How Much Does It Cost to Heat With Oil?

Heating oil is one of the most popular home heating fuels in the Northeast. It is cost effective and readily available, and found in more than seven million homes. But how much does it cost to heat with oil? Heating the average home will cost $1,200 to $2,000 per year for will-call customers, and $1,500 to $2,500 per year for automatic delivery customers. We will break this down – and more – in the post below!

How To Save Money On Home Heating Oil

There are five primary factors that contribute to how much it costs to heat a house with oil:

  1. Automatic Delivery vs. Will-Call. Will-call customers are those who only order heating oil as needed. By doing so, they save approximately $0.50 per gallon compared to automatic delivery customers. By shopping around and ordering heating oil online, you can realize tremendous savings.
  2. Size of the House. The larger the house, the more heating oil you can expect to burn. A 2,500 square foot house will use 570 to 1200 gallons of heating oil per year.
  3. Insulation and Windows. A well-insulated house with good windows can save up to 50% on heating costs. Check out this post here for more ways to save on heating oil.
  4. Inside Temperature. The temperature you set the thermostat to can have a major impact on heating costs. Monitor your fuel usage and program your thermostat to optimize temperature settings in your house.
  5. Outside Temperature. Sorry, but short of moving to the South, there’s not much we can help you with here!
it costs between 1200 and 2000 per year to heat the average home in the northeast with heating oil
An average-sized home in New England will use between 570 and 1200 gallons of heating oil per year. The average home will cost $1,200 to $2,000 per year to heat for will-call customers, and $1,500 to $2,500 per year for automatic delivery customers.

Annual Heating Oil Cost

By choosing to order heating oil online as needed, homeowners will save an average of $0.50 per gallon. Just search for heating oil prices near me and check prices in your town. The alternative – automatic delivery – may be more convenient, as you don’t have to remember to order home heating oil. But with products like the Smart Oil Gauge, you can easily track your heating oil tank and order oil only as needed.

The other ways to save money include sealing up drafty windows, and adding insulation to cold spaces. You may also consider investing in a programmable thermostat to optimize thermostat settings. If your home has forced hot air (hot air that comes through vents in the floor), it likely makes sense to turn the heat down during the day. If you have a boiler, you are probably better off leaving the temperature constant.

annual  heating costs for oil-heated homes in the northeast
The total annual heating costs for oil-heated homes are broken down here. These were based on an average 2018-2019 will-call price of $2.29 per gallon and automatic delivery price of $2.79 per gallon. Heating oil usage rates were based on an average heating season in Connecticut.

How To Save Money On Heating Oil

With all this in mind, you should consider steps to save money on heating oil. The biggest and most immediate cost savings comes from switching from automatic delivery to will-call. Ordering heating oil online through a site like FuelSnap saves you an average savings of $0.50 per gallon – and often more!

Consider improving how well your house retains heat by upgrading windows and insulation. And finally, program the thermostat to lower the heat at night or when you’re not home, and you will reduce energy costs at your house.

Happy heating,

Steve

When is the Best Month to Buy Home Heating Oil?

fall leaves

One of the benefits of home heating oil is that you can buy it on your own schedule. Some house have multiple tanks which last for several months between fills. In this post we explain the best month to buy home heating oil.

What Causes Heating Oil Prices to Fluctuate?

To determine when to buy home heating oil, it is important to understand why prices fluctuate. There are three primary drivers of heating oil prices to be aware of:

  1. Crude oil supply and demand.
  2. Local heating oil supply and demand.
  3. How you buy your heating oil (i.e. whether you order heating oil online or rely on automatic delivery).

Crude Oil Supply and Demand

Crude oil prices have the most significant impact on heating oil prices. Since home heating oil is a derivative of crude oil, the global supply and demand for crude oil can move heating oil prices up or down. Crude oil is the base fuel that is used in gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, and lubricants in all sorts of machinery.

When the global demand for crude oil declines – so does the price. This is because production of oil does not stop immediately, and producers still need to offload their supply. This scenario played out in early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic ground global travel to a stop. All of sudden, nobody was flying on airplanes or even commuting to work anymore. As a result, there was suddenly too much oil being produced, and prices dropped dramatically. In April, 2020 prices for heating oil futures contracts even dipped below zero! We broke this down in a pretty cool post here when this happened. At the time, folks were paying as little as $0.99 per gallon for heating oil on FuelSnap!

As COVID-19 ground global travel to a halt in April, 2020, crude oil futures prices went negative. There was suddenly more oil supply than demand and producers needed to offload their supply. This directly impacted heating oil prices at the time, which we broke down in this blog post here.

Local Heating Oil Supply and Demand

Local heating oil supply and demand also impacts heating oil prices. In densely populated areas on Long Island, there are hundreds of thousands of oil-heated homes, and many heating oil dealers to choose from. As a result, the dealers must be very efficient and offer competitive pricing and fast delivery. The end result: heating oil prices in Long Island tend to be lower than other parts of the Northeast.

In less densely populated areas, there may be only one or two heating oil dealers to choose from. They can charge significantly more for heating oil, and don’t even have to deliver right away. Where there is a reduced supply like this, heating oil prices tend to be much higher.

There is also the question of the best month to buy heating oil. You may expect to get a better price during the summer / off-season. However, heating oil dealers tend to make fewer deliveries during the off season. As a result, they are less inclined to lower prices and be very competitive. Below is the historical price for heating oil over the past 30 years. The takeaway: the effect of crude oil supply and demand on prices far outweighs any seasonal effects on heating oil prices.

heating oil historical prices
Heating oil prices fluctuate with the market price for crude oil. As can be seen over the past 30 years, heating oil prices tend not to fluctuate with the seasons. In other words, cold weather generally does not lead to increased heating oil prices. Source: MacroTrends.net.

