How Russia is Impacting Heating Oil Prices

impact of russia conflict on heating oil prices

All winter long I keep our FuelSnap community apprised of heating oil price trends in my weekly email. As we enter the off-season, I tend to reduce the frequency of these emails to once a month. In April, after a mere 3 weeks, I decided to see where things stand and send another update. In the past three weeks alone, heating oil prices have shot up 29%!

In this post I’ll break down how the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is impacting heating oil prices at home.

Current State Of Heating Oil Prices

The first few months of this year’s heating season were relatively uneventful. Prices hovered in the $2.80 to $3.10 per gallon range, which is higher than the year prior, but otherwise typical. As we entered 2022, it became more and more likely that Putin would invade Ukraine. The invasion officially began on February 24, 2022, and we saw oil prices immediately rise.

Prices in February averaged over $3.50 per gallon, and that was not the end of it. Prices stabilized briefly, and then continued upward to an average of nearly $4.50 in March, and nearly $5.00 for April.

As I write this, prices have shot up significantly this week to an average of $5.66 throughout the Northeast.

This chart highlights the average lowest prices for 150 gallons of oil in the Northeast. Prices are averages across multiple zip codes and weeks of each month.
Heating oil prices have risen 29% in the past three weeks in the Northeast.

Russian Oil Output Has Decreased Significantly

With the obvious tension that the war in Ukraine has created, Russia’s overall oil output is expected to be down by 17% this year. This will have a significant impact on the global supply of oil. Many European nations depend on Russian oil and will now have to look elsewhere.

Meanwhile, as the global economy has begun to rebound from COVID-19, demand for oil remains strong. Even the current lockdowns in China are not having a significant enough impact on demand to slow down these price increases. Remember, when demand outweighs supply, prices rise. Conversely, when supply outweighs demand, prices fall.

This was the case in April of 2020 when there was simply too much oil being produced. Suppliers were literally paying to have their oil taken (the price for a barrel of oil was technically negative) because they needed room for storage. Heating oil was available for as low as $0.99 per gallon two years ago!

Energy Traders Are Driving Prices Higher, Despite Our Energy Independence

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the conflict in Ukraine is the impact it’s having on oil prices in the US. After all, we have been, on average, Net Exporters of energy since the final year of the Trump administration in 2020. This means that we, as a nation, produce more energy than we consume and are therefore able to export the remaining oil, coal and natural gas.

Why, then, are we being so adversely impacted by the events overseas? The reason comes down to futures trading. Highly sophisticated traders at banks and energy companies are trading futures contracts and profiting vastly.

These trading effects are overshadowing any actual supply-and-demand price impacts. These trades are based on speculation and unfortunately consumers end up paying more as a result.

Fingers Crossed that Prices Will Decline This Summer

Despite increased production in the US, oil prices have continued to climb this year. The one thing we should be grateful for, however, is timing. We are currently on the tail end of this year’s heating season, so we can all lower the thermostats for a while.

We will be watching for changes over the coming months, and urge everyone to check prices regularly and keep a close eye on their tanks this summer. Take advantage of any dip you can, and hopefully prices will drop before fall comes around.

Happy spring,

Steve

How To Save Money on Heating Oil With Prices So High

save on heating oil

Since Russia invaded Ukraine late last month, we’ve seen oil prices surge. The price spike was made worse by panic-buying that ensued. Dealers were left with angry customers, and homeowners were left with less money for groceries if they got a heating oil delivery in recent weeks.

Fortunately, there is good news today: heating oil prices are down about 12% since last week. So what can you do to save money when prices skyrocket?

Heating oil prices are down an average of 12% since last week.

Buy Heating Oil On Your Own Terms

Buying heating oil as needed or on a “will-call” basis on a site like FuelSnap typically saves you $0.50 per gallon compared to automatic delivery. When prices spike like this, that savings can jump up to $1 or more per gallon. We even saw some folks on automatic delivery paying $2 more per gallon than they would have paid on our site!

The main reason for this is that the full-service dealers need to take into account a lot of their customers not being able to pay on time. They have to increase their margins on their automatic delivery stops or they may run into cash flow issues themselves. If an oil dealer does not pay the oil terminal (where they fill the trucks) on time, then they can’t continue to deliver heating oil.

Because orders on a site like ours are paid for in advance, there is less risk to the dealers of not getting paid, and they can therefore accept a smaller margin.

Bottom Line: Will-Call customers save even more per gallon when prices skyrocket.

Take Control of Your Heating Oil Usage

Another way to save on heating oil is to really understand your usage. You can do that with a device like the Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge is a WiFi oil tank gauge that will tell you exactly how much is in your tank, how much you’re burning each day, and even a countdown of how many days until you’ll need to reorder. With this intel, many of us were able to ride out these past two weeks without ordering oil. Folks who were able to do so and fill up this week rather than last week will save over $200 on a tank of oil as we’ve seen oil prices drop significantly.

