Unplugged Energy Independence

Getting gouged by propane prices?

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Thu,Jan 30,2014 @ 09:54 AM

alternative heatingGetting gouged by propane prices? If so, you're not alone. Some 14 million Americans who rely on propane have been shelling out more and more to heat their homes while the strong demand has outpaced the already low inventories, energy officials say.

Now is a better time than ever to switch to alternative energy. Free yourself from the rollercoaster of fluctuating fossil fuel prices.

Don't just take our word for it. Here are some recent articles from around the U.S

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Scott Walker declares state of emergency on propane shortage.

Citing another wave of frigid weather bearing down on Wisconsin and dangerously low supplies of propane, Governor Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency. Walker directed all state agencies "to assist as appropriate" in helping residents deal with the propane shortage, which has sent prices soaring and left some users struggling to find a supplier who will provide fuel.

Nearly 250,000 Wisconsin homes heat with propane, many in rural areas not served by natural gas lines.

The shortage — attributed to a colder-than-normal winter, the shutdown of a key supply pipeline earlier in the season and heavy use of propane by farmers to dry grain last fall — has sent prices for many customers well above $5 a gallon. Read the full article here.

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Midwest faces propane emergency as more cold weather moves in.

Millions of residents in the Midwest and Northeast who rely on propane to heat their homes are facing a severe shortage and spiking prices as another wave of freezing weather heads east. Now, states across the region are deploying emergency resources as a result.

Blame for the propane shortage lies with the wetter-than-usual fall, which meant that farmers used more propane than usual to dry corn crops; an unusually cold winter; and a temporary shutdown of a major pipeline for maintenance this year.

As a result, propane prices are setting new records. The average price of a gallon of residential propane for the week ending Jan. 20 hit $2.96, according to the Energy Information Administration, up 60 cents from mid-October, the highest price ever recorded by the agency. Prices in the Midwest are even higher; on Friday, prices ended at $4.30 a gallon in the Midwest, down from a peak of about $5 a gallon. Read full article here.

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Propane shortage slams farmers.

A propane squeeze caused by January’s bitter cold has put the hurt on Minnesota’s livestock industry, as farmers scramble to find costly fuel to keep their animals warm.

Some turkey growers are being told by suppliers that the propane spigot might get turned off if the cold keeps up over the next week.

Shortage worries are particularly acute in the ­turkey industry, and Minnesota is the nation’s leading turkey-producing state, with about 250 growers.

Fuel suppliers have told some farmers that they have “five days left of propane,” said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. “The big concern is availability.”

Farmers — along with propane users of all stripes — are paying huge premiums for the fuel these days. Wholesale spot prices in Minnesota have gone from about $3.75 per gallon a few days ago to just south of $5 a gallon. Last fall, the propane price was $1.55 per gallon, and most of the run-up since then has occurred this month. Read full article here.

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U.S. propane shortage hits millions during brutal freeze.

Millions of Americans are feeling the pinch of a propane shortage this week as brutal cold exposes the supply vulnerabilities of a fuel that heats homes, schools and businesses across wide swathes of the United States.

Prices of the fuel, a liquefied petroleum gas, have rocketed to all-time highs in Midwestern states, distributors are rationing supplies, and some schools have shut due to a lack of the fuel during this year's second bout of Arctic weather.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued emergency orders suspending the limits on the amount of time truck drivers can spend on the road for 10 Midwestern states and 12 Northeastern states, a rare regional order. Read full article here.

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Prolonged cold blast worsens propane shortage across Midwest.

America’s chronic cold is creating a significant propane shortage across the Midwest — leading Wisconsin to become the latest state to declare an energy emergency in advance of more arctic air blasting eastward this week.

Some 14 million Americans who rely on that type of fuel have been shelling out more and more to heat their homes while the strong demand has outpaced the already-low inventories, energy officials say.

Twenty-four states, including Ohio, Illinois and Alabama, have already declared energy emergencies — which helps to loosen transportation rules so that out-of-state truckers can drive longer hours to make needed propane deliveries. Read full article here.

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Now is a great time to research alternative heating products. Take the time to learn about the products available to you and the changes the EPA will be making to the wood burning industry.

