Propane pain and why I love my contractor

Myryah Irby

January 28, 2013

By: Myryah Irby, Home Renovation Enthusiast

In: Heating and Cooling

OK, I was kind of a grump in my last post about the shared bathroom, I’ll try to do less grumbling in this post even though, as you may have surmised by the title, I'll be writing about the insane cost of heating a house that’s undergoing construction in the dead of winter. Hopefully this grumbling will be offset by my gushing about my contractor, or about my kids -- who very sweetly ask every worker who enters the house if they’ve come to build their bunkbeds -- or about the small, sturdy wood burning stove that looks like a friendly robot.

We purchased the house mid-September. At the closing we reimbursed the previous owner for the cost of the propane in the recently filled tanks. That was (foolishly!) the last time we thought about those propane tanks... until December 28th. That morning, while visiting our family in Michigan, a message came from our contractor, Joe: “Emergency: propane tanks empty, temperatures dropping to low 20s tonight… need to get propane immediately or drain pipes.”

Of course we should have been monitoring the tanks … Rookies! We tried to arrange a propane delivery from afar, but the private road our house resides on was covered with snow and ice, the propane delivery truck couldn't make it to the house. We packed up the car and drove the 12 hours from Wayne County, MI, to Columbia County, NY.

If you’ve read my previous posts about how I met my contractor, you already know that I like him a lot. He's terrific. On this occasion he saved the day by lighting up the wood burning stove, then bringing in five space heaters so that when we arrived at 2:30 a.m., carrying our sleeping daughters up the icy hill and driveway (left our Prius at the bottom of the hill… four wheel drive is on the list), our house was a non-hazardous 60 degrees.

It took a day or two to get the driveway cleared and de-iced so that the propane delivery truck could make it up the drive to fill our tanks, but once that was done we had a cozy, pleasant New Year's. Now for the unpleasant part.

Propane costs

The bill for filling our propane tanks was $553 (200 gallons at $2.73 a gallon). A week ago I checked the tanks again and this is what I saw:
propane tanks and gage
That’s right, 30% remaining, meaning we’d used 70% of the propane in under three weeks, about $400 worth. TOTALLY BONKERS! We had the thermostat set to 45 degrees... we had instructions displayed...keep thermostat turned down
We've since refilled the tanks and have stocked up on wood.

stacked wood and wood burning fire
Wood is our preferred method of heating the house but it requires human participation and we're only around on the weekends. Actually, solar panels are the truly preferred method, but they're outside our very snug budget right now. Hopefully they'll be added in v.2., along with a hot tub and shuffleboard court.

Let’s end on a happy note...
barbie puppet show
Puppet show!!!!

I realize Barbie isn't technically a puppet (feminist theories aside) and incidentally, I have never bought a single barbie doll or princess dress and yet we somehow own a dozen of each. They just show up. By the way, Barbie's stage is the future home of the master bathroom medicine cabinet.

I'm interested to learn how much propane the house will require once the construction is complete. And then, the extent to which we can offset those costs when we're there full time manning the wood burning stove.

Of course it’s worth every ounce of propane, every BTU. Each and every log.


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