Edición dominical

Doing the propane shuffle

gas
“The guy” and his son install the new propane tank, left, on Friday.

I’M A GAS MAN, and I’ve been a gas man since long before I flew over the Rio Bravo to settle down. I don’t like electric stoves, for instance, and can’t imagine why anyone would use one when there is a gas option.

Gas is cheaper, and you can fine-tune the gas flame far better than you can adjust the heat on an electric burner. Quicker too.

When I lived in Texas, our house received gas from God knows where via buried pipes. Water came the same way. Both were metered, and you paid for what you used.

In Texas, and New Orleans before that, my stoves were gas as were space heaters and water heaters. Gas is the way to go. Cheap, clean, explosive. Nothing’s perfect.

When we constructed the Hacienda 15 years ago, I bought about the biggest residential propane tank you ever see. It holds 500 liters. I filled it when it needed filling, but otherwise I gave the thing little thought.

About a year ago, the gizmo that measures how much gas is in the tank decided to quit working. This is problematical. I began winging it, guessing. Recently, I had a plumber over, told him about the issue, and he asked how old the tank was.

He said that it’s a good idea to replace them every 10 to 15 years, something about the interior welding that can go bad. So instead of replacing the meter, which would have been a special order, time-consuming, and the tank was nearly empty, I bought a new tank.

They’re not that expensive.

It’s smaller, holding 300 liters instead of the 500 the bigger tank holds.

I’ll be using the smaller tank exclusively, so I can either let the big one sit there forever, or I can have it removed. I’ll likely do the latter although that’s going to be a bear. The only way out is through the kitchen, dining room and living room.

The tanks are in an interior patio.

I’d prefer to have the big tank empty before hauling it through the house. Since the meter is broken, the only way to judge the quantity is by knocking on the side with your knuckles. It’s sounded empty for weeks, but we’re still using its gas.

But it will run out one day soon, and I’ll just switch to the other tank, which I had filled yesterday from a tanker truck.

The plumber rigged the copper pipes and connections so that I can fill either tank separately from an outside connection on the street, and I can send the gas into the house from either tank too, separately.

Excellent Mexican design.

33 thoughts on “Doing the propane shuffle

  1. That “knuckles” principle works about the same for determining which melon is ripe. Probably just about as accurate too. I’m with you, gas over electric any day.

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    1. Ricardo: I cannot imagine what an electric stove would do to your light bill down here. It wouldn’t be pretty. As for melons, I am a weirdo Southerner. I don’t like watermelon.

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    1. Karlos: That’s certainly an option. Sounds like a huge bother, however, because that tank is quite big. Probably just let it sit there for the foreseeable future. My wife wants to offer it to a poor relative, and that’s likely what will eventually happen. I’ll let him worry about hauling it out of here. It still works fine aside from the meter. And as for the recommendation to replace them every 10-15 years, my sister-in-law is using one that’s 30 years old. No problem. Of course, when a problem does appear, you might be blown to smithereens.

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      1. There will come a point when the gas company will tell the customer that this will be the final time it will fill the tank. Oh sure, another less reputable company might fill it, but eventually there comes a point when no company will risk filling the tank.

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        1. Ms. Shoes: The guys with the truck, the ones who fill the tank, earn commissions on the amount they sell. I’ve even had the pendejo who does ours — it’s always the same crew from Global Gas — way overfill. Once he did it so much, and it started fizzing out of the tank, I had to call the company, and they sent another guy here to take some of the gas out. He said it was about 100 pesos’ worth he had to take out. I asked him for a refund. I got the smile and Mexican brushoff on that idea. That was all before I started paying closer attention to what was going on. I tried to switch from Global Gas to Gas del Lago, which recently opened an installation walking distance from our house, but they never answer their phone or it’s always busy. Global Gas answers the phone and sends the truck almost instantly.

          In brief, I really doubt anybody will ever refuse to sell me propane. Maybe things are different there in the big city where you live.

