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Why the Pros Love Cooking with Gas—and You Will Too!

propane stoves When was the last time you saw a chef on a cooking show waiting for an electric coil to heat up? Peek into the kitchen of your favorite restaurant—or sit at a chef’s table with a view of the culinary action—and you’ll see a gas-fired range, every time. But you don’t need to be a professional chef to appreciate the benefits of cooking with a propane stove.

If you’re remodeling your kitchen or shopping for a new home, you may be thinking about what type of cooking equipment you want to use for the next decade or two. Appearance and features are part of the decision, but efficiency and performance are important, too. That’s where propane stands out.

Advantages of Propane Gas Ranges

Here’s how a propane stove compares to an electric range:

  1. Control. An electric range will never provide the same control as cooking with gas. Think about why you opt for a propane grill instead of charcoal: you can adjust the flame with the turn of a knob. An electric burner doesn’t respond as quickly, taking more time to reduce or increase the heat. That means you can sear food quickly without overcooking it, and you can keep a delicate sauce at a subtle simmer without scorching.
  2. Cost. Propane burns extremely efficiently: It generates more Btus than an equivalent amount of electricity, so you need much less propane to produce the same amount of heat or energy. That means cooking with propane can be significantly less expensive than cooking with electricity.
  3. Reliability. When the power goes out, you can’t use your electric stove, or your microwave. Propane works when the power is out, which means you can heat up some soup while you wait for the utility company to restore power. And, you’ll always have a ready supply—especially if you sign up for convenient automatic deliveries. (Propane is great for running a whole-house generator, too, speaking of outages!)
  4. Clean. Recent stories about gas stoves and indoor air quality are a bit misleading: While natural gas stoves can potentially emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas, propane contains no methane. And, cooking of any kind creates particulate matter and affects indoor air quality, no matter what fuel is used. When it comes to environmental impact, propane gas is one of the greenest and most efficient fuels around. It produces minimal emissions.
  5. Domestic. Propane is also an American energy source. About 90% of the United States’ supply of propane is domestically generated. Most of it comes from the processing of natural gas—which is considered a greenhouse gas when burned. Propane is not considered a greenhouse gas. While electricity is also generated domestically, it’s the second-largest creator of greenhouse gases in the United States. That’s because most of our electricity supply is generated by coal-fired power plants. (Only the transportation sector creates more greenhouse gases.)

The Bottom Line

As you can tell, cooking with propane gas is a smart choice for a lot of reasons. Here’s one more to consider: Propane gives you a lot more versatility and choice when it comes to running other appliances in your home: water heating, laundry equipment and a range of other appliances can all be run by clean-burning efficient propane instead of electricity.

Want to learn more? Pitstop’s team of experts are always happy to answer all your questions and help you create your dream home with a propane range and other appliances, too! Contact us today for more information.

Yes! These Small Heaters Can Deliver Big Savings

space heaters Windham, me Unless you live in a brand-new, perfectly insulated home, you probably could use some tips on improving efficiency and saving money while staying warm through a raw, cold Maine winter. We always recommend propane space heaters as an effective and efficient way to supplement your main heating system without jacking up energy costs.

Heat Where You Need It

One way that propane space heaters can help you save money is by letting you postpone firing up your home’s main heating system. This is great for the shoulder seasons, when temps can drop at night, or for those spring and fall days that sit in the 50s. You don’t really need to heat your whole house—but it feels a bit nippy.

Another way to use space heaters to save money on heating costs is to lower the thermostat for your house, and use space heaters to warm the rooms you are using. Think of it this way: When you use your furnace or boiler to heat your home, you’re heating all the rooms, whether you are using them or not. With space heaters, you can set your thermostat to about 60 (to prevent pipes from freezing) and then heat spaces individually. This is a great option if you have a larger home with rooms that don’t get used all the time.

Propane space heaters are also a great way to warm hard-to-heat spaces, like finished attics, additions, and any other rooms that don’t get sufficient heat from your main system.

So. Many. Options.

When it comes to choosing a propane space heater, you have a lot of options. Do you want a wall-mounted or freestanding unit? Do you want radiant or circulating heating? Do you want a vented heater or an unvented (also called a vent-free) heater? What’s the difference?

