Dress in layers and add extra blankets to your bed, so you don't have to set the heat too high.