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Frequently Asked Questions

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  • How long has The Propane Collective been around?
    While The Propane Collective is a new entity, the company was born out of the Coloma-Lotus Co-op, which was started in 2005. With 19 years of experience working with propane companies on the consumers' behalf, you can be assured you're in good hands. You can learn more about us and our Members'  landmark AmeriGas $100k audit award here.


 

  • Why is there a membership fee?
    I created the Coloma-Lotus Co-op back in 2005 and managed it as a volunteer community service for 19 years. In recent years, managing the Co-op has become incredibly time-intensive; I simply could not continue to run it without charging members for this service. I modeled the fee structure after a similar propane buying group back east. Members' savings should far exceed the modest membership fee.
     

     

  • Where do our membership fees go? 
    In addition to my time, I now have hard costs to cover, e.g. website hosting, payment processing, business fees, insurance and legal costs, etc. In time, I hope to grow the Collective to a size that generates enough revenue to completely cover my costs and time....and further increase our buying power in the process!

  • Who is The Propane Collective's supplier?
    InterState Propane is our exclusive supplier. InterState Propane is a partner company of InterState Oil, a mid-size, family-owned company in business since 1970. Unlike larger propane companies, when you call InterState, you get a real person based right here in California. And unlike smaller ones, InterState has the infrastructure and capability to service our "Collective" needs. 

    T
    he company’s size and service-oriented focus make it a great fit for our small but growing Collective. Of note, the InterState family has expressed no desire to sell-out to one of the larger, publicly-held companies that have been taking over the propane business, which is good news for us!

  • How long will it take for InterState to switch out my tank? 
    Generally speaking, between 2-4 weeks from the time you fill out your application. The timeframe depends upon many factors, in​cluding how quickly you pay the membership fee and complete InterState's paperwork. Weather and your place on the waitlist are also factors.

  • I own my tank - will I save money? 
    In most cases, YES! About 30% of our customers own their tank.  While many companies offer periodic specials during summer or at times when demand is low, The Propane Collective's rates are consistently low year-round. You may find a lower quote from time-to-time, but you won't find find lower year-round individual rates. Check out our Savings page to see actual price comparisons.


 

  • Why is will-call service more expensive than routed service?
    Will-call deliveries are less efficient and more expensive for suppliers, as management can't adequately forecast deliveries for will-call customers.


 

  • How often will InterState deliver if I'm on routed service?
    One of the advantages of tank monitoring is that InterState can monitor your usage and only deliver when necessary. In general, they aim to maximize efficiency by only delivering as often as necessary, which is typically when your tank approaches 30%. (Deliveries may be made earlier when weather events are forecasted.)


 

  • How does tank monitoring work? What signal does it utilize for communication?
    Tank monitors do just that: monitor the level of your tank, feeding that information to InterState Propane utilizing Verizon's cellular network. Monitoring allows InterState to efficiently manage your usage and associated deliveries, ensuring you always have an adequate supply of propane.  This service is provided at no charge to Collective Members. If your site does not have a reliable Verizon connection, InterState will monitor your tank the 'old-fashioned' way, forecasting deliveries based upon usage and other input.


 

  • Why is there a minimum usage fee? Is that only for leased tanks?
    Minimum usage requirements only apply to leased tanks. Propane tanks are expensive pieces of capital equipment, costing several thousand dollars each. A certain amount of revenue per tank must be generated each year to offset suppliers' investments in this equipment. Minimum usage fees help to ensure InterState doesn't lose money on the discounted pricing it is offering our Members. This requirement protects us all as the Collective will only be successful long-term if our partner meets its profitability goals. 

    Note: Minimum usage fees do NOT apply to customer-owned tanks.

  • I use less than 300 gallons per year; should I join the Collective?
    If you lease your tank and use less than 200 gallons per year, membership in the Collective most likely won't make sense for you.

    If you lease your tank and use between 200 and 300 gallons per year, membership in the Collective likely will save you money.  You'll need to compare the total cost with what other suppliers charge. Most suppliers have a minimum usage requirement. If they don't, they'll likely be making that cost up in the price you pay for propane.

 

  • I own my tank and call around; what if another company is willing to price match?
    They may at times, but suppliers likely won't do that long-term and/or once they've grown to the point where customers' demand exceeds their capability. Regardless, I respectfully request folks refrain from attempting to leverage our pricing against another company's pricing for the following reasons:
     

    • Our Collective is only successful if we meet our projected volume usage goals.

    • If we grow beyond our projections, our bargaining power increases, which helps us all.

    • Attempts to leverage our pricing with another supplier help one person while harming the group as a whole by impacting our ability to grow and meet our goals. 

    • These actions also don't show respect for the considerable time and resources invested to create, market, and maintain this program

For these reasons, new/returning Members who have attempted to leverage our pricing with another company will not be admitted to The Propane Collective.

 

  • Why is the tank rent for generator tanks more expensive than regular tanks?
    Generator tanks pose a bit of a challenge for propane suppliers as usage is typically both sporadic and concentrated. In addition, a certain amount of revenue is required to justify the purchase and placement of each tank. The higher tank rent is reflective of these challenges. 

    Note: Because of their sporadic usage, leased generator tanks may be particularly vulnerable to minimum usage fees. For this reason, InterState suggests Members consider connecting their generator directly to their main tank, upsizing the main tank as needed. See the Pricing page for details.


 

  • Why is the SF Targa price on this website different than California's DGS site?
    There are two reasons the prices may slightly differ:​

    1. The DGS price sheets are updated weekly and may not reflect Targa's real time mid-week price changes.

    2. Our contract with InterState is based upon real-time SF Targa pricing from September to February, and 1-week delayed SF Targa rates from March to August. The reason for this is complicated to explain, but was a necessary concession for InterState to agree to use SF Targa as our margin benchmark. 

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