The Truth About Heating Oil Service Contracts

Service Contract Gear Icon

It’s February, 2020, which means it’s been a few months since we launched FuelSnap. As you can imagine, we tell everyone we know about FuelSnap. The feedback has been incredible, and we especially love telling folks on automatic delivery about FuelSnap. They are super excited about saving money on heating oil, but often ask: “what about my service contract?”

Heating Oil Service Contracts are commonplace for homeowners on automatic delivery. They give the homeowner peace of mind, and a number to call if the heat shuts off in the middle of the night. There are several myths about service contracts though, and we break them down here.

Myth #1: Only with Automatic Delivery

Many oil companies require you to sign up for automatic delivery to get a service contract. They scare you by saying things like: “We can’t risk you getting waste oil delivered by some unscrupulous company. Therefore, you have to buy all your heating oil through us.” The reality is, there are hundreds – thousands, actually – of reputable heating oil companies to buy from. Just read the reviews before hand, and NEVER order from an anonymous dealer online.

Further, there are actually plenty of companies that DO offer service contracts without forcing you onto automatic delivery. One such company is DollarWise Oil, who as of this writing offers contracts starting at $199. You get 24/7 support, and DO NOT have to buy all your heating oil through them. In addition, the service contract includes an annual tuneup / system cleaning. This is in their best interest, after all, since they would be best off if they never had to visit your house in the middle of the night. Read the fine print though, and expect to pay some of the parts and labor on an emergency call.

DollarWise Oil offers service contracts without Automatic Delivery.

Another such company is Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service, down on Long Island. They are a highly-rated service company that offers service contracts. They will be the first to tell you to buy your heating oil from whomever you’d like. Get a service contract with Ryan Anthony’s and you can even pay a small monthly fee throughout the year. This way you’re covered no matter what time of year something breaks down. Then, go ahead and shop around each time you’re low on oil. The savings on oil vs. automatic delivery will more than pay for the service contract.

Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service offers service contracts with low monthly payments for year-round coverage of your HVAC system.

Myth #2: My Company Offers a “Free” Service Contract

We hate to break it to you here, but nothing in life is free. When a company promises a ‘free’ service contract when you sign up for automatic delivery, it comes with a cost. Heating Oil is typically marked up an additional $0.40 – $0.80 per gallon for automatic delivery vs. on demand. In CT, we’ve even seen it as high as an extra $1.20 per gallon for automatic delivery! So let’s run the numbers on that ‘free’ service contract:

  • You’ve got an average-sized home that uses 800 gallons per year.
  • You end up paying, conservatively, $0.60 per gallon extra for automatic delivery.
  • That ‘free’ service contract costs you 800 x $0.60 = $480!

For $480, you should be receiving – at the very least – an annual tune-up.

Myth #3: I Can Only Get 24/7 Support With a Service Contract

The best thing you can do for your HVAC system is get a tune up every year. Check Google when you get a chance…there are thousands of qualified, local service companies out there. Find one that you can trust, and have them out to service your system on a regular basis. Once you’ve established a relationship with this company, you know that they will take your call if you need emergency service.

You may be wondering, though: isn’t emergency service expensive? It most certainly is! But again, if you run the numbers, spending $500 for an emergency service call once every five years might not be a bad deal. If you compare that to the extra $480 a year for a ‘free’ service contract, you are actually better off not having the plan. Now, if you have an older system that breaks down twice a year…you may reconsider buying a service contract. But then again, it may be time to upgrade to a new system anyway!

The bottom line to ensuring that your family stays warm all winter is that you want to keep your system well-maintained. This can come in the form of regular annual maintenance, and a service plan from a trusted company. Make sure you do not fall for the ‘automatic delivery’ trap though; find a company that allows you to shop around for oil. This will save you hundreds of dollars a year, automatically. You can use the savings to buy a Smart Oil Gauge, then really take control of your heating oil :-).

Happy Heating,

Steve

How Much Heating Oil Is In My Tank?

Home Heating Oil Gauge

When it comes to ordering heating oil, it is important to know how many gallons you can reasonably expect to fit in your tank. This allows you to maximize the delivery size, and take advantage of any price per gallon discount that you heating oil dealer provides for a larger delivery size. For a breakdown of everything you should take into account when shopping for heating oil, see our blog post here.

Before ordering heating oil, you’ll want to make sure that your heating oil tank has room for at least 100 gallons to be delivered. 100 gallons is most often the minimum delivery amount most dealers require. If you order 100 gallons and your tank will not take the full amount, you may be stuck paying a significantly higher price per gallon on your order. To determine whether your tank can take at least 100 gallons, you’ll need to know a few things about your home heating oil tank:

  • What style heating oil tank you have
  • Your heating oil tank’s max capacity
  • Your current level

The amount you can have delivered is equal to your tank’s max capacity, minus the current level.