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  2. I have the huge tank also and have a reliable gas man. Have used him for years, and I trust him. Had a tank leak one time, and I called and he was right there for me. Don’t know how he made it out to my place so quickly, but he did and fixed it at no charge. I don’t call him out unless I fill the tank with at least $3,000 pesos as don’t want to call him out here for just a few pesos. Time is now as I’m down to about 20%.

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    1. Peggy: When we constructed the house we bought about the biggest things around. The water heater is also huge, appropriate for a small hotel, but we never run out of hot water. That matters.

      Yes, at 20%, it’s time to call him again. Get gassed.

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  3. We had a gas regulator problem about five years ago. The house was about eight years old then. Replaced the regulator and no problem since.
    We use a team approach to gas delivery. My Mexican wife watches the pump guy, and I watch the gas guy at the tank to make sure there is no over fill.

    Gas is by far the best. No question.

    In the South American country where we live part of the year you can only buy electric ovens. Buying a gas stovetop is no problem. Go figure. We just had a election today in our South American residency. Happy car horns honking everywhere all day and night. The communist (got her college degree in East Germany!) term expired and a business leader elected. Hope Mexico avoids electing a leftist.

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    1. Patzman: Clearly, the two of you are smarter than I am. I paid insufficient attention to what was going on for too many years. But I’ve learned my lesson. I even used to tip them. They get no tips now.

      Electric ovens, gas stovetops? That’s nuts.

      And I too hope AMLO does not become president, but if he does, and he very well might, we will get through it. He was Mexico City’s mayor once, and it did not become Havana. Things pass.

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      1. The life of your tank is probably related to condensation inside. Once you empty it, see if there’s a drain plug at the bottom. If so, see how much water you can drain out. If it’s not much, then the tank is probably OK. You also might be able to pressure-test your old tank. And now that you’ve got a backup, you have no need for the meter.

        Otherwise, I’d be inclined to have it cut up and removed as another commenter suggested. I certainly wouldn’t want a non-professional hauling a tank through my house. But of course it’s your house.

        Saludos,

        Kim G
        Redding, CA
        Where the idea of a large reserve of propane seems very compelling.

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        1. Kim: Drain plug? Never imagined that. I doubt there is one, but who knows? You are surely right about the fact that having the new one means the lack of a gauge on the old one is moot. I’d already thought of that. As for hauling the old one through the house, I would not do that until it’s empty, which is easy to determine. What will very likely happen is that I’ll just let it sit there for God knows how long.

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          1. Even an empty tank, in clumsy hands, could cause a LOT of damage to your house. That’s what I’m referring to. No sane person would move such a tank with anything in it.

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  4. I want one of those big mutha tanks. I hate when a cylinder runs out of gas in the middle of a serious bake. Of course, we have dual cylinders, but it’s a real pain to go out to the rear of the house to turn on the “twin” In fact, sometimes the valve handle is so tight, mechanical aid is required to open it.

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

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    1. Don Cuevas: If you’re planning on staying in that house long-term, and I imagine you are, I recommend that you buy one of the stationary tanks. It does not have to be huge, but they have gauges on them so you don’t get caught off-guard. The 300-liter model we just bought cost 4,700 pesos, but there are smaller ones than that. It’s not a huge outlay, and the convenience is great. I too really disliked those cylinders back when I lived in a rental. Pain in the kazoo.

      Now go get yourself a grown-up tank.

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      1. Yep. That’s what I want. Also an supplementary hot water heater for our kitchen, which very recently was graced with a new, shiny, “inox” double tarja fregadero. (Beautiful, yes, but the installation was painfully drawn out over two weeks. Can you say “Home Depot”? I will say that the installer was very competent.)
        And you do know, don’t you, that we have been in this house for 11 years?

        Saludos,
        Don Cuevas

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        1. Don Cuevas: A two-week sink installation? Jeez, that’s ridiculous.

