(1) Are you aware of your residential propane price? Most propane service companies do a great job advertising their excellent customer service, industry technician training, safety record, remote tank level monitoring technology, etc. However, many of the same propane service companies fail to address one of the serious concerns of propane consumers: Easy access to the suppliers current propane pricing to make sure it is competitive. In this age of computer technology, customers should not have to take personal time for telephone calls to their propane supplier’s office to request the current price per gallon – which the supplier may or may not change moments or hours after each telephone propane price inquiry. The most efficient way for a propane supplier to share their current residential propane price is to
eliminate the propane pricing mystery by continuously posting their current prices on the company website or other public display. If a propane supplier is capable of the “high-technology” advances of remote tank monitoring, the supplier should certainly be capable of the “moderate technology” involving posting their current propane prices for public comparison. This simple effort by any propane supplier would give their customers consistent confidence regarding the competitiveness of the propane prices that appear on future billing statements.
While some propane suppliers openly post their current propane pricing for public comparison – many suppliers choose not to openly post their current residential propane price. Many of the suppliers that choose not to publicly post their daily propane pricing claim that it is impractical to do so as their propane prices change so frequently. From a customer standpoint, this makes it even more important to share propane pricing on their
website or other public display: To help their customers monitor the frequently changing propane pricing which will help customers budget their household heating expense. If your propane supplier does not publicly display current propane prices, contact them and request that they start posting their daily propane prices on their website or other public display. If your current propane supplier is unable to accomodate your request, perhaps you should find out if other propane suppliers in your area continuously display their current propane price per gallon for public comparison, and if so, consider changing your
service to one of those suppliers.
(2) Propane consumers should be aware of energy conservation measures to conserve energy resulting in lower propane heating costs. Two of these measures include using energy efficient appliances and installing proper insulation. However, at the same time, to minimize propane heating costs, each consumer must continually compare propane
prices offered by all local propane suppliers to make sure their suppliers propane prices are consistently competitive. Saving money on propane involves both energy conservation and checking to make sure that you are always paying competitive propane prices.
(3) Some propane suppliers offer their customers a special “summer-fill program”. This
program gives their customers the opportunity to purchase propane tank fills at traditionally lower summer propane prices. If available, summer-fill propane pricing is typically offered during the months of June through August of each year. Since suppliers will typically base their summer-fill propane prices on their current inventory cost, the summer propane prices will vary from one summer to the next. Some propane customers ask their propane supplier to short-fill their propane tank during the late spring resulting in extra capacity in their tank to maximize their propane savings at the lower summer-fill propane prices. Contact your supplier during the late winter to find out if a summer-fill program will be offered during the following summer.
(4) A residential propane price is often compared to the unit price of alternative heating energy
sources. Many propane industry websites offer an “energy calculator” as a tool for homeowners to compare propane prices to the unit price of these alternative heating sources (i.e. heating with electric). However, these calculators will only show a “snap shot” of the cost comparison at the time of the calculation. Propane prices and the unit price of other energy sources can change quickly which may cause the comparison test results to become useless. In addition, the residential propane price used for comparison may apply to summer propane prices that may be significantly lower than the propane prices charged to customers in the middle of a cold winter when propane prices are typically higher and consumers use the highest volume of propane.
For a more accurate heating cost comparison, ask your local supplier to provide their weekly history of propane pricing for the past twelve-months. Then contact the supplier of the alternative heating energy source (i.e. your local electric power supplier) for a history of their unit price for the same period. Entering these actual weekly figures into the “energy calculator” for a twelve-month cycle will give you a better understanding of propane prices and their cost comparison to other energy sources throughout the past heating season.
(5) Ask your friends and neighbors about their residential propane price. When comparing pricing, make sure you consider if both tanks are leased or purchased and if the annual volume is similar. If all factors are comparable, then the pricing should be similar. If both propane tanks are leased and have similar capacity, the annual rental fees for the tanks should be similar. As an alternative to telephone calls to share propane pricing information, it may make sense to contact other propane consumers in your community and start an e-mail group that shares current propane prices with other members of the propane pricing e-mail group. For example, if the e-mail group has forty members, each homeowner
will send a broadcast e-mail to the other members of the group sharing the suppliers name, the date of delivery, confirmation if the subject tank is leased from the supplier or owned by the homeowner, the number of gallons delivered and the price per gallon immediately following each delivery. This will give the groups members a very clear view of the amount and consistency of the propane prices charged by various propane suppliers in a specific community.
After several months of sharing these propane price e-mails, some members of the residential propane price e-mail group may determine that they should switch to the supplier in the area that has been charging the lowest propane prices in the area as per the e-mail pricing communications. One other benefit of this type of e-mail group is sharing the summer fill propane prices offered by various propane suppliers between June and August of each year.
(6) Customer-owned propane tank size may impact propane prices since a propane consumer may have the opportunity to negotiate a lower residential propane price per gallon by ordering a higher volume of propane when propane prices are favorable. Furthermore,
a customer that owns a larger tank has the ability to order a smaller quantity of propane at any future date if current propane prices are unfavorable. Bottomline: When purchasing a propane tank, ask any local propane supplier that sells propane tanks or your local fire department to let you know the maximum propane tank size allowable on your property. This will give you more control over managing the quanitity for each delivery depending on the current propane prices.
(7) Propane suppliers are always trying to expand their business. If you are satisfied with your propane supplier’s service and propane prices, make sure that you inquire about any customer referral reward programs offered by your supplier. Customer referral rewards are paid to current customers in exchange for helping the supplier sign-up new propane
customers through referrals. The customer referral rewards can be up to $100 per referred customer. In many cases, the referred customers will be friends, family members, neighbors and/or co-workers of the current customers. In some cases, the supplier will offer special discount propane prices to both the referring customer and the group of new customers resulting from the referrals. Ask your supplier if they will offer you and your referral group special discount propane prices after all referred customers have started their propane service.
(8) If you currently lease a propane tank from your supplier and are trying to determine if purchasing a propane tank would save you money, consider the following test: (A) Call two or three propane suppliers in your area and request quotes to install a customer-owned tank with the same capacity as your existing leased tank. Make a note of the
average price. (B) For each propane delivery that you receive in your leased propane tank this coming winter, look at your supplier’s delivery ticket to identify the number of gallons and the propane price per gallon. Within 24 hours, call other propane suppliers within your area and request a price quote for the same number of gallons delivered to
a “customer-owned tank” in your zip code. (C) At the conclusion of the winter heating season, calculate the total amount that you paid for propane delivered to your leased tank, plus the annual tank rental fee vs. the total that you would have paid for propane if you owned the propane tank. These figures will give you a good indication if it makes sense to purchase your own propane tank next summer.
(9) It is important to contact your propane supplier to let them know when you add propane heating appliances within your home. Additional propane appliances will increase your annual propane consumption. With a higher annual volume of propane purchased from your supplier, you should be asking your propane supplier for lower
propane prices for future deliveries. If you are not comfortable with your current propane suppliers response, contact other propane suppliers in your area to let them know about your additional propane appliances and request a propane pricing quote based on your higher anticipated volume.
Each propane consumer is ultimately responsible for ensuring that his/her residential propane price is competitive. If it becomes evident during your price surveys that your supplier does not offer competitive propane pricing, it may be appropriate to change your propane service to another supplier. If applicable, the summer is typically the best season
to change propane suppliers as the tank replacement process can be completed quickly without weather challenges. Many propane suppliers will change-out your existing tank at no charge, including handling all communication with your former supplier to ensure a seamless service transition.
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