Will-Call or Automatic Heating Oil Delivery

While the price for heating oil will move up or down with the market, the biggest factor that dictates the price you pay for heating oil is whether you buy as needed (will-call) or have automatic delivery. Automatic delivery is billed as a ‘premium’ service and comes with a premium price. This price premium is generally around 40 to 50 cents per gallon, but as high as $1.00 per gallon or more with some dealers! Imagine a winter where you use 1200 gallons of heating oil, and your neighbor paid $1200 less than you for the same oil. That’s the difference between automatic delivery and will-call. If you’re on automatic delivery, then the best month to buy home heating oil does not apply, since the oil will be delivered on the company’s terms.

You can take advantage of significant savings on heating oil by only buying heating oil as needed on a site like FuelSnap. FuelSnap dealers compete for your business by offering the best prices for heating oil possible. And if you’re worried about running out of oil, just install a Smart Oil Gauge to send you alerts when the tank is low.

Bottom Line: Order Heating Oil Any Month of the Year

So, when is the best month to order heating oil? Since heating oil prices depend on the market price for crude oil, it does not matter which month you order heating oil. The only exception to this is when it is really cold, as you may find it difficult to get heating oil in a timely manner.

Even during a cold snap, you can always check heating oil prices near me on a site like FuelSnap. You will see which dealers are available in your town, as well as when they can make the delivery. You will save hundreds of dollars on average compared to automatic delivery over the course of a season.

Just remember, do not let your tank get too low waiting for a good price. If you run out of oil in the middle of the winter, you make have frozen pipes and a much more expensive problem on your hand. At that point, the best month to buy home heating oil no longer matters. As we like to say, the best thing to do is reorder at a quarter (tank) – no matter what month of the year.

Happy heating,

Steve

p.s. About that link to the Smart Oil Gauge in the article…As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Automatic Delivery vs. Will-Call: Home Heating Oil Pros and Cons

275 gallon heating oil tank

If you’re new to home heating oil, the first decision you’ll have to make is: should I sign up for automatic home heating oil delivery? Automatic delivery means you sign an agreement with a single heating oil company for the year. This agreement says you will buy all your heating oil for the whole season from them, and they will automatically deliver it to you. This sounds like a great idea on the surface, but there is a major cost to this which we will touch on below.

The alternative to automatic home heating oil delivery is being a ‘will-call’ customer: someone who only orders heating oil as needed. There are pros and cons to each, and we’ll break them down in this post.

Automatic delivery means all your heating oil will come from one heating oil supplier. You will pay a premium for this but will not have to worry about ordering oil. You can save money by being a ‘will-call’ customer and only ordering heating oil as needed, but you have to make sure you know when to order heating oil.

Heating Oil Basics

Unlike natural gas or electricity, you must have heating oil periodically delivered to your home. Before you order heating oil for the first time, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with these terms:

  • Automatic Delivery: An agreement, usually for one year, that a heating oil company will delivery all the necessary heating oil to you on their own schedule. The dealer uses a system called ‘Degree Days’ to estimate when you’ll need oil next. The system uses outside temperature and delivery history to estimate your tank level. Expect to pay a premium price for heating oil to receive automatic delivery.
  • Will-Call: The alternative to automatic delivery, wherein you simply order heating oil as needed. By being a will-call customer, you can take advantage of significantly lower prices for heating oil. The downside is you must monitor your own oil tank. When you’re low, just check heating oil prices and order heating oil online with a credit card.
  • Service Contract: A maintenance plan that provides 24/7 support if a heating system fails during the winter. This is sometimes included ‘free’ with automatic delivery, but be wary of this. You are likely paying an extra dollar per gallon of heating oil to pay for this ‘free’ service contract. This adds up to $800 – $1000 per year on an average home in the Northeast! There are many reputable service companies that will service your system in the event of an emergency. Further, you should learn to inspect your own oil tank as well.
  • Budget Payment Plan: A payment agreement with the heating oil company that spreads out your total heating oil spend over 9, 10, or even 12 months. This helps eliminate very large bills during peak heating season by spreading the bills out over many months. This is the most profitable type of customer for the oil heating company, as they can charge extremely high heating oil prices without the homeowner noticing.
  • Fixed-Price Agreement: An agreement when signing up for automatic home heating oil delivery that you will pay a fixed-price for heating oil that season. This helps protect against major price increases that may occur. It comes at a cost, however: usually 20 cents per gallon for your estimated usage. Also, you may pay above-market prices if the prices fall during the season, as happened in 2020.
  • Price-Cap: A price-cap plan is an agreement that your heating oil price fluctuates with the market price but will not exceed a certain price. Many homeowners fall for the price-cap agreement, as they believe there is no downside to it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! This is because when the market price for oil lowers, the oil company is under no obligation to lower their price accordingly They may lower it only slightly, for instance. So while you may be protected if the price for oil skyrockets, you’ll be left paying extra if the price drops. This played out in early 2020 when oil prices fell by over 50% and folks on automatic delivery did not even see their price budge at all.

How to Choose Between Automatic Oil Delivery and Will-Call

Historically, those were the two options: pay a premium for automatic delivery or run down to the oil tank periodically as a ‘will-call’ customer. Automatic delivery was obviously much more convenient than running down to the basement, so fuel oil dealers could charge a huge premium for this service. Even today, fuel oil dealers are charging an average of 40-50 cents per gallon for automatic home heating oil delivery, with some charging more than a dollar extra per gallon! Be careful to not get lured in by a ‘first fill’ price of $1.49 to sign up for automatic delivery. The price ALWAYS goes up after that.

To avoid over-paying for heating oil, will-call is the next option. To be a will-call customer, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with checking your heating oil tank gauge. For a detailed explanation read how to check your heating oil tank gauge. Remember, running out of heating oil can be very costly, so don’t forget to check that oil tank!

To be a will-call customer, you must remember to periodically check the gauge on your heating oil tank. This type of float gauge will give an approximate indication of how much oil is in your heating oil tank.

