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The gift of warmth

December 21, 2007 - LLee Janssen

Do you heat with fuel oil? Are you as shocked as I was upon getting your tank filled for the first time this fall?

At $485 for what would have been $300 a year ago, it sent me into a panic. The topic at every conversation with any of the male friends in my life always came up: What should homeowners who use costly fossil fuels be doing or moving toward to be able to survive a Pennsylvania winter?

Sure, you can winterize. But once you have every draft sealed up, what then? I hear talk about solar energy ... will this be affordable to families and those whose families have grown up in Williamsport? And what about our seniors, the future you and me's?

My short-term response has been to lower the thermostat, move into one room in the house (which heretofore shall be known as my apartment) and heat it with a space heater, taking all of the recommended precautions so as to avoid a fire hazard. That includes not running it while I am gone or while I sleep, which is fine as the blankets on my bed (and my little furnace Max, the puppycat) keep everything quite warm.

Of course, something for the feet is important first thing in the morning as I meander downstairs, feeling the colder air as I turn the corner going down, and let Max out into the yard to do his business.

This has worked well so far. After two weeks with the house thermostat at 48 degrees, my body had acclimated to the cooler climate. So when I turned it up to 56 degrees prior to a week's vacation, it felt like heaven and I was able to bake Christmas cookies, clean the house and deck the halls.

And it reminded me of my childhood and times when we didn't have a 68-degree house. We kept warm with sweaters and by staying active, particularly in the kitchen with the oven on. It made me thankful for the past several decades when I raised my children and was able to provide a home and food for them and to heat the home too. It made me realize the value of something very simple, yet often overlooked in my everyday comings and goings.

We have become a very comfortable society, one that has grown to expect accommodation. But the new century has brought turmoil to our world and uncertainty for our survival. We are besieged by the threat of terror, and the world's climate is reacting to man's pillaging of its resources in ways that have some scientists predicting dire consequences by the end of this century. And yes, I read too much news and watch too many news shows and believe far more than perhaps I should.

But I do believe we need to turn to other sources for our energy, ones that will preserve our way of life and not erode the Earth any farther. Ones that will be affordable for our seniors and those who own homes and live alone and want to still have room for when the grandchildren come home.

For now, the space heater seems to be the way to go. Of course, electricity deregulation in two years may obliterate any savings. The combined result of my cutbacks have me back under the $300 a month budgeted for heat ... my fuel oil delivery yesterday cost only $150, and the first electric bill since using the space heater suggests the monthly jump to be about $100, not bad.

Meanwhile, the hunt for answers goes on ... if anybody has any, I'm open to suggestions. And watch the Sun-Gazette in the coming weeks for a report on this issue from reporter Patrick Donlin, who may be reached at




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