What Is a Propane Fireplace Insert?

Convenience & Efficiency of Propane Framed by an Existing Mantle

gas fireplace inserts iowaPropane fireplace inserts give you the best of both worlds: the convenience and efficiency of propane framed by an attractive existing masonry fireplace. You also get:

  • More realistic flames: Today’s improved gas burner technology means a warm glow, and flickering and dancing flames, just like a wood fire.
  • Adjustable heat: Whether the winter winds are blowing and you need a roaring fire, or you just need to take the edge off a cool early spring or autumn day, the multi-stage temperature controls can give you just the right amount of heat.
  • Smarter fireplace inserts: You can use the thermostat to program your propane fireplace to turn on and off at specific times, and program temperature settings for any time of the day or night.
  • High-efficiency backup heat: Do you feel the need to supplement your home’s heating system? Today’s propane fireplace inserts can keep you much cozier than a wood fire. You may be surprised to learn that as much as 90% of the heat produced by a wood-burning fireplace goes straight up the chimney! Did you ever notice how cold a room becomes when a wood fire begins to burn out? It’s because all the heat in the room is being drawn out the chimney!
  • More variety in sizes: Some masonry fireplaces have openings that are too narrow or shallow to fit a standard-sized propane fireplace insert. Smaller inserts are becoming more common, meaning more people can get the benefits of a propane fireplace.
  • Fireplace inserts with blowers: If you have a big space to heat, like an open-concept living room-dining room-kitchen space, you can get a propane fireplace insert with multi-speed blowers that push warm air to the far corners of a room, creating more even and comfortable heating.
  • Masonry fireplace refinishing: You can update your existing masonry fireplace to fit your personal style, from sleek contemporary to modern farmhouse.

Discover the Benefits of Any Propane Hearth

Today’s propane hearths bring you all the warmth, glow, and comfort of a wood fireplace without most of the drawbacks. That’s true whether it’s the aforementioned sealed fireplace insert or a built-in fireplace or a freestanding stove. Here’s what we mean.

  • Health impact: Wood smoke may smell good, but you really don’t want to inhale it. Wood smoke contains what is known as fine particulate matter. These microscopic particles can cause respiratory problems and other health issues. With propane, you avoid those risks.
  • Environmental impact: Burning wood creates about 28 pounds of smog-producing particulate emissions (soot and ash) per MMBTUs of heat output.* Propane, on the other hand, produces less than one percent of that. Using propane greatly reduces your home’s carbon footprint.
  • Efficiency: Propane fireplaces burn at about 80% efficiency, that’s about four to five times more efficient than a wood fireplace.
  • Versatility:  A propane fireplace can be a terrific heat source during a power outage. Even when there are no power issues, the heat produced by a propane fireplace may let you turn down your thermostat a few degrees.
  • Convenience: Most of today’s propane fireplaces feature thermostats, allowing you to control the flame and the heat from the comfort of your couch.

Want to learn more about propane hearths? Go here and then contact your local Iowa propane company.

*MMBtu stands for Metric Million British Thermal Unit; it’s used as a measurement of heat content or energy value.

Keep Propane Safety on Your Menu This Summer

gas grill safety iowaCooking, whether it’s inside or outside, always presents the potential of accidents and injuries because you’re dealing with high heat and hot flames. Just letting your mind wander away from the task at hand for a few seconds or panicking when something goes wrong could lead to bad consequences.

So, with the propane grilling season now in full swing in Iowa, here are some timely tips about what you should do if you ever have a grease fire or flare-up on your outdoor propane grill.

First and foremost, always be ready for an emergency. Near your grill, always keep these essentials: a fire extinguisher, insulated gloves, and either baking soda or sand so you can quickly smother any fire that erupts while you’re grilling.

What to Do about Flare-ups

Grill flare-ups are tall flames with a lot of smoke. These are actually quite common when grilling meats because of dripping fat, oil and marinades. To prevent your flare-up from turning into a full-fledged fire, do this:

  • Immediately move the food to a warming rack, using long-handled tongs.
  • Slowly replace the food and locate it at the center of the grill to let fat burn off; continue this process for each item.
  • Once all food has been returned to the grill, finish cooking with a watchful eye.

