Symphony Village Propane Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Table of Contents

Propane Safety        

General Information        

Suburban Propane Information        

Documents and contracts related to Suburban Propane        

Propane Tank/equipment Information        

Propane fireplaces        

Pilot lights and Ignitors        

The Village Propane Consumer Group (TVPCG)        

The Village Propane Consumer Committee (TVPCC)        

Propane Safety

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SMELL GAS (rotten eggs):

  • Do not try to light any appliance.

  • Do not touch any electrical switch; do not use any phone in your building.

  • Immediately call your gas supplier from a neighbor’s phone or cell phone outside. Follow the gas supplier’s instructions. 1-800-PROPANE (1-800-776-7263) for Suburban.

  • If you cannot reach your gas supplier, call the fire department.

- Installation and service must be performed by a qualified installer, service agency or the gas supplier.

How can I shut off the Propane supply to my house?

There is a shut off valve just below the regulator where the propane pipe enters your house.

General Information

Who relies on propane in Symphony Village?

How is propane used in Symphony Village?

Why should I care about this?

What determines the price of propane?

Is there any published information of propane prices?

Why am I being charged more (or less) for propane than the price on EIA's website?

Who is the major provider of propane in Symphony Village?

Is having almost a single supplier of propane good or bad?

Can I shop for the best propane price, like I do for gasoline?

How much propane should I expect to use in a year?

Can I check if my tank is low?

How much does my tank hold?

What does the propane tank gauge actually mean?

Why do propane suppliers only fill the tank to 80 %?

What happens if I run out of propane?

Is the propane industry regulated in Maryland?

Suburban Propane Information

What is the current rate for Suburban propane?

When did this rate go into effect?

For how long is the new rate effective?

My invoice rate is $2.999 per gallon – what gives?

What does “XXXX.XX gallons remaining on contract” on my invoice mean?

What does “Special Price Contract Ends on 6/30/15” on my invoice mean?

How often do I get Suburban deliveries?

What are the Suburban Propane contact numbers?

Where is the local Suburban Propane location?

How am I billed by Suburban?

Can I get budget billing from Suburban?

How can I pay my Suburban bill?

How much time do I have to pay my bill?

Is there a Suburban Propane web site?

Can I access my delivery/billing history on the Suburban web site?

Can I pay my bills on the Suburban web site?

What happens if I run out of propane?

Should I be concerned about water in my Propane fill access area?

Do I have to buy propane from Suburban?

What is the difference between United, Suburban, and Inergy?

Documents and contracts related to Suburban Propane

Do I have to buy propane from Suburban?

What is 2013 Maryland Code COMMERCIAL LAW § 11-603 - Unlawful use of containers?

What did I sign that makes me obligated to Suburban for propane purchases?

What is the difference between United, Suburban, and Inergy?

Do I have a contract to purchase propane from Suburban?

What is the full content of the Propane Addendum?

What is the “Equipment Rental and Propane Purchase Agreement”?

What are the terms and conditions of my equipment rental propane purchase agreement?

Did I sign a contract that Suburban owns my tank?

If I have a lease agreement with Suburban, why am I not paying a monthly or yearly lease fee?

How much more am I paying per gallon over that which I would pay if I owned my tank?

Propane Tank/equipment Information

Who owns my tank?

Can I purchase my tank?

Why would I want to own my own tank?

What are the obligations of owning your own tank?

How old is my tank?

What does “Tank” or “tank and equipment” really mean?

What is a Regulator?

Where is my Regulator located?

How can I shut off the Propane supply to my house?

What is a Meter or Gauge?

Where is my Gauge? 

What is a cathodic protection system?

Do I have a cathodic protection system?

What is an anode bag?

Can the cathodic protection system be tested?

What maintenance is required of the cathodic protection system?

What are the things that may need replacement if I own my own tank?

How long does the tank itself last?

Where does my Propane Supplier responsibility end if they own the tank?

Can I contract with someone to maintain my tank if I own it?

Will my homeowners insurance cover a buried Propane Tank if I own it?

Can I transfer ownership to another propane supplier?

Why would I want to transfer ownership to another propane supplier?

How many residences in Symphony Village own or have transferred ownership of their tank?

Propane fireplaces

How much propane does my fireplace pilot light consume?

Should I turn off my fireplace pilot light during the off-season?

How do I light my fireplace pilot light?

How do I turn off my fireplace and pilot light?

How much propane does my fireplace use during operation?

Will my fireplace still work if the power goes out?

Is my mantle getting too hot if the fireplace blower isn’t working?

Can I install a thermostat for my fireplace?

Can I install a thermostat myself?

Pilot lights and Ignitors

Do I have pilot lights in my propane appliances?

What is an ignitor?

The Village Propane Consumer Group (TVPCG)

What is The Village Propane Consumer Group (TVPCG)?

Will propane competition work in Symphony Village?

Why was TVPCG formed?

How was TVPCG formed?

When was TVPCG formed?

How many residences are members of TVPCG?

What are my obligations if I sign up for TVPCG?

Is there a membership fee to join TVPCG?

Why should I or my residence join TVPCG?

Am I a member of TVPCG?

How do I join TVPCG?

Is TVPCG a part of the Symphony Village Homeowners Association (SVHOA)?

Is the board aware of TVPCG/TVPCC activities?

Is Caruso aware of TVPCG/TVPCC activities?

The Village Propane Consumer Committee (TVPCC)

What is The Village Propane Consumer Committee?

Who are the members TVPCC?

How were the members of TVPCC selected?

What is the vision of TVPCC?

What does TVPCC want to accomplish?

What is the authority of TVPCC?

Is TVPCC elected?

Is TVPCC paid?

Does TPVCC have legal counsel?

Are there any TVPCC or TVPCG minutes or other documents available?

Will I have to follow the directions of TVPCC if I am a member of TVPCG?

Can I stay with Suburban Propane?

Who are other potential and viable suppliers of propane to Symphony Village?

Was the recent Suburban price drop a result of TVPCC action?

What happened to the request to support letters to the Consumer Protection Agency?

What will be forth coming from TVPCC?

What is my role and motive?

Do you have any comments, edits, additional questions, clarifications, additional information, or down right disagreement with provided answers?

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Author:

Jim Arnts, resident of Symphony Village and member of TVPCG.

Author Disclaimer:

Symphony Village Propane Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) was compiled by James Arnts (jimarnts@gmail.com) from questions and answers within the TRIO Google Group, meeting minutes electronically distributed by TVPCC, private discussions with TVPCC members, direct email to me from Symphony Village residents outside of TRIO, searches of my home owner documentation, internet searches, and personal observations/opinions.  This is not a TVPCC document.  I am a member of TVPCG but not a member of TVPCC.  I have submitted this document for TVPCC comments and edits prior to posting.  Statements made here are not the official results, recommendations, or opinions of TVPCC or its members.   I am doing this only to conveniently inform present and future residents of Symphony Village the issues associated with propane use, distribution, and supplier relations.  I welcome any comments to improve this.

Distribution:

This FAQ document may be viewed by any one with the link.  Please keep link distribution within Symphony Village.  Feel free to bookmark it or put it in favorites for future reference.

Use:

Like most FAQ’s of this kind, it can be read end-to-end, by clicking on a question that you are interested in an answer, or by searching for particular information by hitting “control f”.  Clicking on underlined colored text should take you to additional linked information.  You can return to your previous spot by clicking on the back arrow.  I do hope this is informative and useful.  I am trying to let TVPCC do their work without being bothered with directly answering emails.  