Fortunately, these are no longer your only two options. There is now a third option, which brings the cost-savings of being a will-call customer together with the peace of mind of automatic delivery: a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge is a WiFi heating oil tank gauge. It tells you on your phone how much heating oil is in the tank. It will alert you when your tank is low and it’s time to order oil. You can even order heating oil right from the app.

The Smart Oil Gauge provides the peace of mind of automatic home heating oil delivery and enables homeowners to realize the tremendous savings of being a will-call customer. It screws into the top of the heating oil tank and uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the tank level. The level is reported to an app where it also displays daily usage and gives a countdown to the next fill. The Smart Oil Gauge will even send text and e-mail alerts when it’s time to order oil

What is the Best Option for Heating Oil Delivery?

So what’s best? We rate the three options below.

While automatic delivery is more convenient than will-call, it is much more expensive. The average homeowner pays 40-50 cents per gallon more to be on automatic delivery. This equates to $300-500 more per year for the average home in the Northeast. Since the homeowner is locked in with a single heating oil dealer, flexibility is low. And there is still a risk of running out of heating oil when on automatic delivery, so you won’t get the same peace of mind that you will get with a Smart Oil Gauge.

3rd Place: Automatic Home Heating Oil Delivery

We recommend automatic delivery for folks who just don’t want to think about heating oil. Sign up at the beginning of the season, and then get a bill every month for your deliveries. This is an expensive option, but if money is no object then we recommend it. You may also prefer a budget payment plan which spreads out your payments over the course of the season. This is usually only possible with automatic delivery. But remember, you pay much more over the course of the season for this benefit.

There is still a risk of runout with automatic delivery. So, ask your heating oil company to install an oil tank monitor, or buy your own to make sure you don’t run out.

2nd Place: Will-Call

Will-call will save you hundreds of dollars per year, and thousands over the long-term. That said, those savings can be wiped away if you run out of oil when you’re away from home. Frozen pipes can lead to a catastrophe that costs tens of thousands to repair.

If your oil tank is in a convenient location, however, will-call may be the way to go. You’ll have total flexibility when it comes to choosing a supplier. And you can shop around for the best price for heating oil whenever you are low. Just don’t forget to check the tank!

1st Place: Will-Call with a Smart Oil Gauge

If you want to save money on heating oil, go with will-call, and invest in a Smart Oil Gauge. For around $150 a Smart Oil Gauge will give you even more peace of mind than automatic delivery. It will tell you how much oil is in the tank, and alert you when it’s time to order heating oil.

Within the app, you can even check heating oil prices near me and order heating oil online in seconds. Pay with a credit card and take advantage of will-call pricing right through the app.

What about a Service Contract?

Some dealers will insist that you MUST be on automatic delivery for them to provide a service contract. If that’s your dealer, we recommend finding a new one! There are plenty of dealers who offer service contracts and do not require automatic delivery. DollarWise Oil is one of these companies that offers various maintenance options. Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service Inc. is another one – they offer maintenance plans and do not even sell heating oil! So next time a heating oil dealer tells you that you have to buy all your heating oil from them if you want a service contract, find another company!

Save Money And Only Order Heating Oil As Needed

With today’s technology, you can now take advantage of the lowest pricing possible by only ordering heating oil as needed. Get the peace of mind of automatic delivery by installing a Smart Oil Gauge to keep an eye on the tank level. Configure your alerts so you know when the tank is low. And when it’s time to order heating oil, come back to FuelSnap and get the best heating oil prices possible.

Happy heating,

Steve

When to Order Fuel Oil

when to order fuel oil

Ordering home heating oil can be a daunting task. Choosing a home heating oil dealer and deciding how much oil to order are two important questions to consider. But another important question that comes up is when to order fuel oil. In this blog post we’ll talk about the right time to order heating oil online.

Home Heating Oil Basics

If your home is heated with fuel oil, there are a few things to be aware of. First, your home will have an oil tank to store the heating oil. This tank will be in the basement, garage, outside the house, or even in the ground. Check out this blog post here to learn how a heating oil tank works.

To maintain a consistent supply of home heating oil, you will have to order oil. A truck will come and deliver a specific number of gallons to your tank. Alternatively, you can order a ‘fill’ and the truck will fill the oil tank to its capacity.

When to Order Heating Oil

When deciding when to order home heating oil, there are a couple of factors to consider. First, you do not want to run out of heating oil. Second, you want to get the best price for heating oil.

Avoid Running Out of Heating Oil

If you are out of heating oil right now, check out this blog post here for what to do. Fortunately, you can add diesel from the local gas station to get you through the night.

To avoid running out of heating oil, we recommend reordering heating oil when your oil tank is at a quarter full. This is true whether it is the summer or winter. Heating oil prices tend to not fluctuate too widely throughout the season. Most home heating oil dealers work on a target ‘cents per gallon’ margin which does not often change throughout the year.

“Reorder at a quarter” is a great rule to live by.

The reason to not let your tank get down past 1/4 full is occasionally it can take a few days before your heating oil is delivered. A quarter tank is usually enough to hold you over. Since a typical heating oil tank holds 275 gallons of oil, a quarter of a tank is approximately 70 gallons. A typical house burns approximately 3-5 gallons per day in the winter, so this gives you a cushion to prevent a runout.

Reorder heating oil when your tank gets to 1/4 full to avoid a runout and make sure you get the best deal on heating oil. Order oil online through FuelSnap to compare prices and choose the best delivery date.

Order Heating Oil Online To Get The Best Price

Ordering heating oil online when your tank is at 1/4 full has another benefit as well. This leaves enough space in the tank for a 150 gallon delivery. Most oil dealers require a minimum delivery size of 100 gallons. Some even give a price break for 150 gallons. If your dealer gives a price break for 200 gallons, you will have to let your tank get down to 1/8 full. Check our tank charts here to see how low your oil tank must get for a 200 gallon delivery.