If You Have a Grill Fire

The problem with flare-ups is that these can spread quickly and easily turn into a full-blown fire. Here’s what to do if it looks like your flare-up has turned into something more serious.

  • Turn the grill off.
  • Remove the food and smother the flames by throwing baking soda or sand on top of the fire. NEVER use water to extinguish a grease fire. Throwing water on the fire can make the fire spread. There’s a reason for that old saying: “oil and water don’t mix.”
  • Close the lid and any grill vents to further starve the fire of oxygen.
  • If the propane tank has become part of the fire, or if the fire expands out of control, evacuate the area immediately and call the fire department.

Avoiding a Grease Fire

The best way to handle grease fires and flare-ups is to avoid them in the first place. Here are ways to do it.

  • Clean your grill regularly, following instructions from your manufacturer. Regular cleaning will greatly reduce the risk of fire. Your food will taste better too!
  • Grease sometimes pools in the firebox area around the burners. If it is safe to do so, turn off the gas and leave the lid open so the grease can burn off.
  • Always cook with the lid down, and leave it down during cooking time.
  • Oil the food, not the grates.

Read more about propane safety.

Learn the Secrets of Cooking Like a Pro

gas grill tips iowaIf you want to show off your cooking skills during Memorial Day weekend and beyond, you’ll need to know some of the secrets of cooking like a professional chef on your propane grill.

First, here is some background about why cooking on a propane grill is a smart choice. Today’s propane grills provide precise temperature and heat control, which is a major reason so many Iowans love using them. You can’t get that precision and control by cooking with charcoal.

Simply by turning the dial, you can instantly adjust your propane grill to give off more or less heat. If you’re grilling a variety of dishes, that control gives you the power to cook everything to perfection.

You have the choice of using different temperature modes or heat zones when you’re using a propane grill. Turn the dial to high heat on one side and low heat on the other, and that allows you to sear on the hot side and transfer it to the cooler side to finish cooking.

Direct Heat Vs. Indirect Heat

Being able to use direct heat or indirect heat, or both at the same time, is another reason why propane grills are so versatile and popular.

Direct heat cooks food hot and fast. It’s great for searing meats, or grilling thin cuts of meat and quick-cooking foods like vegetables.

Indirect heat is how you grill barbecued chicken and pork shoulder. You can even use indirect heat to bake bread. To grill with indirect heat, simply turn off the burners directly under where you want the food to cook, keep the other burners on, and close the grill lid.

But remember that indirect heat takes longer, so be patient. But that patience will pay off when you hear the praise you get from family and friends for the food you have prepared for them!

Grilling Meat Safely

Here are a few tips to help you keep your grilled meat as safe as can be:

  • trim excess fat before cooking to prevent flare-ups
  • use rosemary in your marinade, as studies have shown this can significantly reduce toxins. Garlic, lemon juice, and onion are other recommended marinade ingredients.
  • make sure the meat is cooked to a safe temperature by using an instant-read thermometer. It also prevents you from over-cooking those thick pork chops or steaks.
  • don’t put your cooked meats on the same platter you used for the meat when it was raw. Use a clean platter to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Searing on a Propane Grill

If you’ve ever marveled over the beautiful crust that steakhouses get on their meats, you can do it at home on your propane grill. It’s all about searing, whether it’s beef, lamb or pork. Here’s how to do it.

  • take the meat out of the fridge 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.
  • pat the surface of the meat dry with paper towels before seasoning (wet meat steams instead of sears). If you’ve marinated the meat, use paper towels to blot off excess marinade.
  • turn your propane grill on and set it onto high.
  • wait about 10 to 15 minutes until the grill is hot before putting the meat on.
  • once the meat is on the grill, leave it alone for at least one minute before turning it, at least two minutes if you have a thicker cut. After turning the meat, reduce the heat.
  • use an instant-read thermometer to make sure your meat is grilled to the safe and desired doneness.

