Getting gassed

The living room heater, one of three here at the Hacienda.

This morning the heat sputtered out.

Normally, after biscuits, honey and café Americano negro around 8 a.m. in the dining room, we adjourn to the living room for 15 or 20 minutes to sit atop the scarlet sofa and mellow out with soft music, something I do far better than my highly amped child bride.

While doing this, the gas heater is keeping us cozy. But today it ran out of gas, sputtering and then adiós. The good thing is that it was not very cold this morning, but I was faced with the chore of refilling the tank. I disconnect it with a wrench, toss it onto the front-seat floor of the Honda and drive two minutes down the highway to the propane place.

It got filled for 160 pesos, about eight bucks.

Does not look full now, but it is.

When I lived in Houston, we also used gas for heating and cooking, but it came into the house via underground pipes from God only knows where. I never knew. A monthly bill arrived, and I paid it. End of story.

Things are more in-your-face here, less automatic. There’s more thought and labor involved. For 10 months of the year, the three heaters with their tanks simply sit inside the house ignored. I sometimes wonder if that’s wise, if I should disconnect the tanks and store them outside, but then my characteristic shiftlessness erupts, and I do nothing.

It’s been 18 years now with no problem.

And then there’s this far bigger tank in the service patio. It sits about 12 feet from the old gas water heater and its perpetual pilot light. Hope the tank never leaks.

I’m planning to make some changes next month. I’m thinking of buying an “instantaneous” heater that does not keep a perpetual pilot light going. According to the instructions on the model I’m looking at, hot water might not reach all the way to the downstairs bathroom, but an added pump should resolve that.

When I lived in Houston, I never had to think about any of this. The gas arrived all by itself, heating water in the tank in the garage, and feeding the stove and oven in the kitchen. The bill arrived. I wrote a check and mailed it off into the ethers.

Living in Gringolandia feeds laziness, and that encourages nincompoopery.

It’s not unusual to see trucks on the streets and highways that are propelled by propane instead of gasoline. Most of them are small commercial vehicles, and their LP tanks are plainly visible atop the cab or in another spot out in the open. My initial response on seeing these are that I would not want to be driving such a thing were an accident to happen.

But then I think about my car’s gasoline tank, and I wonder if there’s much difference, risk-wise. I suspect propane is cheaper, which is why they do it.

Are there LP-powered vehicles on American roads? I have no idea.

25 thoughts on “Getting gassed

  1. “Are there LP-powered vehicles on American roads?” I assume there are. At one point the cop cars in Wichita, KS, were. All the 2- to 4-thousand-pound forklifts in the factories I worked at were propane-powered. All the Cushman’s (light utility vehicles) were gasoline-powered and the monster-sized forklifts (50,000 lb plus) were diesel.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. In Boston and some other cities, there are buses propelled by compressed natural gas, which is a cousin to propane. They are cleaner and cheaper to run. In fact, one of the great missed opportunities in the USA is to run cars on natural gas, of which we have literally tons. It’s much more environmentally friendly than gasoline, and cheaper to boot.

        Sadly, the new administration is banning as much fracking as it can, which means that both my heating bill here in Boston, and what I spend on gasoline are about to skyrocket. I’m sure the Saudis are very appreciative, but shouldn’t Americans come first when it comes to U.S. government policy?


        Kim G
        Boston, MA
        Where my winter heating bill is literally 2/3rds of what it was 20 years ago thanks to fracking.


        1. Kim: As you undoubtedly know, the Democrat Socialists don’t like fracking out of ignorance. Torpedoing that good energy technique is just one of many idiocies that will be coming out of the new Oval Office. I hope everyone who voted for the new gang gets a figurative kick in the financial teeth.


          1. Banning exploration and fracking on federal lands will be bad for the country, but it will be good for Texas where most production is on private land.
            Pemex wastes so much valuable gas by flaring off their oil wells. I always wondered why?
            About ten years ago, I ran across a company that had developed an application that cooled and compressed natural gas rather than flare it. Nothing ever came of it.
            The price of natural gas was $2.66 this morning. It is better to leave it in the ground and wait.
            Make sure your house is well ventilated. Those little heaters might be dangerous.


  2. Seems like a spare tank in case one runs empty would be a better option especially if you run out during the night. I haven’t seen any LP-powered vehicles around my town, but have seen some city vehicles in other towns that have them. I do see a lot of Teslas around here though.


    1. Thirsty: A spare tank would make sense were it not so easy to get one refilled. As I mentioned, there’s a LP plant no more than two minutes up the road. And then there is yet another just beyond that. As for running out at night, they are never lit at night. We stay toasty with a goose-down comforter. Safer too.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Tesla here. I do spot the occasional Prius. My ex-wife has one too.


  3. Propane vehicles have been around in Canada for years. At one point it was much cheaper. Then the price of propane more than doubled and that put an end to that. It cost $1,000 to convert to propane in the ’80s, but it was still worth it. When the price of oil cratered, the price of propane stayed the same, so it is even more expensive for a vehicle to be propane-powered now.

    I have the same heater, and I have two tanks as I have a barbecue also. Unhook the heater tank when done for the season and store the tank outside. The truck fills mine when he fills the big tank here. There is usually one empty when he comes, but the fill station is not far down the road if needed.

