Propane drought: other methods of heating readily available

By KBJR News 1

January 28, 2014 Updated Jan 28, 2014 at 11:09 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- A harsh propane drought, resulting in shortages and rapidly rising prices, has left many northlanders searching for alternative sources of heat.

Mark Jeronimus, owner of The Fireplace Corner in Duluth, sells gas, wood, pellet, and electric fireplaces... all alternative forms of heating over the typical furnace.

He says in the past, nearly 75% of sales were from gas fireplaces, but this winter that has changed due to the polar vortex.

"Just because of the real extremes we've got, and with lack of fuel in certain areas, and cost of fuel even when it's available. So pellet has just exploded again," said Jeronimus.

He says pellet fuel is the most reliable type of fuel out there today.

"It's a compressed wood, it's extremely dry so it doesn't have the creosote issues that a wood burning unit has. It's inexpensive to operate, and it doesn't demand the class A flue. It can be vented directly out the wall much like our gas fireplaces can," he says.

For Ben Jorgenson, a young man living in Duluth, the severe shortage of propane has had a major effect.

"We had our furnace go out twice, it's fuel oil, so in addition to it being out we have to fill the tank frequently," said Jorgenson.

He also says 100 gallons of fuel costs about $400, putting a large dent in his pocketbook.

"We just threw a space heater in the upstairs bedroom and just hung out in there, so we didn't spend much time out," said Jorgenson.

Jeronimus says infrared space heaters are extremely efficient during times like these.

"Inexpensive, quick, easy, put it in, anybody can operate it, and it's safe."

As for Jorgenson, it's all about keeping up on keeping the fuel tank full, which will cost a great deal of money for the remainder of the winter.

"I hope we have an early spring."

Anyone having problems affording home heating this winter can call the energy assistance program in their county to see if they quality for aid.

Elsa Robins