Propane space heaters are easy to install and require no ductwork. We have a range of wall-mounted and free-standing models that can warm up just about any size space. Many units are self-adjusting, with variable-speed blowers to eliminate cold spots for consistent, even heat. Temperature-sensing technology controls output, maintaining your desired temperature and saving you (more) money.

Still not sure which propane space heater is right for your space? Don’t worry, the professionals at Pitstop can help you choose the best option for you and your space, and we’ll install it properly. Contact us for more information today.

Know How Low You Can Go

heating temperature Cumberland county, me Everyone loves Maine’s lush, cool summers, but winter is another story. Summer residents close up their houses for months at a time, and even locals try to spend a bit of time further south if they can during the coldest months.

While plenty of people disagree about how warm to keep the house in the winter, most can agree it doesn’t make sense to keep the thermostat set for short sleeves while you’re away. But you can’t turn the heat too low without running the risk of frozen pipes. So, what’s the right temperature to set your thermostat while you’re traveling this winter?

The sweet spot is about 60F.

Generally speaking, if you set your thermostat to 68°F when you’re home, and lower it another 7°–10°F for 8 hours a day (for example, when you’re sleeping), you can save as much as 10% per year on heating. That lower temperature is just right for while you’re away, unless you plan to be gone for an extended period—or if there’s extreme cold in the forecast.

Can You Go Lower?

You don’t want to set your thermostat below 60, even if your home is very well insulated. That’s because when the temperature inside your house drops too low, for too long, you run the risk of frozen pipes.

Most bathroom and kitchen pipes rely on your home heating system to keep them warm. If temperatures get too low, water in your pipes can freeze and expand, eventually causing pipes to crack or burst. When the water melts again, the result can be severe water and structural damage and expensive repair work. There’s nothing worse than returning from a winter vacation only to find a water pipe has burst and flooded your home.

Longer Trips

If you will be away for an extended period, a smart thermostat is a great tool. Smart thermostats take controlling the HVAC system in your home to the next level, helping you save energy and reduce heating costs. They work with WiFi so you can adjust temperatures remotely, using your phone or a smart home device such as Alexa. They can “learn” your preferences and adjust automatically, and when you’re traveling, you can check the weather at home and raise the thermostat a few degrees with an app on your phone while you’re sitting on a beach far away.

But for longer trips, you should also have someone who can check on your home, particularly if your neighborhood is prone to power outages from winter storms. Some smart meters will alert you if there is a problem with the power or your heating system, but not all of them. (A standby generator will kick on and keep your heat on, even if you’re away.)

Keep Us In the Loop

When you plan to be away for more than a week or two, you should let us know, too—especially if you are on automatic delivery for heating oil or propane. We calculate when you’ll need a delivery based on your typical usage as well as the weather. If you are not at home for a couple of weeks, you won’t use as much fuel and we can adjust your delivery.

Have questions about your heating system or automatic deliveries? We’re here for you! Contact the pros at Pitstop any time.

Pitstop Has Tips to Help You Plan Ahead

heating oil York county, me While the official first day of winter isn’t until late December, the “heating season” starts much sooner around here—in November or even late October. The earlier the heat goes on, the more customers start to wonder how much heating oil they will need for the season. While the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a much colder winter in the northeast, the NOAA—the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration—is predicting a warmer, wetter season. Of course, there’s no crystal ball for winter weather, and every home is different.

High efficiency heating equipment in a well-sealed and well-insulated home will use less fuel than an aging boiler or furnace in a drafty house, no matter how cold it gets. As a general rule of thumb, a heating system that’s running properly should use between 0.8 and 1.7 gallons of oil per hour during cold weather. Improving efficiency is a proven way to keep your fuel use on the low side of that range.

Save Energy, Save Money, Stay Cozy

Some people hear “save energy” and think it means turning down the thermostat and layering on the sweaters instead of feeling comfortable in their home. While that’s one way to do it, a smarter way to stay warm all season while keeping heating costs under control is with energy efficiency. That means making it easier for your furnace or boiler to do its job. The harder it has to work to warm your home, the more fuel it will burn. (That’s why good insulation improves efficiency.)

