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Monday, November 4, 2013

Preparing for winter

It’s the time of year when Arkansas consumers drag their jackets and coats out of the closet and start to prepare for the winter months ahead.

For many consumers, preparing for cold weather also means stocking up on firewood, filling propane tanks or tuning up furnaces. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today issued this consumer alert to provide advice to consumers who use firewood or liquefied petroleum (LP gas) to help heat their homes..

“State regulations are in place that should ensure that consumers don’t get a bad deal or are not victims of scams when they purchase firewood,” McDaniel said. “And, those consumers who rely on LP gas to heat their homes should have the confidence that they can get their tanks filled and keep the heat on in the event of an emergency.”

Arkansas Bureau of Standards regulations state that firewood may be sold only by the cord, fraction of a cord, or in terms of cubic feet. A full cord is 128 cubic feet of firewood, so, for example, a stack of wood that is four feet high, four feet wide and eight feet long would be considered a cord.
It is recommended that consumers measure a cord by placing wood in a line or row with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other. There should be as few gaps as possible between pieces of wood. Some dishonest sellers may attempt to stack logs loosely in efforts to shortchange customers.
Wood sold in hard-to-define measurements like “rick,” “truckload,” “pile,” or “face cord,” should be avoided by consumers, McDaniel said.

When purchasing a cord or partial cord of firewood, consumers should get a receipt that shows the price, amount and kind of wood purchased, along with the vendor’s name, address and phone number. Anyone with concerns about his or her firewood purchase can contact the Bureau of Standards at (501) 570-1159.

Consumers should keep in mind that dense woods, like hickory and oak, generate more heat and burn longer than soft woods such as pine or spruce. Dry, seasoned wood is safer and more effective than newly cut green wood, since the higher moisture content in new wood can cause buildup of tar and creosote in chimneys. Stacked wood should be kept away from the home to prevent termites and other pests from entering the house. Use a protective covering like a tarp to keep the wood dry and usable.

For those using LP gas, McDaniel recommended that consumers own their fuel tanks themselves. That allows homeowners to shop around for the best prices from LP gas dealers. Competition compels dealers to offer lower prices to independent buyers.

Most LP gas customers rent their tanks from a gas provider, though, and generally, the provider who owns the tank is the only company allowed to fill the tank. However, McDaniel pointed out a significant exception that aids consumers during winter storms.
State law permits other providers to fill a tank if the tank owner and primary provider is unable to make a timely delivery. The law applies during a winter storm when the governor declares a state of emergency and the director of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board issues an order to invoke provisions of the law.
In any event, McDaniel said consumers should check their LP gas tank levels regularly and have tanks filled as needed.

For more information on consumer issues related to home heating, or for other questions, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 482-8982 or visit the division’s website,

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