When you order heating oil online through FuelSnap you can not only compare prices, but also delivery dates. If you can wait a few days for your home heating oil delivery, you may get a better price for heating oil. Searching for heating oil near me will bring up multiple sites. Check FuelSnap to easily compare several dealers and order heating oil online.

Check Your Heating Oil Tank Gauge And Reorder Oil At A Quarter Full

Make sure you learn how to check your float gauge and avoid running out of heating oil. Order heating oil online when your gauge reads one quarter full. And if you want to make sure you do not run out again, consider getting a Smart Oil Gauge for your tank. The Smart Oil Gauge gives you a readout of your oil level on your smart phone. It will send you text and email alerts when the tank is low as well.

Happy heating,

Steve

How Accurate Is An Oil Tank Gauge?

heating oil tank gauge

Heating oil tanks have remained virtually unchanged for decades. And unfortunately, so have the gauges inside them! The most basic type of oil tank gauge, which most heating oil tanks have, is called a float gauge. Float gauges notoriously go bad over time, and in this post we will talk about the accuracy of a heating oil tank gauge.

How a Float Gauge Works

A float gauge is a very simple mechanism that is mounted in the top of a heating oil tank. It features a plastic sight at the top, with a disc inside to indicate the level. This disc is attached to an articulating arm with a hinge in the middle. At the other end of the arm is the float itself. While the floats were originally made of cork, they are now usually a plastic material that lasts longer.

As the level of oil lowers, the float lowers with it, and the disc is lowered accordingly.

Most oil tanks feature a float gauge like the one shown above. The float only provides an approximate oil level.

How To Read a Float Gauge

The disc in the plastic sight on a float gauge indicates an approximate level. The key word here is approximate. A float gauge is not a precision instrument.

When reading a float gauge, you will need to know what size oil tank you have. Most oil tanks are 275 or 330 gallons and look like the one pictured below.

Tip: A 275 gallon fuel oil tank measures five feet long, while a 330 tank measures 6 feet long.

Once you know your tank size, you’ll have to determine what your float gauge is reading. The levels are primarily fractions of a tank: 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, or Full. Refer to our heating oil tank charts to determine how many gallons are in the tank.

To be safe, always reorder home heating oil at a quarter (of a tank) when using a float gauge!

The disc shown above indicates roughly how much fuel oil is in the oil tank. Once you know the approximate level, check our oil tank chart to determine the number of gallons.

How Accurate is the Float Gauge?

Unfortunately, a float type gauge is not a very accurate device. There are two main reasons for this.

Float Gauges Go Bad Over Time

After many years sitting in heating oil, the float can actually build up sludge over time. This float below was removed after it was no longer working properly.

Furthermore, the float gauge can occasionally end up getting stuck. If the gauge rotates at all in its fitting, the float arm will get stuck against the side of the oil tank, causing the level to not change.

This is what the float on a heating oil float gauge looks like after years in an oil tank. For this reason, float gauges cannot be counted on to provide an accurate oil level.

Float Gauges Do Not Account For the Actual Tank Geometry

Since float gauges simply work by having the arm go up and down, they do not take into account the curvature of the oil tank. In the middle of the fuel oil tank, the walls are straight up and down. As such, there is significantly more oil than in the bottom section of the oil tank where the walls curve in (see below). When an oil tank gauge reads 1/4 or below, the level will suddenly start lowering more quickly without warning.

An oil tank float gauge does not account for the rounded bottom of a tank. There is much less oil in the bottom 8″ of the tank than elsewhere in the tank. So how can we properly track our oil tanks’ heating oil level if the float gauges go bad over time and do not account for the oil tank geometry?

A More Accurate Heating Oil Tank Gauge

Fortunately for heating oil users, there is a more reliable oil tank gauge available now. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the oil level in the tank. It also knows the exact geometry of the oil tank – including the rounded edges! As such, it outputs a specific number of gallons remaining instead of just an approximate level.

Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the level of oil in the tank. Because it does not come in contact with the oil itself, it does not get sludge built up and lose accuracy the way a traditional float gauge does.

Smart Oil Gauge Tracks Gallons Per Day

Because the Smart Oil Gauge records readings all throughout the day, you can get a handle on exactly how much home heating oil you are using. Some of the useful statistics it will provide are:

  • Current oil usage (gallons per hour and gallons per day)
  • Days until you will be at 1/4 tank
  • Days to 1/8 tank
  • Total gallons used (per day, week, month, or year)
  • How much home heating oil can be delivered to your oil tank
Smart Oil Gauge outputs a specific number of gallons in the oil tank. It also tracks consumption so you can see exactly when you need to order home heating oil next.

Track Your Monthly Usage, And Reorder Heating Oil Online Quickly

With the Smart Oil Gauge, you can track exactly how much heating oil you are using. The app ties directly to FuelSnap so you are able to shop for heating oil online as soon as you are low. This information will allow you to schedule your home heating oil delivery around your own needs.

With a Smart Oil Gauge installed, you can watch how quickly you are consuming heating oil, and order heating oil online in seconds with FuelSnap.

An Accurate Heating Oil Gauge

While a float gauge is not very accurate, a Smart Oil Gauge is. The one limitation to the Smart Oil Gauge is that it cannot give a precise reading in the top 8″ of the oil tank. This is because the oil is too close to the sensor when the oil tank is topped off.

Below that top 8″ mark, however, and the Smart Oil Gauge is extremely reliable. And if you would still like a visual oil tank gauge, you can often leave the float gauge installed as well. The Smart Oil Gauge would go in an extra opening on the tank. Knowing how to read a heating oil tank gauge is undoubtedly important, but with Smart Oil Gauge you can view your oil tank level on your phone!

I use my Smart Oil Gauge to make sure I only order oil when I need it. I can watch prices periodically, and then order heating oil online through FuelSnap using my saved credit card when I’m ready. It really doesn’t get any more convenient than that, and I never have to worry about how much heating oil is in my oil tank.