An added benefit of a Smart Oil Gauge is it will send you text and email alerts when you’re low and it’s time to order oil, ensuring you won’t run out in the middle of the night.

As you get low on oil, you can always check local oil prices right in the app. You can see what kind of discount you get depending on how much you order too.

Bottom Line: Understanding your usage will help you know when to order, and could save you hundreds of dollars on a tank of heating oil.

The Smart Oil Gauge allows you to know exactly when you need to order heating oil. This allowed many of us to ride out the recent price spikes and only order heating oil after the prices dropped.

These Tips Saved Me Over $200 This Month

When oil prices skyrocketed two weeks ago, folks with Smart Oil Gauges did one of two things: they either ordered oil immediately to get out in front of the increase; or they turned the heat down and rode out the spike. I did the latter, and just had 100 gallons delivered this week, at a price that was over $2 less than the peak.

Folks on Automatic Delivery were not so lucky. Not only could they not request a delivery to preempt the rise, they also could not prevent a delivery while prices were high. One friend paid $6.24 a gallon, while prices on FuelSnap in his town were only $4.20 that day!

Hope these tips help you consider how to manage your heating oil moving forward. In the meantime, Spring is just around the corner, so hopefully we can all cut down on our usage soon.

Happy heating,

Steve

Why Are Heating Oil Prices So High Right Now?

heating oil prices

Wow. Heating oil prices are crazy right now. When COVID-19 halted global travel in 2020, heating oil bottomed out at around $1 a gallon. While it has slowly rebounded as the pandemic has gotten under control, it was still manageable at $2.50 to $3 a gallon through most of this year’s heating season.

Well, that all changed in the past few weeks. A gallon of heating oil as of today (March 9, 2022) is a minimum of $4.59 right now! In many areas we are seeing prices above $5, and it’s WAY worse for folks on automatic delivery. 

Why Are Heating Oil Prices So High Right Now?

Since Putin launch his attack on Ukraine, the world’s oil economy has been put under the spotlight. Here are some important things to know about Russia’s role in oil production: 

  • Russia is the #3 largest producer of oil and gas in the world. 
  • The United States Historically Imports 8% of its oil from Russia. 
  • Germany relies on Russia for a third of its natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. 
  • Nearly 100% of homes in Italy are heated with natural gas from Russia. 

Now that Putin has begun this war in Ukraine, it is up to Western nations to enact sanctions on Russia, thus cutting off funding to his administration. 

Thus far, we have seen American companies take the following actions:

  • Apple has suspended all sales in Russia
  • Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have stopped supporting the use of their cards in Russia. 
  • Exxon and other oil and gas companies have discontinued investments or cut ties with Russian counterparts. 
  • McDonald’s and Starbucks have suspended operations in Russia, although some are still paying their employees.

As a result of this pressure that is mounting on Russia, the global supply of oil is being squeezed. Countries that traditionally buy from Russia are looking elsewhere, and prices are skyrocketing accordingly. 

These heating oil prices from last week were the highest since 2014. Prices are up another 20% since then, but have hopefully peaked.

Prices May Be Declining Soon

President Biden announced yesterday that the US will stop importing any oil from Russia while this war persists. It appears, however, that markets had priced this into the price for oil this week, as prices may have reached a short-term peak yesterday.

According to OilPrice.com, heating oil has dropped 20% today, with rack prices decreasing from a high of $4.44 per gallon on March 8, to a more palatable $3.56 per gallon tonight.

Heating oil has dropped significantly in the past 24 hours so we’re optimistic that these lower prices will be passed onto consumers in the coming days.

What To Do

Hang in there, folks. If you can, turn the heat down until we get to the end of Winter here. Hopefully this fighting in Ukraine comes to a stop and the US is able to make some energy decisions that lower our reliance on foreign oil. Keep checking oil prices right here, and stay well.

Happy heating,

Steve

Choosing the Right Adapter for Your Smart Oil Gauge

Proper installation is critical to the accuracy of your Smart Oil Gauge. Using an incorrect adapter can cause the sensor to give false readings, potentially causing you to run out of oil. In this post, we’ll explain the different types of adapters available for the Smart Oil Gauge. When we’re done, you’ll know exactly which adapter is appropriate for your tank.

There are three adapters available for the Smart Oil Gauge. That said, most oil tanks have a standard 2″ NPT fitting and do not require an adapter at all.

Smart Oil Gauge Dimensions

The body of the Smart Oil Gauge is essentially a pipe nipple: it is a short piece of pipe with threads on the top and the bottom. The thread size is 2″ NPT which actually measures approximately 2.375″ in outer diameter. “NPT” refers to a tapered thread (National Pipe Tapered), which means the threads get tighter as they are screwed into a fitting. Tapered threads are great because once tightened, they can create a good seal. You may be wondering why these threads are 2″ NPT when the outer diameter is actually 2.375″. This is because the 2″ dimension refers to the inner diameter of the threaded pipe, and you will be measuring the outer dimensions.