Want to try something new on your grill this year? Check out these grilling ideas from the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

You can read more about outdoor living with propane by going here.

How They Work, How Much They Cost

water heaters iowaIf someone asked you to describe a water heater, you might say it looks a lot like a giant tin can. Of course, what you would be describing is the storage tank for the typical water heater. The water stored inside this “tin can” is heated by a small burner at the bottom of the tank.

But this type of standard water heating is not your only option if you’re looking for a replacement system. Did you know that not all hot water heaters need to store hot water?

It’s true. Some hot water heaters simply heat water on-demand, accessing water directly from a water pipe. Such units are called tankless water heaters. Generally fueled by propane, a tankless water heater is a great way to lower your energy costs and make the process of heating water much more efficient in the process.

Additionally, tankless units take up such a small space that you will actually be able to reclaim all that square footage your old bulky water heater is now taking up. Most tankless units hang on a wall and are about the size of a small suitcase and, maybe best of all, they will last about twice as long as a standard storage-tank water heater.

How Does a Tankless Water Heater Work?

Your old storage-tank water heater unit heats water and stores it for when you need it. This is not an ideal situation because the stored water will lose heat over time, especially if the hot water tank is located in an unheated space. The water heater then has to start the process of heating the water all over again.

Now, consider a tankless hot water heater: when you turn on your hot water faucets or an appliance like a dishwasher, water is circulated through a heat exchanger and delivered on-demand. Your water heating efficiency can improve up to 40% and you’ll have access to virtually unlimited amounts of hot water. That’s because you won’t have to worry about the tank draining and having to refill and reheat, even when you don’t need that hot water yet.

How Much Does a Tankless Water Heater Cost?

While it’s true that a tankless propane water heater has a higher upfront cost than a traditional storage-tank water heater, you can save a lot of money on your water heating bills over time. Consider this.

Prices for a tankless water heater can range from about $170 for small gas-fired units to more than $2,000 for high-output heaters, which can supply two showers at the same time. On average, though, the cost is about $1,000 per unit.

But keep in mind that propane gas-burning tankless water heaters should operate for 20 years or more. That’s two or three times longer than most storage tank water heaters as well as electric tankless water heaters.

So, if you experience an average energy savings of $150 per year, these savings should pay for your investment in a tankless water heater in about six or seven years. After that, you can pocket all of the savings on heating the water in your home.

Are you wondering if a propane tankless heater is the right choice for you? Complete this questionnaire to find out which type of water heater may be best suited for your home. Then reach out to your trusted propane company, who takes care of all of your fuel requirements while also giving you good advice and friendly assistance as you make decisions for your Iowa home.

propane and electricity iowaElectrification advocates claim that electricity is the only sustainable energy solution. That is far from the truth. Propane-heated homes are generally more energy-efficient, with a small overall carbon footprint.

Consider these facts when deciding whether electricity or propane is better for your home.

  1. Electricity might not release greenhouse gas emissions in your home, but many of the power plants producing it do. Today, 63% of electricity comes from burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, and electricity production release the second-largest share of emissions.
  2. Propane is one of the cleanest energy sources, producing 43% fewer emissions than the equivalent amount of grid-generated electricity.
  3. Electric-heated homes are often inefficient. It requires 27 kilowatt-hours of electricity to produce the same amount of energy as a single gallon of propane.
  4. Full electrification will badly overburden the power grid, increasing the risk of prolonged blackouts.
  5. Converting a home to electricity is extremely expensive, a burden on Iowa homeowners.

The simple truth is that propane is a more sustainable, affordable and efficient energy solution than electricity for Iowa homeowners. Visit PropaneIowa.com for more information.

Propane as a motor fuel

Instead of filling your vehicle’s tank with gasoline, there may come a day when you’ll “fill ‘er up” with propane autogas.

Autogas is already powering buses, police cars, street cleaners and other vehicles in cities worldwide. Many businesses are also using propane to fuel their vehicles.

