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.