Saving money trying to stay warm
John Fine, owner of Fine's Hearth & Patio in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, has been lighting up a fireplace to heat his showroom in order to save money on the electric bill. With so many days and nights of sub-freezing or sub-zero temperatures this month in the Tennessee Valley, residents have been trying to save money, too, and have been flooding his store.
"Actual wood stove sales alone went up a little more than 27%," says Fine. That's this January compared to January of 2013. Sales of stove and renewable energy products have increased 8%.
The unusually cold winter is placing a burden on peoples' bank accounts.
"Their electric bill's a little too much," adds Fine. "Zone heating is a huge deal when you're heating a large house."
He says wood stoves are much more efficient than they were many years ago. Heating a 1500 to 2000 square foot home with one, rather than electricity, can save you hundreds of dollars a month.
Of course you can't have a wood stove without the firewood. Pamela Cox's sales have exploded as people get fired up about saving bucks while trying to stay warm.
"This year's been so demanding I've run out seven times," says Cox, owner of The Wood Shack in Red Bank. "I'm having a hard time getting seasoned wood in myself."
It's a complete "one-eighty" from last year.
"What I had leftover [last year] I sold as campfire wood during the summer," adds Cox.
Eric McLean of Signal Mountain, Cox's last customer Friday, has been a regular visitor this month after receiving what he calls a "zinger" of a heating bill last month.
"We've been supplementing our HVAC heat with our fireplace," explains McLean. "I've come here [The Wood Shack] twice."
Some have gone even further by installing solar panels to keep traditional heating methods from burning holes in their pockets.
Brandon Carter of Chattanooga-based Solar Tech, LLC says harnessing the sun's natural energy is very cost effective and the electric company actually has been paying back many of his customers.
"This homeowner in particular that we're standing behind right now has an average credit every month of about $17," says Carter. He points out that the client's electricity meter on the side of the house actually spins backwards--proof of the savings.
Both Carter and Fine say the up front prices of wood burning stoves or solar panels can be expensive, but their and many other companies offer very reasonable payment plans, often with no down payment required.