With the cap screwed on, the total outer dimensions of the Smart Oil Gauge are 2.8″ x 2.8″ x 5.3″. In order to remove the cap and access the batteries, we recommend a clearance of 6.2″ above the oil tank. This ensures you can open the cap with the unit installed.

As you can see here, a 2″ NPT fitting actually has an outer diameter of approximately 2.375″.

Where to Install a Smart Oil Gauge

You must install the Smart Oil Gauge or adapter directly into the top of the tank. Any raised pipe or off-the-shelf adapter will cause interference for the sensor. If your tank has an existing float gauge, it may be necessary to remove the float gauge to free up an opening for the Smart Oil Gauge.

If your float gauge is part of the vent pipe (see below, right), you CANNOT use this opening for the Smart Oil Gauge. Even with an adapter, the sensor will not be able to see down inside the oil tank to measure the level.

The Smart Oil Gauge or adapter must thread directly into the top of the tank. You CANNOT use an adapter on a float gauge / vent pipe combo fitting, as shown above on the right.

Adapter for the Roth Double Wall Tanks

If you have a Roth Double-Wall Tank, you will most definitely need our adapter (CCF-906). The adapter features an internal guide cone to help the sound wave from the sensor reach the oil level without interference.

The Roth adapter is compatible with the Roth 1000L, 1000LH, 620L and 400L. It is NOT compatible with the 1500L due to an internal baffle in the tank. If you have the corresponding Granby double-wall tank, find the matching Roth model when selecting your tank in the Smart Oil Gauge app.

The Roth adapter works on all Roth tanks except for the 1500L.

Adapter for Steel Tanks with Small Fittings

As mentioned above, the standard fitting is 2″ NPT. If your tank is less than 20 years old, odds are it has 2″ fittings. If this is the case, you should not need an adapter.

For older tanks and less common tanks, you may need an adapter.

2 x 1.5″ NPT Adapter:

The 2 x 1.5″ NPT adapter (CCF-905) is our most common adapter. Its threads that mate with the tank measure approximately 1.9″ outer diameter.

The 2 x 1.5″ NPT adapter (CCF-905) looks like this.

2 x 1.25″ NPT Adapter:

The 2 x 1.25″ NPT adapter (CCF-908) is far less common than the 2 x 1.5″ adapter. It measures approximately 1.5″ outer diameter.

The 2 x 1.25″ NPT adapter (CCF-908) looks like this.
Refer to this grid to determine which size adapter is appropriate for your tank.

Setting an Offset For Your Adapter

Once you’ve selected the right adapter, you may want to set an offset. Since the adapter raises the Smart Oil Gauge up about an inch, it will affect the level readings. To set an offset, open your Smart Oil Gauge app. Go to Settings >> Tank Style >> Advanced >> Sensor Offset and set an offset of 1.0″ for either the 1.5″ or 1.25″ adapter. No offset is necessary for the Roth adapter.

Set an offset of 1″ to ensure your Smart Oil Gauge is properly calibrated once installed.

Now that you’ve taken the time to measure the fitting on your heating oil tank, you should now know exactly which adapter – if any – is necessary for your tank. If you’re still unsure, please feel free to email us here with a picture and measurements of your tank and we can help choose the fitting for you.

Happy heating,

Steve

How to Install a Smart Oil Gauge On a Tank With Only 3 Openings

top feeding oil lines

Installing a Smart Oil Gauge is one of the best things you can do for your heating oil tank. A Smart Oil Gauge alerts you when the tank is low so you never run out of heating oil. It also frees you up to only buy oil as needed. This can save you hundreds of dollars a year over automatic delivery. And further, it will show you how much oil you’re using so you can conserve heating oil.

With all that being said, you may go to install your Smart Oil Gauge and find you don’t have an extra opening on your tank. If this happens, you may not be entirely out of luck…

Heating Oil Tank Overview

A heating oil tank typically has 4 openings along the top:

  1. An opening for the fill pipe. This is where the driver pumps oil into the tank.
  2. An opening for the vent line. This is where air escapes to the outside. The vent line may include a float gauge in the fitting as well.
  3. An opening for the float gauge.
  4. An extra opening. Installers will often use this opening to connect a second tank. They may also install top-feeding oil lines. This means instead of the oil coming out of the bottom of the tank, it is drawn from the top. This is common in outdoor tanks or tanks in a recessed area where the bottom is difficult to access.
Most oil tanks have 4 openings: 1) fill pipe; 2) vent pipe (sometimes incorporating a float gauge); 3) float gauge; 4) extra opening (ideal location for a Smart Oil Gauge). In the tank shown, the oil is drawn to the oil burner from the bottom right of the tank, and not through one of the openings at the top.