The Village Propane Consumer Group invitation:

If not already a member of TVPCG, you can Sign-Up Here.  Be sure to click on “Submit” after your entries are completed.  Your responses will be automatically recorded.  There is no obligation other than the desire to promote a competitive propane market within Symphony Village.  Current TVPCG residences are listed here, if you are not sure that you are currently a member (please be patient, this list is manually updated).  My goal is to get 90+ % residence participation.  You will also be sure of getting activity status and future meeting invitations.  Think you need more convincing, then read on.

Version date: 03/06/2015

General Information

Who relies on propane in Symphony Village?

Virtually every household and the club house in Symphony Village relies on propane, at least during the heating season.

How is propane used in Symphony Village?

Older constructions, prior to about 2011, use heat pumps with auxiliary propane for heating when outside temperatures drop lower than about 30 degrees.  Symphony Village houses constructed 2011 and after have all propane heat and have one or more propane furnaces – there are no heat pumps, only air conditioner units on the exterior (they look almost identical to heat pumps).  I believe that all propane homes also have propane hot water heaters instead of electric water heaters, at least mine does.  Some homes have optional propane fireplaces and/or optional kitchen propane stove tops.  All this is exclusive of gas grills which generally have separate tanks but I believe can be connected to your in-ground tank.  The Symphony Village Club House is the biggest propane user in the community.  It uses propane for heating, indoor pool heating, and the fireplace.

Why should I care about this?

Your highest yearly utility bills are likely for propane fills.  With all propane heat, my yearly propane bills are over twice that of my yearly Delmarva Electric Power bills.

What determines the price of propane?

Propane is a petroleum product and its price is influenced by many of the same factors that determine gasoline pump prices.  The propane supplier buys at wholesale prices and puts adders or mark-ups on for distribution, trucks, marketing, management, profit, etc. just like most any other business.  The wholesale price that the propane supplier pays is determined by how the propane is purchased.  Large quantities may be bought on a propane “futures market” to hedge their bets on what may happen to wholesale prices, say a year from now.  This is a common practice in the propane industry and is also used by the airlines industry to buy fuel.  Like any investment, you may win or lose.  A propane supplier may also pay current wholesale prices on the “spot market”.

Is there any published information of propane prices?

The federal government “U.S. Energy Information Administration” maintains a web site with a wealth of current and past prices of energy, propane for one.  Price information is available at EIA for national and regional prices, both residential and wholesale propane.  This information is constantly being updated.  You can choose to chart the data in various ways at that site or download it for your own analysis.  Note: As I was looking for the web site link, the chart below appeared; I had never seen the data presented this way.  This says that the national residential propane price spiked in the winter of 2014 to $4.00 per gallon and dropped to almost $3.00 a gallon between March and April of 2014; very much like we experienced here in Symphony Village.  During the heating season of 2014/2015 the residential prices held fairly constant at about $2.40 per gallon, not the $2.99 we were paying.  The $2.40 per gallon is suspiciously close to that of the current price.  Again, these are national averages. Follow NY Wholesale Propane Prices and Residential Propane Prices (there is a Maryland entry).  The Maryland residential propane price, as of 2/23/15, is 3.004 per gallon which is higher than our current rate.  

Residential propane graphs

Why am I being charged more (or less) for propane than the price on EIA's website?

Visit to let the EIA answer that.

Who is the major provider of propane in Symphony Village?

Suburban Propane (previously United Propane) is by far the largest provider in Symphony Village.  Approximately 97 % of Symphony Village residences have contracts with Suburban Propane. Suburban specific information.

Is having almost a single supplier of propane good or bad?

The current arrangement you likely have with Suburban Propane made your move to Symphony Village relatively easy and painless amid the fog of purchasing, options selection, moving in, and finally settling in. A competitive market is always good for the consumer, however.

Can I shop for the best propane price, like I do for gasoline?

No, you cannot shop for the best propane at each fill unless you own your own tank, like you do in your car.  Suburban Propane owns about 97 % of the tanks in Symphony Village. Even if you switched propane suppliers, your current supplier likely owns the tank via a lease contract.

How much propane should I expect to use in a year?

This is an extremely difficult if not impossible question to answer and is a function of at least the following factors:

Even if you know someone with the same model house, your usage may be drastically different due to the other factors.  My house is a Beethoven with loft, set the heat at a constant 71 degrees, have all propane heat and water heater, have a seldom used fireplace, change the heat distribution room-to-room, and don’t go on extended winter vacations.  We use about 1500 gallons of propane a year which is over twice as expensive as our annual Delmarva Electric Power bill.  Another resident recently stated that she had not gotten a propane fill this year (at least 2 months into 2015) and was concerned that she was getting low on propane with 30 % fill (150 gallons) still indicated on her tank.  

In previously distributed TVPCC minutes, one potential propane supplier estimated typical residential propane usage at about 625-650 gallons per year.  In further discussions, it was concluded that this would be good for heat pump/auxiliary propane heat, not all propane like newer Symphony Village homes.  Caruso offered an estimate of 1200 gallons per year for all propane homes.  

I did monitor my propane use over 5 non-heating months between May 1 and October 2 one year.  With a propane water heater our propane gauge dropped 14 % over this time or approximately 70 gallons or a rate of 14 gallons/month or $34/month at the current propane price.  I recently learned that about half of this usage was due to keeping my fireplace pilot lit at all times.

Can I check if my tank is low?

Yes.  You should have a protective cover access to the buried tank in your back yard that looks something like that shown in Figure 1.  Lift up the non-hinged side; it should be fairly easy to open, especially if you have had a recent propane delivery.  Inside you should see a gauge that looks something like the Figure 2 below.  The gauge dial indicates a percentage of full; you might need a flashlight to read.  It should read about 80 % if you just had a fill.  If it gets below 20 % or in the red zone in the image, you should start getting concerned and call your propane supplier to make sure you have a delivery scheduled.  At 20 %, you are now at 100 gallons for Symphony Village sized tanks; this could last only a few days in severe cold weather.

http://inspectapedia.com/plumbing/LPGasTanksBuried-022-DFs.jpg

Figure 1. Propane Tank Access Cover

http://thehtrc.com/wp-content/uploads/propane.jpg

Figure 2. Typical Propane Tank Gauge

How much does my tank hold?

All the residential tanks that are in Symphony Village have a capacity of 500 gallon.  This is true whether you have heat pumps or all propane heat.

What does the propane tank gauge actually mean?

The gauge reads percentage relative to a full tank.  Since the Symphony Village tanks are all 500 gallons, 60% is 0.6 x 500 gallons or 300 gallons remaining.  Percentage indication is the standard in the propane industry.  Propane is liquid while pressurized and so tank capacities are stated in gallons.

Why do propane suppliers only fill the tank to 80 %?

Propane in liquid form expands and contracts with temperature changes.  The normal tank fill is 80 % to accommodate warmer days than when the tank was filled for safety reasons.  Some propane suppliers will fill to 90 %, typically in winter, if they deem the temperature forecasts indicate that there will not be a safety problem.   It should also be noted that a gauge indication could vary with no propane use and widely changing temperatures.  You are not likely to even notice this since buried tanks are well insulated from outside temperatures; ground temperatures vary extremely slowly.

What happens if I run out of propane?

