PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — As prices become more competitive, Maine homeowners are increasingly turning away from oil as their primary heating source and using propane instead.
Ralph Twombly recently decided to replace the oil-burning furnace at his Cape Elizabeth home with one that uses propane. He expects his heating bills to go down only slightly this winter but anticipates greater savings in the years ahead if prices drop as supplies increase.
The number of houses in Maine using propane has grown from 33,000 to 41,000 in the state over the past five years — an increase of 24 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At the same time, the percentage of Maine homes using oil for heat has fallen from 75 percent to less than 69 percent.
Propane, Twombly said, is quiet and efficient and reduces his carbon footprint. He likes that the gas comes from the U.S. or Canada rather than overseas and that the price isn't as volatile as oil has been in recent years.
If natural gas lines are extended to Twombly's neighborhood, his propane furnace — unlike oil — can easily be converted to natural gas, which offers even lower prices.
"When you consider the likelihood of natural gas and the anticipated fall of propane prices, it makes sense," said Twombly, who had his new furnace installed this month. "So we bit the bullet."
A higher proportion of Mainers use oil as their primary heating source than any other state, but little by little the numbers have been tumbling as homeowners turn to wood pellets, natural gas and other fuels.
Propane pricing has become more competitive in the past two years, said Patrick Woodcock, director of the Governor's Energy Office. Based on current prices, propane and oil are roughly comparable in cost, he said.
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