Where to install a Smart Oil Gauge if there are only 3 openings

If there are only three openings, you have a couple of options. The path you choose depends on your particular tank.

Orientation 1: Fill Pipe / Vent Pipe / Float Gauge

If the openings are as follows: Fill Pipe / Vent Pipe / Float Gauge, then you will have to remove the float gauge to make room for a Smart Oil Gauge. Removing the float gauge can be tricky. You cannot just unscrew a float gauge, as its arm will crash into the inside of the tank. Follow this step-by-step guide to remove the float gauge to free up space for your Smart Oil Gauge.

Removing a float gauge can be tricky. Follow our step-by-step guide here to remove it properly.
Pulling the disc at the top of the float gauge up will raise the arm out of the way and allow the float gauge to be unscrewed.

Orientation 2: Fill Pipe / Vent & Gauge Combo / Top Feed Oil Lines

Most oil tanks have the oil lines coming out of the bottom of the tank and going to the burner. Occasionally, however, the lines can come from the top. This is always the case with Roth double-wall tanks, and is sometimes the case with steel tanks.

If your oil lines come out of the top of the tank, then you will have to have a technician come out and re-route the lines to the bottom of the tank. This is NOT something many homeowners would be capable of doing. The technician will have to create a vacuum in the tank to remove the plug without losing the oil in the tank. They will then have to ensure there is not too much sludge in the bottom of the tank. As you can imagine, this is a last resort for your oil tank, but may be the only way to open up a spot for your Smart Oil Gauge.

Top-feeding oil lines look like this. There are often two lines: one going to the oil burner (usually with a shut-off valve as shown); the second coming back from the burner (the ‘return’ line). Some systems do not have a return line. This top-feeding fitting would have to be removed, and the oil lines re-routed to the bottom of the tank to free up an opening for the Smart Oil Gauge. This should only be considered with newer tanks that will not have much sludge built up inside.

The Bottom Line When Your Oil Tank Only Has 3 Openings

A Smart Oil Gauge is a fantastic tool for monitoring heating oil usage. Many folks will go to great lengths to install one. Fortunately, you can remove a float gauge quite easily. Just follow this guide here on replacing your float gauge.

If you need to re-route your oil lines, we recommend waiting until your HVAC technician is at your house for another reason, and asking for a consultation at that time. They will be able to tell you if it’s feasible to move the lines to the bottom of the tank.

Happy heating,

Steve

Tips to Avoid Frozen Pipes

frozen pipes

We’re just at the tail end of a cold snap here in the Northeast where we’ve seen temps in the single digits for the past few days. When it gets this cold, frozen pipes can become a major issue. While most common in older homes, pipes can freeze in newer homes too!

Especially in mass-produced cookie-cutter homes where corners are cut during construction. All it takes is one section of insulation to be missing from an exterior bathroom wall for pipes to freeze. In this post, we’ll highlight tips to keep your pipes from freezing.

In older homes like mine, ice can form on the single-pane windows. This is because the single pane of glass provides very little insulation and the heat ends up escaping right through it. Whenever you have pipes near a cold spot like this, make sure to leave the water dripping!

Why Are Frozen Pipes Bad?

At first glance you may think that having frozen pipes is simply a nuisance. In many cases, that’s all it is: you don’t have water flowing in a certain faucet for a period of time. In other cases, the pipes can actually burst, causing major flooding and damage to your home.

Why Do Frozen Pipes Burst?

Once water starts to turn to ice, it creates a blockage in the pipe. This blockage keeps any water from flowing through the pipe at that point. Further, it may result in water being trapped between the ice blockage and a closed spigot. Since water expands as it turns to ice, it begins to create pressure in the pipe. Since this pressure has nowhere else to go, the pipe ends up expanding from the inside out until it bursts. Water then just keeps flowing from the burst pipe until someone notices and closes the valve.

As ice forms inside a pipe, it begins to expand and create an immense amount of pressure in the adjacent water. Since this water often gets trapped between the ice and a close spigot or faucet, the water has nowhere to escape under pressure, and the pipe ends up bursting.