This only happened to me once.  I happened to have the fireplace lit at the time, and the flames went out including the pilot light.  Otherwise, you might not notice anything until the room temperature drops enough to notice.  Should it happen during the summer, you might not even notice that you ran out of propane until heating season hits.  If you suspect that you ran out of propane call your propane supplier which probably has an emergency number.  Suburban Propane’s emergency number is 1-800-PROPANE (1-800-776-7263).  The Suburban web site claims this phone is manned 24/7/365 by employees, not an answering service.  Beware that they may charge a hefty emergency service fee, so if you can wait I would call the local office during normal business hours.  The driver is required to do a leak test if there is an interruption in propane service, including running out.  After the driver delivers the propane, expect him/her to request access to your house.  If you didn’t hear the knock or doorbell, you will have to request a return visit, which might incur additional charges.  If you miss this request at delivery, Suburban will not turn the propane on to your house.  The reason is that he/she will have to make sure that all pilot lights are lit.  Most are automatic if power is momentarily turned off (electronic ignitors), others like a propane fireplace require more effort that may not be obvious.

Should I be concerned about water in my Propane fill access area?

Some amount of water under your access lid is normal.  Suburban Propane said they had pumps on their trucks for water removal if it is a problem at fill.  My water level, from seepage, was almost to the top of my gauge.  I asked Suburban if they should send out someone to bail out the water and they said there would be a service charge.  They also told me that they were responsible if the water froze and caused a leak or other damage.  My water wasn’t freezing at that depth, in spite of our severely low temperatures.  A neighbor said that he bails his water to avoid corrosion problems.

Is the propane industry regulated in Maryland?

No, as far as I can determine.  Unlike electrical utilities, e.g. Delmarva Power, that fall under Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regulations, propane appears to not be regulated in Maryland.  The only Maryland regulations or laws that I can find are related to the transportation of propane or Liquid Propane Gas (LPG).  Apparently Maryland views the distribution of propane as a self-regulating free market.

Suburban Propane Information

What is the current rate for Suburban propane?

The current Symphony Village rate is $2.399 verbally given by Suburban if you call them.

When did this rate go into effect?

2/15/2015?  The effective date for Symphony Village is 2/16/2015 verbally given to me and others by Suburban if you call them.  Some others have said it was effective on 2/15/2015.  I would definitely call Suburban if you had a delivery on 2/15/2015 or after if you were billed $2.999 instead of $2.399.

For how long is the new rate effective.

One resident said they were verbally told by Suburban that the end date was 6/30/2015.  This is the only case I know of that has been given an end date.

My invoice rate is $2.999 per gallon – what gives?

Suburban, if called, will tell you that their “truck computer was not updated” when you got the delivery invoice and that you will receive a re-bill.  It is not known whether Suburban will automatically re-bill if you don’t call them.  This only applies for deliveries on or after 2/16/2015.

What does “XXXX.XX gallons remaining on contract” on my invoice mean?

Suburban claims they bought a large quantity of Propane for Symphony Village on the futures market in the spring or early summer of 2014.  Apparently they determined the total purchase quantity based on Symphony Village prior year propane usage.  They then apparently allocated your individual amount based on your prior year usage (this was verified by two of us using our prior year bills).  The “remaining” part is your allocation minus what has been delivered to you since their unknown effective date.  No one has a signed contract with Suburban for this rate other than the “Equipment Rental and Propane Purchase Agreement” which basically says that you agree to purchase propane from them at whatever rate they choose.  I don’t know if this wording is still there after the rate dropped to $2.399.

What does “Special Price Contract Ends on 6/30/15” on my invoice mean?

The “Special Price Contract” was what Suburban chose to call the previous $2.999 rate.  The Suburban rate is now $2.399.  I have not received a Suburban re-bill yet, so I don’t know if this invoice wording is still there.  One resident that called said that the $2.399 end date is still 6/30/15.  Again, no one has a signed contract with Suburban for this rate other than the “Equipment Rental and Propane Purchase Agreement” which basically says that you agree to purchase propane from them at whatever rate they choose up to the termination date of your contract.

How often do I get Suburban deliveries?

Suburban appears to adjust your particular schedule based on past propane use and likely the current season and temperatures.  I imagine that when temperatures are severely low they get behind on their normal delivery schedules.  That is not to say you will never run out.  I do not think that Suburban shares their delivery algorithms.

What are the Suburban Propane contact numbers?

The local Easton, MD Suburban Propane location can be reached at 410-822-0525.  I suggest you use this number for billing, delivery schedules, complaints, etc.  If you are not getting any satisfaction, ask to talk the Easton Branch Manager Dominick Venezia.  Suburban Propane’s emergency number is 1-800-PROPANE (1-800-776-7263).  The Suburban web site claims this phone is manned 24/7/365 by employees, not an answering service, and is probably a corporate, not local number.  I would not try this number unless you have a safety issue.  You are more likely to get an emergency fill without an emergency charge if you can reach the local office number.  They may already have a truck working Symphony Village.

Where is the local Suburban Propane location?

The address of the local Suburban Propane office and distribution point is 1080 N. Washington Street, Easton, MD 21601.  It is clearly visible on the left side of the road if you are traveling from Route 50 toward Lowes/Kohl’s/Target in Easton.  It once was United Propane.

How am I billed by Suburban?

The standard Suburban billing procedure is for you to pay the invoice left on your front door by the truck driver on the date of delivery.  If your invoice gets blown away, you will probably be billed by mail with a late charge. The only instance that I know about being billed by mail is for the recent re-billing due to incorrect rates on the delivery invoice.  You can also opt for “Paperless Billing” on the Suburban web site.  I have not tried this and I would assume you still get an invoice at time of delivery.

Can I get budget billing from Suburban?

Yes.  You can get budget billing from just about any propane supplier.

How can I pay my Suburban bill?

There are several methods: 1) the standard snail mail way, using the detachable part of the Suburban invoice, remitting by check and using your own self-addressed envelope and stamp; 2) making an on-line one-time or automatic payment on the Suburban web site; 3) hand delivery of cash or check to the Easton branch of Suburban; 4) using on-line banking through your banking institution.  I use and prefer using on-line banking; you can elect to pay Suburban electronically on the exact date you specify.  This shows up as an Electronic/ACH debit from my Account to Suburban propane on my on-line and hard copy bank statements.

How much time do I have to pay my bill?

30 days from delivery.  My invoices say payment is due in 7 calendar days.  If you read the fine print on the back of the invoice, it states that late fees are charged for payments received 30 days after the delivery date.  If you need to make an emergency payment near or at the due date, I suggest you try on-line payment at the Suburban web site.  This can be done with direct debit from a bank account or via credit card.

Is there a Suburban Propane web site?

Yes, it is http://www.suburbanpropane.com/. You don’t have to sign up for safety and general information.  There are several advantages to establishing an account on this site, including: viewing current and past invoices; paying your bill on-line; and/or establishing Electronic Invoicing.  There is no obligation or credit card information required to establish your account at this web site.

Can I access my delivery/billing history on the Suburban web site?

Yes. You need to establish an account name and password first for this access.  It looks like you can access information for deliveries within the past year of the current date.

Can I pay my bills on the Suburban web site?

Yes.  You can pay one-time or automatically by credit card or direct debit from a bank account.  You need to set up an account first with a user name and password.

Documents and contracts related to Suburban Propane

Do I have to buy propane from Suburban?

The short answer is most likely yes, at least right now.  This is true for over 97 % of the occupied residences in Symphony Village. Most likely Suburban owns your propane tank which obligates you to propane purchase from them according to documents you likely signed as well as 2013 Maryland Code COMMERCIAL LAW § 11-603 - Unlawful use of containers.