Happy heating,

Steve

10 Ways to Save Money on Heating Oil

insulation can be added to conserve heating oil

If you live in the northeast, you have probably become accustomed to spending significantly more on energy in the winter months as you heat your home. If your home is heated with heating oil, there is good news: there are several ways to save money on heating oil over the course of a winter season. Below are the top 10 ways to save money on heating oil, starting with the most significant.

  1. Discontinue Automatic Delivery. Automatic heating oil delivery was popular for decades, since it meant homeowners did not have to periodically check their oil tanks and call the company to refuel. Because of this convenience, however, dealers charge an average of $0.50 more per gallon for automatic delivery! This equates to hundreds of dollars per year when compared with simply buying oil as needed. To estimate how much oil your house goes through in a given season, check out this post here. Since an average home uses over 800 gallons of heating in a given season, you can expect to save $400 dollars or more simply by ordering oil as needed and taking advantage of the ‘spot’ price.
  2. Install a Smart Oil Gauge. As they say in business: what gets measured, gets managed. There is no good way of knowing what impact the improvements below will have on your heating oil consumption until you establish a baseline. A Smart Oil Gauge will tell you – by the hour – how much oil your heating system is consuming. It will show you daily, weekly, monthly, and annual totals as well so you can see how much heating oil these improvements save you over time. It also will alert you when your tank is low, so you can cut cancel your automatic delivery contract and start saving hundreds of dollars per year right away.
  3. Install a Programmable WiFi Thermostat. Once you’ve gotten the usage data out of your Smart Oil Gauge, you can start to monitor your heating oil consumption throughout the day. You can see, for instance, how much oil you burn during the day when nobody is home. Then you can set the thermostat to automatically lower a few degrees during the day and see how much oil this saves you. With some systems, you may find that you burn more oil by adjusting the temperature – only a Smart Oil Gauge will give you this type of insight though.
  4. Tune-Up Your HVAC System. You should have your HVAC system tuned up annually, or at least every other year to ensure it is running as efficiently as possible. Cleaning out the system will ensure that as much heat as possible is created for every gallon of heating oil used, and that your filters are clean so air can flow freely through your house if you have forced hot air. A tune-up also acts as preventative maintenance so you will be less likely to have a breakdown in the middle of winter.
  5. Seal Drafty Doors. Adding something as simple as foam tape around the perimeter of an entry door can seal off the door quite significantly. Touch your hand to the perimeter of the door and feel for cold spots to know where cold air is coming in. Usually the bottom of the door ends up letting the most cold air in. If this is the case, installing a simple under-the-door sweep can seal it off nicely while still allowing the door to open and close easily.
  6. Seal Drafty Windows. Especially in older houses, you will find that a lot of heat escapes through the windows. If you put your hand near the window, you may also find that there is even a draft you can feel. To seal the heat in and keep the cold air out, consider installing plastic film over the windows to create a seal. Cut the plastic to size, use double-stick tape to secure around the perimeter, and then use a hairdryer to shrink wrap the film in place. Consider doing this on any exterior French doors that you are not using during the winter as well.
  7. Add or Improve Insulation. Insulation – the pink cotton candy-like substance that you see inside walls – is what acts as your home’s blanket. Insulation keeps warm air in and cold air out during the winter months. If your house was built earlier than the mid-1900s, odds are it may not even have insulation. If this is the case, you should consider getting a quote for some blown-in insulation. Blown-in insulation can be added from the exterior of the house without requiring all the siding to be replaced. Instead, small holes can be added, or single strips of siding removed in order for the insulation to be added. This can pay dividends if you plan on staying in your home long term.
  8. Close Off Unused Spaces. This is especially recommended if your home is heated with forced hot air. Simply close the air vents in any rooms that are unused, and close the door to that room as well. Be sure to not close off too many vents in one particular part of the house though, as this could create back pressure that is detrimental to your heating system. If your home is heated using a boiler, see if you can adjust the temperature down in the parts of the house that are unused. Just be careful during extremely cold weather though, as turning the heat down too far can lead to frozen pipes.
  9. Upgrade Your HVAC System. Oil-fired HVAC systems tend to last as long as 30 years! That said, they do tend to lose efficiency over time, meaning that less of the heating oil is actually being converted to heat as the furnace ages. If your furnace is over 15 years old, you may consider installing a new one. Newer oil furnaces or boilers tend to be much more efficient and put out more heat than older ones. Be sure to track your oil consumption using a Smart Oil Gauge so you can see exactly how much home heating oil the new system saves you.
  10. Replace/Upgrade Your Windows. Along with replacing your HVAC system, replacing your windows can have a major impact on your heating oil consumption. That said, both of these improvements can be quite costly, so we only recommend them if you are going to be in the home for many years and you’ve already gone through the list above. Newer, dual-paned windows are significantly more energy efficient than the single-paned windows that older homes have. Dual-paned windows feature an air gap between the panes that acts as an insulative barrier keeping the cold air out and the warm air in.

Start Saving Money on Heating Oil Today

Hopefully you’re able to take some of these suggestions and start saving money on heating oil today. Just remember, the biggest savings you can achieve is by cancelling your Automatic Delivery contract and ordering heating oil online through a site like FuelSnap. You’ll start saving money immediately, and then you can start to look at energy efficiency improvements. And if you really want to understand your consumption, you have to start by tracking your heating oil usage using a device like the Smart Oil Gauge. Understand your baseline heating oil usage, and then start working your way through the list above to save money on heating oil. Most of these improvements will pay for themselves over time, and all will lead to a more comfortable home during the winter months.

Happy heating,

Steve

Why Do Households Use Oil For Heating?

cold snowy house with oil heat

Heating oil is a popular choice for home heating – especially in the Northeast. But what makes heating oil so popular here? It turns out that home heating oil is not only extremely efficient, but also very safe and easy to come by in the Northeast. In today’s post we’ll break down the origins of home heating oil and why it remains such a popular fuel for home heating.