Tips to Avoid Frozen Pipes

The best way to handle frozen pipes is to avoid them altogether. Follow these tips to prevent frozen pipes from causing damage to your home:

  • Leave the Water Dripping on Cold Nights. Water has a much harder time freezing when it is flowing. On cold nights, open the faucets slightly throughout your house. This is especially important for pipes in exterior walls. These pipes will be much more prone to freezing than pipes in interior walls.
  • Insulate Problem Pipes. In old homes like mine, you will start to know which pipes freeze. Adding foam insulation to these pipes can keep them from freezing. It’s inexpensive and easy to apply, and helps shelter the pipe from the cold air nearby.
  • Leave Cabinet Doors Open. Often the pipes in a kitchen or bathroom can freeze inside cabinets. Even though the room itself may be warm, the air inside the cabinets can be below freezing on a cold night. Open the cabinets to let the warm air in and keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Turn The Heat Up. People often turn the heat down on cold nights to save money. When it’s really cold, do the opposite! Raising the temperature in the house can help prevent those really cold areas from freezing.
  • Put a Space Heater in Cold Areas. In my house, there’s a section of the basement that extends under my back porch. This area is extremely cold, and is the one spot where pipes can freeze. On cold days (like this week), I run a space heater in this area to keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Use Heat Tape or Heated Cables. Apply a heat source to the area where pipes tend to freeze. This is a more “involved” solution, as you’ll need to turn it on and off at times. Consider this as a last resort if insulation and leaving faucets dripping doesn’t do the trick.
  • Make Sure You Have Enough Heating Oil. If you run out of heating oil, you will have no heat. With no heat, your pipes will be very likely to freeze. Order heating oil online when you’re at a quarter of a tank to prevent a runout. If you do run out of oil, follow these steps here. You can also grab 5 or 10 gallons of diesel to keep the heat on until the truck arrives.
Installing insulation on exposed pipes is one of the best ways to keep pipes from freezing. It is inexpensive and super easy to install. Especially in cold crawl spaces or unheated basements, this should be your first line of defense against frozen pipes.

Always Inspect Cold Areas

Catching frozen pipes before they burst will save you thousands of dollars and lots of headaches. Always turn the heat up when the temperatures are forecast to be extremely low. Touch the baseboards in various corners of the house to make sure they’re all warm. This will indicate that water is flowing and there is not a blockage.

Leave your faucets dripping, leave those cabinet doors open, and hopefully you have no issues. If you do have frozen pipes, call a plumber right away! Sometimes the pipes can burst when thawing, so you’ll want a professional there to shut the water off right away if this happens.

Happy heating,

Steve

How Much Heating Oil Will I Use a Day?

cold house

It’s peak heating season in the Northeast, and many folks have heating oil on their mind. Questions like ‘what is the price of oil near me?’ or ‘how much heating oil will I use in a day?’ are being asked non-stop. So I figured I’d break down how much heating oil you can expect to use in a given day.

Keep this in mind as you’re planning for your next heating oil delivery, or if you run out of oil. If you do run out of oil, you can always add 5 or 10 gallons of diesel to your tank. Knowing how long 5 gallons of heating oil will last will help you determine how many trips to the gas station you’ll have to make!

The outside ambient air temperature is the biggest contributor to heating oil usage at your house. On a cold day in New England, your house may use 5-10 gallons of heating oil or more, depending on its square footage!

Factors That Impact Heating Oil Consumption

There are several factors that will impact how much heating oil you use at your house:

  • Outside Temperature: Your home’s heating system works to keep the inside of your home at a comfortable temperature. The colder the air outside, the harder it has to work, and therefore the more heating oil you will consume.
  • Inside (Set) Temperature: Setting the thermostat around 68-70 degrees is common and provides a comfortable internal temperature. The higher the set temperature, the more heating oil you will use. Consider adding a few layers and lowering the heat to 65 if you want to conserve oil.
  • House Size: The larger your house, the more heating oil you will consume. The layout of your house can also impact this. A ranch house is often harder to keep warm than a two-story house because there is more exterior surface area relative to interior space. This means more surfaces for heat to escape through.
  • Insulation: A well-insulated house will retain the heat much better than a poorly-insulated house with single-pane or drafty windows. Sealing up drafty windows in an old home will pay dividends and make your home more comfortable on cold winter days.
  • Age of Heating System: As heating systems age, they lose some of their efficiency. This means that you will use slightly more heating oil to generate the same amount of heat as a newer system. High-quality oil-fired equipment can last over 30 years. A new furnace can start to pay for itself, however, as you’ll see much improved efficiency.
  • How You Heat Your Hot Water: Another consideration is what you’re heating with oil. If your hot water heater runs on oil, you will use more heating oil than just for heat alone. This also means that you will consume oil year round.
Replacing this 30 year old Oneida Royal oil-fired furnace with a new ThermoPride unit in 2018 allowed me to cut down on my heating oil usage almost 25%. To determine this, I used exported data from my Smart Oil Gauge to summarize my usage by day, and overlaid temperature data to account for outside temperature.

Home Size And Temperature Impact Heating Oil Usage

To keep things simple, we’ll focus on two factors: house size and outside temperature. Find your house size on the chart and you’ll see a range of usages. If your house is well-insulated and new, consider a lower amount. If, like mine, your house is old and poorly-insulated, consider an amount on the high end.

