Skip to comments.Is my propane company committing fraud or creating a safety hazard? (New Hampshire vanity)
Posted on 02/06/2013 8:52:17 PM PST by AlmaKing
Yes, this is a vanity, but I figure some Freepers might have better answers than what I'm finding in web searches.
EnergyNorth Propane made a delivery to my tank this morning. My tank was already 70% full. I have not been using my furnace for heating this winter, not once. I've relied on 2 space heaters, so I have essentially converted to 100% electric heat which is a lot cheaper than using the propane furnace that came with the house.
The bill indicated 70 gallons of propane was delivered at $3.17 per gallon and also indicated the initial tank fill percentage was 70% and the final fill percentage was 80%. I knew something was wrong because my tank holds only 220 gallons and 70 gallons would be a 30% fill-up.
I inspected the regulator and found the tank fill percentage was 100%. I took pictures of this. Per my contract, they are supposed to fill the tank to a max of 80% to avoid leakage.
They've done this two months in a row. They know I have not used propane for the whole winter, so they're losing money on me.
Is this billing illegal?
Is filling a residential propane tank to 100% capacity a safety hazard and/or illegal?
Most are and a heating contractor gave me the explanation I recounted in post #31. I guess YMMV. If there is no register under the window there will be more cold induction from the window.
I did account for 'other locations' in post #37.
Another is in front of a closet at the end of a hall that is windowless except for the window in a door leading to the outside.
Putting a register next to an exterior door is a really bad idea. Too much debris would fall into it from the traffic. I would question the competence of any contractor who did that.
Ideally a window will be fitted with a curtain heavy enough to shut off most air circulation against it when the temperature differential between the outdoors and the inside is great.
Propane tanks have valves that release pressure, if there’s too much pressure in the tank. I saw one of these fail spectacularly on a 100 degree day on a 500 gallon full propane tank. The cover blew off, flew about 30 feet. Then the propane all leaked out over the next 2 days.
1. Your propane tank is much too small. Propane prices vary throughout the year. August-Sept is usually the least expensive. Try to get a 500 or even better a 1000 gallon tank and have it filled completely at the end of summer.
2. Stop your auto fill program. This does nothing but insure that you will buy propane during the winter, when prices are highest. Top off at the end of summer and monitor level every two weeks. Write it down. If you go below 20% full order 100 gallons. This way you end the winter with tank almost depleted and buy the least propane possible during the high price winter months.
3. Your immediate problem is that the tank is overfilled at 100% and is a safety hazard. They should come back out and lower tank level to 80%. They should meter the gas coming out and give you a refund.
4. When your contract ends call every propane company in the area. Get tank rental prices and propane prices. The first propane price they will quote you is for yoiur initial fill. This will be a very good price. Ask for the second fill price, and the third. They jack up the price pretty high after the first “loss leader” price on the first fill.
Unless you need the propane for something other than heating have them pull the tank. Just get rid of it if you aren’t using it.
It’s what we did. We too went to space heating only those areas of the house we actually use in the mornings, and evenings we use the fireplace when it’s cold, and damp.
We have a central heating system house. The electricity for the blower, and the propane for the heat became a budget issue. It’s just one “H” of a alot cheaper to use the space heaters in the bath, the bedroom, and the kitchen for an hour or so in the morning while getting ready for work, than to crank on the electricity, and the propane to heat the whole house with the central unit.
Much better off without the central unit.
Owning one’s tank is a big advantage.
Also, consider buying a propane contracts before the season. In 8 years, I have come out ahead 7 of the years.
I replaced a 10 yr old gas unit w a more efficient hybrid system (heat pump/propane). My propane use dropped 40% and my electric dropped 15%.
People in the air conditioning business are trained to never fill their refrigerant tanks beyond roughly 80% as it creates the possibility of violent explosion. I’ve done enough research on propane (which happens to be an excellent refrigerant, but rarely used, by the way), to know the same applies there.
Here’s the problem: Liquid propane expands as it is heated up in a tank. As long as there is empty room in the tank, the liquid propane will slowly fill that empty volume - the empty volume is really just gas propane (we call it two-phase propane). As the propane climbs in temperature, its pressure slowly builds up providing there is room in the tank for expansion (we call this pressure the vapor pressure). The tanks are made to take this pressure build-up with temperature, probably to as high as 150F, providing there is room for liquid expansion in the tank (i.e., it never becomes “full” of liquid only). A tank that is 80% full at 32F will probably not fill up until at least 120F, which is why they only fill to 80%
The problem occurs when there is no more room for expansion of the liquid. In that case, the liquid will still try to expand, but instead will press on the walls of the tank, trying to make the tank bigger. This pressure increase per unit temperature increase in this situation is huge, and no tank can withstand it very long. Once the tank is full, you can get away with this type of expansion for maybe a 10 degree increase in temperature (20 degree at best). At that point something bad will happen. If things work properly, the tank will vent when a certain pressure level is met. If things do not work properly the tank will rupture. Neither outcome is good. Even if the tank just vents, there’s a risk that the vent will not seat properly, and there will then be a leak.
