Saturday, 6 August 2016

09:34 – We have a bunch of science kit stuff to get done this weekend, along with several tasks around the house. I need to replace the mechanism in the foyer toilet, so we’re heading over to Blevins sometime today to pick up a replacement flapper assembly, along with a pack or two of water sediment filters for our whole-house filter and another pack of Rid-X septic tank treatment. I also want to stop at the Dr. Grabow factory store, which is just down the road from us, and look at their pipes.

We went out to run some local errands yesterday. The first stop was the Blue Ridge Electric Co-op, where we talked to a nice young woman about getting propane installed. I told her we were thinking about fueling three appliances with propane: a cooktop in the kitchen, a radiant heater for upstairs, and eventually our generator. She said she’d have their installer call us to set up an appointment to give us a quote on running lines and so on. The smallest tank they carry is 120 gallons, which they fill to 100 gallons. The next size up is 250 gallons, which they fill to 200 gallons. I’m inclined to go for the latter. Anything much larger becomes a major hassle because it has to be buried. The deal is that there’s an annual tank rental fee, but they waive it if you use at least one tank’s worth per year. If we’re running only a cooktop, even the 120 gallon tank would easily be a year’s worth, so we’d probably end up paying tank rental on the larger tank.

Especially since we may not have the space heater installed. Compared to the electric heat pump, propane is very costly. We pay about ten cents per kWh of electricity to drive our heat pump. To heat with propane, it would have to sell for about $0.72 per gallon. It’s three times that much, so it makes sense for us to use propane only for the cooktop and perhaps the generator and just pay the tank rental if we don’t use enough propane to have the rental fee waived.

Propane yields about 91,600 BTU/gallon, versus roughly 135,000 BTU/gallon for fuel oild. But a gallon of propane weighs only about 4.2 pounds, versus about 8.2 pounds for fuel oil. In other words, for equal heat yield, propane would have to sell for just over half as much per gallon as fuel oil. But propane actually sells for more per gallon than fuel oil, so it’s a very expensive source of heat. For that reason, I’d prefer to have a big fuel oil tank installed, but fuel oil doesn’t burn nearly as cleanly as propane and you can’t run a cooktop with it. So we’ll probably end up with propane.

I just read an interesting article a couple weeks ago about the reliability of our electric power grid, or lack thereof. The powers that be define a major power outage as one that affects 20,000 or more homes. A dozen or so years ago, the US as a whole experienced less than one such outage per week, something like 45 major outages in 2004. Since then, the frequency has increased every year. In 2015, the US as a whole experienced nearly one major outage per DAY. That is not a good trend line. Our electric power infrastructure is obviously being degraded every year.

Our next stop was Southern States, which is basically a hardware/seed/feed store that caters to farmers. We just wanted to look the place over. While we were there, we met some of the staff. One of them introduced himself as Jerry Edwards. I asked him if he was the Jerry Edwards who used to live on Macedonia Church Road. He said he was, and I introduced myself and Barbara as the people who’d bought the house he used to own. I took the opportunity to ask him about details on the well (it was already there when they built the house), the location of the septic tank and drain field, and so on. He seemed like a nice enough guy.

Our final stops were the two dollar stores in town. Neither Barbara nor I found them at all impressive. They’re basically a combination of a small supermarket and a chain drugstore. Their prices weren’t all that good, either. But I wanted to check them out because, at age 63, I’d never been inside one before. That’s another thing I can check off my list, and now I know that there’s no point to going into one again.