By: Mutual Liquid Gas & Equipment Company, Inc.
Joe Mayte is the Operations Manager at Mutual Propane’s Temecula Distribution Center. He has a vast wealth of knowledge in the propane industry, and has been helping residents with their home propane needs for over 30 years. We are asking Joe questions that people who may be moving into their first propane powered home might ask since propane is distributed much differently than natural gas ran homes and very commonly there are many different suppliers compared to 1 local gas company.
Hi Joe, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the propane industry?
I started in the propane industry when I was in my very early 20’s. The company I worked for was in a small town in the mountains of Southern California and although it has a large mix of commercial and residential customers, we really specialized in the residential side of the business. I started out delivering and then quickly went into the service department. In a small town here everyone knows you, honesty and dependability are valued. I really think that the small town town value system formed my career foundation because I still conduct myself the same way as I did back then during my day to day operations.
You have been on the residential side of propane for 30 years, would you be able to answer some questions that homeowners might have if they have never had a house run on propane?
Sure, fire away.
Well first, it looks like any given place has maybe 10 different propane companies to choose from, what sets them apart or what should you look for in a propane company?
Like any other industry from cell phones to cable companies, the propane industry has new customer incentive pricing. We are no exception to this as we will discount the price on the first fill up for a new customer as well. However, the one of the many things that sets us apart in my mind concerning this is that we are up front with our regular delivered price as well. I’m sure we don’t sign up as many new customers by doing this, but I’d rather be honest up front and make sure we’re a good fit with the customer before going forward. So when comparing possible new companies keep that in mind as you make your comparison calls. If the price sounds too good to be true it probably is. Just like anything else, do your research when shopping for a propane supplier. Often a low price in the beginning will in many cases, increase over time and possibly end up higher than it should be.
Is propane the same price for everyone?
The short answer is no. Many factors come into play and an established responsible propane company has to make a profit to stay healthy and sustainable for its employees and customers. Some accounts are just plain harder to deliver to, or may be in remote areas, or may have very low usage, etc. Make sure you’re a fit with the prospective propane company and the customer service representative knows the whole picture about your account before going forward.
How often should I check my propane tank?
In the beginning, if you’re new to propane check your tank about every two weeks in cold weather. The service technician can show you where to look on the tank to check the level. Over time, you will establish your own usage pattern and settle into a fairly regular routine that will change with the weather fairly consistently overtime. Some other key times to check the tank level is when having usage out of the ordinary, such as holiday guests or heating a pool or spa more than usual.
The tank I have on property has decals of a supplier on it but the condition of the tank seems poor, should I be concerned?
These tanks spend their whole lives exposed to the weather and are made of steel with only a thin coat of paint to protect them. Sometimes a tank can appear pretty rough looking on the surface but be in perfectly fine shape operationally. It’s not always a reason to be concerned when a tank shows normal signs of wear being in the field for an extended amount of time. Light surface rust or a peeling decal can be normal. Still, if it looks to be in bad shape, the propane supplier needs to address this concern in a reasonable amount of time.
I was paying under $600.00 per year on Natural Gas for a 3 bedroom 1200 square foot home, will this be similar?
Again the short answer is no. Propane will be more costly than natural gas due to many factors unique to the propane industry. Remember, propane has to be transported by rail and truck through the supply chain and delivered specifically to your home or business. Every time propane is moved or stored costs are incurred. Even with this in mind, propane is still a very smart choice for energy when your business requires it or your home is off the main supply lines of the natural gas system. Compared to other sources of energy, propane continues to hold its own with benefits that many consumers find appealing.
Prices really went up during the winter time, what’s going on?
This can be very normal. Propane is a commodity sold on the open market like many other energy sources. Some fluctuation is normal depending on market conditions just like gasoline prices can change or even the price of vanilla extract! Propane demand tends to go up significantly in the colder weather months and often has the result of driving up prices along with numerous other market influences. Many people think that propane prices follow gasoline prices but it’s not always the case as the propane market has its own set of influences.
I just realized my tank is under 10% and I called in for gas, what happens if I run out?
You may need to cut back on usage as much as practical until the delivery truck can make it to your home. Continue to check the tank level every day and let your company know if it gets to 5% or below so they can have an idea of where your tank level is. The operation of your system should work as normal even when the tank is low so nothing to be worried about there. Perhaps most importantly, if you watch your own tank level and call in for a delivery when you think you need it, you should consider switching to an automatic top off option or being “on route”. This will actually work much better. It can keep costs down and remove the stress of a situation like this. Getting “topped off” and not letting your tank get low is ideal. Many companies are starting to charge service fees for emergency deliveries or to restart your system if you run out of propane completely, causing even more expense and lost time. If you end up running out, call your propane company and let them know. There will be a procedure that needs to be followed to start the system back up again and this will include a service technician or driver to perform a system check. You will need to be home for this and an appointment will need to be scheduled.
If you have any questions or are looking to get your home set up with propane in the Southern California area please give us a call for a free estimate – 1-800-948-4574