Sales of Firewood, Stoves On Rise
POINT PLEASANT, N.J. (AP) _ With a chill in the air and the season’s first frost already come and gone, you might not expect a lot of customers at the Point Pleasant Garden Center.
But there have been plenty of people coming in, wallets open. Instead of plants, they’re buying firewood.
Across the region, homeowners fearful of price increases of up to 40 percent for natural gas and heating oil are turning to nature’s original fuel.
``We’re getting a lot of people in who are nervous about the price of oil,″ said Bob White, who works at the Point Pleasant center.
A cord of firewood _ a pile 4-feet high, 4-feet wide and 8-feet long _ costs $135 to $200. Most homeowners who use wood-burning stoves as their main heating source use about two cords each winter.
And with the state Board of Public Utilities approving rate-hike requests Tuesday from natural gas suppliers, wood was beginning to look good to more homeowners.
Regulators allowed three utilities to raise prices to cover the skyrocketing costs of natural gas, meaning many New Jerseyans will pay as much as 25 percent more for gas heat by the time winter is over.
``We’ve had to reorder (wood) twice already,″ said Christine Smith, the owner of The Wood Stove and Fireplace Center in Ocean Township. ``And it’s still early in the season.
``People are coming in, saying they don’t want to rely on the gas company or the oil company this winter,″ she said. ``They don’t care how much the price actually goes up; they’ve just had it.″
The airwaves are full of warring commercials between oil and natural gas providers, each decrying how expensive the other is, and how much it can cost to convert from one to the other. But going the wood route isn’t cheap either, at least initially. It can cost $2,500 to install a good wood stove, dealers say.
``But people don’t care,″ said Tom Kross, manager of Fireplaces Unlimited in Toms River. ``They’re looking at it as a long-term investment. They’re not expecting the price of anything to go back down to 75 cents a gallon next spring.″
He estimates his business has picked up 10 percent to 15 percent during the last three weeks, driven by people who want to install wood stoves because of rising fuel prices.
On the Net:
N.J. Board of Public Utilities: http://www.bpu.state.nj.us