Wintertime Propane Tips, Courtesy of Arkansas

A snowy scene from Arkansas. (image: mattsswanson via flickr.com)

Running out of propane in the middle of a blizzard, we can all agree, is bad news. There’s no hot water, you can see your breath in the living room, and the real biggie: Fuel companies may not make a delivery when the roads are slick. So put on another sweater, and vow to stay ahead of the next snowstorm.

With empty tanks in mind, the Arkansas Attorney General, Dustin McDaniel, has issued a few pre-blizzard tips. The portability of the gas makes it a common fuel in the country, where fill-ups are especially challenging. “And in rural areas where the use of LP gas for heating is common, an ice storm can interfere with normal delivery service for days,” McDaniel said in a press release.

Good thinking, counselor. We thought your pointers would benefit all propane customers, so we are posting them below, with a few of our own notes.

Check your tank level before the storm. As a general rule, call for a fill-up when your tank is a quarter full. So when the gas company says, “We can’t get a guy out there till next week,” you don’t have to institute the dreaded 60-second shower rule on your family.

Fill the tank in the summer. Typically, propane prices rise over the course of the winter, as demand increases. (Nationwide, retail prices have gone up 17-percent since October, according to federal numbers.) So buy in July, when prices are low.

Buy your propane tank. This can be huge. Though it might require some budgeting to buy the thing, owning your own tank offers some serious long-term savings. For starters, you’re free to price shop every time you need a fill-up. Most customers lease a tank from their dealer, which means they aren’t responsible for servicing the thing, but will be locked into paying a single dealer’s prices.

Second, many propane dealers cannot fill a competitor’s tank — so in bad weather, owning a tank gives you the freedom to buy from the dealer whose truck can make it up your driveway. (That said, some states allow for “cross-filling” by other dealers during terrible weather.)

How’s the weather in Arkansas? Looks like snow today. And according to forecasts, more slush on Sunday and Monday.

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