Author Topic: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies  (Read 839 times)

erikpbass

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Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« on: August 08, 2018, 10:44:59 AM »
Hi Everyone,

Iím writing because Iím hoping to get some folks thoughts on the best strategies for purchasing heating oil so to keep the cost as low as possible. I must say that Iím pretty overwhelmed by all the options companies have available to customers. I am not opposed to prepaying and initially thought this would be the best option with the thinking that demand would be lowest in the summer and price should follow suit, at least I thought. It certainly seems this was naive thinking and itís definitely not that simple. Hoping to gather some Mustachian know-how from the forum!

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and advice!

Background: Iím a relatively new homeowner located in Southern ME, with a Biasi Boiler (hot water), propane fireplace, and newly installed electric heat pumps (does not heat entire house). Iím hoping Iíll be able to also manage cost/usage somewhat with the alternate heat options.

jpdx

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 12:42:29 PM »
Can you explain the background a little more? You have an oil furnace and two electric heat pumps all in one house? Are the heat pumps ductless or ducted?

WranglerBowman

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 01:20:40 PM »
We were being charged up to 40 cents a gallon at one point just for oil delivery.  I went out and bought a used 125 gallon transfer tank and transfer pump, slide it in the back of my pickup truck, strap it down, go fill it up with #2 off road oil, back up near my oil tank, and fill my own tank up.  Not sure how much oil you typically go through but I only burn about 40-80 gallons a year, weather dependent, since we primarily heat our house with a wood stove that runs 24/7 for 4-5 months.  Def more worth while, IMO, to buy the transfer equipment if your going to use it a lot, also can't be lazy with filling or you're going to get cold.

Lulee

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2018, 10:20:07 PM »
My parents way back decades and decades ago used to buy in the summer to get lower rates.  They stopped after a year when the price per gallon dropped for most of the Winter over their pre-paid price.  I've only had oil heat to pay for heat in my apartment for about 6 years and with the exception of 1 year, it never worked out where it was a much better deal to pre-pay.  Best I can figure, the market's so volatile most years, it's a crap shoot as to what the price will be at any given month.

So I focus on cutting down on my usage as much as I can tolerate and the weather will allow (nothing like a sub-zero cold snap to quickly burn through what's in the oil tank).  If my landlord wasn't a step above a slum lord and instead was putting an effort into maintaining and fixing things up, I'd also put some money into insulation type repairs myself as I'd get the money back fairly quickly.

As a new owner of your house, I'd recommend talking with your neighbors about what to expect in your area and see about getting an energy audit, even if you need to pay for it, to ensure your home is as efficient as possible.  One guy I used to work with could get through a NH winter with a tank of oil and 3-4 ton of wood pellets while keeping his house at 72 degrees --- me, in my much smaller place, I was going through about 1/2 to 3/4 of a tank of oil every 3-4 weeks, frequently freezing in the cold snaps, and never getting the house much above 66 degrees during daylight hours when at home and kept it around 62 while at work and at night.

GreenEggs

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2018, 06:33:42 AM »
You mentioned having a propane fireplace.  I've never had oil, but it seems to have become much more expensive than propane, probably due to fracking.


If you can get propane a lot cheaper than oil I'd suggest thinking about installing a propane heater of two.  We heat with a couple of them that look like woodstoves with ceramic fire logs.  They're about $250-300 from places like Northern Tool.  They have a non electric thermostat, so they work when the power is out.  We use ceiling fans to circulate the air.




erikpbass

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2018, 07:04:14 AM »
Thanks for the replies.

More on the background: They are Mitsubishi ductless heatpumps (mini-splits) and yes we have an oil furnace as well. The thought with having them installed was that it would offer an alternative heat source for one of the zones in the house and for another room that has relatively significant heat loss (sunroom/playroom). They also cool/dehumidify as well and are quite efficient. Weíre on town electric so itís very reliable and affordable, relatively speaking.

Thatís quite eye opening on the delivery charge. Iíll definiteky look into that more and wondered how that worked. I didnít think that itíd just be built into the price. Iím not sure Iíd have the appetite to cart it around myself but itís a good thing to think about.

erikpbass

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2018, 07:18:26 AM »
Thank you for the feedback.

Iím definitely finding that prepaying doesnít seem to be the best option. You really have to have a firm idea of usage or try to undershoot it to avoid fees. Your point on the market is noted as well. I hadnít really thought it could turn in your favor heading into winter but shouldíve realizedn it was a possibility.

Iím definitely going to consider insulation options as well and having a energy audit seems like a excellent idea. We do have thermal curtains where we experienced the most loss and also sealed off one room with French doors  to improve the retention.

Embarrassed to say that I never considered propane heaters as an option. Thankfully our fireplace heats the living area much more than we anticipated and as you say, itís a cheaper option. We will definitely be taking advantage of having it as an option.

