It’s Alright It’s Alright It’s Alright, Propane

Alice brought home some stories from her Tai Chi class the other day. One of the ladies knew a fellow who stopped by the local propane facility to ask a question, and was put to work answering the phones, because everyone was so busy. The local furnace repair contractors are only responding to calls where the furnace is dead and the house is cold. The cost for propane has risen from $1.70 per gallon to $5.50 per gallon, and the delivery trucks will only bring 100 gallons because supplies are so tight, even at that price.

Alice and I have a 250 gallon propane tank that feeds our backup furnace, and also runs the clothes dryer. After I heard her stories, I walked out to check the gauge, and saw we were at 40% full. With our wood stoves as the main source of heat for the house, and the propane as our backup, that amount would probably last us a month in this extremely cold weather. But to make sure we make it, we’ve turned down the thermostats.

We normally keep them around 60 degrees, but moved them down to 50 for the duration. The furnace pretty much only comes on at night or when we’re away during the day, so the house is almost always warmer than that. The temperature got down to minus 4 last night, and even with a hefty wood stoking last night, the house was a touch over 50 degrees this morning.

There is a large difference between a 50 degree house and a 60 degree house, but it isn’t as negative as I had thought it would be. I surely was motivated to put my slippers on rather than pad around in my socks. And I paid great attention to all 3 wood stoves this morning. After a couple of hours of effort, the house is up into the low 60s; still pretty cool, but we’re going to warm up shortly.

And let me put in a plug for wood heat in general. When the house is cold, you can snuggle up to the woodstove as soon as it starts to give out heat. Regular central heating means you have to heat up the whole house before you warm up, unless you have forced air blowing up from the floor, and you have a Marilyn Monroe dress on.

Turning down the thermostats was the right thing to do. There are a lot of people that have no other heat than their propane furnaces. If we can stay out of the market until this cold snap ends, we won’t be competing with them for a scarce and expensive resource. And realistically, fossil fuels are non-renewable and will be running out in future generations. If we can figure out a non-destructive way to stay warm in the winter without consuming scarce petroleum, I think we should.

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