Max Delivery Amount = Max Tank Capacity – Current Level

What Style Heating Oil Tank Do I Have?

There are a variety of heating oil tank styles these days, ranging from in-ground tanks, to a long list of above ground tanks. We’ll highlight the most common tank styles here, and give you a few tips for figuring out which style and size tank you have.

Steel Tanks

Traditional Granby Steel Heating Oil Tank

These are by far the most common style heating oil tank, especially in the Northeast US. They are most often 275 gallon tanks, but can also be 330 gallon.

Tip: A 275 gallon tank measures 5’ long; a 330 measures 6’. They are otherwise identical.

For a full list of steel tanks, refer to Granby’s website here.

Roth DWT (Double-Wall Tanks)

Roth Double-Wall Heating Oil Tanks

If you have a newer home, live near the water (i.e. the ocean), or have had your tank replaced in recent years, you may have a double-walled tank like the one shown above. These tanks feature an internal plastic tank enclosed in an outer metal shell. The most common variant of the Roth tank is the 1000L (275 gallons), which has a capacity of approximately 250 gallons.

Heating Oil Tank Capacity

Once you’ve identified which style home heating oil tank you have, the next step is to determine the overall capacity of the tank.

Tip: A 275 gallon oil tank DOES NOT hold 275 gallons – it actually holds between 240 and 250 gallons when full. A table of common tank capacities is shown at the bottom of this post.

The reason a tank does not hold the full amount has to do with two things: the vent alarm “whistle”, and the air space required at the top of the tank.

The Vent Alarm is a roughly 6” device that hangs down in the tank, positioned right under the vent pipe. As oil enters the tank, air is forced out of the tank through the vent pipe, causing the vent alarm to audibly whistle. The driver can hear this whistling sound from outside the house where the oil is pumped in. As the oil in the tank rises, it eventually touches this vent alarm whistle, causing it to stop making noise. At this point, the driver knows to stop pumping oil into the tank, as it is full. The whistle is designed to stop making noise when there’s approximately 6” of air remaining in the top of the tank. This way, it gives the driver a few seconds to shut the pump off without over filling the tank. It also allows the oil to expand as it warms up once it’s inside the house.

Heating Oil Vent Alarm “Whistle”

Your Current Level

Now that you know your heating oil tank’s max capacity, you’ll need to figure out your current level. The easiest way to tell is to use a Smart Oil Gauge, which not only tells you to the nearest tenth of a gallon what’s in your heating oil tank, but will also show you how much oil you can have delivered at any given time. If you don’t have a Smart Oil Gauge, then you’ll need to refer to the float gauge on your tank. This will give you a ballpark reading of ¼, ½, ¾, etc. At the bottom of this post are approximate levels based on your tank style, and what the float gauge is reading. With this, you can see the maximum amount of oil you can fit in the tank. If you don’t have a float gauge or a Smart Oil Gauge, you will need to use a measuring stick and an oil tank chart – a time consuming and messy process!

A Float Gauge at 1/4 Full

If your float gauge does not work, you should definitely consider installing a Smart Oil Gauge. Since it does not have any moving parts, it will not be subject to sludge buildup over time that typically causes the float gauges to fail. It will tell you from an app on your phone exactly how much oil is in the tank, helping you plan for your next delivery.

A Smart Oil Gauge Tells You Current Level and Days to Next Fill

With all this in mind, we’ve put together the guide below to determine how much oil can be delivered based on the current level in your particular tank.

Happy Heating,

Steve

How to Buy Heating Oil Online

Empty Home Heating Oil Gauge

Looking to get the best deal on your heating oil? There are a few considerations that you want to make sure you keep in mind – we’ll talk about them here.

How to Buy Heating Oil Online

It’s that time of year again when the temperature has dropped, the leaves have fallen, and the heat is on. You go down to the basement and check the old heating oil tank and realize it’s time to order oil. You know there are lots of local heating oil dealers out there – you see the trucks every day. But you’re thinking to yourself, what’s the best way to compare all the home heating oil companies in my area and make sure I’m getting a great price for oil? The most important considerations when shopping for heating oil online are: 

  • Heating Oil Dealer Reputation
  • Available Delivery Dates
  • Methods of Payment
  • Prices Per Gallon

Heating Oil Company Reputation

When ordering heating oil, it is important not to leave the delivery to some anonymous dealer you found online. Instead, find a heating oil source that allows you to not only see dealers’ names, but also read reviews. You’ll want to see the experiences others have had dealing with that heating oil company. Make sure the dealer shows up when promised, delivers the amount ordered, and the driver is respectful of your property. If you got a good price, but the driver ran over your garden, then maybe it was not the best deal after all.