People in that business are (usually) highly trained and should never, ever, fully fill up a tank. The company providing the service should have their license pulled if they’re doing that. As to your case, it’s possible that the company is really filling to 80% and has some other way to verify (i.e., they are not using your gauge), but I don’t know enough to tell you if it’s possible.
So, if the tank still looks full, maybe call out a different company and ask them if they agree it’s full. If it is full, I would call someone from the state that regulates them (in Texas it’s the Railroad Commission, don’t know in your state) and show them the problem, as you’re likely not the only customer they’re doing this to.
In any case, you should try to get that tank down to 80%, in a safe manner before the outside weather warms up too much - maybe run the house heater higher.
I believe he meant to say expansion, and they do not fill a propane tank over 80% here in Texas, because if they did so, during hot weather the “pop off” valve would trip and let the gas out.
Only thing wrong with moving here to Texas is that the air conditioning bills are a little high in the summer. Probably not high enough to make up the difference in what she is paying for propane, though. I have done the same thing she did, and quit using propane and started just heating the rooms we stay in the most with electric space heaters,and even here in Texas it it much cheaper. Folks who are lucky enough to be on a natural gas hookup can use gas without too much expense over electricity, but the propane would run me about $300 or more during the winter here!
Filling a propane tank to 100 percent is dangerous and againt all gas codes. If liquid propane gets in the first stage regulator it will freeze it up. Possibly makeing for excessive pressure in the line to the house. You should call the propane company and instruct them to come pump the tank back down to 80 percent like they were supposed to fill to. I ran a propane office for several years this is a very dangerous situation and MUST be fixed!
So don’t leave propane tanks full in the summer.
It doesn’t matter winter or summer if filled to 100 percent. Drivers are supposed to fill by the spit gauge instead of just watching the meter (and talking on their cell phone). I’ve had drivers over fill tanks and I made them pump them back down! Its a pain in the as_ to pump one back down and why should my service man have to cover for a driver not paying attention to his job?
I have been in the business and just some comments
Take the advice and get off automatic delivery. Just watch you dont run out
Electric heaters are inefficient; ever see an energy star rating on one? The losses are all at the generation station. An oil heater is at best is 95% but most are 80%. Gas fired are the most efficient with rating up to 97%. Like MPG, higher number is cheaper to run. Run your make and model number on the internet and look for its AFUE.
The reason you vents are below windows is to wash the window with heat. Besides the heat losses from windows the point is to stop condensation from forming on the windows. Next time you visit a house with radiators look where they are. Below windows.
You could mark the position of the vents with a sharpie and then close down the ones in the rooms you dont use. This way if you want to heat the whole house you can return them to the original setting and will not mess with the balancing of the system.
Take the advice and check your filter. It will be on the side of the furnace. That is how air gets in and is heated and blown to the rest of the house.
I think your biggest problem is the location of the furnace, You said it is in the cold basement about 45 deg. Moving it is out of the question, running duct work for the return is probably impracticable. Insulate your basement and the duct work to the house. Think about it, every time your burner comes on it has to heat 45 deg air to 70 deg to warm your house. That takes lots of energy rather than 68 to 70. Ill bet you would still save gas if you moved one of your electric heaters to an insulated basement.
I would not spend the money on blown in insulation on the walls. It has a tendency to settle to the bottom after a few years. I would go to Home Depot and buy rolls of insulation for the attic if it has none or very little. It is easy to just roll it out.
All that being said it probably does pay to only heat 500 feet of a 1900 square foot house by electric.
I would stay on autofill but make sure to prebuy enough gas to get thru the winter. The advantage of autofill is if you run out somebody has to get out of bed and fill your tank at night. Price wise autofill normally is cheaper. If you prebuy your gas it always autofill unless there is a locked gate or something that keeps the driver from delievering. The advantage of owning your tank is the ability to use different companies. The disavantage of owning your tank is if something fails on it its your problem. By far the best service propane companies offer is the prebuy plans.
There is another serious issue here. The driver falsified your gas ticket. He probibly falsified his driver log and manifest also. He could lose his CDL for this.
Now that is interesting, something I just asked my husband about. I don’t think either one of us thought about it before.
We have two tanks about 100 gallons (he says, I say 150), our rental is $50 a year for both of them.
I guess I should check and see about the cost of buying.
Our gas prices have been pretty steady the last five years but we have five gas companies in the valley, so lots of competition.
The people who we buy gas from are fantastic, their customer service is top notch. I would stay with them even if I paid a few cents more because of that.
If you have info on tanks for sale (or in general what to look for), forward them on over.
This property is in Riverside County, CA, high desert (4000 ft).
Thanks, I will drink more coffee and ponder on this.
Pilot flame? It uses a noticeable amount over a period of time.
The space heaters are virtually 100% efficient at putting energy I pay for into the room, with no duct loss. And here the energy is produced by hydroelectric and nuclear. There are essentially no diseconomic factors.
