The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

September 18, 2008

With high gas bills on horizon, more eye wood stoves

CHARLESTON — Anticipated spikes in the cost of natural gas have more people thinking about wood-burning stoves.

Local retailers say a lot of customers are coming in with complaints about natural gas and questions about how a wood- or pellet-burning stove could save them money.

“They actually started coming in here back in the early part of July,” said Roger Nottingham, manager of Hearth & Patio in Teays Valley.

Nottingham said the company is considering using the high natural gas costs as advertising fodder for wood stoves.

J.D. Anderson, manager of Ace Center Hardware in St. Albans, said customers started inquiring about wood stoves and fireplaces as early as this past February. That’s a lot earlier than usual, he said.

“We have some to install,” Anderson said. “We’ve had some lookers, and we’ve got some on layaway.”

In talking to customers, natural gas costs are “definitely the driving force” in the interest in wood stoves, Anderson said.

Cotton Snuffer, owner of the Leisure World store in South Charleston, said his business is having the same experience.

“Yeah, we’re seeing a lot more people thinking about going the wood and pellet route,” Snuffer said.

The state’s seven largest suppliers of natural gas have asked the state Public Service Commission for rate increases ranging from 20 percent to 46 percent.

The commission is expected to make a determination on setting a preliminary rate by Nov. 1. Final rates will be set in March.

Nationally, shipments of wood-burning stoves are up 54 percent while pellet-burning stoves are up 212 percent, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.

“It’s looking like a huge year for wood and pellet appliances,” said Leslie Wheeler, an association spokeswoman.

Shipments of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces had declined 30 percent last year. Pellet-burning stoves — which use compressed sawdust — fell by 59 percent.

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