Propane? Price per tank and gal/hr?

Discussion in 'Alternative Fuel Forum' started by djagusch, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. djagusch

    djagusch LawnSite Platinum Member
    from MN
    Messages: 4,358

    Hi there,

    Wondering what guys are getting for fuel consumption on propane.

    What is your gal/hr usuage? If it was a converted mower if you remember what you got with gas that info would be great also. Please state the mower MFG, engine model, deck size for comparison.

    Also what is the price to refill your propane tank? Please state what size tank it is.

    I'm trying to figure out if it is cheaper to actually run propane (just the fuel). I made some calls today and found $23.99 plus 5.5% tax and $26.99 plus 5.5% tax on 30# tanks to refill. Those are bringing the tanks to them to refill, they didn't offer a exchange program. I'm waiting on to other places to get back to me also. But at 4.2 lbs per gallon that is $3.55 per gallon for propane (tax included). I currently get gas at $3.30/gal this morning and get a 18.3 cents back at the end of the year for federal road tax. I don't believe propane gets better gal/hr based on BTU's so at this point unless I see I'm off on the price or propane or fuel consumption it doesn't make sense to convert.

    What I also don't understand is why my home propane is $1.99/gal right now. The only reason I can think of is your min is 200 gal and they factor the labor to fill the propane tanks, which makes sense.
  2. thunderthud

    thunderthud LawnSite Member
    Messages: 127

    I can't answer the conversion question. I'm not a believer in them, I bought my propane mowers new from the factory.

    Propane didn't make sense financially until we bought a refueling station with a 2000 gallon tank. We got a grant from the DOE and state to pay for the bulk of the it, so the costs were low to the company. We paired it with a CNG refueling station onsite, so we doubled down on the investment.

    At 2000 gallons, I'm paying $1.76 a gallon delivered in bulk.

    The propane tank exchange or bringing the tanks to the facility was a waste of time and money. If I didn't have the bulk station, I'd probably have a different outlook.

    Ask me next year when I have 19 propane mowers in the field and a pair of F-550's drinking from the same pump instead of just the two propane mowers I have now. I'll have better data then.

    My season long experiment showed me I will save money with propane in a big way next year. The biggest indication of improvement is the Toro I have now going on 400+ hours with no oil changes save for the original oil change when we brought it into our shop.

    One suggestion I have operationally is to add the front weights you'd normally use for the bagger. The tank location is too far back for my liking.
  3. djagusch

    djagusch LawnSite Platinum Member
    from MN
    Messages: 4,358

    So what mower are you running and what is the gal/hr?

    And simply put if the gov didn't pay for the station you wouldn't of done it?
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  4. retrodog

    retrodog LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,429

    Here in Texas, they will give you a $1000 check for each factory installed propane mower you buy, yes a check, not to mention all the other kick backs you can find. I have the paperwork in front of me looking at it. I am looking into installing a wind turbine and solar panels at my house after a news broadcast I saw, the government is picking up the tab on most of the cost, and the part I have to pay will be given back to me each month by putting electricity back into the grid. On the news report the couple had an 1800 sq ft house with garage covered in panels, and they said they got $800 a month from the electric company (which I think was their peak month). I talked to a couple that just did solar panels on a house sized about the same as mine, cost them $22000 after all the cuts, they got a remodel loan at the bank for $40000, and so far its been 8 months, and they have averaged $600 a month from the electric company. The only negative they said was it took 4 months before they got a check, but the nice thing was it went all the way back to the install, so it was over $2000. At that rate the loan will be paid off quickly, and they got to have an extra $18000 in much needed spending I have talked to a few more, one in Honey grove did a wind turbine behind his house, he claimed in 8 years it will be making him money for free, and really over the 8 years its free because he used the banks money. My Gpa didn't comprehend it, he priced it to be done on his place and it was $80000, he cussed and threw a fit, I guess the installer didn't even get a chance to go over the rebates and checks he would get from the government to do it, not to mention the money he would make each month. It makes me mad the government spends our tax dollars to get this started, but I might as well try to cash in If uncle sam will take care of most of the cost, and you have a big enough operation to benefit, I would do it. Its a little bigger pain to get the tanks filled, but your mower engine will thank you, they burn so much cleaner, your maintenance will go down....etc. A propane company could even give you a discount on the propane if you sign an exclusive contract with them, I think some states are paying the bill for that in some kinda green act, they even pay them to train you I believe....
  5. thunderthud

    thunderthud LawnSite Member
    Messages: 127

    I'm running a Scag Turf Tiger 60" and a Toro G3 60." I bought both this year to experiment before replacing my mower fleet with one or the other. I also bought one Scag with the EFI and one Toro with the EFI.

    We normally have one crew out of the twelve who does pure R&D year in, year out. If we want to buy a fleet of machines, we test it out with these guys. So this year we had to move to two R&D crews with the new mowers. For 8 weeks we would alternate the propane mower and the gas mower from each truck and cut perpendicular to the last weeks cut so each week the same mower would be cutting the same direction. Then for the next 8 weeks we would run the propane mowers only if the gas and propane were even. Then for the following 4 weeks we would swap mowers between the two crews so the Scag and Toro would be used by different crews.