Available Delivery Dates

The next consideration is when you need oil. A general rule of thumb is to “reorder at a quarter”. This means you should order heating oil when your tank is around ¼ full. This gives you at least a few days to have oil delivered without worrying about running out. It also allows you to check heating oil prices for several days out to ensure you’re getting the best price on a particular day. If it’s a Saturday morning and you’re out of oil, you’ll obviously not want to wait until next week so you’ll need to find a dealer that delivers over the weekend.

Fortunately, with sites like FuelSnap, you can see exactly when each particular dealer delivers heating oil to your town. Keep in mind though: a same-day delivery may result in a slightly higher price per gallon, so schedule a delivery for the next day, or a couple days out to get the best price if you don’t need heating oil right away. You might also consider a Smart Oil Gauge for your tank, which not only tells you how much oil you have, but also how many days it will be before you’re at a quarter or an eighth of a tank.  

Methods of Payment

Before you pick your home heating oil company, it’s also important to ensure they take payment via credit card. Credit card payments give you a layer of security that cash and checks do not. Besides, who wants to leave an envelope of cash or a blank check at the house when you’re not home? Make sure you order from a heating oil company online that captures the payment up front.

DO NOT give your credit card number over the phone to the dealer, as this allows them to charge whatever they want to your card, regardless of what was delivered (trust me, I know from experience!). When you buy heating oil online, you know exactly what you’re ordering, and the maximum that your card will be charged for. If your oil tank ends up taking fewer gallons than you ordered, then you’ll receive a refund for the difference. The most important thing is that your card will not be charged MORE after the delivery. 

Home Heating Oil Price Per Gallon

Now that you’ve read the reviews on your dealer, chosen when you want to have your oil delivered, and found a dealer that takes credit cards securely online, you’re ready to choose the delivery amount. With many dealers – although not all – the price per gallon varies with the amount of heating oil ordered. For instance, while oil may be $2.35 per gallon if you order 100 gallons, it may be $2.30 if you order 150, and even $2.25 if you order 200. For many folks, it makes sense to order 200 gallons to get the best rate. Keep in mind, however, that if your tank cannot hold the full 200 gallons, you may end up paying the higher price per gallon on your order.

If you want to know how much your heating oil tank holds, refer to this guide here: how much heating oil is in my tank, and how much can I have delivered. A typical rule of thumb is that a 275 gallon oil tanks holds about 250 gallons when full (there is an air space at the top of the tank). You can use a tank chart to see how many gallons are in your tank already.  

Placing the Order

Now that you know what to consider when shopping for heating oil, it’s time to get started. Fortunately, with sites like FuelSnap, you can choose from reputable local heating oil dealers and read reviews before ordering. You see exactly when you can have your oil delivered, and pay securely ahead of time with a credit card. This eliminates any surprises, and allows you to choose the best price per gallon. You’ve got all the information needed right at your fingertips, so go ahead and order with confidence! 

Happy heating, 

Steve 

Using FuelSnap to Order Heating Oil with the Smart Oil Gauge

FuelSnap Founder Steve Using FuelSnap Application

With single digit temps around the corner, now’s a great time to order Heating Oil if your tank is low. When it comes to ordering oil for your tank, there are lots of companies to choose from, and many ways to go about it.

In today’s video we’ll walk you through the process of checking prices and selecting a dealer right through your Smart Oil Gauge app using the built-in FuelSnap feature.

Some of the key points we touch on are:

0:15 – When is the right time to order oil (“Reorder at a quarter” is a good rule of thumb).

1:05 – How to check Heating Oil prices where you live, and toggle through different delivery days to make sure you’re getting the best price.

1:40 – How to adjust the # of gallons ordered to see how the price is changed.

2:20 – How to read reviews for your Heating Oil dealers.

2:30 – Checking out – setting the number of gallons.

2:45 – Setting your Tank Address information (the more information here, the better!).

3:19 – Entering credit card information (*Note: Make sure the Billing Address is correct for the card you have entered).

3:42 – How to view the Order Summary.

3:50 – Submitting the order.

Give it a try in your app, and if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to email us at info@fuelsnap.com or give us a call anytime at 203-456-1015.

Happy Heating,

Steve Williams

In The World of Nest and Ring, Danbury Startups Sales Heating Up

Steve and Joe, the Founders of FuelSnap and Smart Oil Gauge

Article by Alexander Soule, Hearst Media, February 5, 2020

Like so many entrepreneurs, Steve Williams launched his startup to solve a need — his own needs that is, after he bought a Victorian fixer-upper in Ridgefield, only to discover heating bills that were going through the roof.

