Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trying to use less

If the STHF and we only had what we had on hand would it last for a week, a month, a year or longer?  Since I’ve been really trying hard to prepare I’ve been thinking about ways to cut down on our use of energy.  Today I realized some good results with our propane usage.  When I first moved here 15 years ago propane was .59 a gallon.  Filling a 500 gallon tank (which uses 400 gallons and the rest is expansion space) cost a lot of money.  Over the years the prices went up and up.  Just last February I filled the tank with 360 gallons at $2.30 per gallon.  Over $800 is a hit to any budget! 

I seem to use a lot more propane when I have other adults living here.  They don’t seem to get my frugality and would rather run the heaters than the woodstove and also use the propane drier rather than the clothesline.  Over the past several years, with the grandkids here but without any other adults I’ve averaged a little under 500 gallons of propane per year.  That isn’t bad but if TSHTF at any point, if my tank wasn’t full it wouldn’t last a year.  When I had other adults here the amount rose as high as almost 900 gallons in a year!

Today the propane delivery person stopped by because as he said, I should be low.  He hasn’t been here since February.  Cold weather went through April and he knew that Army daughter and family had been here since the prior time he’d filled up the tank.  Much to my surprise I only used 130 gallons over the past 6 months.  The price was $1.59 per gallon, so the bill was just under $200.  Not bad for the heating/hot water/cooking expenses for 6 months. 

If I couple that with my electric bill, over the past six months I’ve spent less than $500 for water, all heating, air conditioning, lights, cooking, refrigerator, freezer, TVs and computers, and the list goes on and on.  I’m impressed but not impressed enough. 

It isn’t just about the money, it's more about the amount.  At 130 gallons of propane in 6 months, my propane would last for over 1 ½ years.  Could I cut back even more?  Sure.  My sister had a solar water heater on her house years ago.  They are now starting to advertise them and stating that there are tax credits or rebates or something for their purchase.  I wonder if that holds true if you use propane.  Often you don’t get to take advantage of the programs if you use alternative fuels to start with. 

I also have a propane water heater.  My water heater says it will typically use 274 gallons of propane in a year.  So I don't use the average that it says or my propane fillup should have been 137 gallons just for the hot water heater and none for cooking.  It is a 40 gallon tank and the water is hot all the time.  I don’t keep it at the hottest setting but I keep it hot enough that I won’t run out of hot water if I want to take a shower for more than 5 minutes, or if consecutive showers get taken.  Nothing worse than being the last person in the shower and getting a lukewarm shower.  If TSHTF I would turn the hot water heater off. 

Who knows, I may do an experiment…but not until next summer (and hopefully we’ll still live a normal enough life to be able to have a full tank of propane at that time) and shut off the hot water.  If you want a shower we can heat up the water in the black bag and you can take a “solar” shower.  I’d like to rig that to the roof and use it straight into my shower.  I wonder if I could put in some type of lever to have the water come from the regular source or the water come from a source on the roof.  Something to think about. 

Then my only use of propane would be for cooking.  I’d bet that the propane tank could last for years if that’s all it was used for.  I could take the stove top propane pipe and disconnect it from the main tank.  I could connect the stove to the 20 pound tank and see how long it lasts so I could more accurately calculate how long the propane would last if only used for cooking.  More experiments to do all in the name of being prepared.  Are you trying to cut back? 


  1. I only use propane for heating, but your post made me curious about when it was last filled. The end of January it was topped off and the dial still says 85% full. Two big factors: it was an unusually mild winter and I got a wood burning stove installed late February.

    My hope is to do the majority of heating with wood this winter with the furnace as a back up.

  2. A big savings is very nice and I'm sure you could stretch it way out if you had to in a SHTF situation.
    We spend $2300 a year in utilities but I just can't get someone to turn off the darn lights. It's like a trail of brightness after a pass through the house. The cold winters don't help, especially a couple of weeks at negative numbers.

    Good thing is we have a small propane heater and a lot of propane tanks. It's not the optimal situation but it would get us through a real cold SHTF time. We are debating how to prolong and/or change our setup over the next year.