Builders and developers interested in all-propane homes, whether individual homes or a community of dwellings, want to make sure that the delivery of propane is as effortless and automatic as possible. That’s especially true when building homes for customers who have little or no experience with propane.

Increasingly, propane companies are using remote tank level monitoring (RTML) systems to optimize their delivery schedules and ensure that customers have a reliable and constant supply of propane. A typical RTLM system consists of a tank-mounted transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter uses a sensor that is mounted on a fuel gauge and sends a radio signal to the receiver indicating the fuel level. The receiver communicates with the RTLM manufacturer or propane company’s computer server by phone or Internet. Alternatively, several manufacturers offer products that use a satellite or cellular phone connection and require only a tank-mounted transmitter.

The kind of RTML a propane company uses will depend on numerous factors, such as the communication method (cellular, satellite, Internet, etc.); radio frequency; diagnostic capabilities (multiple tanks in isolation or difficult sites); and the mode of operation (ultrasonic reader or solar-powered). The industry supports the decision-making process by contracting research organizations such as the Battelle Memorial Institute to evaluate the performance of commercially available RTLMs. For its recently published report, Battelle identified 13 models from nine manufacturers and measured each system’s radio frequency range, fuel level accuracy, installation difficulty, and overall system cost.

“Our intent was to come up with a Consumer Reports’ type of mechanism that marketers could go through and say, ‘okay, this system is good at that while another system is better for this,'” says Stephanie Flamberg, a principal research scientist with Battelle. “This research gives marketers an opportunity select what’s best for their particular operation.”