Home Heating Oil and Forced Hot Air

The Northeast US has some of the oldest homes in the country – with many dating back to the 1800s or earlier. In the early 1900s, many homes were heated with coal-fired furnaces in the basement. Coal was delivered by truck and shoveled into a hot furnace to keep the home warm. In the 1930s, oil-fired furnaces were introduced, and slowly began to replace coal or wood-fired systems of the past. Oil was much more convenient than coal or wood. Not only did it produce more heat, but it was much easier to operate, as the oil could simply be stored in and drawn from a heating oil tank directly to the burner. This eliminated the need to manually add coal or wood to a burner in the basement.

The Transition to Home Heating Oil From Coal

The ease of heating with oil, coupled with the low cost and high heat output made home heating oil increasingly popular in the mid-1900s. Many coal delivery companies began to evolve into coal and home heating oil companies, and eventually began selling only heating oil.

The Benefits of Home Heating Oil

Home heating oil has many benefits when compared to other fuels such as natural gas, propane, electricity, or kerosene. For example, consider the difference between home heating oil and kerosene. Below are the main benefits of using home heating oil:

  • It’s Safe: At room temperature, home heating oil cannot be ignited. In fact, heating oil must be heated to 140° F and atomized before it can be ignited in a burner.
  • It’s Efficient: Heating oil produces over 138,000 BTUs per gallon. Home heating oil is significantly more efficient than propane, which produces approximately 91,500 BTUs per gallon. While oil furnaces are not able to deliver 100% of that heat to the home, they are able to deliver about 85% of it to the home, for about 117,725 effective BTUs per gallon. This compares to propane furnaces, which are about 95% efficient, and therefore produce approximately 86,925 effective BTUs per gallon.
  • It’s Cost-Effective: Oil prices in today’s market have dropped significantly from their peak. Oil is currently in the mid $1.50 range in the Northeast. This compares to propane which is well north of $2.00 per gallon. And considering a home needs 1.35 gallons of propane to produce the same amount of heat as one gallon of heating oil, the price for propane is nearly twice that of heating oil!
  • The Homeowner Is Free to Shop Around: Heating oil tanks always belong to the homeowner. Unlike with propane, you are free to buy from any supplier you’d like. This gives you maximum flexibility and saves you hundreds of dollars per year.
  • You Can Add Diesel If You Run Out: Since heating oil is virtually the same fuel as diesel, you will not be left in the cold if you accidentally run out. You can simply go to the gas station, grab five gallons of diesel fuel, and add it to your oil tank. Five gallons is usually enough to last the night until you can have the heating oil tank filled. Be sure to follow our guide if you ever run out of heating oil.

Home Heating Oil Is Extremely Easy to Monitor

Historically, folks with oil-heated homes have had to either sign up for ‘automatic delivery’ or remember to check their oil tank periodically. This would ensure they do not run out of home heating oil on a cold night.

Today, however, tools like the Smart Oil Gauge exist to alert you when your oil tank is low. You can track your usage per day, week, month, or year to know how much home heating oil you are using. You can adjust the thermostat to save heating oil as well. And finally, when you’re low, you can use a site like FuelSnap to easily shop for heating oil.

Home Heating Oil is a Great Source for Heat

If you’re shopping for a new home in the Northeast, you should feel comfortable if it is heated with oil. Home heating oil provides great value in that it is relatively inexpensive and produces significant BTUs per gallon.

Having a heating oil tank inside the house means you can buy heating oil on a site like FuelSnap from whichever heating oil dealer you’d like. Check local New England oil prices, and pay with a credit card to have heating oil delivered in no time. Do not worry about getting stuck with one single supplier as is often the case with propane or natural gas.

Happy heating,

Steve

How Home Heating Works

floor vent

In the northeast US, we see the full range of temperatures, and all types of weather throughout the year. And depending on the winter, we even see subzero temperatures at times. If you’re looking into buying a house in the northeast, you’ll want to understand how home heating works. In this post we’ll talk through the different fuel types, as well as the different types of heating systems you may find in a house, so read on below!

Steps in the Home Heating Process

There are three things that have to happen in order for a home to be heated. First, a fuel source must be delivered to the house. We’ll break down the pros and cons of the most common fuel types below. Second, the fuel source must be converted to heat. This is typically done in a boiler or furnace, but electric radiators can be used as well. Finally, the heat must be transferred throughout the house. This can be via warm air that is circulated through ducts, or via water or electricity that warms radiators along the walls throughout the house. We’ll dive further into these below as well.

Three things must take place for a home heating system. The fuel must be delivered to the house, converted to heat, then transferred throughout the house to warm the air.

Home Heating Fuel Types

There are a number of different fuel sources in the northeast, each with their pros and cons. While each of these must be delivered to the house, they are all delivered in different ways:

  • Heating Oil: One of the most popular fuel choices in the northeast, heating oil is delivered to a house by a home heating oil delivery truck. The heating oil is stored in an oil tank that is usually located in the home’s basement but can occasionally be found outside or underground. The nice thing about heating oil is it burns hotter than natural gas or propane, which makes it an extremely cost-effective choice, especially when prices are low like they are in 2020. As a homeowner, you are free to choose from any supplier you want. Just don’t forget to reorder, as you can easily run out if you forget! For more information read How to Fill a Home Heating Oil Tank.
  • Natural Gas: Natural gas is also a great choice for home heating – if it is available where you live. Natural gas is plumbed underground through pipelines and directly to a home from the street. Treated as a utility, the homeowner does not have to worry about having natural gas delivered – it simply comes automatically, and they have to pay the bill. The downside, however, is that you cannot choose from multiple suppliers.
  • Propane: Propane, like heating oil, is delivered to a house via delivery truck. It is stored in a tank – or tanks – outside the house. While propane tends to be more expensive than natural gas or heating oil, the nice thing is that it can also be used for a gas stove, fireplace, or generator. For more information read Heating Oil vs. Propane.
  • Electricity: Since virtually every house has electricity, this can sometimes be used for heating as well. Especially in places where winters do not get too cold, electric heat can be good to have on standby, but is generally too expensive to be considered in larger homes or places with very cold winters.
Heating oil and propane are two fuel types that must be delivered to the home. Natural gas is plumbed directly to the house from a pipeline beneath the street, while electricity is supplied from the power lines on the street as well.
Once the heating oil is delivered, it is stored in a fuel oil tank like the one shown. Typically located in the basement, these can also be found outside the house or underground.

