Out with the old.
In with the new.
It has taken more than ten months for me to hopefully improve my heating situation. Early this year, AmeriGas charged me $3.989 per gallon for propane. The competition was charging under $2. Appeals and talking to higher up the management change gave some relief, and even the promise of a $50 credit; but I was assured that the price was legitimate. I decided to find a legitimate alternative.
Those details are chronicled in the previous posts. Expense Report – Heating and Expense Report – Heating Update. Not exactly thrilling reading, but useful for other people who heat their homes with propane, and frugal folks in general.
Reduce your expenses, that’s one mantra of several for folks who watch their money. It sounds simple, but acting on it isn’t. Finding a more affordable supplier of propane is taking over ten months. Actually, finding a more affordable supplier only took a few days, though it did take several phone calls. Acting on it, however, meant judiciously using the expensive fuel already in the tank, then waiting for the right time to call. I guess I could’ve turned the thermostat up to 72F, but that’s sacrificing the atmosphere and my finances just to switch to a better supplier of a critical resource.
So, I waited. My new role as a real estate broker meant spending a lot more time working from an office instead of home. Keep the heat low and never notice the difference. A warm summer also helped.
Finally, following the instructions from the new supplier, Vander Yacht, I gave them a call when the tank got down to about 10% to 20% full. Twenty percent went by as November started and I was busy with some intense transactions. Thanksgiving was approaching and I realized that waiting until after the transactions closed and I got paid, and waiting until after the holiday may be best for me and the folks who would do the work of swapping out large steel tanks.
The beginning of December started with 10% left in the tank. There was also a chill. I called. Over the previous months, Vander Yacht had dutifully sent technicians to estimate and plan the task. My tank is in the back yard, fenced, and surrounded by neighbors who protect their property explicitly with flags or implicitly with very soggy soils. They remembered and would swap the tanks the next week.
The next week arrived. Instead of a the team effort required to manually maneuver the old tank past some of the plumbing and hardware, they sent a tank, a man, a dog, and a crane. Unless that was an awesome dog, they’d have to go back and try again. The tank was at about 8%.
During the next few days, the tank began to empty, 5%, then lower. The last I saw was a needle down below the scale. But, they were scheduled, I trusted them, and dutifully dropped the thermostat to 56F, turned on two electric heaters, and began feeding the fireplace pieces of dead trees. It was a good thing that I’d bought parts of a cord a couple of times, and accepted the windfall, actually a chainsaw fall of an old pine tree close to the office. With everything working together, the temperature in the house could rise 2F every hour. Showers became a risky luxury because I couldn’t know how much fuel was left to heat the water.
Wednesday morning, today, the crew was scheduled to arrive. I stayed home to do the homeowner thing of pointing out things for them to remember, and answering their questions. No show; at least not when I expected. According to their schedule they arrived right on time. A small fleet of trucks dieseled its way up my street and began parking as I was getting ready to leave. Ironically, I was headed over to a client’s home to turn off their propane to save it for any cold snaps that may happen later.
Relieved, I left them to their work, went to my work, and had no idea if they’d succeeded.
As I drove up to the house in the dark I was disappointed not to see the old AmeriGas tank in the driveway. A quick trip inside to unload the day’s stuff, then a quick trip outside to see if a new tank was in place – and it was. The house was warm. The tank was full. That phase was complete. On my way back through my carport I saw the old tank sitting in the grass, waiting for AmeriGas to reclaim their property.
Finding ways to cut expenses is a continual task for frugal folk. As I said above, it sounds simple, but some expenses require significant effort. In addition to calling several suppliers, I also called contractors who installed things like heat pumps. Their estimates of the improvements were in the thousands of dollars, though with paybacks measured in several years. Some savings are only available to those with enough money.
Ironically, AmeriGas does have some satisfied clients. One I know only pays $1.45 per gallon. Evidently, business owners get a special deal. I wonder if people who can’t afford to fit into a special niche basically subsidize others. There’s precedence, considering some of the stranger tax policies passed lately.
Realistically, I don’t know the true savings, yet. That bill hasn’t arrived yet, and I wonder if AmeriGas will somehow try to bill me for – something. Stay tuned for yet another update.
Ideally, I look forward to solutions that I can afford that don’t rely on fossil fuels or dead trees. At least dead trees are romantic, and I do like having a low-tech option available for power outages. But, for a while, I’ll be glad for the easily overlooked luxury of getting hot water from a faucet, enjoying a hot shower, and having hot water radiate its heat up through my floors to warm my feet and house.
Now, even if you won’t excuse me, I’m going to enjoy one evening cranking the heat all the way up to 68F without having to worry about the gauge, or the bugs, smoke, and ash from the firewood. Tomorrow, back down to 65F, which seems quite comfortable after the last few days.