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The Lowdown on Heating with Propane

Propane Heat - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MIMany homeowners mistakenly believe they must have access to natural gas to be able to install a gas-fueled fireplace; however, there is an alternative method of heating gas-fueled appliances: propane. You can enjoy the convenience and efficiency of a gas fireplace without having to dig up your yard to install pipes to connect to an underground natural gas source by fueling the fireplace with propane. You may be familiar with using propane with your gas grill, but did you know that propane can be used to fuel a furnace, a water heater, and a clothes dryer? While propane has many benefits as an alternative heating fuel source, it has a few drawbacks as well. We at Clean Sweeps of Michigan would like to tell you more about propane gas and its advantages and disadvantages to give you more information about this fuel option.

What Exactly Is Propane Gas?

A byproduct of petroleum refining and natural gas processing, propane is used widely to fuel central heating systems, barbecue grills, engines, and portable stoves. Propane can be converted into a liquid form by adding butane, and it is then known as LPG, liquified propane gas. First discovered in 1910 and then patented as an extraction process in 1913, propane was in mass production by the 1920’s and was used in millions of homes in the United States.

Propane Is a Green Fuel.

According to eHow, one of the main advantages of using propane as a heating fuel source is it burns cleanly and is more environmentally-friendly than other fuel sources. Propane is listed as an approved alternative fuel by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Clean Air Act of 1990. It also made the list in the National Energy Policy Act of 1992. Additionally, propane is non-toxic and water-soluble, and since it is a gas, you don’t have to worry about it spilling, forming pools, or leaving behind residues which are harmful to the environment.

Propane Is an Inexpensive Heating Fuel Source.

An efficient-burning fuel, propane produces many more units of energy than other fuel sources per dollar. Cheaper than electricity, the US Department of Energy has stated that heating your home with propane costs far less than heating with electricity.

Propane Is a Relatively Safe Fuel.

Thanks to the strict codes and regulations developed by the propane industry and the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), propane has an impressive safety record. With built-in safety properties, propane will not ignite when combined with air unless the source of ignition reaches 940 degrees Fahrenheit. However, propane does have its risks. A propane leak can be very dangerous as it is heavier than air so it sinks and becomes concentrated at the floor level, where it can be difficult to detect. Also, propane is stored under high pressure, and any sudden decompression or rupture of its container can be a devastatingly violent and forceful event.

Interested in using propane to fuel your heating appliances? Contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan to talk to our expert staff about heating your home with this alternate fuel source.

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.

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