You ever notice how limited the propane industry is?
What we mean specifically is in regards to your “portable” propane tanks that you’d use for your grill or portable backup generator.
For perspective – we have a couple propane “systems” at our home.
400 pounds for the backup generator (about two weeks of continual use), as well as 200 pounds for our stove (jeez, perhaps five years or more of use).
When we need propane – we PAY BY THE GALLON in what they give us. Notwithstanding the cost to “rent” the tanks – but that’s a story for another day.
Why do they charge a flat-rate for some propane fill-ups?
However, if you’ve ever brought your own propane tank – or participated in the “propane exchange” program available at many locations (such as Walmart or Home Depot), you have to pay a FIXED COST – regardless of how much fuel is left in your canister.
Why is that?
You could have up to 25% of the tank filled – why don’t they charge you by the pound or gallon?
Quick note – Propane Gallons and Pounds
Another one of those (purposely) confusing aspects of ordinary life in our world – the measurements of propane seem to be illogical.
However, Propane is sold by the GALLON.
Now we need to do some math.
Propane weighs about HALF as much as water.
So a “gallon” of liquid propane only weighs about four pounds (actually closer to 4.25 pounds).
Then, your “20-pound” propane container for your BBQ grill has about a four-gallon capacity. Especially true since they only fill it up between 75% and 85% depending on where you go. (You need room for expansion in the tank – or else you risk explosion.)
The current rate for propane is about $2.50 a gallon. Which is between $7.50 and $10 worth of propane to fill an ordinary BBQ tank.
So why do some places (i.e., gas stations) charge $20 or more? That’s near twice the price!
To be fair – their prices are consistent – even as the cost of propane fluctuates – so perhaps that’s the reason they set it a bit higher – to enable consistent pricing for the end-user.
However, places like Walmart and Home Depot often have very “light” tanks. I’d be surprised if they even fill them up beyond 65% capacity.
Ask your propane provider to fill your BBQ tanks
We hate getting ripped off. However, it’ll be a long while before we need a propane refill at our home.
But the next time we need it – we’re going to ask them to top off all our BBQ tanks as well. Heck, we may even buy three or four more 20lb. tanks just to keep around for good measure. Paying for what we need can save 50%.
Sure, it’s just pennies saved long-term – but “winning” is good no matter what!