Thursday, April 4, 2013

Killing the Propane Habit

Looking over my spending records for the past few years, I was surprised to see that we were averaging $800 a year for propane. Egads, that surely isn't approaching self-reliance. We were using propane to heat water, run a house room heater on chilly mornings & evenings, use in outdoor BBQ, cook food and bake, dehydrate foods, and run a weed dragon that killed weeds in the garden. Way, way too much propane.

Steps to cut propane gluttony:

1- sell the weed dragon and use a hoe. While the weed dragon was a fun toy, a scuffle hoe does just as good a job and just as fast. Thus the weed dragon is history. I've actually come to like the hoe better because I can use it in mulched areas and close to the base of plants. 
2- only turn on the Paloma (hot water heater) when we need it. Running the pilot light 24 hours a day uses propane, far more than we expected or were told. We found that our habits showed that hubby took his hot shower in the mornings, while I took mine just before dinner. So we fill the dishwashing sink with hot water then take a shower. Paloma stays off most of the day. Oh yes, I now wash my clothes in cold water, well not really cold. I coiled a garden hose up on the shed roof and run the washer's water through it. It's nicely warm by the time it enters the wash machine. 
3- we built an outdoor BBQ pit for wood fuel. Now our grilled veggies and meats are cooked over guava or kiawe coals. 

The Morso Squirrel woodstove just installed. First firing. 
4- foods are dried in a solar dehydrater now. We even rigged it with a solar powered fan in order to dry foods faster. Without the fan the food sometimes got moldy. By using a solar powered dehydrater I just need to be more aware of the weather. 
5- the propane room heater got moved to the bathroom where it seldom gets used compared to before.  Hubby will use it on chilly winter mornings to pre-heat the bathroom for a couple of minutes. In the livingroom in place of this propane gobbler, we installed a Morso Squirrel woodstove. It's a small wood burning  stove that is the perfect size for the house. A quick fire morning and evening is enough to take the chill off the place. Plus I can heat the teakettle atop it at the same time. 
Cooking on the stove
6- use a small woodstove for general cooking. One of our Alaskan friends told me about a steel box stove that was popular in Alaska. Inexpensive, easy to use, great for cooking. So I bought one. The shipping was pricy, but the savings in propane offset it completely. It was a good idea. I now do most of my cooking on it. I'm setting up an outdoor kitchen to properly house it, so that cooking will be easy and safe from the weather. I still use my kitchen range when it is more convenient and when I bake. But I've already saved a lot by cooking with wood. 

If you've noticed, I've substituted wood in place of propane. Wood costs me little other than my time and labor. I have easy access to a vast supply of wood. 

People suggest that we install solar hot water. The systems are a bit pricy and require electricity. We would have to look into just how much electricity they demand and at what times during the day. On top of that, we normally only have sun in the mornings. And no sun for 5 days is not unusual. So this is something to think about, but I'm not ready to run out and buy a system. 


  1. Aloha Su Ba-

    I noticed the URL for your blog on the BI Self-Sufficiency List, and thought I'd comment on your hot water situation.

    We are also off the grid. Our solar hot water system is PASSIVE, which requires NO electricity. If you do a little research on-line, you'll find information about passive vs. active. Most passive systems are pretty similar to your coiled hose on the roof. Our also uses a bulk tank for storage, then feeds into our electric hot water heater for final heating (we have excess electricity which is much cheaper for us than propane).


    1. Wow, Linda. I wasn't aware that one could home make such a system. I found quite a bit of information on passive hot water, and you tube videos too. Looking into this will keep me busy for awhile. I really like the concept.