Converting the Fuel Source to Heat

The next part of the process of heating a home involves converting your fuel source to heat. For propane and natural gas, a burner is used to easily ignite the fuel as it is released from the incoming gas lines. The burner is either part of a boiler, which heats water that gets pumped throughout the house, or a furnace, which heats air that gets pumped throughout the house.

Heating oil is a bit different from propane and natural gas because it is actually not flammable at room temperature. In order for home heating oil to ignite in a burner, it must be first heated to 140° F and atomized through a nozzle. Only once heating oil has been heated and atomized can it be ignited in the burner.

Home heating oil is considered extremely safe because it is not flammable at room temperature. Heating oil must be heated to 140° F and atomized before it can be ignited. Shown here is a Beckett heating oil burner. On the left hand side is a filter that the oil travels through before arriving in the burner.

If your house has electric heat, then you will likely have electric radiators throughout the house, or a heat pump. A heat pump is a system that is mounted outside the house and heats your house by extracting heat from the outside air, and transferring it into the house. One of the benefits of a heat pump is that they can often work as an air conditioning system in the summer time by extracting the heat from the house and transferring it outside.

A heat pump is a popular choice for town homes and condominiums. Heat pumps are powered by electricity and work by transferring heat from outside the house to inside the house in the winter time, and in the opposite way to cool the house during the summer.

Transferring the Heat Throughout the House

Once the fuel source has been delivered to the home and converted to heat, that heat must then be transferred throughout the house.

One very common way that heat is transferred throughout the home is through a boiler. In a boiler system, water is heated and then pumped through radiators that are located all throughout the house. Occasionally, a boiler will also send the hot water to a heat exchanger where air will be heated and pumped out via a blower to heat other parts of the house.

Radiators, such as those shown below, can also be electric. When they are electric, they simply turn on and heat up when the thermostat calls for heat, then shut off once the room is warm. The benefit to electric radiators is that there is no need for a complex plumbing system to send hot water to the radiators. The downside is that it can get very expensive to heat a larger home with electricity. As such, electric heat is only recommended for small spaces or places with very mild winters.

Baseboard radiators such as the one shown are very common. They are often part of a boiler system which sends hot water behind these radiators to heat the room. They can also be electric, in which case a thermostat inside the room will be used to turn them on or off.

My personal favorite is radiant floor heat. This is where instead of the radiators being placed along the walls, the floor itself radiates heat. The plumbing is installed in the floor and the result is some warm floors throughout the house! The only downside to radiant floor heat is that it can take a while to heat the house up. This means it may not be a great choice for a weekend house where you arrive on a Friday and need to wait several hours for the house to get up to a comfortable temperature.

Finally, perhaps the most common means of heating a house today is through what’s known as ‘forced hot air’. This is where a furnace is used to heat air in the basement, then a blower is used to send that hot air through ducts in the house. Forced hot air is great for quickly changing the temperature inside the house. It is also preferred because the same ducts can often be used for central cooling in the summertime.

A home with forced hot air has a furnace in the basement that heats the air in a heat exchanger. A blower inside the furnace sends the hot air through ducts in the house, and out vents like those shown here.

Summary: How Home Heating Works

If you’re shopping for a home in the northeast, it is important to understand how home heating works. You’ll have to first identify the fuel source for that particular home. If the house has natural gas or electricity, you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to your supplier. For propane, you typically must select one supplier to provide all of your propane for the year, and they will often provide the tank as well. With heating oil, you have maximum flexibility and can use a site like FuelSnap to compare heating oil prices from multiple oil dealers in your area, saving hundreds of dollars a year over automatic home heating oil delivery (where one company provides all your oil for the year). Just remember to also install a Smart Oil Gauge so you don’t accidentally run out of heating oil in the middle of winter!

Next, you’ll want to understand what type of heating system the house has. If the house has forced hot air, it means that it will be very easy to add central cooling to the house in the future. For the best of both worlds, a house with radiant floor heat AND forced hot air will allow you to quickly change the temperature, while also maintaining some nice warm floors!

Happy heating,

Steve

What’s the Difference Between Home Heating Oil and Kerosene?

Kerosene vs. heating oil

Today, many of the materials we use to power our everyday lives are petroleum-based fossil fuels. We rely on these products to keep our cars, boats, and trucks moving, to power our water heaters and stoves, and to heat our homes. These fossil fuels all come from the same source: crude oil.

Below, we’re discussing the differences between two common fuels that derive from crude oil – home heating oil and kerosene. Let’s take a look!

Heating Oil Vs. Kerosene: Key Differences

Heating oil is a type of diesel fuel that many choose to heat their homes, primarily due to its safety attributes. Specifically, this fuel source doesn’t get hot enough to catch fire because its “flashpoint,” the temperature at which ignition occurs, is 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it won’t burn in liquid form, allowing you to use it to heat your home with no risk of fires or explosions.

Kerosene, on the other hand, is a light fuel that is made by distilling crude oil. It is primarily used to power jets and other aircraft but does have some uses in the home, including cooking, heating, and lighting certain lamps. It can also be used as an industry-grade chemical lubricant or a petroleum solvent. Kerosene burns much hotter than home heating oil, which means it can only be used in a furnace that is equipped to handle high temperatures. Additionally, kerosene should only be used with outdoor oil tanks, as it can produce carbon monoxide.

