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Friday, February 11, 2011

Yikes, propane costs! Wood burner moved to top of "to-do" list!

It's now been a month since we purchased the farm, and we've had the furnace running for about 3 weeks.  I am scared to tell you, and scared to admit it myself, but we've gone through over $700 worth of propane already, just heating to 55 degrees except for the few hours a day that we're there (then we up it to about 63).

This is no huge shock, we knew before we bought it that it would be very costly to heat a 3,000 square foot country house with propane, but the reality of it still hurts.  :-)

We had fully intended to heat the house with wood, we just haven't gotten around to buying the wood stove yet (we've been waiting for them to drop in price a bit more, it's nearing the end of the heating season).  Now that we've seen the propane costs firsthand, the wood stove is at the top of the list.

We had been toying with doing an add-on woodburning furnace, we can tell the house had one before so it's all set up.  However, my husband climbed on the roof last week to do raccoon repairs & took a look at the chimney.  It's only single-wall stainless pipe.  So, unfortunately, we'll need to fun a new stovepipe.  It will be expensive to do this & take some time, but jeez with the cost of propane that thing will pay for itself in less than one heating season.

There are a couple of drawbacks to the add-on... we won't be able to enjoy the pretty fire, it will be closed up in the basement.  As to that, luckily there is already a chute from the mudroom for the firewood to go down, but I'll still have to go into the basement to load it.  I'm not a wimp, but the furnace is located in the old part of the basement & I don't relish doing this at night.  Especially at night, when the kids are tired, crying, and whiny. 

Another option I'm thinking of is 2 stoves, the add-on in the basement and another freestanding unit in the living room.  I've noticed that the new addition (on north side of house) is much colder than the older portion of the house (I'd guess about 10-15 degrees colder in northwest bedroom than southeast bedroom).  The heat just doesn't get there as well from the furnace, and with an add-on woodburner I'm guessing it wouldn't get there much better.  If we had a freestanding unit in the living room (new addition), it would heat that part of the house better.  Plus we'd have access to the pretty fire, which can really raise the spririts in the dead of winter, and is exciting for my sons.

Another option for the living room is a pellet stove.  I know they need electricity, but the ease of pouring a bag of pellets in at night while taking care of tired little boys is very appealing.  Plus there doesn't need to be a stovepipe, then can vent directly out, which would cost much less & less work to install.  We could have one of these up & running right away, while waiting a month or two to get the add-on woodburning furnace & chimney for it up and running.  Yes, there is a cost for those pellets, but I feel pretty confident saying it won't be $700 for 3 weeks worth.  :-)

I definitely want some form of regular woodburning, as our farm has about 6 acres of trees.  Regular wood can't be burned in a pellet stove. 

So, in the meantime I'm off to call the propane company to come and fill our tank.  We went from 85% full 3 weeks ago, to 45% yesterday.  It's a 1000 gallon tank.  :-(

I for one have had enough of the sub-zero & single-digit weather, and am looking for the thaw we're expecting this weekend!  Three cheers for temps in the 30s!!!


  1. I cannot imagine paying that much for 3 weeks of heat! We have an almost 3000 sq ft house and pay about $250 a month with natural gas. Hoping you're able to get a good deal on a wood burning furnace quickly!


  2. You went through 400 gal of LP in a 3 week period in an old house that has additions built on and probable an older furnace. Think about how big a pile of wood it would take to get the same amount of BTUs. If saving money is your objective, IMHO you should consider an outside woodburning system. the cost will be returned a lot quicker than with the other types of wood heat. John

  3. Hi John,
    It's a newer furnace.
    Part of the problem is that the coons tore up the insulation, and my husband was in the process of re-installing it.
    Main problem was the temperatures, they were below zero for a week during this time (-16 one night). Coldest week of the year, it's bound to go through a lot.
    As for an outdoor woodburner, the upfront costs are through the roof and just not in the budget right now.
    We've purchased a stand-alone woodburner to install soon. Our acreage includes 6 acres of trees, and we can also purchase wood if needed. No matter what, it will be cheaper than propane.
    We've had a warm front come through, temps now in the 30s & 40s, and we're not going through much propane now. It just happened to be the coldest time of the year, with a major blizzard, when we got the furnace running. Of course.

  4. I know all about the cold weather, I am about 75- 100 miles south of you. We only had -13 last week. We have a woodburning fireplace and it is great to get warm by and to watch it burn. I also understand trying to strech your $$. Insulation will help and you may want to look at adding duct boosters on the long duct runs to help move the heat. And look into contracting your LP this summer to lock in a price or a budget billing program. Don't need to sound negative. You and your family have your hands full with this new farm. John