What is 2013 Maryland Code COMMERCIAL LAW § 11-603 - Unlawful use of containers?

This code states:

Unless he is authorized by the owner in writing, a person other than the owner of a container may not:

(1) Fill or refill a marked container with liquefied petroleum gas or any other gas or compound;

(2) Buy, sell, offer for sale, give, take, loan, deliver, permit to be delivered, or otherwise use, dispose of, or traffic in a marked container; or

(3) Deface, erase, obliterate, cover up, or otherwise remove or conceal any mark on a container.

What did I sign that makes me obligated to Suburban for propane purchases?

The chain of events that likely obligates you to Suburban follows (refer to figure below):

What is not stated is when this can happen and the disposition of the tank should United/Suburban elect not to match a competitive offer. Defining the terms and conditions of this is a primary focus of TVPCC.

What is the difference between United, Suburban, and Inergy?

From the Suburban Propane web site: “United Propane (MGS), a division of Inergy, L.P., a national energy company, completed an agreement to join the Suburban Propane family. The change became effective August 1, 2012. As your new fuel provider, all of us at Suburban Propane extend a very warm welcome to you!”  Through contract fine print, the contracts could be re-assigned without costumer consent.  Thus we are most likely under contract to Suburban even though the contract was signed with United.  The local Suburban Offices, distribution center, trucks, and facilities became Suburban.  Most likely the office personnel and management is still the same. At least some of the distribution trucks still bear the United logo with additional decals that it is operated by Suburban Propane, LP.  For all intents and purposes they are all one in the same.

Documents and contracts related to Suburban Propane

What is the full content of the Propane Addendum?

The Propane Addendum is a document that you signed with Caruso as part of the contract to purchase your house in Symphony Village.  The April 2010 version of that Addendum follows with full content and is reformatted:

PROPANE ADDENDUM

The following Addendum is attached to and made a part of an Agreement Of Purchase And Sale (the "Agreement") by and among WATERFORD CENTREVILLE, LLC, a Maryland limited liability company (hereafter the "Seller") and _Your Name(s)_ (collectively, the "Purchaser").

In consideration of the premises and other good and valuable considerations, the receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby acknowledged prior to the execution and delivery herein, Purchaser and Seller agree that the following provisions shall be added to and considered a part of the Agreement.

By its execution below, the Purchaser hereby acknowledges that it has been advised by the Seller that a propane tank (the "Tank") which will be used for propane gas for backup heating and/or other purposes and which will be installed underground prior to Closing on the Property will be installed by a third party propane supplier (the "Propane Company") and will continue to be the property of and owned by the Propane Company following Closing and is not included in the Property being sold by the Seller to the Purchaser. The Tank shall be filled by the Propane Company prior to Closing and the cost shall be advanced by the Seller. The Purchaser shall be required to reimburse the Seller at the time of Closing (estimated to be approximately $800 - $1,200, depending on market rates) on the settlement statement for the cost of this one-time-only supply of propane gas as this cost is not included in the Purchase Price of the Property.

The Purchaser further acknowledges being advised that the Purchaser has the obligation to arrange for a future supply of propane gas. The Purchaser has a right to select any propane supplier of its own choosing after Closing. If Purchaser elects to use the Propane Company to supply propane gas, the terms of service shall be governed by Propane Company's supply contract with the Purchaser. (A sample copy of the Propane Company's agreement is available from the Seller's Sales Representative.) If the Purchaser elects to obtain its propane gas supply from a supplier other than the Propane Company, the Purchaser is required, within ten (10) days of obtaining service from another supplier, to purchase the Tank from the Propane Company for a purchase price as of February 5, 2007 of approximately $2064. The purchase price of the Tank is subject to change without notice, as it is determined by the Propane Company and not the Seller. Purchaser is encouraged to contact the Propane Company directly to verify the purchase price. For safety and site control reasons, the Purchaser is not permitted to remove the Tank if it elects another propane supplier.

By signing below, Purchaser agrees and accepts terms, conditions and limitations of this Propane Addendum.

SELLER:

WATERFORD CENTREVILLE, LLC, a Maryland limited liability company

By: Caruso Centreville Manager, LLC, a Maryland limited liability company, its Manager By: Caruso Homes, Inc., a Maryland corporation its Manager Member

Also see: What did I sign that makes me obligated to Suburban for propane purchases?

What is the “Equipment Rental and Propane Purchase Agreement”?

You likely signed an “Equipment Rental and Propane Purchase Agreement” with United Propane or Suburban within 10 days after settlement on your house.  If you did not sign this agreement, you either purchased your tank or have successfully transferred tank ownership to another Propane Supplier, most likely with a similar agreement. A scanned copy of my agreement can be viewed here: Propane Agreement.pdf

What are the terms and conditions of my equipment rental propane purchase agreement?

The full Terms and Conditions (fine print) of the “Equipment Rental and Propane Purchase Agreement” that I signed with United Propane follows in its entirety with re-formatting and italicized comments:

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

1. Entire Agreement. This Agreement, including these Terms and Conditions, comprises the entire agreement of the parties concerning Customer's rental of the Equipment and purchase of propane from Company, and replaces all prior agreements concerning those matters (except as the prior agreements relate to rights and obligations arising prior to the date of this Agreement). These Terms and Conditions are subject to change by Company upon 30 days' notice to Customer.

2. Installation. Customer is solely responsible for installing and modifying, as necessary, a suitable propane distribution and piping system and all appliances, and for ensuring that such distribution and piping system extends to the installation site for the Equipment. Company will connect the Equipment to Customer's propane distribution and piping system at the applicable address shown on the face of this Agreement.

3. Equipment Charges. Customer agrees to pay the applicable Equipment deposits and non-refundable service and rental fees shown on the face of this Agreement. Company shall have the right to increase these deposits and fees at any time upon 30 days' notice to Customer.

4. Propane Charges. During the term of this Agreement the charge for propane sold to Customer will be calculated at the current price charged by Company at the time of delivery for the applicable class of customer. In addition to the charge for propane, Customer agrees to pay an Admin Fee and a Fuel Surcharge for each delivery of propane products.

5. Payment Terms. Terms of Sale are Net 30 Days from date of invoice. In the event Customer fails to make a payment required by this section, Customer agrees to pay a Late Fee of not more than $30.00 each month, if no payment is made within the statement billing cycle, plus incur a finance charge of 1.5% per month (or the maximum allowed by law in your State) on any balance remaining unpaid. In addition. Company shall be entitled to recover from Customer its reasonable collection costs, including attorney's fees, court costs, service of process fees and all other expenses of collection. Ownership is not assumed until all invoices are paid in full.

6. Taxes. Customer shall be responsible for all personal property taxes and all other taxes, assessments or similar charges imposed by any governmental authorities upon the Equipment or its use during the term of this Agreement. Company shall have the right to pay such taxes on behalf of Customer and to recover same from Customer upon written notice. A tax exempt certificate must be submitted and on file.

7. Title to Equipment. The Equipment is and will remain personal property belonging to Company. Company will retain title to any propane delivered into the Equipment until the applicable propane invoice has been paid in full. Customer agrees not to move, loan, lease, sublease, rent or dispose of any of the Equipment without Company's prior written consent. Customer agrees to notify Company as least five days before any sale or change of ownership of the premises on which the Equipment is installed.