There are a few easy, no-cost things you can do to improve efficiency:

There are also several low-cost ways to make your home more efficient:

If it’s time to replace your heating equipment, investing in a high-efficiency heating system is an investment that can drastically cut energy costs, while improving your comfort for years—and improving the value of your home. The pros at Pitstop can help you choose the best equipment for your needs and your budget.

More Ways to Save

We also offer plenty of options to help you manage costs no matter what happens with prices or how cold it gets.

Both the pre buy and fixed place programs are closed for the current season, but ask us to alert you when you can sign up next year.

No matter how much heating oil you may need, you want a company that puts customers first. That inherently means offering fair, transparent pricing, but it also means offering true reliability, with products and services designed to make your life easier. Find out why so many homeowners and businesses across southern Maine choose Pitstop. Contact us for more information or to schedule a delivery today.

Here’s Why You Should Do It Today

furnace filter portland, me Fall is a great time to think about the air quality in your home—especially since you’ll be spending more time indoors. Cleaning or replacing your air filters is an easy way to eliminate or reduce dust, mold and other allergens, and keep your heating equipment running well, too.

Why? A dirty filter can lead to problems. It can restrict air flow, making your system work harder to heat your home—using more fuel and increasing energy costs as a result. Because the filter protects your heating equipment from dirt and dust, it also helps prevent problems that can lead to a breakdown—and an expensive repair. The bottom line: Changing the filter on your furnace is an easy way to save money while keeping your home more comfortable.

So, how often should you change your furnace filter? As usual, it depends on a variety of factors, most importantly the size and type of filter and the efficiency rating of your heating equipment. If you have furry family members, you will likely need to replace your filter more often. Generally, the thicker the filter, the longer it will last. Replace 1- to 2-inch filters every 1 to 3 months, 3- to 4-inch filters every 6 to 9 months, and 5- to 6-inch filters every 9 to 12 months.

How to Replace Your Furnace Filter

Not sure if your filter needs to be changed? Turn off your furnace, remove the filter, and hold it up to the light. If you can’t see light, it’s dirty and you need to change it. If you’ve never replaced the filter in your furnace, don’t worry: It’s easy. And it’s not even messy if you do it regularly! Here’s how, in four easy steps:

  1. Locate the filter rack: Usually, it’s installed at the return or at the entrance to the blower chamber.
  2. Slide the filter out: If you need to pull, check for a locking mechanism and disengage it. Disposable filters have a cardboard frame. If your filter has a metal or plastic frame, it is most likely washable.
  3. Replace the filter: Look for the arrow pointing to the direction of air flow. Make sure you install the filter the right way (towards the blower).
  4. Secure the door or filter rack: re-engage the locking mechanism. That’s it. Good job!

Not sure what type of filter or the size you need? Just ask us. Some filters can be washed or vacuumed and reused—check the manufacturer’s instructions. Pleated filters can go longer before changes: Put a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget.

Ignoring your furnace filters can damage your furnace and shorten its lifespan. Additionally, the harder your furnace works, struggling to push that heat into your home, the more energy it uses. The more energy your furnace uses, the more it costs each month.

Our team of experienced pros is happy to answer your questions—and if you have been postponing, it’s never too late to schedule your tune-up. We’ll change your filter, and make sure everything is running properly before the real cold weather hits. Contact us today.

A Homeowner’s Guide to Troubleshooting a Furnace or Boiler

boiler repair portland, me

Ah, Fall! Crisp nights, and golden, balmy days. That first night you want to turn on the heat—and something’s not right. There’s nothing worse than realizing your heat isn’t working just as the first cold snap hits. Of course, we’re always here for you. Our techs can get you up and running fast. But sometimes when your furnace or boiler is on the fritz, there’s an easy fix that you can handle yourself and can help you avoid the expense of a service call—and free up our techs to help others.

Heating System Troubleshooting

Try these troubleshooting steps before you call:

1. Check Your Thermostat
Make sure your thermostat is set to a temperature at least 5° above room temperature and set to “heat.” Is it the batteries? Try installing fresh ones.
 
2. Check the System Switch
Did the switch for your heating system accidentally get turned off? This happens more often than you’d think. Don’t overthink it, just turn it on.