This chart will give you a good indication of how many gallons of heating oil you can expect to use on an average day. For a 2500 square foot house, for example, you will use 5-7 gallons of heating oil on a typical New England winter day.

On a typical New England Winter day, expect to use 5-7 gallons of heating oil per day. Use this as a baseline, and plan your oil deliveries accordingly.

If you have a 275 gallon oil tank, you’ve got a maximum capacity of about 250 gallons. You also don’t want to get too low, as you can get sludge in the tank sucked into the lines. With this in mind, consider a ‘usable’ capacity of about 200 gallons. At 5 gallons per day, this should last about 40 days in the winter before needing to be filled up.

A 275 gallon oil tank like the one shown here is the most common size in the Northeast. The maximum capacity for a tank this size is approximately 250 gallons. Since it’s important not to let the level get too low (sludge can get stirred up), its usable capacity ends up being about 200 gallons. At 5 gallons a day, this will last approximately 40 days in the winter.

Heating Oil Used Per Year

While most of us only use oil in the winter months, many use it year round. If you use oil for your hot water, expect to use approximately 0.5-0.8 gallons per day in the summer months.

In the winter months, we must go back to the factors above: house size and outside air temperature. For this calculation, we looked at a typical winter in CT.

The average house in the Northeast uses about 880 gallons of heating oil per year. In a typical winter in CT, you can expect to use between 600 and 1200 gallons per year for an average-sized house.

Track Your Heating Oil Consumption

The best way to track your oil consumption is to measure it. The best way to measure your oil consumption is to use a sensor in the oil tank. A Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the oil level at hourly intervals throughout the day. It reports these readings onto an app on your phone. It provides history that allows you to track your usage throughout the day, week, month, or year. You can even export the data from your Smart Oil Gauge for true numbers crunching.

My Smart Oil Gauge shows me my current level, as well as my current and historical usage rates. It is REALLY cold this week, so you can see that my usage is off the charts. I also have an extremely old house (1865) which is mostly original (no insulation). But despite all that, I know exactly when I need to order oil at any given time.

Check Your Oil Tank Regularly Throughout the Winter

You should now be able to estimate your daily usage of heating oil. That said, a good estimate is still no substitute for regularly checking your oil level. Check out this post here on how to read a heating oil tank gauge. Running out of oil can lead to sludge in the feed line, and even worse, frozen pipes. Set a reminder on your phone to check your tank level at least once a week during the cold months. And better yet, get a Smart Oil Gauge and get alerted when your tank is low!

Happy heating,

Steve

How To Choose A New Furnace

oil-fired furnace

When your oil-fired furnace hits the 30-year mark, odds are it’s time for an upgrade. While annual maintenance can be a godsend for your home’s HVAC system, there will come a time when it’s ready to be replaced. If that time is now, follow these steps to choose a new furnace.

What’s a Furnace?

A furnace converts home heating oil, propane, or natural gas into heat, and then transfers the heat through ductwork into the rooms of your house. The furnace consists of:

  1. Burner: The burner combines the fuel, air, and a flame to ignite the fuel and create heat.
  2. Heat Exchanger: The heat exchanger takes the heat from the combustion chamber (where the fuel burns), and transfers the heat to the clean air that gets circulated to the house.
  3. Blower: The blower takes cool air from inside the house, passes the air through the heat exchanger, and blows the hot air out of the furnace into the house.

To help you choose a new furnace, we recommend following these steps below.

Step 1: Choose a Fuel Type

Many of us don’t have much of a choice when it comes to the fuel that heats our home. If you have natural gas plumbed in your street, you are one of the lucky ones. Hook into it right away, and find yourself a nice gas furnace.

If your road has natural gas available, you’ll see meters like this one on many of the houses. Check to see if you are able to connect your house to the gas line. There are moratoriums in much of the Northeast that prevent new homes from being added because of the deteriorating infrastructure that is used to transmit the gas under the streets.

If you do not have natural gas in your street, don’t be alarmed. Oil heat is only slightly more expensive than natural gas heat, and oil-fired furnaces actually tend to last a lot longer than gas furnaces.

The most common approach to replacing your furnace is to continue using the same fuel you’ve been using all along. If you heat with propane, stick with propane. If you heat with oil, stick with oil. Many oil & propane providers will encourage you to switch to propane when it comes time for a new furnace. THIS IS BECAUSE PROPANE IS MORE PROFITABLE FOR THEM. You will end up paying far more in the long run to heat your house with propane than with heating oil. And if they tell you the price per gallon is lower for propane, just know this: it takes 1.35 gallons of propane to generate the same amount of heat as 1 gallon of heating oil!

When you choose a new furnace, sticking with the current fuel is usually the best idea. We break this down in a separate post here: Heating Oil vs. Propane.