Four years later, the bills are under control — and Connected Consumer Fuel continues to build a following for its Smart Oil Gauge sensor that feeds oil tank levels to homeowner mobile phones, along with up-to-date prices for those looking to order an on-the-spot delivery.

Williams and cofounder Joe Mygatt have developed the Smart Oil Gauge quietly in Danbury, even as Google and Amazon have accelerated consumer acceptance of devices like Nest thermostats, Alexa voice assistants and Ring doorbells with enabling technology for remote control via an “Internet of things.”

“If you think about it, the IoT space is growing like mad but there are certain little pockets like heating oil tanks that … have not been addressed,” Williams said. “If you think about this industry, that (oil) gauge probably hasn’t changed in 50 years. It’s a cork on the end of a little rod and a hinge. … They are so low tech.”

Avon is home to an early IoT innovator in iDevices, which a decade ago used its iGrill wireless meat thermometer as a springboard to developing other products like a propane grill tank fuel monitor, before being acquired three years ago for $60 million by Shelton-based Hubbell.

In setting out to find a way to accurately measure his fast-draining home heating oil tank, Williams leveraged technical experience from his days with Branson Ultrasonics, which is based currently in Danbury with plans to move into a new headquarters that is under construction a short distance north in Brookfield.

He enlisted his Ridgefield childhood friend Mygatt, a Princeton University graduate who worked previously for a robotics company, with the pair sharing a laugh this week at their early Smart Oil Gauge prototypes that amounted to a pile of wiring and a sensor mounted on a bread board.

The Smart Oil Gauge is comparatively elegant today, a white cylinder that screws into the top of oil tanks, pinging ultrasound hourly to deduce oil levels. An accompanying FuelSnap app allows homeowners to generate reports of their fuel consumption, as well as check up-to-date prices of local delivery companies and place orders.

After selling the Smart Oil Gauge initially on Amazon and the company’s own website at www.smartoilgauge.com — it is priced at about $160 today — Williams and Mygatt expanded into wholesale channels through heating contractors and oil companies, to include Sid Harvey’s, F.W. Webb and Torrco.

That led to a derivative product called Droplet for heating oil delivery companies, with Connected Consumer Fuel estimating it can help those companies get a better estimate on tank levels and eliminate one truck run annually for each customer account, a significant savings to their bottom line in an industry with tight profit margins.

Williams and Mygatt indicated they expect to find additional applications for the platform they have developed to sense tank levels. One market they have explored — but elected not to try to crack — is Canada, due to a wide range of tank designs that would force the company to design any number of iterations in order to fit into tank openings.”

Williams said the company may in time seek outside venture investment, but for now is plugging along fine funding the business through regular sales revenue since its 2016 launch and early glitches like dropping off home WiFi networks, which the company was able to solve.

“We built 10 of them and we said, ‘All right, if we can sell 10 we’ll buy the components to 100 circuit boards,’” Williams said. “We sold 10 in a few days, and then we sold 100. … I am using the 26th one we ever built, and it’ still kicking.”

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

$2 a gallon Heating Oil?

$2 heating oil on FuelSnap

February is here which means Winter is not over yet! We’ve had some freezing rain and a bit of snow in CT over the past week, and heating oil season seems to be back in full swing, despite a record hot January.

Corona Virus Impacts Heating Oil Prices

A few macro events have affected prices recently, the biggest of which is the Corona Virus that is becoming a global epidemic. Per Bloomberg as of today, the death toll of the Corona Virus has exceeded 805, which is the number of lives that the SARS outbreak claimed in the early 2000s. Fortunately, China has committed $10B to combatting the virus, and the US has installed checkpoints at all the major hotspots where foreigners enter the country.

Meanwhile, global travel has ground to a halt, with virtually all air travel in and out of China on hold. Believe it or not, this has quite a meaningful impact on the global demand for oil, so we’re seeing prices lower than they’ve been all season. FuelSnap prices are ranging in the low-to-mid $2 range, with some areas on Long Island even dipping below $2 this week.

Prices in Long Island have dipped as low as $2/gallon recently.

FuelSnap in The News

We had some exciting press coverage this week, where Joe and I were featured on the cover of the CT Post, New Haven Register, and the Danbury News Times (maybe elsewhere too?). I will write an additional blog post covering this article so you can read it start-to-finish, as some of these sites require a subscription to read the article.

Going into Valentine’s Day week, we’re continuing to add dealers to the FuelSnap network. Just this past week, we’ve added dealers in the central/coastal CT area, Suffolk County, Long Island area, and Portland, Maine area. We’ve got great coverage now throughout most of the Northeast and folks are loving the convenience of ordering through the platform. Lots to come in the coming months, so stay tuned!

Happy heating,

Steve Williams