8. Loss and Damage. Customer assumes all risks of loss or damage to the Equipment and shall be responsible for its care, preservation and safety. Upon termination of this Agreement, Customer shall return the Equipment to Company in the same condition as received, except for normal weathering, wear and tear. Customer shall reimburse Company for any loss or damage to the Equipment, including loss or damages that exceed the amount of the Equipment Deposit. Customer shall have exclusive control of the Equipment and propane products so long as they remain in Customer's possession, and shall hold Company harmless from all claims for injury or damages, including attorney's fees, arising out of Customer's possession and use of the Equipment and propane products, including injury or damages arising from the conduct of others (other than Company).

9. Use and Care of Equipment. Customer shall exercise all reasonable care and caution in the preservation and use of the Equipment, and shall comply fully with all laws and regulations relating to the possession, use and maintenance of the Equipment. Customer shall not tamper with, nor attempt any repair or maintenance on, the Equipment, including meters, but instead shall notify Company of any required maintenance. Such maintenance shall be performed by Company at Customer's expense unless attributed to normal wear and tear. If propane service to the premises is turned off or interrupted for any reason, Customer will not allow anyone other than a Company representative to turn the propane service back on. This is necessary for safety reasons.

10. Access to Equipment. Customer agrees to provide safe and unobstructed access by Company to the Equipment, and grants Company the irrevocable right to enter upon Customer's premises to install, service, fill, repair, replace and remove the Equipment. Customer agrees to bear the risk of damage and the cost of repairing any damage to driveways, sidewalks, curbs, lawns, septic systems and other property resulting from such access and entry.

11. Usage Requirements. If Customer is renting a tank under this Agreement and fails to purchase from Company an amount of propane equal to at least two times the storage capacity of the tank during any 12 month period, Company has the right, upon three days' notice, to remove the tank and, at Company's option, substitute a smaller tank.

12. Exclusion of Warranty. Customer agrees that, to the extent allowed by law, all warranties, whether express or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose or use are excluded from and shall not apply to the sale of propane to the sale, lease or loan of any Equipment, or to the provision of any services by Company.

13. Limitations of Remedy. Customer agrees that to the extent allowed by law, Customer's sole and exclusive remedy against Company shall be for the replacement or repair of any defective items provided by Company. Customer agrees that no other remedy (including but not limited to any remedy for special, indirect, incidental or consequential loss) shall be available to Customer.

14. Agreement Term. The term of this Agreement shall be for 5 year(s) commencing on July 21, 20 11 and shall automatically renew for successive one (1) year term unless either party provides written notice of termination to the other party at least thirty (30) days prior to the expiration of the then current term. (Bold large type was handwritten).

15. Termination. Company may terminate this Agreement, discontinue propane sales or the provision of services, seal and "lock off" the tank and exercise any other available remedies at law or in equity, immediately and without notice if Customer fails to make timely payment for any rental fees, propane purchases or other payment obligations hereunder, or fails to abide by, or perform its obligations under, any of the terms of this Agreement. Upon any termination of this Agreement, Customer nevertheless shall remain obligated to pay all amounts due Company hereunder; including the removal fee and shall remain responsible for safekeeping of the Equipment until removed by Company. Customer agrees to bear the expense necessary to make the Equipment accessible to Company, including bringing underground tanks and other equipment to ground level for service or removal. Company shall have no obligation for restoration or change to Customer's premises. If Buyer receives a bona fide written offer for the supply of propane of comparable quantity, over a comparable period, Buyer shall notify Seller of the terms of such offer, in writing sent to Seller's address, by registered mail, return receipt requested. Seller shall have the right to match that offer, within 14 days of its receipt of such written notice. If Seller elects to match the offer, Buyer shall promptly execute a new agreement with Seller, in accordance with those terms. If Seller elects not to match the offer. Seller shall promptly notify the Buyer and such notification shall operate as notification of termination. Company is under no obligation to buy back propane from the Customer.

16. Delay or Failure of Performance. Any delay or failure of performance hereunder on the part of Company shall be excused without liability if the delay or failure of performance results from accidents, weather conditions, acts of God, government regulation, fire, floods, labor disturbances, breakdown or other failure of equipment, inadequate wholesale supplies of propane or any other cause beyond the reasonable control of Company.

17. Non-Assignability. This Agreement may not be assigned by Customer without Company's prior written consent. This agreement may be assigned by Company without Customer's consent.

18. Severability. The invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of this Agreement shall not affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision. No provision of this Agreement shall be interpreted or enforced in any manner which violates applicable law.

19. Waiver. Company's failure to insist upon the strict performance of any provision of this Agreement shall not operate as a waiver of its right to the performance or the future performance of such provision or of any other provision.

20. Warnings. Company periodically may provide Customer with warnings concerning the safe operation of a propane system. Customer agrees to read and follow the warnings and to share the information with all other persons residing on the premises.

21. Appliances. Customer will not permit any appliances, stoves, furnace or equipment to be connected to, or to receive from such tank which has not been, or is not eligible to be approved for use of propane by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, Underwriter's Laboratory, Inc., CSA, AGA, or the agency recognized by the industry and/or local jurisdiction.

22. Landlord Responsibilities, Landlord agrees to provide the safety warning brochure to each tenant, along with other safety information provided by the Company. Company will provide additional copies of the safety information upon request.

INITIAL & DATE TO CONFIRM THAT YOU HAVE READ, UNDERSTAND, AND RECEIVED A COPY OF THIS EQUIPMENT RENTAL AND PROPANE PURCHASE AGREEMENT.

Also see What did I sign that makes me obligated to Suburban for propane purchases? for summary of key points.

Who owns my tank?

Most likely Suburban Propane unless you have been able to opt of agreements to this effect.

Did I sign a contract that Suburban owns my tank?

You most likely signed two contracts with Suburban (or United) Propane in a chain of events.  The first was the Propane Addendum during the agreement with Caruso to buy your house in Symphony Village – this covered tank ownership up to your settlement.  The second was an “Equipment Rental and Propane Purchase Agreement” with United Propane or Suburban within 10 days after settlement on your house, unless you successfully chose to opt out of that contract.  This contract basically said that Suburban owns the tank and that it is leased from them over the effective time period of the contract.  Also see What did I sign that makes me obligated to Suburban for propane purchases?

If I have a lease agreement with Suburban, why am I not paying a monthly or yearly lease fee?

Periodic lease payments are sometimes part of such an agreement, however, Suburban Propane chooses to pay the lease through elevated propane price rates over what they would be had you owned the tank and equipment. This is common practice in the propane industry.  It is also why you are contractually obligated to buy from a Propane Supplier for a defined period, so that they can defer the cost of their tank investment in you.

How much more am I paying per gallon over that which I would pay if I owned my tank?

Suburban Propane does not reveal how much of their propane rate is for tank lease in Symphony Village since they own all the tanks they service.  Typical industry rates are $0.30 per gallon relative to that charged for a personally owned tank; this varies from supplier-to-supplier and with the terms of the contract.

Can I purchase my tank?

Yes, but how, when, and under what terms and conditions are currently ill defined or un-defined by Suburban.  The Village Propane Consumer Committee (TVPCC) has been petitioning Suburban Propane to provide a policy for propane tank/equipment ownership or for transfer to another supplier.  TVPCC is seeking clarification on when ownership/transfer can occur relative to our current contracts and the terms and conditions of such ownership or transfer.  Hopefully, an agreement can be defined without “digging up our tanks, putting them on the curb, and replacing them”; an untenable and expensive proposition.