Step 2: Choose a Brand

The nice thing about oil-fired furnaces is that there aren’t too many options to choose from. Whatever system you buy, you’ll only have one or two burner options to choose from, and they will all be good choices. Further, if your burner stops working in the middle of winter, the technician who comes to fix it is almost guaranteed to have the right parts to fix it.

This is not the case with natural gas furnaces, unfortunately. Natural gas furnaces are build and sold all over the country. As a result, there are too many versions of these for technicians to be able to service every single one with the parts on their truck.

When choosing a brand, you get what you pay for. If you are buying this furnace for your long-term home, I’d highly recommend getting a ThermoPride, or a comparable high-end furnace. If it is for a rental property that you may only own for few years, go with the best priced-furnace available.

Your HVAC company will be your best resource. Make sure to have them quote a range of brands so you can compare them.
A furnace is the heart of a home’s HVAC system. A high-end furnace, such as a ThermoPride, can last as long as 30+ years.

Step 3: Choose a Size

The easiest way to choose the size for your furnace is to look at your current system. A drop-in replacement is the path of least resistance. But, things could have changed since your house was first built. Was an addition built onto the house? Were the windows and siding upgraded? Was the system sized properly in the first place?

These factors could all lead to your current system being under-sized or over-sized. A competent HVAC contractor will ask you LOTS of questions about your house, such as:

  • What is the square footage of your house?
  • How tall are the walls?
  • How many windows on each floor?
  • What are the dimensions of the windows?
  • Are windows single-pane or dual-pane?
  • How would you rate the insulation in the house?

If your HVAC contractor just asks for the square footage of your house to determine your furnace size, find a new HVAC contractor. There are many more factors that contribute to heat loss than just square footage.

The easiest choice is to keep the same size furnace. However, it may not be sized appropriately for your house. A heat loss calculation will help determine the appropriate size for your new furnace.

Step 4: Consider Other Factors

Replacing your furnace can be expensive. I replaced mine a few years ago, and the whole job cost about $8,500. Since many companies offer 0% financing for these types of jobs, you may consider additional work beyond just the furnace. For example, does your oil tank need to be replaced? Would you like to add central A/C to your house?

Combining these jobs all at once can help drive the total price down. It can also allow you to take advantage of 0% financing – for the whole project.

Consider other upgrades, such as a new heating oil tank, when buying a new furnace. This way you can take advantage of the excellent finance rates many HVAC companies offer.

Final Thoughts on a New Furnace

I like to check out ‘open houses’ every once and a while to see what’s on the market. One of the first places I go in an open house is to the basement. I look at the HVAC equipment, and if there’s high-end equipment installed, it’s a clear indication to me that the builder or the current owners did not skimp on quality. When you choose a new furnace, think about whether you will be selling your house soon and what that furnace will signal to prospective buyers.

While it may be more expensive in the short-run, a high-end oil-fired furnace can pay dividends due to its reliability over the long-run. Just make sure to get it tuned-up once a year to keep it in top-notch condition.

Happy heating,

Steve

Heating Oil 101: What To Know

heating oil 101

Welcome to Home Heating Oil 101 where we’ll give you the run down on heating oil. Home heating oil is one of the most efficient fuels for heating your home. It creates more BTUs per gallon than propane, and is super easy to have delivered. There are hundreds of heating oil providers in the Northeast, so the price per gallon tends to be kept very competitive.

If you are new to heating oil, there are a few things to know. In this post, we’ll break down the best and most cost-effective ways to manage your heating oil supply so you never run out!

Where is Heating Oil Stored?

Heating oil is stored in a tank (or tanks) at your property. The tank can be indoors or outdoors, and underground or above-ground. Underground tanks are less common these days, as it is very difficult to detect a leak in an underground tank. A leak could become a very expensive environmental hazard if not found.

The best way to store heating oil is in an above-ground tank, stored inside. An indoor tank is not subject to rain, snow, sleet, and direct sunlight. As a result, it will last much longer and be much less prone to leaks.

indoor 275 gallon oil storage tank
This steel 275 gallon heating oil tank is by far the most common oil tank found in the Northeast. When stored inside, the fittings and seems will be much less prone to corrosion which could cause leaks.
outdoor 275 gallon horizontal oil tank
Outdoor heating oil tanks are subject to the elements. Exposure to snow, rain, sleet, and sunlight will greatly decrease the longevity of the tank. Further, the oil inside the tank can gel in extreme cold. For this reason, fuel providers will include an anti-gel additive when delivering to outdoor tanks in cold climates.
underground heating oil tank being removed
Underground storage tanks such as the one shown here are less and less common these days. After about 30 years, it is typically recommended to remove these and replace with above ground tanks.

How is Heating Oil Delivered?