    On-demand heaters are a good idea. Not heating a tank when you’re not using hot water is a money saver and no pilot light.


    1. Kirk: Yeah, I know it would be wise to disconnect the tanks from the heaters during the 10 months I don’t use it, but I never seem to get around to it. As for the on-demand water heater, there is some reason I’ve never done that here at home, but I’m not sure why. It could be because we have one in our condo in Mexico City, and it’s always dicey. And I installed one in our Downtown Casita once, and it didn’t work for squat, so I replaced it with a traditional heater, and no more problems. But I suspect I had crappy heaters in both places. I had done no research beforehand, and now I have. The one I’m looking at has really good reviews. We’ll see.


  4. I have a propane heater in my bathroom which is similar to what you show in your post because I love showering in a very hot room. But here it costs me about $23 to fill the same bottle/tank/container. I’m amazed you can get it so cheaply, especially since I’ve got to believe that that propane is almost certainly imported.

    But I have two tanks because I don’t ever want to be totally without.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where winter has finally arrived with 3″ of snow overnight and the city going typically berserk with salt on the road.


  5. A lot of forklifts in warehouses are propane-powered. It is cleaner burning, less fumes, plus easier to get the fuel delivered and stored on the premises. But harder to find if you are traveling long distances. And probably has no highway tax included.


  6. Two sentences struck me in your essay this morning:
    “I sometimes wonder if that’s wise, if I should disconnect the tanks and store them outside, but then my characteristic shiftlessness erupts, and I do nothing.”
    “Living in Gringolandia feeds laziness, and that encourages nincompoopery.”

    A less-kind person might complete that syllogism in an unfavorable light. But not me.

    You once heated your water through the generous power of the sun. But I seem to recall you disconnected it for some engineering delinquency. Is my memory correct? My solar water heater here has given me no problems. I do need to replace one of the tubes, though, and finding a repairman has proved to be — well, difficult.


    1. Señor Cotton: Are you implying that I am a nincompoop? You may be right, and others would agree with you.

      I have had two solar water heaters. The first did not work at all, and I got a full refund even though it sat up there a couple years. The second is so temperamental I have disconnected it entirely. I wish someone would haul it away. Sometimes it would shoot scalding water out the COLD water taps in the house. This could be very thrilling in the middle of a shower. I have concluded it is not a technology for me. I am pursuing other routes.


      1. Hot coming out of the cold water line? That sounds physically impossible unless the cold water pipes are connected to the heater on the discharge side. Only a real pendejo of a plumber would do that.


        1. Antonio: It puzzled me for quite a while too. Then I realized that the solar heater at times pushed the heated water back toward the tinaco instead of the other direction down to the house’s hot water faucets. Yes, it pushed it back to where it came from and to a connection from which it went down to the cold water faucets. Crazy. But it was just the latest in a line of errors that thing made. I’m weary of it.


  7. In our second house (which I built) we were not connected to the grid for two years and in some ways I wish we never did. We had a propane range, BBQ, Bosche instant hot water and even a propane fridge. It was great. I also had a 5000 W generator which I used in building the house. The whole house was only 60 amps and plugged into the generator like a giant toaster. Then we could have power for three or four hours in the evening. I later traded it in for a 1000 W generator which was all we really needed for the TV, a few lights, the stereo and the coffee bean grinder. It was great. We never felt any of the many power failures that happened yearly on our island. I always kept a couple of full 30 lb propane tanks handy so I didn’t have to drive to the store for a refill. I’d recommend the “on demand” water heater.


    1. Brent: You were quite the survivalist. Interesting. As for the new heater, I’m almost certain to get it. The only hesitation is caused by two previous ones I owned, one in the Mexico City condo and the other in our Downtown Casita. As mentioned previously, neither worked worth warm spit. No matter. I’m gonna give it another shot. I’m a glutton for punishment.


  8. Hola Felipe
    I may have previously mentioned we live in a small condo complex in Centro Mazatlán. Over the past few years six units converted their traditional hot water tanks over to the on-demand tankless style. So far all but one have switched back. I know people back in Calgary who have the on-demand types, and they work just fine. Canada, USA, UK and probably most of Europe have reliable water utilities that deliver at nice constant pressures. The water system in our complex works great and is even potable but because of the system design delivery pressures are irregular. I believe that’s the main issue with trying to set these units up properly. It may be totally different where you live, and they’ll work just fine. Just a heads up that it might be worth checking around with others in your area before switching.

    Saludos Amigo


    1. Don Guillermo: The water pressure seems to be a deciding factor in whether those things function properly, plus being installed correctly. As I mentioned elsewhere, I installed one at our condo in Mexico City, and it was damn dicey. And we had one briefly in our Downtown Casita here that didn’t work worth diddly-squat, so I replaced it quickly with a traditional heater which works fine.

      The one I am considering has a good reputation if you believe reviews on Amazon. And the company has “authorized” installers/repairmen in the nearby state capital who can come to install it. As for the pressure, I imagine an inline pump will take care of that.

      It doesn’t cost a fortune, so I likely will gamble on it. More later.


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