Propane’s lesser environmental impact is what makes this fuel a leading alternative for vehicles of all kinds. Since propane has a lower carbon content than petroleum products, it creates fewer toxic emissions and burns cleaner. Some estimates show that converting a vehicle to propane autogas can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.Your vehicle’s engine could even last longer with propane.

The future: renewable propane

The success story of propane and the environment doesn’t end here. Renewable propane represents the next step towards a zero-carbon emissions future.

Renewable propane is molecularly identical to propane. But it is made with renewable resources such as animal oils, plant oils, biomass, and other triglycerides.

As the renewable propane sector grows, more Iowans will be able to use it to lower their carbon footprint even further.

Find out more about renewable propane.

Read more about propane vs. electricity. And then contact your local propane company if you want to explore ways to expand your use of propane.

Winter Savings Tips for Your Propane Home

energy savings iowaWhen trying to find ways to save money and conserve energy, you should think of your entire Iowa home as a system, and that system has three main parts:

  1. The building envelope – roof, walls, windows, doors and foundation
  2. The mechanical systems – furnace, boiler, water heater, central air unit, etc.
  3. The occupants themselves – their energy decisions and overall energy usage.

Each of these three components contributes to your home’s energy efficiency and you can make a positive impact on energy usage (and your energy costs) in a number of ways.

Let’s start with the building envelope. Many homes are colder than necessary in the winter due to poor insulation levels. In the average home, about one-third of heat loss occurs through the ceilings, which should have a minimum of six inches of quality thermal insulation to keep heat inside the home, where it belongs. Otherwise, some of your heat will rise through the ceilings into the attic and then seep outside. What a waste of heating energy! Consider calling in a trusted home improvement contractor to evaluate your insulation levels.

Something you can do on your own during the winter months to save money will take hardly any effort at all. Use the sun’s free solar heat by leaving drapes and curtains open during the day. Just remember to close them at night.

Take Savings to A Higher Degree

In many families, there are often debates over which is the right thermostat setting during the winter. The trick is finding a balance between comfort and savings.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), in the winter, the optimal setting is 68°F when you’re at home. Dial it down toward the 60°F range when you’re asleep or out of the house. The temperatures you ultimately choose will depend on factors like the outdoor temperature and your family’s comfort preferences. Remember, these are just guidelines.

Why You Save

According to the USDOE, the lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. The longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature.

The Energy Department concludes that you can save as much as 10% a year on annual energy costs by simply adjusting your thermostat 7°-10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting.

TIP: An easy way to control your temperature settings is to invest in a smart programmable thermostat.

Mechanical Systems and Propane Appliances

To learn about how you can make a positive impact on your home’s energy efficiency through upgrades to mechanical systems, consider the benefits of having a propane gas furnace. This will heat air to about 130-140 º and operate in short intervals to minimize operating costs while maximizing warmth.

Right now, when you install a new propane furnace in your home, you may qualify for a $250 rebate. Other rebates are also available for the installation of new propane water heaters, including highly efficient tankless models. Learn more about propane rebates.

Tips about Reading Your Propane Tank Gauge

propane supplier iowaYour Iowa propane company’s priority is to always keep you safe and comfortable. A big part of that is keeping you supplied with enough propane in your tank so you can stay warm during the cold winter.

Avoid Run-Outs

As a general rule, you should schedule your next delivery when your tank gauge reads 30%. You can make the rest of winter a lot easier on yourself by asking your propane company if they offer automatic delivery service. If they do and you qualify, they’ll schedule your deliveries automatically based on your usage patterns and the daily temperatures.

How to Read Your Propane Tank Gauge

Look for a round dial (like a clock face) on your cylinders or tanks. Often, the dial is under the lid of the cylinder or tank, although sometimes it’s located on the top of a cylinder.

Next, see what number the hand is on. That number is the percentage (not the gallon count) of propane in your cylinder or tank.

To determine the number of gallons, multiply the capacity of the cylinder or tank by the percentage. If you have a 120-gallon cylinder and the gauge reads 70%, multiply 120 x .70, which equals 84 gallons.