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Choose Wood Heating.

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Wed,Jun 13,2012 @ 11:14 AM

Outdoor Wood Heating SystemWith the ever-increasing price of oil, natural gas and electricity, many homeowners are now considering using wood to heat their homes and workshops. Along with the potential cost savings that an outdoor wood heating system or other type of efficient wood stove can provide on home heating bills, using wood as your home heating fuel of choice is great for the environment - here's why:

1.Wood Is a Renewable Source of Energy

Any type of wood can be used for heating including trees that are storm damaged, diseased and unsuitable for other uses like furniture production. Trees grow quickly, require minimal care and new trees can be planted immediately after existing trees are harvested. Trees that are used for heating fuel are often grown in areas that would otherwise be unusable for any other purpose including traditional agriculture, housing or commercial development.

2. Burning Wood Is Carbon-Neutral

As a tree grows it acts as a natural air filter, absorbing carbon dioxide from the environment and in turn releasing pure oxygen back into the air. When wood is burned in an outdoor wood heating system or other appliance, the carbon dioxide the fire creates is equal to the amount of carbon dioxide that the tree absorbed during it's life, a process that is commonly referred to as the "carbon cycle". The same thing happens when a tree dies and decays naturally: the carbon dioxide it absorbed while growing is slowly released back into the environment as the tree breaks down and rots.

3. Wood Is Locally Sourced

Unlike other heating fuels like oil, natural gas and coal which are often shipped thousands of miles across international borders before reaching the consumer, wood that is burned for heating is usually sourced close to where it will be purchased and used.

Traditional fossil fuels are nonrenewable, costly to extract and transport, and require a complex system of distribution to get the fuels to the end user, the customer. By contrast, wood is 100 percent renewable and getting the fuel to the end user is usually a very simple, straightforward process that can be as easy as cutting down a tree in your own back yard or buying the wood from your local firewood dealer.

4. Outdoor Wood Heating Systems Can Heat Your Household Water

In addition to providing an eco-friendly and affordable source of home heating, an outdoor wood heating system can serve double-duty as a water heater. Many models of outdoor wood furnaces are hydronic which use hot water to transfer heat to a home. That same hot water can be captured and used for your household hot water needs with the installation of a simple heat exchanger, eliminating the need for a gas or electric water heater.

If you already burn wood, do you know where the type of wood you burn ranks? Using good, seasoned wood is an important part of getting high efficiencies out of your outdoor wood heating system, and in turn, saves you even more money.

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Homeowners Investing in Energy-efficiency

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Mon,Apr 09,2012 @ 02:35 PM

According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 61% of homeowners say they are unaware of any current tax rebates and/or incentives for energy-efficient home upgrades in their area.

If you are in this category, there are many resources available to help you out.  One of the best we have found is DSIRE.

DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Established in 1995 and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, DSIRE is an ongoing project of the N.C. Solar Center and Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

With two easy ways to search for incentives in your area, this site is very user-friendly. 

Go to http://www.dsireusa.org/ and use one of the following two options to find incentives in your area:

    1. Click on your state.  A list of incentives for your state will be brought up.

    1. Click on the ‘Search DSIRE’ box and fill in the information that pertains to you and a list of the incentives available will be brought up.


 To find a WoodMaster dealer near you check out our dealer locator.

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WoodMaster furnace owners share one regret: not switching sooner.

Posted by Todd Strem on Wed,Aug 31,2011 @ 11:17 AM

Christa, Marilyn & Rob Beauchesne of Northern Outdoor Energy SystemsThe larger door. Strong insulation that keeps the heat in. Its ability to turn off the fan if the wood gets low. Sturdy steel throughout. All are reasons why Canadian company Northern Outdoor Energy Systems Ltd. was attracted to WoodMaster furnaces and began selling them in May 2005.

Owners Rob and Marilyn Beauchesne had been in the outdoor furnace business for two years before the WoodMaster furnace features caught their attention. Over the past six years of selling WoodMaster furnaces, the Beauchesne’s business has benefited from happy WoodMaster customers. Marilyn explains, “Our customers are extremely pleased with the performance of the WoodMaster furnace, and as they recommend it to their family and friends, our business grows.”

