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Homeowners looking for alternatives to high energy prices

WEST CHAZY As oil prices remain steady at more than $100 per barrel, the concern over its effect on home heating this winter continues. In some instances, people are abandoning the use of home heating oil and returning to a more conventional form of heating firewood. George Whelden, who owns and operates his own logging and firewood business in the hamlet of West Chazy, said he has seen more business in recent years than he has in his more than 30 years of operation. Wood was the most common method to heat homes during the 1970s, Whelden said, with demand dropping in the early 1980s. As oil prices became a larger concern again in the late 1990s and in the new millennium, Whelden has found many people are returning to wood for home heating. This year is just unbelievable, he said. Ive got more orders than I can fill. Ive actually had to turn people down because I dont have enough supply to meet demand. Whelden estimated the demand is up 10 times what it was last year, saying most of his customer are remarking theyre seeking services from businesses like his because of the looming energy crisis. Youre hearing about people having to lock in at $7 a gallon for fuel oil, which is bad, but can you imagine the elderly who are on a fixed income, Whelden asked. Some of them have $1,200-$1,400 a month to live on and its going to cost them over $1,000 to heat their house. How are they going to do it? They have to look for alternatives. Historically, Wheldens business has delivered firewood to as far as Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Malone, but due to the increased demand in his own backyard, hes scaled back how far he travels. Though Whelden is seeing an increase in customers, businesses like his are feeling the effects of the recent rainy weather the North Country has seen. Logging is extremely difficulty if not impossible in wet conditions, leading even the cost of firewood to go up. The cost of green, fresh-cut wood which takes up to six months to cure before it is at its peak for energy efficiency currently costs his customers about $65 per face cord, said Whelden. A face cord, he explained, is one-third the size of a full cord of wood, which measures 4 ft. high by 4 ft. wide and 8 ft. long. The cost of kiln-dried wood, which comes ready to burn, costs more, with Whelden charging $90 per face cord. The extra cost is basically for convenience, he said. Kiln-dried wood gives you the option of buying the wood as you need it, instead of buying it all at once and letting it cure, he said. Some people dont have the room for a lot of wood, so kiln-dried is more convenient for them. The average modern home takes about 12-15 face cords of wood to heat during the winter months, he said, while older, less energy efficient homes may take up to 30-35 face cords. Whether its heating with oil or with wood, Whelden said people need to figure out which works best for them. Its not necessarily that people dont want to pay it, he said of heating oil costs. Its more that they cant pay it.

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