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Cold snap keeps propane suppliers busy after customers check gauges

January 04, 2010|by Chad Plein, KY3 News

MILLER, Mo. -- The first snow usually gets homeowners who use propane outside, checking their gauges, making sure they can heat their home for the days to come. That’s why Monday was busy for propane companies and their crews.

City Utilities of Springfield says, on an average winter day, it'll pump out between 75,000 and 80,000 decatherms of natural gas. By the end of this cold Monday, however, CU anticipated its customers would use 115,000 decatherms.

Natural gas customers can just sit back and enjoy the heat pumped to them. Those on propane sometimes have to sweat it out, meaning people like Paul Hood of Hood’s Propane of Bois D’Arc freeze while working outside.

“We've been busy, hauling a lot of gas,” said Hood.

Hood's Propane made 30 service calls on Monday, including Miller High School.

“Anytime we get a snow, people run out and look at their gauge,” said Hood.

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Hood tells his customers, once that gauge hits 20 percent left, to call for a refill.

“It’s time to schedule and get someone out there, and we're not pressed to get there,” he said.

A common misconception is, the colder it gets, the quicker the propane runs out. In a sense, it's true since the thermostat is moved but the volume of propane doesn't go down as the temperature goes down.

What has gone down and up over his 15 years in business is the price of propane.

“There's been a lot of fluctuations,” said Hood.

Hood's was selling propane at a retail price of $1.84 per gallon on Monday, unless propane customers pre-paid their fuel last spring or summer at $1.39 per gallon.

“They save money, I have guaranteed gallons,” said Hood.

The prices for fuel seem to be down across the board this winter.

City Utilities says supply is great right now. CU, which has 80,000 natural gas customers, is selling it at 73 cents per therm. A few years ago, it was $1.10.

Missouri Gas Energy, which supplies about 500,000 customers in our area, has its lowest winter rate in seven years, saving the average customer about $20 per month.

When it comes to propane, $1.84 per gallon is a little more expensive than this summer but is still under the $2 per gallon in the winter of 2007-08.

With furnaces cranked up, fire officials want to make sure homes have working carbon monoxide detectors. They say, if you smell propane or natural gas, leave your home and call 911.

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