I know where I was last year with oil usage so Iíll be hoping to be lower this year. Iím thinking overall heating expenditure will be lower as well with the options I have available to me.

poniesandFIRE

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2018, 08:13:41 AM »
1. We order our propane in August, when prices around here tend to be lowest.
2. We also asked for a cash discount (because it never hurts to ask) and they happily agreed to give us a small discount if we pay in full in cash within a week of delivery.
3. We play the game of how long can we wait to turn on the heat... :)
4. We installed a thermostat with a timer last year to keep the heat low at night or when no one is home.

MMMarbleheader

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2018, 08:18:16 AM »
I don't have oil now but did in the past. I always used the website below and called the lowest price dealer. One issue with this is that most would not clean my furnace unless I entered into a contract with them. But I found a good one that would just change me to clean it.

Lp in New England is more expensive and has a lot more games to it if you don't own your tank which other dealers won't fill.

http://www.newenglandoil.com

GreenEggs

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2018, 08:38:41 AM »
Another thing with fuels, instead of letting them keep our tank topped off regularly we choose "will call", which means I check the tank level myself and call when I want a delivery.  Having a large tank gives us the security of not running out, and also buying larger quantities which can leverage a better rate sometimes. 


There are websites that list the average rates across the US at various times that I find useful when negotiating the propane rates for my glassblowing studio.  A few cents makes a difference when you're filling 1000 gallon tanks.  Without the data you're just blindly begging for a better rate.  Residential consumers don't use enough to really negotiate, but it's nice info to have when you are shopping for a new propane supplier. 


It's just like cell phone companies.  They'll fight for customers and will often make switching easy to do.  I'm sure it depends on the circumstances, like the competition, location, etc.

Lulee

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2018, 09:23:36 PM »
The only hesitation I've had with the plans where you call the company for delivery on your own schedule versus being on automatic delivery is in situations like last winter where prolonged sub-zero temps and storms were creating huge demands and havoc.  Seems like the news reported some non-automatic deliveries would take a week or more to get into the schedule.  So if you go that route and don't have a huge tank, plan accordingly with the weather in mind.

Remembering last winter suddenly makes the hot humid weather we've had of late seem so much more palatable. :)

GreenEggs

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2018, 09:48:19 PM »
The only hesitation I've had with the plans where you call the company for delivery on your own schedule versus being on automatic delivery is in situations like last winter where prolonged sub-zero temps and storms were creating huge demands and havoc.  Seems like the news reported some non-automatic deliveries would take a week or more to get into the schedule.  So if you go that route and don't have a huge tank, plan accordingly with the weather in mind.

Remembering last winter suddenly makes the hot humid weather we've had of late seem so much more palatable. :)




We learned that lesson the hard way.  We have a long steep driveway and only had a 320 gallon tank, but now we have a 500 and also installed a woodstove.  I love the woodstove, but wouldn't want to have to rely on it full time. 

swampwiz

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2018, 01:40:52 PM »
How about learning how to live in a house at 60F?  Multiple layers of blankets and thermal clothing can do the job just as well.  I can live in an environment that spans 60F to 80F.

kimmarg

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2018, 02:24:41 PM »
Also in southern Maine, also have ductless heat pump and hot water baseboard on propane.  (Used to be on oil).

Best deals on oil are usually either pay cash as you go (Pit Stop is often cheapest check online for average cost and current prices)

If the cost does go up this winter the best will be one of the fixed price Cap plans. This is what I do (dead river, although propane has fewer options) so I pay a $99 fee and I get a guaranteed rate. If the Ďsticker priceí midwinter is higher I still pay my fixed price. If the sticker price is lower I get the lower price. The big advantage for me in addition to knowing the max cost is they also let you pay monthly. So I pay equal payments year round, right now Iíve paid for more than I use in summer but then in winter itís the reverse. This makes it easy for me to budget and get away from the scary $500- 700/ month midwinter bills.

If you do decide to just pay as you go you can call around for the cheapest, but realize you may take a while to get delivered. In early January cold snap last year the companies were backed up over a week and folks were running out.

Someone mentioned a delivery fee. Thatís not common here. If youíre quoted $3/ gallon and get 200 gallons expect to pay $600.  The only times delivery fees occur is for emergency service if youíre out and call late at night or on a week night. There may also be a minimum order to deliver but basically filling your tank is way over the minimum.

kimmarg

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2018, 02:26:05 PM »
You mentioned having a propane fireplace.  I've never had oil, but it seems to have become much more expensive than propane, probably due to fracking.


If you can get propane a lot cheaper than oil I'd suggest thinking about installing a propane heater of two.  We heat with a couple of them that look like woodstoves with ceramic fire logs.  They're about $250-300 from places like Northern Tool.  They have a non electric thermostat, so they work when the power is out.  We use ceiling fans to circulate the air.