    The Scag was .99gph on the EFI, and 1.2gph Propane.
    The Toro was .89gph on the EFI, and 1.1gph Propane.

    I primarily cut flat areas with very few hills, the bulk being office parks with Kentucky Bluegrass. My mowers are serviced in house, and from the time they come into the shop, they are maintained by my mechanic. We did the first oil change before it had an hour on the meter, and replaced the factory hydraulic oil with Cat Bio HYDO. The machines are stock except for the factory stripe kit, the light lkit and the front weights we added midway through the season.

    Propane started to make better financial sense when we built the refueling station. It is very expensive to have a bunch of individual tanks filled at the local gas supplier versus the fixed cost of your own employee doing it nightly. Most of the places charged like I was filling a big grill tank versus the commercial client I am.

    What is missing from the discussion is what incentives are available to companies to get more of this equipment out in the field. The conversion kits are really not a business case because I'm doing all the work to make the conversion. It's almost a hobby versus a business. No one locally was talking conversions or even offering incentives to help. I had to go out and find my own incentives and grants, apply on my own, and figure out the process on my own.

    Simply put, if the grants weren't available to me to build my refueling station, the costs would not be beneficial to my company. With the infrastructure on site, the numbers make much better sense. I have 19 mowers now, and will be adding three more with the next order making a total of 22 in my fleet. So for the first time, we'll have all propane mowers for the primary mowers, the Wright Standers and the Walkers still be gas until a factory option becomes available.

    To be perfectly honest the propane mowers and trucks are stopgaps to getting to CNG in my opinion. When I built my refueling station, I did CNG as well. CNG is a fraction of the cost of LPG. I look forward to testing a Dixie Chooper CNG mower next season.
  6. thunderthud

    thunderthud LawnSite Member
    Messages: 127


    If it's me you're referring, mine were bought from the factory as a propane units. The comparison mower was a EFI mower exactly the same as the propane unit from horsepower down to the blades and mulch kit. The only way to compare was to make the comparison units exactly the same aside from fuel source.

    There is nothing wrong with the mowers running propane. There is a big problem, here at least, with actually buying propane in bulk. This is natural gas country and you have to go about an hour north of my shop to get into bulk propane country.

    It is purely a supply issue for me, without my fueling station I would have not continued. I paid too much for delivery and tank swaps, the drivers were not consistent with delivery times and often filled my dock with bottles I had to move to get other deliveries, and worse, missed days on end. Until those issues are solved, propane is going to be a niche market.

    No propane company I spoke with was interested beyond selling me an overpriced tank. National Grid paid the bulk of my CNG infrastructure (85%,) and the state and DOE paid the bulk of my LPG infrastructure (75%.) I would have thought propane was the Gillette razor model, give them the handle and sell them a lifetime of blades.

    The numbers work on the machines, but there is more behind just the machine that is needed to make this entire system work.
  7. djagusch

    djagusch LawnSite Platinum Member
    from MN
    Messages: 4,358

    Those numbers make sense to what I thought they would turn out. I'm a 5 mower outfit with 2 not getting a high amount hours so getting a grant for a refueling station may be hard to get but will look into them just in case. I have the accountant searching on his end also.

    Your $1.76/gal for propane is a good rate. Right now pre buy is at $1.99 compared to $1.49 last year (cash price/no cc's). But buying per tank is more expensive per gal than gas. I didn't get a call back from a propane outfit today so I'll try again tomorrow, I believe since they are in a industrial park they'll have a tank exchange program they also have a autogas pump. They are 15 miles away though.

    Any one else out there with info?
  8. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,586

  9. djagusch

    djagusch LawnSite Platinum Member
    from MN
    Messages: 4,358

    Well I got some great info today.

    Tank exchange program with $18 for a 30# tank, ruffly $2.25/gal.

    I also can get a propane fill station with a low cost lease (talking cheap) or it sound I could buy one for about $10k. 1k gal tank. With the lease I need more volume so he suggested truck conversions which I'm looking into. I got a call into a comapny that does them but haven't heard back. Propane guy said about 4k to 6k per truck depending on things. It would be a bi fuel set up. Anyways propane would be under $1.99 and set price for 12months. I would need to pay the road tax seperately but the fuel cost savings is there at that price point.

    Still waiting on the accountant and getting ahold of gov offices to see what programs are out there.
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  10. cimkill

    cimkill LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 271

    Hello guys, you all have it made up there in the states good for you guys with all the incentives. I have a Ferris IS3100ZP 61" with a 32 Hp Briggs big block, and im getting 1.4 gph. Oh yeah bought it brand new as a propane unit, however down here we use a 60% butane to 40% propane mix. Its been working fine! I have 60 some hours on it and like it. Gas down here is $6.00 a gallon propane is $2.00 so much cheaper. Good Luck!

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