The painful price per gallon of gas gets all the headlines, but this year’s inflation has not been kind to people who rely on propane either. Residential propane prices typically rise in the peak cold months and fall in the warm offseason — but not this year.
Around Christmas of 2021, propane cost roughly $2.70 per gallon. But as March of this year turned into April — when the U.S. Energy Information Administration stops reporting prices as the season ends — the price had moved in the wrong direction, to more than $3 per gallon.
Propane is heralded as a safe and clean-burning energy source that lets you power your entire home with one fuel. Another benefit is that propane users have a lot of power to lower their utility bills with a little maintenance and strategizing.
Changing your furnace is a reasonably cheap and easy DIY task that pays you back in three ways. According to Bob Vila, a fresh filter will lower your energy bills, improve air quality and keep your appliances running smoothly.
Basic fiberglass filters cost roughly $2 to $6 at Home Depot. More elaborate versions can cost up to $20.
It’s an important investment that will pay dividends in the long run, especially if you have shedding pets, if you smoke, if your fans run most of the time or if you notice excess dirt and dust around the house. Basic filters trap dust and dirt, which can damage your unit’s heating coil or fan. More expensive filters can eliminate contaminants like pollen, mold, bacteria and mildew.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), heating your house costs more money and burns more fuel than any other home system. Heating accounts for about 29% of the average utility bill, and regularly changing your furnace filter can save you as much as 15% of that cost.
According to Diversified Energy, propane is cheaper in the warmer months and more expensive in the winter months. But the company also points out that the pursuit of seasonally lower prices should never trump the most fundamental principle of residential propane: Don’t run out of gas.
The upcharge for an emergency fill-up will negate your savings and workers sometimes have to check for cracks in an empty tank before they can fill it up — and that’ll cost you, too.
It’s almost always cheaper to fill up before the winter sets in. Keep in mind, however, that like all commodities, propane prices are always fluctuating, no matter the season. Keep an eye on prices and market volatility in your region to try to pinpoint your purchase; but, as a rule, a midsummer fill-up will save you a lot of money when temperatures start plunging in November.
Whatever you do, just never let your tank run dry while waiting for prices to drop.
Sign Up for a Lock-In Rate
Your propane provider’s lock-in rate plan can save you money and make it much easier to budget for an otherwise volatile and unpredictable expense. One company’s lock-in plan can vary from another’s, but the premise is always the same.
Customers can lock in a cheaper offseason rate for their winter fill-ups by pre-purchasing at a lower cost per gallon. Some companies, like Paraco, offer three price tiers. Those who can pay all at once get the lowest rate. The rate goes up a little for customers who split it into two payments, and it goes up a little more if you split it up into six monthly payments.
Others, like Premier, let you stretch out equal payments for 11 months.
Caulking and weatherstripping are the two most common and DIYable ways of air-sealing your home. When done right, they can save you money and make your home more comfortable. According to the DOE’s Energy Saver page, caulking and weatherstripping offer a fast return on your investment, usually recouping the cost of materials within a year.
Use caulk on cracks and gaps in stationary surfaces such as window frames. Use weatherstripping for moving components such as doors and windows.
The Energy Saver site has a complete guide on locating and sealing thermal-transfer hotspots, and it also offers in-home air sealing tips, in general, for every room in the house.
Like sealing air leaks in your home, dialing down your water heater’s thermostat can save money and conserve energy no matter your fuel of choice. As a bonus, lowering your water heater’s temperature also can slow corrosion and mineral buildup.
According to Energy Saver, manufacturers typically set heaters to 140 degrees by default, but 120 degrees is all that most households need. The DOE also points out that those 20 degrees can greatly reduce the risk of scalding.
On top of the safety issue, the DOE says lowering the thermostat can earn you yearly energy savings of between 4% and 22%.
As with all major appliances, consult your manual before you do anything. In this case, you also should consult your dishwasher’s manual to determine its minimum temperature requirements.
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