Like Richard Worley, Marilyn reports the 4400 WoodMaster furnace as their biggest seller. “With its 5,000-square-foot capacity, it can heat a home, shop, domestic water heater and hot tub all at once,” Marilyn explains. “Our customers are happy with the heat it produces and wish they had purchased one years ago!”

After selling over 400 outdoor furnaces, the Beauchesnes feel “extremely confident” in the quality and performance of the WoodMaster furnaces. Proof that customers agree is evidenced by the many trade-ins of other brands brought to the store. WoodMaster furnace owners enjoy steady warmth in their homes and always-hot water, as well as a significant decrease in heating bills.

Many of the Beauchesne’s customers share only one regret, and that is: “We wish we would have done this years ago.”

Have you ever been so happy with a product or service that your only regret was not buying it sooner? What was it?

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Why buy a high efficiency furnace?

Posted by Todd Strem on Mon,Jul 25,2011 @ 11:21 AM

WoodMaster Flex Fuel 180x300Purchase any outdoor hydronic heater and the earth will thank you. You’ll be saving precious fossil fuels.

However, purchase a high efficiency outdoor hydronic heater, like the WoodMaster Flex Fuel, and your wallet will thank you. Over time, you’ll be saving precious cash.

We’re the first to admit: WoodMaster furnaces are an investment. But sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more upfront. Investing in a high efficiency, clean burning, Flex Fuel hydronic heater is a smart choice. Here are some of the top advantages of the batch-burn-thermal-storage philosophy of wood burning:

    • Refueling savings. Traditional outdoor hydronic heaters (OHH) efficiencies generally range from 40-64 percent, depending on the manufacturer. According to the European testing method 303-5, WoodMaster’s Flex Fuel furnace earns a rating of over 93 percent efficiency burning stick wood. This means one of two refueling savings: either you’ll spend less time, energy and money in getting your wood or you’ll have less cost in purchasing your wood.

    • Clean(est) burning. Many outdoor hydronic heaters burn wood cleanly, but only one high efficiency furnace burns wood the cleanest, and that’s the WoodMaster Flex Fuel, according to the EPA’s Burn Wise website. With a Flex Fuel furnace, you’re being as eco-friendly as possible.

    • Clean burn = long life. The cleaner the burn, the longer your heater’s lifespan. By monitoring the oxygen level in the emissions, we can adjust the air, giving WoodMaster Flex Fuel's a perfect burn. Eliminating most of the creosote build up helps the high efficiency furnace materials last even longer.

    • More time. With a clean burn, you get a clean machine. With the Flex Fuel, you’ll spend less time cleaning and maintaining your high efficiency furnace. Because of the self-cleaning heat exchangers and no need to rotate ash (because of the complete burn), cleaning out the ash chamber is all you have to worry about. Depending on the demand, it could be once a week or every other.

    • Remote storage. Outdoor hydronic heaters have always had thermal storage; it’s just been built in with the heater. WoodMaster’s innovative Flex Fuel furnace allows you to move the storage to the best and most convenient location. For instance, the Flex Fuel could be in a remote building while the storage is installed in the home. This way, if any heat is lost off the storage tank, it’s really not “lost” at all. The extra heat will serve a purpose by heating your home. As an added bonus, with the remote thermal storage, you can now add solar to assist in your heating needs.

    • Freedom to switch. One of my favorite Flex Fuel features is its ability to switch fuel types anytime. If, for whatever reason, you choose to heat with pellets instead of wood, you can. This is an added flexibility that’s entirely possible with the Flex Fuel high efficiency furnace.


These are just a few of the many wallet-friendly advantages to owning a Flex Fuel high efficiency furnace over a traditional outdoor hydronic heater.

Have you ever spent more upfront on a quality product that eventually saved you money in the long run? Please share your purchase story.

Topics: eco-friendly, clean burning, OHH, woodmaster, flexfuel, high efficiency furnace, Flex Fuel, wood master, northwest manufacturing, heating systems, outdoor hydronic heater

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