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Electricity Is Not Always The Best Home Fuel Option

Feb 29, 2008
When most people think of fuel for home furnaces, electricity immediately comes to mind. But there may very well be cases where electric is not the best option for fueling home furnaces.

Consider these situations and the alternatives to electric. While electricity is a clean fuel in many ways, it may also be the most unreliable in some areas. For people in rural areas, electric power is often at the mercy of nature. Storms notoriously knock out power sometimes for days or weeks. If you are considering buying or building a house in a rural area, take a good look at the power source and evaluate the possibility of being without power.

If you are on a side road with only a few houses, you are not likely to be at the top of the priority list in the event of major power problems. The electric company will likely get power to those lines that supply lots of customers before they come back to the lines that power only a few houses.

Winter storms are notorious for knocking out power in rural areas not good for those with home furnaces powered by electricity. When snow, sleet and freezing rain settles on tree limbs, they tend to snap often taking power lines with them.

So you decide against electricity as the fuel for your home furnace and decide to power with gas. Some rural areas may not have natural gas service and those people depend on companies to deliver butane. Butane tanks usually hold several hundred gallons of fuel, giving you a sure sense of security as you head into the cold winter months. Do not be so sure. Most home furnaces that use either natural gas or butane also depend on electricity to power the fan. Without the fan, the air will not get distributed through the vents and the furnace simply will not kick on.

Some people even use wood furnaces a large wood-burning stove that sends air through the homes duct work, just like a traditional electric or gas furnace. Again, without electricity, the heat cannot be distributed. So what is the answer?

Space heaters are a viable option, especially if you use natural gas or butane. A couple of heaters carefully spaced can be covered or left shut off until needed.

Backup generators can be used to power fans. Even a small generator can provide enough power to operate the fan on gas home furnaces. Some people choose to have firewood available and use that in either a fireplace or a wood stove when electricity is off.

Some people have even gone to the expense of setting up their own power source, though it is typically expensive to do so. Wind power is one of the most popular, in the form of windmills. Regardless of what you choose to fuel your home furnaces, take a minute to consider how you would get by if something happened to your primary fuel source.
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