3. Check Your Fuel Supply
If you haven’t checked your tank gauge in a while, you may have run out of fuel—especially if it’s been very cold recently, or if you’ve been spending more time at home during the day. If you’re out, know that we’re on call 24/7 for emergency deliveries.

4. Check Fuses and Circuit Breakers
Circuit breakers can easily trip. Check the breaker that your heating system is on, and turn it on if it’s off.

5. Check the Air Filter
When the air filter on your furnace gets clogged, the system will shut down. Replace it and set a reminder on your calendar to check it once a month.

6. Check the Boiler
If you have a steam boiler, check the water level gauge. It should be at least half-full. Call us if it isn’t. Have a hot water boiler? You can skip this step.

7. Reset the System
If none of the previous steps work, push and hold the Reset button for 30 seconds. Only do this ONCE. Doing it more than once floods the combustion chamber with too much heating oil. That’s an expensive repair job on top of any other repairs you may need.

If none of these steps resolves the problem, call us and we’ll dispatch a technician to get you up and running as soon as possible.

An Ounce of Prevention

Some heating system problems are easy to prevent. A tune-up is the best way to make sure your boiler or furnace is running at peak efficiency. It not only helps keep heating costs down, but regular maintenance also prevents many of the problems that lead to breakdowns. A tune-up can also keep your warranty in effect: good to keep in mind!

Whether you need an oil-fired equipment or propane system repair, the experts at Pitstop have your back. We’re always happy to help—we can even talk you through the steps above if you need moral support! We’re your neighbors, and we care about our reputation in the community. That’s why we go out of our way to exceed your expectations. Contact us to become a customer today.

Make Sure You Retire Them Safely

propane tanks

Propane storage tanks have a pretty long life—the refillable cylinders can last 5 to 10 years as long as they are regularly checked and recertified. Rust, dents or signs of corrosion are signs that it’s time to replace your cylinder. And larger storage tanks last even longer, since they don’t get banged up from transport. Rust and corrosion are a bigger factor in their lifespan. But as with just about everything, they don’t last forever. But even the smallest amount of propane left in the tank can be hazardous if you just throw it out with the trash.

So what’s the best way to dispose of them safely and responsibly?

Portable Cylinders

If you use a refillable 5- or 10-gallon tank for your grill or outdoor firepit, recycling is easy. Propane dealers who refill these propane tanks will make sure your tank is in good shape and can sell you a new tank when yours is no longer usable. All DOT portable propane tanks must be recertified for use every 5 or 10 years, depending on the cylinder type, condition, and previous recertification method. When it’s time to retire your tank, your propane dealer should be able to take your old tank and make it’s completely empty, disassemble it and sell the tank as scrap.

If the propane dealer who refills your tank can’t take it, contact your town’s public works department about recycling your tank, or your local hazardous waste disposal site.

If you work with a company that exchanges your empty tank for a full one, they make sure tanks in circulation are in good shape and dispose of the old ones properly so you don’t have to.

You shouldn’t try to empty the tank yourself. If you don’t completely empty it and the tank gets put into a compactor, it could ignite or explode.

Large Propane Storage Tanks

If you lease your storage tank from us, we’ll make sure it’s always in good shape. And, if it does need to be replaced, due to age or damage, we’ll handle it for your safely. We will purge any remaining propane and transport the tank for disposal or recycling as scrap.

The Pitstop team has more than 30 years of experience installing tanks safely and we can also make sure your old tank is disconnected and safely transported away. We’ve got you covered for your replacement tank too. We’ll make sure your needs haven’t changed and ensure your tank is the right size to fuel the appliances and equipment in your home.

Propane Delivery

Just as important as having a well-maintained tank is knowing that you have reliable propane delivery service. That’s one of the many reasons Mainers trust Pitstop for prompt, safe, and courteous propane delivery service for their homes and businesses.

Contact us today to learn more and become a customer.

Find Out the Best Way to Heat Water While Saving Energy

water heaters portland, me Did you know heating water accounts for almost 20% of your energy costs? It’s true! And it means that choosing an efficient water heater is one of the most important considerations. Of course, any new water heater will be more efficient than older technology, but choosing the right option for your home and your needs is important. But keep in mind that not all energy sources are the same, especially when it comes to heating water.