Propane is usually slightly above oil here, but especially when you account for the fewer btus per galloon

kimmarg

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2018, 02:28:56 PM »
As a new owner of your house, I'd recommend talking with your neighbors about what to expect in your area and see about getting an energy audit, even if you need to pay for it, to ensure your home is as efficient as possible.  One guy I used to work with could get through a NH winter with a tank of oil and 3-4 ton of wood pellets while keeping his house at 72 degrees --- me, in my much smaller place, I was going through about 1/2 to 3/4 of a tank of oil every 3-4 weeks, frequently freezing in the cold snaps, and never getting the house much above 66 degrees during daylight hours when at home and kept it around 62 while at work and at night.

Efficiency Maine is the place to go for this! Energy audit is required for many of their loans and rebates. It cost about $200 ( but qualified us for $600 in incentives) and was VERY useful. Not only did the person identify the sort of big ticket items that we knew should be addressed, they actually found a lot of smaller things that were cheap and easy for us to fix ourselves with spray foam and caulking once we knew about them.

MMMarbleheader

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2018, 03:53:17 PM »
Also in southern Maine, also have ductless heat pump and hot water baseboard on propane.  (Used to be on oil).

Best deals on oil are usually either pay cash as you go (Pit Stop is often cheapest check online for average cost and current prices)

If the cost does go up this winter the best will be one of the fixed price Cap plans. This is what I do (dead river, although propane has fewer options) so I pay a $99 fee and I get a guaranteed rate. If the Ďsticker priceí midwinter is higher I still pay my fixed price. If the sticker price is lower I get the lower price. The big advantage for me in addition to knowing the max cost is they also let you pay monthly. So I pay equal payments year round, right now Iíve paid for more than I use in summer but then in winter itís the reverse. This makes it easy for me to budget and get away from the scary $500- 700/ month midwinter bills.

If you do decide to just pay as you go you can call around for the cheapest, but realize you may take a while to get delivered. In early January cold snap last year the companies were backed up over a week and folks were running out.

Someone mentioned a delivery fee. Thatís not common here. If youíre quoted $3/ gallon and get 200 gallons expect to pay $600.  The only times delivery fees occur is for emergency service if youíre out and call late at night or on a week night. There may also be a minimum order to deliver but basically filling your tank is way over the minimum.

Do you own your propane tank or rent it?

kimmarg

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2018, 07:59:32 PM »
Also in southern Maine, also have ductless heat pump and hot water baseboard on propane.  (Used to be on oil).

Best deals on oil are usually either pay cash as you go (Pit Stop is often cheapest check online for average cost and current prices)

If the cost does go up this winter the best will be one of the fixed price Cap plans. This is what I do (dead river, although propane has fewer options) so I pay a $99 fee and I get a guaranteed rate. If the Ďsticker priceí midwinter is higher I still pay my fixed price. If the sticker price is lower I get the lower price. The big advantage for me in addition to knowing the max cost is they also let you pay monthly. So I pay equal payments year round, right now Iíve paid for more than I use in summer but then in winter itís the reverse. This makes it easy for me to budget and get away from the scary $500- 700/ month midwinter bills.

If you do decide to just pay as you go you can call around for the cheapest, but realize you may take a while to get delivered. In early January cold snap last year the companies were backed up over a week and folks were running out.

Someone mentioned a delivery fee. Thatís not common here. If youíre quoted $3/ gallon and get 200 gallons expect to pay $600.  The only times delivery fees occur is for emergency service if youíre out and call late at night or on a week night. There may also be a minimum order to deliver but basically filling your tank is way over the minimum.

Do you own your propane tank or rent it?

Rent it. Or rather the propane company owns it (I don't pay a monthly fee but I did pay a fee when it was first set up). None of the major propane dealers will deliver to tanks they don't own. I've since heard of a few that will deliver to private tanks but I've been content with the company I'm with now.

WranglerBowman

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2018, 09:06:17 AM »
Thank you for the feedback.

Thankfully our fireplace heats the living area much more than we anticipated and as you say, itís a cheaper option. We will definitely be taking advantage of having it as an option.


If you have a fireplace you should definitely invest in an insert, fireplaces generally only have 10-15% efficiency at best.  If you get an insert, even an old one, it will triple or quadruple the fireplace's efficiency and if you get a newer catalytic wood stove insert it could be 6-8 times more efficient than the fireplace...  You could easily cut your heating bills in half or more if you're willing to work for it.

GreenEggs

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Re: Heating Oil Prices - Best Strategies
« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2018, 12:04:52 PM »
Thank you for the feedback.

Thankfully our fireplace heats the living area much more than we anticipated and as you say, itís a cheaper option. We will definitely be taking advantage of having it as an option.


If you have a fireplace you should definitely invest in an insert, fireplaces generally only have 10-15% efficiency at best.  If you get an insert, even an old one, it will triple or quadruple the fireplace's efficiency and if you get a newer catalytic wood stove insert it could be 6-8 times more efficient than the fireplace...  You could easily cut your heating bills in half or more if you're willing to work for it.




I think they have propane gas logs installed in the fireplace.  If they're the unvented type most of the heat stays in the home. 


You're right about woodstoves & inserts, they are very efficient.