Peak Oil hits close to home.

We get the propane tank filled once a year; we can usually make 250 gallons last an entire year because we no longer use it for heating.  We also got rid of our old stove which had pilot lights and bought a used gas stove with electronic ignition.  So our only uses for the propane are the hot water heater and for cooking.  We were down to 19% in the tank, and it was getting harder to cook because the flame wasn’t really very big.  This was a problem; we had gotten propane last year in July during the summer rates which are usually significantly cheaper than the winter rates – by about 40%.  This year we called every month but were told that they didn’t know when the summer rates were going to take effect and to call back.  We finally had to give in and purchase, at the price of $2.89 per gallon. Because I am off work we couldn’t afford to get the entire tank filled, which is going to hurt us later, as you will read.

When the propane guy was here I invited him in (it’s hot, wanted to make sure he got water if he was thirsty) and while I was writing the check we talked a little.  He appeared truly worried about the coming winter.  He said that he doesn’t know what a lot of people are going to do when it gets cold because he knows they can’t afford to buy the propane.  He also told me that the day after we ordered our propane the price went up even further, but that we were getting the rate quoted to us.  It seems that by winter time the price of propane could literally be $4 per gallon.

We only bought 100 gallons rather than 200 because of the price – last year we filled the entire tank for approximately the same price as half-filling it this year:  $310.  Most of our neighbors are living on less income than ours, and many are living on fixed incomes.  With the changes to Social Security in the works thanks to our elected representatives, I can’t imagine how they will afford to heat their homes.  In our community, most people heat with propane; there is no natural gas out here, and the other option is electric which just isn’t that popular.  Historically speaking, electric has always been the most expensive option.

Getting a wood stove is still in the plans, but I need to figure out the the best price for this.  I want to shop local and avoid the big box stores, but I also need to spend as little as possible.  In the winter our biggest propane use is baking bread; with a wood stove I can bake with my camp oven on the top of the wood stove so hopefully that 100 gallons will last us as long as the 200 gallons did before.  I plan to check with our two big box stores, Home Depot and Lowe’s, to see if they have a mobile home approved stove and if they offer installation, and if their price will be cheaper than the $2800 quoted to us by the local guys. I can also check with the local Ace Hardware; if I can get the stove delivered I can find my own contractor to install it.

I just don’t know what we will do when it is next time to refill that tank.  If the price keeps going up, we will have to rig up some sort of solar water contraption and figure out an alternative method of cooking.  If we, as already prepared as we are, are feeling the pinch, I can’t imagine how this is going to affect our neighbors.  We are truly in interesting times, as the Chinese say.

4 responses

    • You’re right, and I lust after a Vermont cookstove, but they’re not approved for mobile home use. If they were, I would get one of the antiques languishing in a store near me; it’s in very very good condition considering its age, and I would get a lot of use out of it. I don’t understand the reasoning of the Universal Fire Code – it’s not as though site built homes are any better built than my double wide.

  1. Do you have a solar oven? That could help with the cooking aspect, as well as baking bread. Also, look into home-built rocket stoves as an outside alternative for bread baking. They use smaller pieces of wood (but need to be tended more) for the cooking. Or, another alternative is a bread oven built of cob (mud/straw stuff – not adobe but supposedly easy to build with).

    There may be some cheap ways to get solar hot water, at least on sunny days. A roll of black irrigation pipe could hold a fair amount of water and probably be rigged up somehow to provide you with hot water. Home Depot has the pipe. I’ve seen plans for an outside solar shower with it coiled up on the roof of a little enclosed “shower stall.” I’m still trying to figure out some way we could do that here but we have very limited privacy due to our location and topography. Don’t really want the neighbors to see me traipsing in and out of the house in my robe…

    Good luck with everything!

    • I hadn’t thought of the rocket stove for outside bread making, but I really want a nice one – the home made one I have works, but it’s pretty cheesy and is falling apart. I do use the camp oven on the propane camp stove for bread baking in the summer – at least until I broke my dutch oven by dropping it outside accidentally last week. I have a solar oven, a home made one, but I need to get another piece of glass cut for it. I still use it as a hay box cooker but no solar cooking right now.

      I’ve been talking with Mr. TF about doing a solar hot water heater. I’m willing to sacrifice some efficiency in the name of cost by making one myself. I transported a contractor who built hay bale houses several years ago; he told me that he coiled copper pipe all over his roof and that the water out of the copper pipe was so hot they used their water heater as a cooling storage tank. I don’t know that I trust that much pipe not to spring a leak, but I’m willing to try the coiled pipe inside a solar oven type of set up, or an old hot water heater in the same sort of setup. That way if it springs a leak, the worst that happens is the back yard gets soggy.

      I would love to build a solar shower too! We have the same issue though; our yard is fenced, but only with 4 foot field fencing to keep the chickens in and the javelina out. Not much privacy.

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