Some residences have been able to opt out of agreements with Suburban Propane, so it can be done.

Why would I want to own my own tank?

The principle reason for tank/equipment ownership is that you can shop around for the best propane price each delivery; you are under no defined propane purchase term.  Since the propane supplier isn’t trying to recoup his tank investment costs and associated maintenance, he will offer you a cheaper per gallon rate.  You are also responsible for monitoring your propane level and scheduling a delivery.  There will be no budget payment plans under this arrangement.  Tank ownership is not for everyone.

What are the obligations of owning your own tank?

If you own your tank and associated regulator and gauge you are responsible for maintenance and repair of this equipment.  If you need emergency repair, you are responsible to get your system back on-line in a timely fashion.  You are also responsible for monitoring how much propane is in your tank and ordering fills.  Pros and Cons of Tank Ownership are discussed at a propane supplier web site.  This site gives typical cost of tank purchase and likely maintenance repairs.  Tank ownership is not for everyone.

How old is my tank?

There is a serial number on a nameplate on the top of each tank that can be used to determine the age of the tank.

What does “Tank” or “tank and equipment” really mean?

“Tank” usually means the actual underground propane container or tank, the anode bag, gauge, protective cover, underground piping, shut off valve, and regulator.

What is a Regulator?

A propane pressure Regulator is a disk shaped valve that converts the high pressure of the liquid propane stored in the tank to a safe low pressure gas that can be piped to and used by your household furnace(s), fireplace(s), stove, and/or water heater. Your propane grill also has a regulator in the hose attached to your tank.

Where is my Regulator located?

The Regulator is located on your house exterior not too far from the tank and where your propane supply line enters into your home.  Its installation looks something like the image of mine below.  There will also be a shut off valve just below the regulator and it shuts off the propane flow before the regulator.  This facilitates Regulator replacement which may be required at some point.

C:\Users\James\Pictures\PropaneRegulator.jpg

How can I shut off the Propane supply to my house?

There is a shut off valve just below the regulator where the propane pipes enters your house.  You can see it with the blue butterfly knob in the image above; it is in the open position.  Shut off would be 90 degree from that.

What is a Meter or Gauge?

Your propane Gauge is used to determine the amount of propane remaining in your tank.  The dial is displayed as percent (%) of full tank.  Some contracts call this a Meter.

Where is my Gauge? 

The gauge is located atop the tank under the protective access cover.

What is a cathodic protection system?

The purpose of cathodic protection is to provide an increased level of corrosion protection for the underground tank.  It basically prevents the tank from being eaten by electrical (electrolytic) forces, similar to a battery, generated between the tank and surrounding soil.  

Do I have a cathodic protection system?

The answer to that is not clear to me at all.  Hopefully TVPCC is getting clarifications.  There are Maryland codes (COMAR 26.10.04.02) and Department of the Environment web sites that require periodic testing of Underground Storage Tanks (UST); the testing period is different depending on whether the cathodic protection system was field or factory installed.  The first thing that is unclear is whether this UST code applies to Propane which is a petroleum product (apparently regulated only in Maryland for transportation); there is no specific mention of propane in the code.  The code was intended for things like underground gasoline and oil tanks whose leaks could cause pollution, especially groundwater pollution.  Propane poses no such risk as it dissipates quickly.  The second thing that is unclear is whether Maryland law requires Propane tank cathodic protection and if so, when that went into effect.  I don’t know if Propane tanks in Symphony Village have such systems and if so, do they all have them?

I have been able to find standards for “best practices” for corrosion protection but I have found no code or Maryland law that requires compliance with these.  This document from the Propane Education & Research Council “UNDERGROUND PROPANE TANK OWNERSHIP: KNOW YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES” states “Regulations in many states require that underground propane tanks installed after January 1, 2011, must have a cathodic protection system to help prevent corrosion of the tank.”  I have not been able to find if Maryland is one of these states or whether Caruso complied with this either before or after 1/1/2011.

What is an anode bag?

To protect a tank from electrolysis, an anode bag is attached by wire to the tank and placed in the hole with the tank before it is covered with backfill. This sacrificial anode bag absorbs the electrical currents in the earth that would have ordinarily targeted the tank resulting in damage to the container. In short, the sacrificial anode bag acts as a "decoy" for the damaging currents that can harm a tank in an underground environment. (Copied in entirety from Propane 101).  An image of an anode bag installation is shown below (two bags are often used on tanks larger than 500 gallon):

http://nelson.getwired.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/ugtank1.jpg

Can the cathodic protection system be tested?

Yes, and “UNDERGROUND PROPANE TANK OWNERSHIP: KNOW YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES” states: “In many states, if your tank was installed after January 1, 2011, the system must be tested by a qualified service technician within six months of installation and at least every three years thereafter. You will need to keep the results of the last two tests to document that the cathodic protection is working properly.”  Again, it is not clear whether Maryland is one such state.  The test is basically testing the developed voltage, similar to testing a battery.

What maintenance is required of the cathodic protection system?

The anode is a “sacrificial” device which means it erodes instead of the tank.  It therefore needs to be replaced if so indicated by a test.

What are the things that may need replacement if I own my own tank?

Besides the anode bag replacement, the regulator has a limited life. ”A faulty regulator could cost $300 to replace and all regulators must be replaced every 12 years.” according to an Ameri-gas blog.

How long does the tank itself last?

The propane container or tank should typically last 30+ years if properly maintained, especially the cathodic protection system.

Where does my Propane Supplier responsibility end if they own the tank?

Propane Supplier responsibility usually ends at the output of the regulator where the pipe enters the house.  Thus, when you are leasing, the Propane Supplier is responsible for the tank, anode bag, gauge, associated equipment, and pipeline to the house up to and including the regulator.

Can I contract with someone to maintain my tank if I own it?

I assume that you can, but my Google searches have come up empty.  I am hoping that TVPCC can recommend such alternatives if you want to own your tank.

Will my homeowners insurance cover a buried Propane Tank if I own it?

You should check your homeowner insurance company to see if you are already covered or can add it to your present policy.  It seems like this is pre-mature until TVPCC find out more about tank ownership policies from Suburban.

Can I transfer ownership to another propane supplier?

Yes, but how, when, and under what terms and conditions are currently ill defined or un-defined by Suburban.  The Village Propane Consumer Committee (TVPCC) has been petitioning Suburban Propane to provide a policy for propane tank/equipment ownership or for transfer to another supplier.  TVPCC is seeking clarification on when ownership/transfer can occur relative to our current contracts and the terms and conditions of such ownership or transfer.  Hopefully, an agreement can be defined without “digging up our tanks, putting them on the curb, and replacing them”; an untenable and expensive proposition.

Some residences have been able to opt out of agreements with Suburban Propane, so it can be done.

Why would I want to transfer ownership to another propane supplier?

You would want to transfer tank/equipment ownership to another propane supplier because you, and you alone, think you can get better current and future propane  prices and services from another supplier other than Suburban Propane. If you transfer ownership, you will be under a similar lease agreement for a defined time period but with a different supplier.  Only you can determine if this is the right move for you.  TVPCC’s vision is to present multiple choices for viable Propane Suppliers.  This is probably the most important reason: the more residences that either purchase their own tanks or transfer ownership, the more we as a community can achieve a competitive market for our propane business.  This will also be of benefit, even if you choose to stay with Suburban.

How many residences in Symphony Village own or have transferred ownership of their tank?

