In Ohio, Chilly Weather Gooses Propane Demand 20 to 30 Percent

A recent scene from the shores of Lake Erie, near Cleveland, Snowhio. Zing! (image: tbower via flickr.com)

A collective groan was issued by the industry at the end of December. The weather was too mild, the country’s largest retailers said. The higher temperatures were cutting into their sales, they told investors in their earnings calls. Winter was supposed to be cold. And the first three months of the heating season were not.

Then came the January of 2011. Heavy snow blitzed the country, clever “snow” puns appeared everywhere (snOMG!), and thermostat dials started spinning like squeaky hamster wheels. The national propane inventory took a turn south, with a 15 million barrel drawdown for the month. The cold weather had arrived.

In Ohio, a family that typically burns 700 to 750 gallons of propane will need more like 900 gallons, the Ashland Times-Gazette reported today — an increase of about 20 to 30-percent more gas. “The weather has a fairly significant impact on the average propane user,” a FerrellGas spokesman said. And another cold snap is expected later this week.

The tune has changed since mid-January, when the Toledo Blade found an Ohio propane dealer who said consumption was down 33-percent in some cases due to the efficient heating moves customers were making — like adapting their living spaces or getting heat from other sources. (Coincidentally that story appeared the same week that propane demand hit a three-year high, according to federal data.)

Meanwhile, today’s high for the city of Cleveland is 16 degrees.