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Portable propane tanks to run your water heater? Don't do it!

John the Plumber

As the weather gets colder people are firing up their heaters. For those on propane this can be a challenge as they may have let their tanks run low and they don't have the funds for even a partial tank fill-up.

A common but very dangerous solution to this dilemma is to use a portable propane tank to run their appliances, such as the furnace, water heater and stove. Local plumber, John Nelson of John the Plumber, sees this quite often, especially during the cold months.

"We'll get a call that a person can't get their propane water heater to light," he said. "When we get to the property we find out that they've been running the water heater using a portable propane tank, like the kind you use for a bbq. It worked at first but now they can't get the heater to light up. This is because soot has built up around the ignitor, which can not only ruin the water heater but it can also cause a fire."

Mike Custer, branch manager for Delta Liquid Energy, agrees.

"I have personally seen garages that have caught fire due to occupants using a portable propane tank to fuel their water heater. Portable tanks cannot produce enough vapor to fuel the appliances, starving them which causes a build up of soot as John described. It's an incredibly dangerous situation," he said.

So what's a person to do when they need heat or hot water but can't afford the 100 gallon minimum that most propane companies require? If it's an emergency situation John the Plumber refers people to a program called HEAP which is part of Cap-K of Kern County. HEAP, which stands for Home Energy Assistance Program can be reached at (661) 336-5203 or online at http://www.capk.org/home-energy-assistance-program-heap-guidelines.

Mike confirms that Delta does the same and will even help their customers fill out the required paperwork.

"If you are a Delta customer, give the office a call at (661) 771-0101 and we will help you," he said.

Delta has several other options to help their customers with their propane bills.

"Not only do we have a level-pay program but we have another program whereby customers can call up in April and purchase propane at the summer price for use the following winter. The amount of propane purchased will be based on their usage the prior year. We will even allow monthly payments. The key when it comes to propane usage is to plan ahead," he said.

If you have any needs or concerns regarding your propane water heater or wall furnace, the folks at John the Plumber are there to help you out. Give them a call at (661) 823-8031 or (760) 373-7050.