If the gauge reads 30% or less on your tank or cylinder, arrange for a delivery from your local propane company.

If you’re having trouble reading your gauge or don’t know the capacity of your storage, contact your local propane company for assistance.

Watch a video about how to read a tank gauge.

Why Doesn’t My Propane Tank Ever Read 100% Full?

For safety purposes, your propane tank will be completely full. Here’s why.

The propane in your tank is stored as a liquid. The liquid changes to gas before it leaves the tank. That’s why it’s called liquid petroleum gas (LPG).

Like any liquid, propane will expand when its temperature rises. The difference with propane is that it expands a lot, and quickly –its volume increases nearly 17 times the volume of water over the same temperature increase.

This is why your delivery driver needs to leave extra space in your tank to allow for propane to safely expand. Aboveground propane tanks are typically filled to about 80% capacity; underground tanks can be filled slightly higher because they are insulated against the heat. The extra space in the tank provides a cushion against the pressure that builds up in a tank.

As an example, a 500-gallon tank filled to 80% will safely hold 400 gallons of propane.

This is often called the 80/20 rule. This is especially important in hot weather—when liquid propane will expand the most. If you notice that the tank gauge reading fluctuates during quick temperature swings (hot days, cool nights), don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. Also keep in mind that the amount of gas in the tank doesn’t actually change during periods of expansion and contraction–only its density does.

Propane gas expansion is also a reason why you should never paint your outdoor propane tank a dark color, since dark colors absorb more heat.

Read more about propane safety.

Tornadoes Can Occur Any Time of the Year

storm safety iowaIn light of the recent fast-moving complex of storms (known as a derecho), that affected more than 36 million people, including Iowans, we wanted to share some tips for staying safe during a tornado.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an underground area, such as a basement or storm cellar, provides the best protection from a tornado.

If an underground shelter is unavailable, however, consider these options:

  • Seek a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible
  • Stay away from doors, windows, and outside walls
  • Stay in the center of the room, and avoid corners because they attract debris
  • Shelter in rooms constructed with reinforced concrete, brick or block, with no windows, and a heavy concrete floor or roof system overhead

Avoid taking shelter in auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums that have flat, wide-span roofs.

After the Storm Is Over

  • Inspect your property. Look for downed trees, tree limbs, and power lines that could potentially damage your home or propane tank. Check all your propane appliances for signs of damage or improper function. If your power is out, do not use candles to examine your equipment – this could create a very dangerous situation if there is a propane gas leak.
  • Call your propane service provider if you suspect damage has occurred. Your propane technician will inspect and test your equipment to make sure everything is working safely and correctly.

Detecting a Propane Gas Leak

Make sure everyone in your family knows the distinctive rotten-egg smell of propane, and what to do if they detect it. Knowing that smell can help you identify a potentially dangerous leak that could worsen if your propane tank is damaged during a storm.

We also urge you to install propane detectors in your home, which can detect a propane leak even in the absence of its telltale odor. Here’s what to do if you smell gas.

Have an Emergency Plan

Make sure all adults living in the house know how to shut the gas main off at your propane tank, and do this if you choose to evacuate your home. This will prevent damaged tanks from creating dangerous leaks that could ignite in your absence.

Read more propane safety tips.

propane carbon footprint iowaThere are many ways propane energy benefits our environment, especially when compared to electric power. For starters, propane produces 43% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than using an equivalent amount of electricity generated from the grid.

Propane also generates more Btu’s than an equivalent amount of electricity. That means you need much less propane to produce the same amount of heat energy. Also, clean-burning propane appliances are efficient, because they waste very little fuel in the combustion process. Propane also has a lower carbon content than gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, kerosene and ethanol, which is a big part of the reason it was added as a clean fuel to the Clean Air Act in 1990.

Those are a few reasons why, hands down, propane is better for the environment and for your home.

Propane as a Motor Fuel

There has been much talk about achieving net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, and transitioning to all-electric vehicles has been a part of the conversation.

Although a battery-powered all-electric car itself doesn’t produce any emissions, right now, the power plant that generates the electricity used to charge those batteries most likely does. Those power plants are among the largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States.

