7 Tips to Prepare Your Propane-Powered Home for an Extended Winter

In many parts of the country, the cold continues, and winter isn’t quite finished with us yet.

While a propane-powered home can be very energy efficient during the coldest months of the year, there are some important things to think about in order to ensure that your home is prepared for an extended winter.

Here are some ways you can prepare your propane-powered home for additional winter months, so you can save money, stay safe, and stay warm through Spring.

1. Check your propane supply regularly.

You probably filled your tank in the fall or in early winter. But as the temperatures continue to dip, keep a watchful eye on your fuel supply levels. Check them regularly to ensure you’re never below the recommended 25%.

Even if you had a half-tank of propane fuel in autumn, the tank could be nearly empty by the beginning of winter. With continued cold coming or more winter on the way, keeping an eye on your propane levels is paramount and can prevent serious issues.

To keep your home warm and comfortable, check your fuel supply on a weekly basis. If the supply dips below the halfway point, you may want to call your propane provider for the next top-off. Checking your tank levels regularly will help you avoid running out of fuel in the middle of a blizzard or before temperatures dip down to dangerous levels.

2. Schedule system maintenance & service in advance.

If inclement weather is due to hit your area, let the professionals check your propane tanks and inspect the various functions on your heating system to make sure that everything works properly.

Insider Tip:
If winter is expected to extend a few months, schedule a service call now instead of waiting until the temperatures start to fall, as it’s easier, safer, and can be cheaper than scheduling maintenance service in the middle of bad weather.

Scheduling an inspection of your home’s heating system can also help detect any minor issues before they become major problems down the line. More problems tend to occur with empty, inefficient or unchecked tanks, so a mid-winter inspection by trained professionals will ensure that your propane tank, furnace, heating ducts, thermostat, wiring, and various other components that distribute heat throughout your house are in perfect working order.

3. Don’t wait for propane prices to go up.

Propane prices fluctuate often – especially during the winter – and can vary based on seasonality, supply and demand, macro-economic issues, and can change during emergencies. Quite simply, by waiting too long to schedule service or delivery, you might pay more for propane than if you schedule tank fills in advance.

The need for propane can be highly seasonal and prices may reflect these fluctuations. Demand during the summer months varies and can be higher in certain geographies, but in general, the majority of propane purchases spike in the winter when homeowners and businesses need to heat their properties.

Extended winter and sudden cold snaps tend to put extra pressure on propane inventories, resulting in higher prices during the long winter months. Get your tanks filled in advance to “lock in” the lower rates before the sudden shift in weather causes propane prices to increase along with the temperature.

4. Mark the location of – and clear a pathway to – your tank.

A heavy snowfall can make it hard to find your outdoor propane tank. Make it easy on yourself and your propane delivery supplier to find an outdoor propane tank after a big snowfall by clearly marking its location using something secure, sturdy and easy to see.

Clearly indicating the propane tank’s exact location and proximity to roads, obstacles or other impediments means it’s much less likely to be overlooked or run into by a snowplow or other vehicle. Using a pole, flag or tall stick secured near your tank will make its location obvious, even when there’s a lot of snow on the ground.

When delivering propane, a fuel truck needs easy access to your home’s propane tank. Most propane delivery trucks – bobtails – are large, lumbering vehicles, much bigger than most cars. If your tank is situated far from the driveway, ensure the road that leads to the tank is free and clear of impediments for the delivery vehicle.

Marking the tank’s exact location also makes it easier and safer for a trained technician to quickly find your propane tank when you need a refill, even if you’re not home.

In addition to clearly marking its location, keeping a clear pathway to the propane tank is paramount. Keep the area around the tank clear of trees, bushes or shrubbery, and free of obstacles or objects such as trash cans, toys, vehicles, junk or structures that can make it difficult for a delivery person to safely reach the tank.

5. Handle your propane tank with care.

Propane tanks are a cost-efficient, eco-friendly alternative to most other heating options, but they need special handling for safety reasons. That’s where professionals come in.

