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October 22, 2016

Playing with Propane

When I moved into this house, I inherited the propane company (AG) that the previous residents used. "Inherit" means that AG's tank is on the property and they are the only ones that can fill it. AG also happens to be a way expensive company to use - averaging $1 more per gallon over competitors. NH has very high propane costs anyway because every bit of it is trucked in and we only have one holding depot, which is out on the coast. So while other parts of the country are enjoying very cheap propane, NH's average price is around $2.50/gallon. The year I moved in, we had shortages because of the extreme weather and the price I was paying was $5-6/gallon - a huge expense when my 950 sq/ft (only the main floor has heat run thru it) was using 250-300 gallons per month to keep the temp at 64*. That was the main impetus for me getting pellet stoves.

The winters of 2014 and 2015 I only used propane for the cook stove (rarely used), DHW and to run the boiler a couple time a day during extreme cold to keep the FHW pipes that run thru the garage from freezing. So I've only bought 100-150 gallons of propane a year. I have always had the goal of changing propane companies and this is the year. Just before Thanksgiving, my 500 gallon tank will be changed out for two 125 gallon tanks.

Although this seems unrelated, there is a relationship here, so bear with me. Last spring the boiler's pilot light blew out during extreme winds last spring. I was lucky and it happened shortly before I got up for work, I happened to go into the back corner of the basement, where the boiler is, before leaving for work and smelled the propane coming out of the boiler. If I hadn't gone into that part of the basement, I never would have smelled the gas, and I wouldn't be complaining about the difficulties I've had the last couple of weeks as it is likely the house would have blown up before I got home. I did smell the propane, figured out where it was coming from and turned off the pipe that supplied the boiler.

With cold weather coming in I've been trying to get someone to come out and service the boiler, then relight it. I've called local companies and not had my voice mails returned. I've emailed with no results. I widened my circle to larger companies that clearly show on their website they service my area (within the 25 mile radius they show) and been told they don't come out this far. There was one company that said they could come out in mid December :( . Then I called the big outfits that have TV ads and supposedly service most of the state. Well, not this part.

My desperation to get the boiler going, besides it is always good to have a backup heat source, is because my present propane tank is still at 20% (about 100 gallons). To transport the tank over the road, the company must make sure that it is at 5% or less. If they have to pump out the propane, I get hit with up to $150 charge, so I want to burn as much of the propane off as possible. The only way to do that is to heat the main floor with FHW until the new company brings in their tanks.

After reading the relighting directions on the stove, I decided I would clean it and relight it myself. So I stopped at the local hardware store and got a bottle brush, long matches and a long crevice tool for my shop vac.

Teh bottle brush did a good job of getting gunk, cat hairs and cobwebs of the gas jets, and I was able to vacuum up all the crud that had fallen below. Since I had previously turned off the gas supply at the peipe, I turned it off at the boiler itself and opened up the valve on the pipe. I let it sit for a couple of minutes and then started sniffing around for the smell of gas - there wasn't any, so I was good for the next step.

I turned the boiler dial to Pilot, pressed the red feed button and lit the pilot light with a long match. After holding in the red button for about a minute (per instructions), I let it go, made sure the red button popped up and the pilot light stayed lit, then turned the dial to Run. So far, so good. I then turned the thermostat up so that the boiler would fire, went downstairs to check on progress and Houston, we have ignition!

Boiler lit after I cleaned it

So the P43, that usually heats the main floor has been turned down to 60* so it is the backup system and I am running the FHW for the heat. So far it is still fairly warm outside, so the boiler hasn't fired since I turned the thermostat back down to 70*, but tomorrow will be cold and windy so it will have to start doing some work.

Next summer I need to seriously look into replacing the boiler as its install tag has a 1991 date, but for now it's good!

Posted by Bogie on October 22, 2016 at 04:09 PM in At Home, House Work | Permalink

Comments

Uh...am I the only one not smart enough to see the connection?
"Although this seems unrelated, there is a relationship here, so bear with me."
Or...is my error in thinking that the antecedent to "this" in you sentence is changing to two 125 gallon tanks?

Posted by: Cop Car at Oct 23, 2016 2:15:20 PM

"This" is the fact that I needed to get the boiler lit so I can use up propane before the tanks are changed out. If I still have more than 5% in the tank, it will cost me money. Else, I could probably go easily thru December or January before worrying about getting the boiler going.

Posted by: bogie at Oct 23, 2016 4:04:09 PM

Thanks for the clarification, Bogie. You were just acknowledging that an antecedent can come later - if - the pronoun is in a subordinate clause. You aced English!

Posted by: Cop Car at Oct 24, 2016 10:39:49 AM

I wish I was paying $2.50/gallon for propane :/ though I'll admit its never quite gotten as bad as $5/gallon. But we're "rural", so every single company in the region tacks an extra dollar plus into the price per gallon to deliver to us. We got one of those advert post cards from a competing company a couple weeks ago. Nice low price per gallon, free install to approved new customers......called them up, yup, we don't count due to our location. The poor receptionist got to listen to me tell her what I thought of their advertising campaign.

Thankfully we only use propane for cooking, so its not actually THAT huge of an expense for us. Now if I could find someone who'd deliver kerosene to us for a reasonable price......

Posted by: Ruth at Oct 25, 2016 9:13:53 AM