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Propane Shortage and Heating Alternatives

So the propane ran out.. not to worry, there are other ways to stay warm.

So the propane ran out.. not to worry, there are other ways to stay warm.

The recent explosion of propane gas prices can be directly linked to the low supply coupled with this winter’s brutally cold temperatures. Record low temperatures, heavy snowfall and poor driving conditions, combined with pipeline issues and other factors have all contributed to Michigan’s propane shortage. In spite of the skyrocketing prices, however, the demand for propane is still high. Propane is used to heat about 9-10% of Michigan homes, more people than any other state. Governor Snyder has instructed state agencies to reach out to consumers affected by the propane shortage to reassure them that the state is doing all it can to alleviate supply problems.

What Caused the Shortage?

The National Propane and Gas Association has attributed the national propane shortage to a combination of factors. First, a large, simultaneous grain harvest by several Midwestern states last October used a lot of propane to dry the product for storage. Then, the Chochin pipeline, which provided 40% of the propane used by Minnesota suppliers, shutdown for repair. There was also a huge increase in U.S. propane exports in 2013 of 20% compared to 5% in 2008. Lastly, a Midwest pipeline that used to carry propane is now used for ethanol.

Alternative Heating Options

In response to the supply problems, many homeowners are searching for alternative ways to heat their homes. People often turn to alternative heat sources to stay warm when the temperature plummets. Now is as good a time as any for homeowners to opt out of propane heat and instead install either a pellet stove or a wood-burning fireplace.

  • Pellet Stoves

It is estimated that a customer can recoup the expense of installing a high tech pellet stove in about two and a half years, and a full system can be installed within three weeks. The wood used to make the pellets is literally wood waste coming from wood chips and sawdust that is then turned into fuel. As the popularity of pellet stoves has increased, pellet mills began popping up in places that might not have had them years ago.

  • Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Generally speaking, burning in a wood-burning fireplace is an efficient way of heating your home. Wood burning fireplaces not only provide heat during the frigid winter months, but also create a comfortable aura in your home. Installing an energy-efficient unit can save fuel and money. The EPA is continually working with manufacturers to bring cleaner burning fireplaces to the market. Newer fireplace units can reduce smoke and dust, as well as cut heating expenses.

The propane companies are doing their best to make timely deliveries, while at the same time encouraging customers to preserve propane by turning down their thermostats 5-10 degrees, cut back on using hot water and the stove if either rely on propane, and avoid calling the propane supplier until the gauge shows below 25%. Some suppliers have even begun offering payment plans. However, if you want to be a bit more proactive, give the staff at Clean Sweeps a call to see how one of our alternative heating options can best meet your needs for the remainder of this heating season as well as for many more to come.