However, if you have recently purchased a propane tank or have switched to propane fuel to power your home and want to ensure you’re handling your system with care, there are some safety standards and best-practices to consider, such as:

  • Freezing temperatures aren’t a problem for propane—in fact, you don’t even need to cover your tank when storing it outdoors in the winter. However, your propane tank should never be stored in, or subject to, temperatures above 120 °F (49 °C)
  • Have your new propane tank installed, serviced and maintained by a trained service professional.
  • Keep the tank secured when transporting between locations. Frankly, a trained propane professional should transport the tank, as a tank should only be transported when blocked in and secured in an open-air truck bed.
  • Never leave a propane tank stored in your home, vehicle or in any spot that’s directly attached to a residence or business.
  • Always ensure that the gas valve is in the OFF position when storing your tank. Teach everyone in your home to recognize the rotten egg smell of a propane leak – and what they need to do if they ever happen to smell it.
  • If propane is the primary fuel source for your home appliances or powers aspects of your daily life, such as water heaters, firepits, patio heaters, etc. – only use each appliance for its intended purpose and as per manufacturer instructions.
  • Keep outdoor vents, chimneys, and flues clear of snow, ice, and debris.
  • Clear the debris and dust from your propane appliance vents. Propane tanks need adequate ventilation to get the carbon monoxide out of your house, so remember to check that air can flow freely. If you notice obstructions in the vents, call in a professional to have the system inspected and cleaned.

6. Utilize and upgrade to the latest tools and technology.

From Autogas and Keep-Full programs to programmable “smart” thermostats and gas detectors, using the latest tools and technology to manage, measure, and maintain your propane usage is one of the smartest, safest and best cost-saving steps you can take.

Insider Tip:
Lowering the heat in your home a few degrees throughout the day can help you save money on energy costs and puts less wear on your propane tank, so it can last through the cold winter.

Programmable thermostats and smart heating apps can help you control the temperature of your residence when you’re home or away. Gas detectors are a safety device that alerts everyone in the house to leave the area and call your propane technician immediately if there’s a leak. You can get one at your local home improvement store.

7. Other things you can do to prepare for an extended winter.

Your propane tank should be able to provide ample heat and power for your home appliances throughout the winter efficiently.
Here are some additional things you can do to help extend usage of your propane tank, reduce damage or danger, and prevent emergency repairs or unnecessary costs.

  • Conserve hot water, especially on the coldest days. Heating water uses more energy and reduces your propane supply at a faster rate. If you have a large family or consume more hot water in the winter, you’ll probably need a propane refill more often. Limit the amount of hot water you and your family use throughout the winter by taking shorter showers, installing low-flow showerheads, running the dishwasher only when full, or washing laundry using only cold water.
  • Dress warmer and wear multiple layers. To keep energy bills down and use less propane, encourage your family to wear layers in the house instead of turning on the heat. Wrap yourself in blankets. Wear socks inside. And dress in warm clothes indoors. If you can set the thermostat at a lower temperature, you won’t need a propane refill as often, and you can put less pressure on your propane tank.
  • Change the direction of your ceiling fans. In the summer, fans are set to rotate so that air is pulled up towards the ceiling – making the room cooler. When the weather is cold you will want the opposite effect. By changing the direction of your fan, the warm gets pushed down, making the room warmer.
  • Get your propane generator ready in case of a power outage. If you have a propane powered whole-house backup generator, make sure you have enough propane to last at least a week. Run your generator once a month for around 30 minutes so that the moving parts stay lubricated, and to check for potential problems.

This winter season has been predicted by many to be the coldest in a number of years. It’s a trend that we’ve become accustomed to, but it’s always good to follow safety guidelines and professional tips, especially when it comes to taking care of your propane.

As the season for severe winter weather continues to sweep across the country, by following the above tips you can make sure your family and your propane powered home is prepared for whatever the long winter brings.

Platform Fuels