That’s why, when it comes to saving energy, you might want to consider a propane water heater instead of electric.

Does a Propane Water Heater Need Electricity?

Typically, a propane water heater uses electricity to ignite its pilot, which lights the burner when you need to heat water. If the electricity goes out, the electric ignition won’t work. Still, a lit pilot will remain on. However, your gas water heater may have a fully electric ignitor system, which won’t be able to light your unit’s burner in a power outage. Our team can help you check the type of system you have.

Why is Propane More Efficient for Hot Water?

Propane generates more BTUs than an equivalent amount of electricity, and it delivers more than twice the BTUs of natural gas, so you need much less propane to produce the same amount of heat or energy. It also works quicker. Propane water heaters work faster to heat your water than their electric counterparts.

Appliances like water heaters that run on propane are extremely efficient and, therefore, cost less to run. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save $174 yearly just by using a propane water heater versus an electric one.

Storage or Tankless?

The next most important consideration is whether to go with a traditional storage-type water heater or opt for tankless.

Storage-tank water heaters are exactly what they sound like — a big storage tank, typically about 20 to 80 gallons, that keeps all that water hot, so it’s ready when you need it. These types of units use a thermostat to make sure the water is hot enough when you want to use it, heating water to the set temperature and then reheating it as it cools. This is called “standing heat loss,” and it’s the main drawback of this type of water heater. If you use a lot of hot water and have an electric water heater, it can have a big impact on your energy bills.

Storage tank water heaters are susceptible to rust and corrosion, which can lead to leaks, so you need to keep an eye out for signs of deterioration.

Lastly, you are limited by the size of your tank. On busy mornings, when everyone needs to shower and get out, someone likely ends up with a lukewarm experience. It’s not the best way to start the day.

On the plus side, storage tank water heaters are relatively inexpensive to purchase. More energy efficiency models are available, and you can also add additional insulation to reduce heat loss. (But they can still end up costing you more to operate.)

Tankless water heaters are more expensive to purchase, but they are also much more efficient than tank-type units.

Tankless water heaters save energy by instantly heating water when you need it. When you turn on the tap, water flows through the unit and is heated instantly by a propane-fueled heating element. When you turn off the tap, the unit stops heating water. Compare this to the cost of operating a traditional water heater, which requires you to keep a tank holding many gallons of water hot and ready to use all the time. As a result, you can enjoy virtually unlimited hot water—while seeing savings of up to 40%!

You’ll save space as well as energy: Tankless water heaters are compact—about the size of a suitcase—and can even hang on a wall or in a closet, freeing up room in your basement or utility room. That said, there are different sizes designed to fit different needs. Rather than total gallons, output is measured in a flow rate of gallons per minute. The more hot water you need at the same time will require a higher flow rate.

The main downside to a tankless water heater is price—but they will pay for themselves in savings in the long run, compared to a storage tank style.

The Bottom Line

A traditional tank-style water heater is inexpensive to replace but costs a lot more to run. That’s not a great return, even on a small investment. And it can’t really deliver enough hot water for more than two or three showers in a row, assuming no one is washing dishes or using hot water for anything else.

Ready to learn more about the benefits of a tankless water heater for your home? Pitstop’s expert team can help you choose the best option for your needs, install it correctly, and provide maintenance and repairs. Enjoy energy efficiency and all the hot water you need with a new propane water heater! Contact us today to get started.

Get More Value With Propane for Your Home.

propane Raymond, me If you have propane for your home, but you’re only using it for heating and cooking, you’re missing out on all the benefits this versatile fuel can deliver. The efficient power of propane means it’s a smarter choice than electricity for a wide variety of appliances that use hot water or heat, including washers and dryers, dishwashers, outdoor lighting, patio heaters, space heaters, pool and spa heaters, outdoor grills and more. Here are just a few of the ways propane can add value—and comfort—to your home.