          I did know, of course, you’ve been in that house a long time. Couldn’t have said exactly, however. Eleven years is a long time, and you’re overdue for a grown-up gas tank! A Big-Boy tank!

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          1. The installer first had to remove the crusty old “pit” of a poorly tile-lined concrete sink. But the delays were caused by his not showing up at the promised day, not to mention at the promised time. Our kitchen (and our lives) were in a state of disordered suspension for over two weeks.

            After the removal, the kitchen was covered in dust for a day or more, despite deployment of protective plastic curtains. We (or our cleaning crew) just finished getting up the last of the dust yesterday. Wait! Two kitchen cabinets still need dusting.

            During the installation, we washed dishes in two plastic tubs out on our zaguán (covered entryway). But his craftsmanship was first rate, and he is a really nice guy.

            When I regain my strength, I may post a blog about this epic sink installation.

            DC

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            1. Don Cuevas: Ah, yes, when a workman lays into something indoors that’s concrete, you’re gonna have dust all over the place. There’s no avoiding it. All over the place!

              Zaguán indeed. I had to look that one up. It has an accent mark, by the way, and it means porch. I would have just said porch.

              Yes, do a post on the work. It would be fun to read.

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  5. Looks to me that the olde puppy might make one humongous smoker!

    When the gas runs out, fill it with water to ensure all the gas is out. Cut the cylinder in half lengthwise. Put a hinge on half. Toss in a couple of wire reefer shelves, and voila! Youse be cookin! If you don’t fancy it, I bet Tancho would be interested! I had a 55-gallon drum BBQ that lasted a good 10 years! AND it cooked better than the Weber I bought to replace it! Cheers, Dude!

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    1. Dan: Well, that’s one use that nobody’s come up with. And if I were a foodie, I might consider it, but I’m no foodie. If Tancho wants to bring some young guys to haul it over to his Hacienda, he’s welcome to it. Well, if my nephew doesn’t want it. My wife thinks he might.

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    1. Señor Cotton: I see your visitors have hightailed it. As for gas, I wish our water came exclusively from the solar panels, but our panels are fickle. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. So I just have the water piped to the gas heater. The principle being that the gas heater will have to fire up less often. True? Who knows? As for being green, I’m as green as I can be without it being uncomfortable. My comfort is the highest priority.

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  6. I order 400 to 500 pesos of gas nearly every month from Global Gas. I got a new tank six years ago on the roof. I rarely check the gauge. Sometimes I wish I had a gas clothes dryer like I did in Florida.

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    1. Andrés: When we built our house we had a gas connection installed right beside where the washer is, but we’ve never bought a gas dryer because I don’t want to increase my electricity bill. Even though it’s gas, it still has to go round and round, and that’s electric. I wonder though if that’s being stupid. Using the clothesline is a pain.

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  7. Natural gas in NOLA is a must. As you see, gas stoves are the best. I had a gas water heater and dryer at what point too. I confess that I am afraid of propane. I guess I could adjust and get used to it if I get serious about Central American life.

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    1. YaYa Girl: Gas, propane, what’s the difference? Isn’t what gets piped into houses there in Louisiana propane gas? Or natural gas? Water heaters, for instance, specify natural gas or propane. so there is a difference. I guess I could look it up.

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      1. We have natural gas in south Louisiana. In central, rural Lousiana I see propane tanks alongside houses and hunting camps. In fact we have an empty discard at our hunting property in central Louisiana. I guess I am leery of having a tank in or near the house. One just needs to adjust the mindset I suppose.

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        1. YaYa Girl: Adjusting the mindset seems appropriate. Those things pretty much never blow up. They can leak, which I imagine is also rare, but unless there’s a flame nearby it just floats away. You’d go nuts in our house. Not only do we now have the two big tanks in an indoor patio, which is pretty much the same as being inside except there is no roof, we have three portable gas heaters in the house, all with propane tanks attached. They sit indoors all year. We live on the edge.

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