At least ten (10) residences have indicated to TVPCC that they successfully purchased their tank/equipment from Suburban Propane or transferred tank/equipment ownership to a supplier other than Suburban Propane.  I don’t know the distribution of ownership and transfer.

Propane fireplaces

How much propane does my fireplace pilot light consume?

About 8 gallons per month which is almost $20 a month ($19.20 at $2.40 per gallon).  

Should I turn off my fireplace pilot light during the off-season?

If you want to save almost $20 per month, I would recommend turning it off at least during the non-heating months; perhaps you use your fireplace only during the holidays or maybe you use Bob Offerman’s tips to use your fireplace to keep locally warm instead of your whole house.  If you aren’t comfortable turning off your fireplace and then back on, you won’t save much if you have to pay someone to do this.  The only negative that I have seen is that spiders or other bugs may be attracted to build nests in the pilot light or burner areas.  An old toothbrush should help do away with that.

How do I light my fireplace pilot light?

Your pilot light and controls are likely behind the louvered panel below the fireplace glass.  Either follow the directions for lighting in your fireplace user manual or on the plastic placard inside the access door.  My instructions can be found here Fireplace Pilot Lighting Instructions or better yet watch a YouTube video of how to do this at Pilot Light video.  My particular fireplace is a Lennox model MPD3530CNM-B but I would imagine that this is typical of what was installed by Caruso in Symphony Village.  Fireplace styles may vary but the pilot light instructions should be the same or similar.  If you are not comfortable doing this, I heard Suburban will do it for about $100.  I would think one of the popular handymen in Symphony Village would do it for less.

How do I turn off my fireplace and pilot light?

With your wall switch or remote set to off, turn off the “Main Gas Control Knob” shown in the figure below.  Then turn off the red propane shut off valve in this same area (knob perpendicular to the gas line is off).  

How much propane does my fireplace use during operation?

My Lennox fireplace, which is probably typical of others in Symphony Village, has an input BTU/hour rating between 22,500 and 29,000 depending on how the “Variable Flame Height Adjustment” knob is set (see figure below).  This knob is behind the hinged cover under the fireplace glass.  High is of course for 29,000 BTU/hour.  At 29,000 BTU/hour you would burn about 0.29 gallons of propane per hour or $0.67 per hour.  At the low setting of 22,500 BTU/hour the propane consumption would be 0.225 gallons per hour or $0.54 per hour.  These are at a propane cost of $2.40 per gallon.

Will my fireplace still work if the power goes out?

Yes, most likely. I believe all fireplaces in Symphony Village have “milli-volt” controls and pilot light which does not use house power to work.  If you have a fireplace blower, as optional equipment, then the blower won’t work with the power out.

Is my mantle getting too hot if the fireplace blower isn’t working?

Without the optional blower working, you may notice that your mantle is getting hotter than usual.  This should not be of alarm, as the mantle and fireplace was designed to work without the optional blower.  I wouldn’t put any candles that could melt or flammable materials on top of the mantle if there is no blower.

Can I install a thermostat for my fireplace?

Yes. Shortly after we moved in, I purchased a device that would control the Caruso installed fireplace not only with a remote control but also with a thermostat.  Our fireplace is in our solarium which we can enclose with French doors. When using the fireplace, even for effect, the room became too warm in a short time.  The device I purchased was made by Skytech and it is available on amazon.com for one.  The model I purchased in 2012 was Skytech 3301; I believe I got this from the fireplace manual.  It looks like this is still available at twice the price I paid.  I believe that this model has superseded it and does the same thing.  Skytech 3002 is the link to amazon.  I am not pushing amazon or Skytech; I'm sure there are alternatives for both.  

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-UaZhLsNJZ9c/VOpfQneWy2I/AAAAAAAAIVM/qd1vyVkyMHU/s1600/Fireplace%2BRemote.png

https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

Can I install a thermostat myself?

It is an easy DIY install or if you aren't comfortable with that, any one of the handymen around the village can do it for you (you certainly don't need a fireplace expert).  You basically open up the fireplace wall switch plate remove the wires and hook them up to the provided black box and new switch plate.  Add batteries to the remote and you're good to go.  Note, there are no dangerous voltages in the wall box and you don't have to turn off any breakers; the voltage on the wires inside are less than an AA battery.

Pilot lights and Ignitors

Do I have pilot lights in my propane appliances?

Most modern propane devices use ignitors rather than pilot lights.  The exception seems to be propane fireplaces – a pilot light enables the fireplace to be used for heating if the power goes out.  I believe gas stove tops can go either way.

What is an ignitor?

An ignitor is an electronic spark device, similar to that in your propane gas grill.  My two propane furnaces and propane hot water heater use ignitors instead of pilot lights.  The primary advantage is that they don’t continually consume propane which can be considerable for a pilot light, typically 8 gallons a month.

The Village Propane Consumer Group (TVPCG)

What is The Village Propane Consumer Group (TVPCG)?

The Village Propane Consumer Group or TVPCG is a group of Symphony Village residences and their occupants that have united to seek competitive pricing of propane within the community.

Will propane competition work in Symphony Village?

I have seen competition in action.  I came from Severna Park where we had a choice of three cable TV providers: Comcast Xfinity, Broadstripe (previously Jones), and Verizon FIOS.  I contracted with all three at one time or another, each with its pros and cons.  Each had a “Customer Retention” number which would offer you a new and better deal if you threatened to change providers.  Competition indeed works!!  Admittedly, it is easier to switch cables at the street than to purchase or transfer a propane tank, but I think the example is appropriate.  How can multiple propane providers not salivate to compete for a share of Symphony Village with 360+ potential customers?

Why was TVPCG formed?

As the wholesale prices of propane precipitously dropped in late 2014 and early 2015, along with the price of gasoline, it became increasingly clear that Symphony Village, under a fixed Suburban propane rate, was not receiving competitive prices compared to residents in nearby areas, e.g. Centreville.  A growing number of Symphony Village residents felt that we should be getting preferential treatment as a bulk customer of propane, with at least competitive prices to that of surrounding areas.  TVPCG was formed to find the root causes of this disparity and how to go about rectifying it.  The history leading up to the formation of TVPCG has been documented, however, it is not particular important or relevant how we got here; it is more important at this point as to how we are going to proceed for the benefit of current and future residents.

How was TVPCG formed?

After numerous discussions about the propane issues within the Symphony Village Google Group, primarily a social network now called TRIO, a meeting of interested residents was called at the club house.  Minutes of that meeting indicate that 147 residents attended.  

When was TVPCG formed?

TVPCG was named and formed at the Symphony Village club house meeting on 25 January, 2015.

How many residences are members of TVPCG?

There are currently over 200 residences (not residents) that have signed up to be a member of TVPCG?

What are my obligations if I sign up for TVPCG?

There are no obligations other than having an interest in getting fair and equitable prices for our propane.

Is there a membership fee to join TVPCG?

Absolutely not.

Why should I or my residence join TVPCG?

The more members (residences) of Symphony Village that are united in seeking a competitive propane market for propane, the more that potential propane suppliers will be willing to compete for our substantial business and offer quantity propane discounts.  Although relevant propane information has been broadcast to the entire community with known email addresses, joining TVPCG will ensure that you are informed with up-coming TVPCC findings, recommendations, and future meeting invitations.

Am I a member of TVPCG?

You can check whether your residence is currently a member of TVPCG by click on TVPCG Residence List. Note: this list is not updated automatically after you join.  It is manually updated periodically.