Heating oil is delivered by truck to your home. Unlike natural gas, there are no underground pipelines delivering oil directly to homes. As a result, the truck must come to your house, hook up to a fill pipe, and pump fuel into your tank.

When the truck arrives, the driver will first locate your fill pipe. The fill pipe will be sticking out of the ground or out of the side of your house for an indoor tank. For an above ground outdoor tank, the fill pipe will be sticking out of the top of the tank.

Once he is hooked up to the fill pipe, he will begin pumping. While pumping, he will listen for a whistle coming from the vent pipe (next to the fill pipe). The whistle is at the base of the vent pipe and makes a sound as the air is escaping from the tank. Check out this article here on how the delivery works start to finish.

Shown here are the vent pipe, left, and fill pipe, right. The heating oil delivery driver will attached the hose to the fill pipe and listen for the whistle at the bottom of the vent pipe while filling the tank. The whistle will sound until the oil level rises to the point where it muffles the sound. At this point, the tank is full and the driver stops pumping.

Ordering Home Heating Oil

Heating Oil 101 would not be complete if we didn’t teach you the two types of delivery service. There are two ways to ensure a consistent heating oil supply:

  1. Automatic Delivery: This is where you “lock-in” with one particular oil provider for the season. They estimate your usage based on outside temperature and historical usage, and come to delivery on their own schedule. Automatic delivery is considered a premium value so expect to pay significantly more for your heating oil if you sign up for automatic delivery.
  2. Will Call / On-Demand: By far the most cost-effective means of ordering heating oil. With this approach, you check your tank periodically, then order heating oil online and schedule a delivery. You can order oil on your own terms, pay be credit card, and avoid surprise deliveries.
To save money on heating oil, avoid automatic delivery and only order as needed. In order to do so, however, you’ll have to keep track of your oil level. You can use a Smart Oil Gauge to check your tank remotely, or just remember to check the float gauge periodically.

What if I Run Out of Heating Oil?

If you run out of heating oil, do not panic. There are 4 steps to follow if you run out of heating oil:

  1. Check to see that you are actually out of home heating oil.
  2. Order oil! Go online and order heating oil right away. Call the dealer to confirm receipt of your order.
  3. Add 5 or 10 gallons of diesel fuel to your tank.
  4. Restart your fuel oil burner by hitting the reset button.

Do I Have To Be Home For a Heating Oil Delivery?

Some heating oil providers will require a one-time tank inspection. This is for their protection and yours. If your oil tank is not sturdy enough for a delivery, you could end up with a major leak inside your house. And in case you’ve never smelled it…oil smells terrible! Other companies may only require that you send them pictures of your tank prior to the first delivery.

It is also good practice to inspect your own tank regularly. Follow this guide to inspect your own tank at least once a year.

Once you’ve had your first delivery with one particular oil company, you’ll often not need another tank inspection for a few years. Just always remember to “reorder at a quarter” so you never run out of heating oil. And check heating oil prices and order online anytime through FuelSnap. Hope you enjoyed Heating Oil 101 – you are now ready for winter!

Happy heating,

Steve

Heating Oil Prices Update 11.5.21

heating oil prices

Heating oil season is in full swing as we wrap up the first week of November, 2021. Night-time lows have been down below freezing this week, and the heat is officially on in most homes. If heating oil prices are not on your mind yet, they will be soon!

With the sudden cold this week, tons of folks have run out of oil. If you ran out of heating oil, or know someone who has, click here. We put together a step-by-step guide for what to do if you run out of heating oil. The first step? Make sure you’re actually out of heating oil.

Oil Prices Are Flat or Down In Last 7 Days

Good news now that we’ve got the heat on is that prices have seemed to settle down. While still up significantly over last year, we’re seeing some relief for the first time this season.

  • Connecticut heating oil prices have dropped 1-3% to a low of $2.84 per gallon
  • Long Island, New York heating oil prices have dropped about 1.5% to a low of $2.87 per gallon
  • Heating oil prices in Portland, ME are hovering around $2.87
  • Prices throughout the rest of the Northeast remain otherwise unchanged

Click here to check prices in your town.

150 gallon heating oil prices range from a low of $2.84 a gallon in CT, to a high of $3.33 a gallon in upstate NY. Prices have remained flat or are slightly down from a week ago.

Cold Temps Stay In Immediate Forecast

With highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s over the next week, expect to be using some heating oil. If you don’t have a Smart Oil Gauge, you can use the guide below to determine how much heating oil you’ll use, depending on the size of your house and the outside temperature.

Use this table to determine how much heating oil your system will consume at a given temperature. Adjust up or down for the energy efficiency of your home. For the best indication of usage, install a Smart Oil Gauge and get hourly readings to determine exactly how much heating oil your home is using.

Remember to fill up soon if you haven’t already, and always check FuelSnap and order heating oil online for the best prices in your area.

Happy heating,

Steve