Saturday, February 1, 2014

Propane Shortages and Wood Burning Furnaces


            It’s one thing to hear your friendly news anchor say there could be a propane shortage. It’s quite another to have your tank topped off at 60% because the company you buy from has started to ration.
            Most everyone on my road is on propane. Everyone, that is, but Thurman. Thurman has a wood burning stove inside his house, on which, this time of year, you’ll see a big ol pan of water –there to keep moisture in the air.
            His stove and the wood he chucks into it everyday is enough to keep Thurman, his wife and his 90-something year old mother all toasty warm on those single digit nights. Go for a visit, and you’ll find yourself peeling off your layers in about 3 minutes or less, that’s how good it works.
            Contrast this to my drafty home, where I pad about in big thick socks and turn the heat way down at night, allowing a dog and a cat and my big old down comforters to warm me. I’m saving whatever propane I can, after all, not only do I care about the shortage, I care about my bill.
            To give you an idea how bad it’s gotten, it wasn’t but a few weeks ago that my tank ran out. One call to the propane man (now on speed dial) and I was up and running again within a couple of hours, no worse for the wear physically, but fiscally, it was a hit.
            $1200 it costs to fill my tank these days. Granted that should last me awhile, but sadly, it’s not lasting near as long as it used to.
            The propane man was back yesterday, capping me off at 60% and leaving another bill...this time for $600. (Must’ve been down to my last 10%) I knew this winter was bad, but I might also have a leak. Neither proposition brings comfort.
            So what did Karlen do today?
            Well, Karlen went shopping for an outdoor wood burning stove, that’s what Karlen did…And with a friend who knows how to install these sorts of things. I predict things like this are the next big thing, after all, who can control what propane (or any other regulated fuel) will do? Even if we had an endless supply, who can say what regulations will do? You kinda have to wonder when gas companies run up the prices (as we all suspect they do…not necessarily propane, but the gasoline giants)…don’t they know when they do this enough, we’re going to look for another solution?
            No wonder Exxon teeters on bankruptcy. That’s what you get when you gouge us. Screw us over and we go buy electric cars or hybrids cause we don’t trust you anymore. How hard is this to understand?
            Now it’s happening to propane.
            Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel about propane like I do the big gas companies, after all, my friendly propane man never hired a drunken sailor to steer his big oil rig into an iceberg, killing innocent wildlife all over Alaska. Furthermore, if I could ship my propane up North where those poor folks are truly running out, I would do it in a heartbeat and just rub sticks together, but the principle still applies. You spook us with the word “shortage” and stick us with some of the highest priced fuel we’ve ever endured, and we’re going to look for a replacement…something we might have a say in…‘cause sadly, you’ve now made us nervous.
            So yep. I spent my Saturday picking out a wood burning furnace (no chimney-out-the-roof problem with this option. This one goes along the back of the house). I’ve talked to a guy who’s done it, channeling the heat of the burning wood into his existing HVAC ductwork and heating his home for a fraction of the cost.
It all started when a neighbor helped me clear a rotten tree, wood for which I gladly gave Thurman, whose propane bill (I soon discovered) is non-existent!
            (Moments like these that start me to thinking…
            And I’m discovering I’m not alone.)
            Look out big giants! The little guys are waking up!
            Still crunching my findings. When I  hit a solution, I’m happy to share. And if I botch it, well, that’ll be one less avenue you’ll have to try, so either way you win!  Stay tuned…

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