More Ways to Use Propane

Outdoor Living: Adding safe and efficient propane patio heaters can let you enjoy your outdoor spaces earlier in the spring and later into the autumn. Fire pits and fire bowls are an attractive focal point and gathering space for entertaining friends and family. And propane-fueled pool and spa heaters will warm up the water much faster than an electric heater, and maintain the temperature better once the water is warm. As a result, propane pool heaters help you keep heating costs under control, while letting you enjoy your pool or spa more.

Grilling: If you have a propane range in your kitchen, you already know that nothing beats the precision and control you get cooking with gas. That’s why it’s the first choice of professional chefs in the kitchen—but it delivers the same precise temperature control on the patio. A propane grill makes outdoor cooking as easy as turning on your kitchen cooktop: Flip a switch, turn a knob and set your heat level. There’s less waiting time, too, because a propane grill is hot and ready to go in about 10 minutes. Compare that to 30 minutes or more to get charcoal hot.

Indoor fireplaces: A propane fireplace brings all the ambiance and warmth of a wood-burning fireplace to any room, without the mess, smoke, and ash. And unlike a traditional fireplace, you can install a propane-fueled fireplace just about anywhere: living room, dining room, bedroom, even the kitchen. Imagine the luxe, spa-like glamour of a fireplace in your master bath!

Space heating: Propane wall and space heaters make it easy to heat spaces your heating system doesn’t reach—like additions, sunrooms, attics, workshops, and garages.

Generators: When storms knock out power, a propane-fueled backup generator will keep your lights on, your refrigerator running and everything else powered up until the utility companies can make repairs. What’s more, a whole house generator can really boost your home’s value and even get you a lower rate on your homeowner’s insurance.

The Value Proposition

Whether you are refurbishing your existing home, building your dream house, or just looking for ways to reduce your fuel bills, propane provides great value. The team of experts at Pitstop can help make adding propane appliances to your southern Maine home easy, with great services like smart payment plans to help keep costs manageable and so much more.

Contact us today for more information.

What’s the difference Between Pre-Buy, Fixed Price, and a Budget Plan?

heating oil costs portland, me Winter may seem months away. But it’s never too early to think about keeping your home-heating oil costs under control. We know every budget is different, and that’s why we offer multiple ways to make it easy to manage heating oil prices each winter. Even though fuel prices are (finally) moderating, there’s no sure way to guarantee that they won’t spike again. There are so many variables that can affect the price of heating oil—from geopolitics to the weather. While we can’t control prices, we can tell you that customers who were enrolled in one of our pricing plans are protected from the volatility that can make winter heating costs so stressful.

Read on to see how each of our plans work and discover the best option for your family.

EZ-Pay Monthly Budget Plan

Even when fuel prices are low, this plan is the most popular. That’s because our EZ-Pay Monthly Budget Plan is a smart way to manage winter heating oil costs and avoid unexpected high invoices, no matter how cold it gets or how much fuel you use.

We use an average based on your past fuel use to spread your costs evenly over 12 months, cutting winter bills nearly in half and making it easier for you to budget your expenses.

This plan keeps your fuel costs level and manageable, so even if we have a particularly harsh winter or prices spike, we’ll help adjust your payments so you don’t get hit with a large balance in the summer. Likewise, if it’s a mild winter, we can adjust and reduce your payments: The point is to help you save while avoiding big fluctuations.

Pre-buy Program

When you choose our Pre-buy program, you buy your all your heating oil or propane at the start of the season. This lets you take advantage of lower off-season pricing, and eliminates the worry about the price of fuel going up.

When you opt for this plan, you’re automatically enrolled in our Automatic Delivery service, which delivers even more peace of mind: You don’t have to remember to order heating oil, and you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel.

Fixed Price Program

Our Fixed Price Program is exactly what it sounds like: We agree on a fixed price ahead of the heating season and you’re locked in at that price. No matter what happens with fuel prices, your price won’t go over the fixed amount.

The Bottom Line

Letting the pros at Pitstop handle all your heating-fuel needs is a smart choice. No matter what happens with prices next winter, our multiple price protection plans are designed to help you keep costs manageable—ask about our propane payment plans, too!

Ready to sign up? Enrollment in our Pre-buy and Fixed Price plans is open now (you can enroll in the EZ Pay plan any time). Contact us today to learn about all the ways we can help you save.