Author Topic: Heating fuel contracts - Northeast US  (Read 2887 times)

kimmarg

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Heating fuel contracts - Northeast US
« on: May 28, 2013, 06:40:58 PM »
It's finally summer,  so it must be time to start thinking about next years heating season.

I have a fixed price contract for propane which will expire at the end of June and I'm trying to decide how to proceed. This was our first winter owning a home, and we used ~1100 gallons of propane for a total cost of ~$3400.

Yes that's waaaay too much. Yes, I have a programmable thermostat set at 60/64, wear long underwear, shut off two rooms, etc, etc. I live in Maine. It was 34F this morning. We average 7100 Heating degree days a year.  Anyways, I am actively working on energy efficency- that's another topic.

 My question to you in on purchasing the energy I do use. There are a ton of options - pre buy, fixed price, min price guarantee, equal payments, etc, etc. I feel like I need to be a futures trader just to get heat! In the past I have alway paid cash for oil and called around for the best price when I needed delivery. The problem with propane is I don't own the tanks in my yard - the propane company does. I've heard some of them won't deliver to tanks they don't inspect due to safety issues, etc. so I am basically locked into whomever I choose. The good news is I could switch suppliers in summer as no heat for a day would be fine (the furnace also does our hot water on demand so it does run occasionally in the summer) what do I do?

Thanks!

Whoshighpitch

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Re: Heating fuel contracts - Northeast US
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2013, 08:12:28 AM »
Ah..welcome to the propane cartel.  I bought a house last year and for the first time had to deal with propane.  I found out 2 days before closing that the underground tank was owned by the propane co and that if I didn't use them I'd have to pay to excavate their tank and return it to them.  It's quite a racket.  They even have an easement recorded on my deed.  I was very leary dealing with them but so far they have been ok.  Last year it was about $2.00/gallon and I ended up spending around $2,000.  I live in PA and kept it pretty warm because we have a newborn.  Anyway...I've read a lot about this and made many phone calls so I know at least a little bit.  First, make sure your company is charging you a fair price, it varies quite a bit.  If not give them the boot and bring in someone else.  (sounds like your tank is above ground?)  You can also buy your own tank which gives you the ability to call around and check prices.  It's questionable though if that savings will make up for buying your own tank.  I know the previous owner of my house was not happy with the co. that owns the UST so they brought in another co. who installed their own above ground tank.  They had that arrangment for a few years and it wasn't a problem evidently.  From what I've read most of these comapnys will threaten you and say you have to excavate their tank or pay them to come get their own equipment, etc..  Tell them to shove it...I doubt they will take you to court.  Your defense can be they were gouging you.  I'm planning on installing a wood stove or outdoor wood furnace to reduce the amount of propane used...but that's another subject.  Good luck and don't take any s**t from a dishonest company.  FYI: My brother was charged $5.06/gallon a few years ago for propane while other local companys were charging $3.00/gallon.  The price is not regulated so you have to keep an eye on them.

bevathome

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Re: Heating fuel contracts - Northeast US
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2013, 08:38:46 AM »
I'm in PA and have propane for heating only (switched from oil in 2010 when we had to replace the original boiler).  We have 3 100-gallon above ground tanks.  We paid an average pf $2.71/gallon for the 2012-2013 heating season and used 761 gallons to heat our approximately 2300 sq ft home built in 1977.

I was wondering if this was high, average, or low.  I made a list of relatively local propane companies to contact, but need to get on the phone.  I have also looked into Propane USA, but am not sure if it's worth it as we still have included annual service for the boiler for 3 more years.

For the last 2 years, we've done budget billing -- paying equal amounts from July to April.  We had a credit by April in both years, so we did not actually pay the amount in April.

I'm interested to hear what others are paying for propane and what deals they have discovered.

kimmarg

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Re: Heating fuel contracts - Northeast US
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2013, 07:13:45 PM »
Our tanks are above ground, so no digging. We initially paid $2.65/gal last summer. When I called in December for delivery the bill came in at over $4.50/gallon! I called them up and they tried to feed me some bogus about the other being an 'introductory offer'. I told them I would pay in full for the delivery, but that they could come take their tanks and I would switch providers for my next delivery (how that would work with snow on the ground god only knows). A few minutes of hold and let-me-get-my-supervisor later and I was magically put onto the 6 month fixed price $2.99 contract. The state average price at the time was around $2.79, so that wasn't great, but at least within reason. This is a big national company so I expect crummy service and prices. Normally I'm a fan of local companies, but a few years ago one of the local oil companies went under mid-winter. They had sold various fixed price contracts and everyone who had one was out the money and without oil. At least the national guys aren't going anywhere.

I think my plan is to start a dedicated savings account in July and probably re-sign a fixed price contract. At least that way I can budget. The other problem is money gets very tight in spring as by March we are over $1700 in the hole on the 'heating' line item on mint. Now we hit zero by September/October , but it makes spring a bit too tight as that heating money had to come from something. Dec, Jan, Feb we paid around a quarter of our total income in heat.

kimmarg

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Re: Heating fuel contracts - Northeast US
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2013, 07:28:26 PM »
For prices the state tracks it in Maine
http://maine.gov/energy/fuel_prices/index.shtml

Also the government tracks it oct-march
http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_wfr_dcus_SPA_w.htm

bevathome

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Re: Heating fuel contracts - Northeast US
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 06:41:35 AM »
Thanks for the links!