How do I join TVPCG?

If you are not on TVPCG Residence List and want to join click on this link Join TVPCG. There is no obligation and the only required entry is your house number and street. This keeps our membership count up to date.  Entering at least one email address per residence will ensure that any future results, recommendations, or meeting notices are emailed to you.  Be sure to click on “Submit” after your entries are completed.  Your responses will be automatically recorded.   If you are having any problems joining electronically, send an email to jimarnts@gmail.com and I will make sure are included in TVPCG.  If you think you should be on the list and you house isn’t there, email me; it is probably a clerical error.

Is TVPCG a part of the Symphony Village Homeowners Association (SVHOA)?

No, the Symphony Village HOA board was approached about participating in TVPCG.  The board members did not see this as an HOA function and declined.

Is the board aware of TVPCG/TVPCC activities?

Yes, the Symphony Village HOA board has been in constant touch with TVPCC about current activities.

Is Caruso aware of TVPCG/TVPCC activities?

Yes, Caruso (Mark Summerville) is a member of the Symphony Village HOA elected board and has been kept informed and updated by TVPCC.

The Village Propane Consumer Committee (TVPCC)

What is The Village Propane Consumer Committee (TVPCC)?

The Village Propane Consumer Committee is a small group (7) of Symphony Village volunteers with the intent to create a competitive propane market for the community.

Who are the members TVPCC?

TVPCC is chaired by Paul Epp (elected unanimously by the group) who is supported by Larry Rayner, Randy Officer, Bob Offerman, Sonny Sollars, Jim Roe, and Steve Hardy.  They all have been tirelessly working on behalf of TVPCG and really that of the entire community.

How were the members of TVPCC selected?

They all volunteered at the club house meeting on 25 January, 2015 when TVPCG was formed.

What is the vision of TVPCC?

As TVPCC evolved it became apparent that their vision is to create a competitive propane market place and competitive pricing for current and future residents of Symphony Village.

What does TVPCC want to accomplish?

1). In order to accomplish the vision of a competitive market place, TVPCC is petitioning Suburban Propane to provide a policy for propane tank/equipment ownership or for transfer to another supplier.  TVPCC is seeking clarification on when this can happen relative to our current contracts and the terms and conditions of such ownership or transfer.  Hopefully, an agreement can be defined without “digging up our tanks, putting them on the curb, and replacing them”; an untenable and expensive proposition.

2). Research/interview potential propane suppliers, including Suburban Propane, who are willing and capable of competing and meeting the needs of a community as large as Symphony Village.

3). Rate the merits of valid propane suppliers and select multiple qualified propane suppliers for TVPCG consideration.

4). Distribute TVPCC findings and recommendations to TVPCG.

What is the authority of TVPCC?

TPVCC has been empowered by TVPCG to act on their behalf to explore ways of creating a competitive propane environment within Symphony Village.  It has no formal charter and no legal status.

Is TVPCC elected?

No, committee membership is un-elected and is completely voluntary.

Is TVPCC paid?

Absolutely not.

Does TPVCC have legal counsel?

TVPCC as it now exists, sees no need for legal counsel.  TVPCC is not a legal entity.  TVPCC has no funds to support legal counsel.

Are there any TVPCC or TVPCG minutes or other documents available?

Yes, there have been several TVPCG/TVPCC documents generated that have previously been electronically distributed.  Links to these are provided below:

More are expected in the future and will be distributed and included here when they are available.

Will I have to follow the directions of TVPCC if I am a member of TVPCG?

No, TVPCC has no authority to direct any one.  Any TVPCC recommendations are purely that, and individuals and residences are free to choose to follow or ignore them.

Can I stay with Suburban Propane?

Absolutely, if you feel that this is the correct choice for you.  The goal is not to evict Suburban, but to have them compete in a free market within Symphony Village.

Who are other potential and viable suppliers of propane to Symphony Village?

On the distributed TVPCC minutes of 1/28/2015, the following five (5) potential propane suppliers were on an agenda to present to TVPCC: Tri-Gas, Callahan, Sharp, Southern States, and Suburban.  A subsequent TVPCC status report as of 2/12/2015 stated that “Seven Propane Suppliers, including SP, were invited to deliver in-person presentations to the committee and that six accepted”.  TVPCC has not disclosed to me the suppliers that actually presented nor the one that declined.  No evaluations or recommendations have yet been released by TVPCC.

Was the recent Suburban price drop a result of TVPCC action?

No, there were no TVPCC discussions or actions with Suburban Propane relative to this recent price drop to $2.399 per gallon.  Suburban autonomously dropped their prices and did this verbally.  TVPCC advises to not consider this as part of their long-term proposal to our community. TVPCC has no other comment and neither endorses or disagrees with this rate.  My speculation is that Suburban has sensed impending competition and acted accordingly.  If so, TVPCG and TVPCC has started to have the desired effect.

What were the results of the Paul Epp on-line Questionnaire about potentially switching propane providers?

The majority by almost 2:1 replied “Maybe” that they would switch suppliers as compared to “Yes” they would switch.  Less than 10 said “No” they wouldn’t switch from Suburban.  The Questionnaire Compiled Results are graphically available at that link.  We had a good response with 125 residences participating in a short time.  This Questionnaire may be requested again after TVPCC releases more information.

What happened to the request to support letters to the Consumer Protection Agency?

A substantial list of positive support responses was collected for future action; you are not forgotten!!  TVPCC has a draft of such a letter but is awaiting a hopefully positive response for a tank purchase/transfer policy from Suburban Propane.  Depending on this the Suburban response, this letter may be trashed or re-worded to reflect a negative response.

The following email from Paul Epp (TVPCC chairman) was sent out on 3/1/2015:

The TVPCC does not have any meetings scheduled at this time. Please note that the meeting announcement was for January 21, 2015. The committee is expecting SP to provide all of us with a propane tank policy by 3/5/15. We will update everyone in the village once we have received the policy. Please stay in the loop, we may need all of you, who are willing, to send a letter to the Division of Consumer Protection if the policy is bogus. I still plan to personalize your letter, I will email your Word Doc Letter to you at the right time. All you will have to do from that point is sign it, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it.

Thanks,

Paul Epp         

What will be forth coming from TVPCC?

TVPCC has told me that they are still awaiting information and are not currently in a position to announce anything substantive at this point.  I will report any TVPCC status when available. Also see Paul Epp memo.

What is my role and motive?

I am just an interested member of TVPCG and am helping to facilitate the distribution of information relevant to TVPCG and Symphony Village in general.  I am not a member of TVPCC.

Do you have any comments, edits, additional questions, clarifications, additional information, or down right disagreement with provided answers?

If so please email me at jimarnts@gmail and I will update FAQ’s accordingly.

Author Disclaimer.

Symphony Village Propane Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) was compiled by James Arnts (jimarnts@gmail.com) from questions and answers within the TRIO Google Group, meeting minutes electronically distributed by TVPCC, private discussions with TVPCC members, direct email to me from Symphony Village residents outside of TRIO, searches of my home owner documentation, internet searches, and personal observations/opinions.  This is not a TVPCC document.  I am a member of TVPCG but not a member of TVPCC.  I have submitted this document for TVPCC comments and edits prior to posting.  Statements made here are not the official results, recommendations, or opinions of TVPCC or its members.   I am doing this only to conveniently inform present and future residents of Symphony Village the issues associated with propane use, distribution, and supplier relations.  I welcome any comments to improve this.