"Feeling, Hot, Hot, Hot'... or not

This year has been an extremely cold winter (I know, when we were young these temperatures were balmy), and I don’t recall being this cold for this long. To make matters worse Hydro, my heat provider, is not helping.

My challenge is I have an electric forced-air furnace (natural gas is not available on my road), which has been doing a so-so job of keeping my house warm - I stress ‘warm’ not hot. Several months ago the giant utility sent me a note saying my electricity had gone up to, what I consider an unrealistic amount, so the time for action has come. I was setting out to purchase a brand new furnace and was quite excited about the prospect.

Where does one begin? Most people I spoke with use natural gas and those that don’t were all over the map. Some recommended oil while others swore by propane. A few even suggested wood, but I quickly ruled that out because I am unable to train my dog to fetch enough wood every day to warm my house.

Such terms as ‘efficiency’, ‘environment’ and ‘clean burning’ became household words for me and I called in the experts to advise me on what route to take. The specialists shook their heads (some thought natural gas was the only choice for consumers) while others explained the insurance costs associated with oil. The cost and unsightliness of a ‘submarine’ tank in my yard, the possibility of a big oil tank in my basement and numerous other sleep-losing obstacles, were raised during conversations, further adding to my frustration.

Then came the fear tactic: Propane can leak and explode, oil smells and you need a chimney, electricity costs are through the roof (tell me about it) and the best one was that someone’s basement was flooded with oil because the delivery person missed the nozzle (don’t ask me how that happened).

All the vendors agreed on one point: an alternate method of energy would cut my heating costs in half, but when asked to explain why, words like amps and cubic feet, litres and British Thermal Units (BTU’s) were tossed out as if everyone used them daily.

Oil was at a dollar a litre and propane at 57 cents, last year, however, propane jumped to $1.10 and oil and propane don’t burn at the same rate so you cannot compare the two. Fortunately I have a friend who went through this process recently and he had prepared a price comparison based on several variables. It showed that propane and oil would be about the same cost.

Pricing for the furnace seemed similar, no matter which fuel I chose and after contacting several companies I had decided to go with propane. I began calling propane companies only to find out that their prices vary, causing more frustration.

I have finally put all my ducks in a row and have purchased a furnace, rented a propane tank, hired someone to bring a line from the tank to the house and contracted installers to connect the furnace, reroute some ductwork and hook it all up… all at the same time (what are the chances?).

All this work is scheduled for the day this article is published and now that I have labouriously completed my due diligence I am treating myself with a few days in the sunny south to relieve my stress, and pray that the next stage of my heating adventure goes much smoother than the research. Who knows, maybe I won’t come back.

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