While the production of electric vehicles and related infrastructure continues to grow, some technology remains in the development stage. In contrast, propane autogas has seen impressive technological advances in the last decade, providing fleets with reliable performance and savings while reducing emissions right now.

Autogas is already powering buses, police cars, street cleaners, and other vehicles in cities worldwide. Many businesses are also using propane to fuel their vehicles.

Propane’s lesser environmental impact is what makes this fuel a leading alternative for vehicles of all kinds. Since propane has a lower carbon content than petroleum products, it creates fewer toxic emissions and burns cleaner. Some estimates show that converting a vehicle to propane autogas can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 90%. Your vehicle’s engine could even last longer with propane. Read more about clean-burning propane Autogas.

Looking into the Future with Renewable Propane

The success story of propane and the environment doesn’t end here. Renewable propane represents the next step towards a zero-carbon emissions future.

Renewable propane is molecularly identical to propane. But it is made with renewable resources such as animal oils, plant oils, biomass, and other triglycerides.

As the renewable propane sector grows in the future, Iowans will be able to use it to lower their carbon footprint even further.

Find out more about renewable propane.

Read more about propane vs. electricity. And then contact your local propane company if you want to explore ways to expand your use of propane.

Now Is the Time to Plan Your Supply

propane costs iowaWe all know that propane prices have their ups and downs. This is all normal and influenced by many factors, including supply and demand, the weather, geopolitics and Wall Street investors, to name a few.

Unfortunately, we’re in a temporary “up” cycle now.

What’s Going On?

Propane prices have been increasing since summer because of high international demand and lower global propane supply. In the U.S., propane inventories were projected to be at their lowest level to start the heating season since 2013, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration. The heating season began on October 1.

Recently, wholesale propane prices hit their highest weekly average levels since February 2014. But that’s only part of the story. All energy sources have been going up, from heating oil to natural gas to electricity. And you’ve already seen the price of gasoline every time you fill up your car with gas.

Besides rising energy prices, we’re also seeing price increases in many other products. A big problem has been the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused enormous supply-chain challenges. This is limiting supply even as the demand for goods keeps rising.

What Iowa Propane Companies Are Doing

People sometimes misunderstand how negatively higher prices can impact local fuel dealers. They don’t make more money when prices rise like this—they actually make less.

Think of it this way: it’s like when the cost of coffee, milk or orange juice rises. It’s not the local grocery store that is profiting. (That’s left to the Wall Street investors).

Propane customers have a harder time paying their bills. They reduce expenditures. Propane suppliers may need to tap into their lines of credit more. Phones light up with questions from propane customers. So the sooner energy prices drop, the happier your propane company will be.

In the meantime, please reach out your propane supplier about ways they may be able to help you reduce your energy costs, or handle payments more easily. And if you are worried about keeping up with your propane costs, please pick up the phone and call them. They can generally work with you if you reach out before you fall behind.

Planning Your Supply

In our last post, we encouraged you to arrange for a delivery in early fall so you can start the heating season with a full propane tank. If you take advantage of programs such as early fill-ups, automatic deliveries and prebuy, obtaining propane whenever you need it is fairly easy. But for propane suppliers, planning can be more complex and that process often begins long before deliveries even reach customers.

Predicting the volume of fuel that each customer needs represents a key component in a refined supply plan that includes storing away a sufficient amount of fuel. Propane customers can help in this process by contacting their dealer before the winter heating season arrives to plan for their anticipated propane needs during the coldest months.

Throughout the year, your propane dealer is committed to supplying you with reliable propane deliveries. If you have any questions or need to discuss your propane supply, please get in touch with your local propane dealer.

Keep in mind that almost all the propane used in the U.S. is produced domestically, meaning every gallon you buy contributes to the independence of America’s energy needs. Having a propane tank on your property gives you the ability to store a sufficient supply that’s always ready for immediate use, eliminating any dependence on an underground gas pipeline—just one more reason to feel good about using propane.

Read more about propane here.