Same here, in southeastern Washington State we’ve been between -17F and +117; they have to plan for a stuck pop-off valve and therefore leave all that empty space.
The heater (house, garage and water) also the stove and oven, all are electric start.
Very true thats why I mentioned the losses are at the generation station. Still 100% in the home, so the loss isnt to the homeowner except in the bills. If hydro and nuclear were used more than coal (53% of the time) I would guess more of us would use electric heaters.
One somewhat interesting thing I learned from the DeLonghi space heater experiment is how much energy was needed to maintain a steady state temperature (68F) in the house with an outdoor temp of low 20s day and night. Turns out it is around 2.7 kilowatts @ about 6 cents/kwh. Not bad for a 1973 doublewide? LOL
Of course, the people in the house and other energy-consuming appliances add BTUs as well. But then there are things like exhaust fans and infiltration that take it out.
For about $500 or less you can cover the attic with rolled pink fiberglass insulation. That would help tremendously and with long sleeves, gloves and a cheep mask you can do that yourself. It is super simple but if you need to you can hire a handy man to do it for a few bucks. You can do it, I have faith in you!
You are using WAYYY too much heat in order to keep that house warm. First eliminate the lack of insulation. attic is the most important, heat rises.
Check your windows. Are they old? If so make sure that you use plastic over them and check into replacing them. It is expensive, but the pay back would be quick if you get 33% more efficiency which is almost guaranteed. Expect to spend around 10G’s minimum for very good replacement windows. DO NOT SCRIMP ON THEM. Buy the best, they are much more important than insulation. a majority of heat loss is through old drafty windows.
Last, and hardest, LOWER YOUR HEAT IN THE HOUSE AND BUY A SWEATER. If you keep the heat at 72, put it to 68. If you have it at 68 put it at 62. You will become accustomed to the lower temperature quickly. Also lower it when you sleep. It is easier to warm a bed with an electric blanket or extra comforter than to keep the entire house hot.
Also, if the house is empty during day, IE: everyone at work or school, lower the thermostat to 60 or 58 when you are out of the house and raise it when you come home. You can actually purchase a programmable thermostat to do this, but discipline is all that is needed.
If you could use only 20% less propane, you will save between $100 and $200 a month. That adds up quick. That would pay for windows & rolled insulation in less than five years and those windows, GOOD ONES, will save between 35% - 50%.
AND NEVER, NEVER SIGN A MULTI YEAR AUTOMATIC DELIVERY CONTRACT. Go Month to month and CALL WHEN YOUR TANK NEEDS FILLED ANDS ONLY ALLOW THEM TO FILL IT TO 80%. BE THERE AND CHECK ON THEM!
Remember, Propane is a byproduct of petroleum refining, so with O’Bumbler in charge, it will more than likely continue to stay high in price. YOU need to take steps to save yourself from O’Bumbler!
When the tank is filled, the person filling it is supposed to open the bleeder valve and add propane until there is propane liquid coming out of the valve. This occurs at the 80% mark at which point the tank is considered "full"
If you went out to your tank and opened the bleeder slightly (use heavy gloves as the cold propane liquid can cause severe burns) you can check this. If only vapor comes out you are below the 80% threshold. If liquid comes out (it will be a visible coud rather that invisible), you are at or above the 80% mark. If you were to run your propane furnace for a couple of days and the bleeder valve was STILL venting liquid, you can be pretty sure that the tank was overfilled.
Remember that propane is extremely flammable. No ignition source should be anywhere near it when you open the bleeder valve. If you are not comfortable with opening it yourself, you could just be there when the propane company comes back to investigate the overfill.
No, the absence of a register (or blocking it off from exposing the window to its draft as with a table) means LESS induction from the window, because the air is stiller.
Heating contractors repeat what they’ve been told. They do not start from first principles of physics.
Which is why it is located as far away from that door as possible while still being at the end of the hall.
It would appear to me that even a filling contract should not give the provider permission to try to add anything else to an already filled tank and thus would grant no permission to bill for it (unless there is an overall periodic fee or minimum filling charge). The contract only gives the provider the right to refill your tank if it is possible. Not the right to overfill the tank past recognized safety standards. In the meantime you are free to wild-cat fill the tank by any service you please at any time including immediately in advance of the contract visits. So depending on specifics, the contract may or may not mean much.
Tell my wife that. From Bombay where it is 90F year round. Regardless of where they're from, many older people could not tolerate 62 indoors. Britain has customarily had lower indoor temp settings but the elderly have always been a wreck, even before NHS. Here, with Obamacare in the implementation stage it's not a good idea to make yourself sick.
IE: everyone at work or school, lower the thermostat to 60 or 58 when you are out of the house and raise it when you come home.
Poor strategy if you have a heat pump/furnace combo. Unless the system includes an outside thermostat, the furnace is going to be used to bring the temp back up at great energy cost. If the temperature was allowed to stay at the higher level the heat pump could maintain it at lower cost. These scenarios have been extensively modeled by the DOE.
You mentioned the window in the door not me.
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