Propane users should plan now for coming winter

For those who use propane — and almost 20% of residents in the Upper Peninsula do — summer is the right time to consider locking in propane fuel prices for the coming winter, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The MPSC urges Michiganders to shop around to find the best deals from local suppliers. Locking in lower prices now could mean significant savings over market prices when the weather turns cold and demand heats up, the MPSC advises. But consumers should take the time to research options, ask questions and get everything in writing.

Other things to think about when shopping for propane:

— Budget plans, pre-pay plans and fixed-price plans can offer consumers savings compared with buying at market price.

— Ask about fees and other charges, such as those for installation or minimum annual usage requirements.

— Be aware the price per gallon may increase after the pre-paid allotment is used up.

— Decide whether it’s best to rent, lease or own the propane supply tank. If switching providers, that may affect the on-site tank that’s being used.

— Understand the contract before signing. A written contract explains the rights and responsibilities of buyer and seller.

Find more tips and key questions to ask a supplier on the MPSC’s propane consumer tip sheet, available online at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mpsc/mpsc-selecting-propane_464669_7.pdf.

Michigan leads the nation in total residential propane consumption, with more than 8 percent of households — or an estimated 320,000 — using propane as their primary heating source. Propane use is significantly higher in rural Michigan, with 18 percent of Upper Peninsula residents and nearly 24 percent of those living in the northern Lower Peninsula relying on propane as a primary heating source, according to the MPSC’s Statewide Energy Assessment.

While the MPSC does not regulate propane prices, it does monitor supplies and makes available statewide average residential prices during the heating season, which starts Oct. 1. Additional information on propane is available here.

For information about the MPSC, go to www.michigan.gov/mpsc, sign up for one of its listservs, or follow the commission on Twitter.

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