Cost of Home Heating Oil vs. Kerosene Heating

Local oil prices fluctuate significantly from season to season. This is because crude oil, which accounts for a large portion of home heating fuel prices, is a globally traded commodity. Therefore, the market drives the cost higher or lower. However, there are a variety of other factors that affect heating oil prices for consumers. For example, cold winters can lead to higher oil prices in CT, just as mild winters often mean lower heating bills.

Competition can also drive costs – the more local oil companies in your area, the lower prices will be, as companies will attempt to win over customers with competitive rates. Finally, political factors can also influence the cost of heating oil. If local laws and regulations encourage alternative fuel use, the cost of home heating oil in that area will likely be higher. All of these variables figure into New England oil prices at any given time and can make it challenging to find the right company for discount oil in CT. On average, homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $2 to $4 per gallon.

Like home heating oil, the cost of kerosene varies based on a variety of factors, including the cost of crude oil. Kerosene tends to be slightly more expensive than heating oil, and can also be harder to find, as not all fuel providers offer kerosene.

FuelSnap: Helping Residents Find the Best New England Oil Prices

When you need to purchase heating oil, sifting through all of the local oil companies in your area can be a daunting task. This is especially true when you are looking for the best rates to fit your budget. At FuelSnap, we simplify the process and take on the heavy lifting for you. Our easy-to-use platform compiles all of the current prices from all of the home heating oil companies in your area, so you can select one that fits your needs. You can even read customer reviews and order heating oil online, all in one convenient place.

At FuelSnap, our goal is to help customers get the best possible oil prices in New England. So, if you’re searching for a fuel supplier to keep your family warm and safe throughout the winter, we are your go-to resource. For more information about the FuelSnap platform, reach out to us at (203) 456-1015 or via our online contact form. We’re happy to answer your questions and help you get started finding affordable heating oil suppliers in your area!

What To Do If You Run Out Of Heating Oil

out of heating oil

If you’ve found yourself in the middle of the summer with no hot water, or worse, in the middle of winter with no heat, you may have run out of home heating oil. Don’t panic – there are a few steps to take, and you will have heat or hot water again before you know it.

Below is our step-by-step guide for what to do if you run out of home heating oil:

Step 1: Check to see that you are actually out of home heating oil.
Step 2: Order oil! Order heating oil online right away. Call to confirm that the oil is on its way.
Step 3: Add 5 or 10 gallons of diesel fuel to your tank to hold you over until heating oil is delivered.
Step 4: Restart your fuel oil burner by hitting the reset button.

Step 1 – Confirm That You Are Actually Out of Heating Oil

Because there are a number of components that can fail in a home’s heating system, running out of heating fuel is not always the culprit when there’s no heat or hot water. If you suspect you are out of home heating oil, the first thing you should do is go down to the fuel oil tank and confirm there’s no oil in it.

Most fuel oil tanks are equipped with a float-style gauge. This type of gauge gives a general indication of how full the fuel oil tank is. Look at the red disk inside the plastic vial to determine the level. If the disc is above the 1/8 mark, you may still have oil in the tank. To check, unscrew the plastic vial by hand. Press the red disc down gently with your finger. If there is still oil in the tank, you will see the disc slowly rise back up. This indicates that the float is rising up on the oil inside the tank. If this is the case, you may have another issue with your system. If you find that you have oil in the tank, then skip to step 4. Learn how to read a heating oil tank gauge if you run into any issues.

If you think you are out of heating oil, go down to the float gauge on the fuel oil tank. Remove the plastic vial and press down on the level indicator disc to see if the float is actually floating in oil. If it does not move freely, then the gauge is stuck or the heating oil tank is likely empty.
To see if there’s heating oil in your tank, you’ll want to make sure the float gauge is not stuck. Go down to the fuel oil tank, and unscrew this plastic cover by hand. The yellow or red disc that indicates the level is attached to the floating arm inside the tank. Gently press this disc down and see if it slowly comes back up when you let go. This will indicate that the float is floating on heating oil inside the tank and the tank is not empty.

Step 2 – Order Heating Oil Online

Once you’ve determined that there is actually no oil in the tank, it’s time to order home heating oil. We recommend ordering heating oil online for this purpose. Local oil companies on FuelSnap have predetermined delivery routes so you can see exactly who will be in your town on which days. Searching for heating oil dealers near me will likely yield dozens of options. Check FuelSnap to avoid emergency service fees or outrageous same day premiums that many local full-service heating oil companies will charge if you inform them that you are out of home heating oil.

Once you’ve ordered your oil through a site like FuelSnap, you will receive an order confirmation email with the ‘deliver by’ date. Feel free to call right away to confirm when the truck will be coming or call FuelSnap ahead of time and they will confirm for you.

Step 3 – Add 5 or 10 Gallons of Diesel to Your Fuel Oil Tank

One of the great benefits of having heating oil is that when you run out, you can always go to the gas station and add some diesel fuel to the oil tank. Since diesel fuel and heating oil are nearly identical (except primarily for some dye that is added to the heating oil), your system will burn diesel fuel just as well as it burns heating oil.

Ideally, we would recommend buying a yellow can from the gas station to fill with diesel fuel. This way you do not accidentally use the same can for regular gas in the future. If they do not have the yellow cans available, then any gas can will suffice. 5 gallons will usually get you through the night (depending on the size of your house and how cold it is), but you will probably sleep better with 10 gallons in the tank.  

Running out of heating oil. You can always go to the gas station and add diesel to your tank to get through the night.
Running out of home heating oil is never a great experience. Fortunately, you can easily go to the gas station and buy 5 or 10 gallons of diesel, so you have heat until your heating oil is delivered.

When adding the diesel fuel to your heating oil tank, you do not need to go into the basement. Instead, open the fill cap on the outside of the house where the oil truck hooks up. This cap will have a hex on top of it and should not be too difficult to remove. Just pour the diesel into the fill pipe and it will make its way into the oil tank.

Step 4 – Restart Your Oil Burner

Check that your red oil burner emergency on/off switches are in the on position, and that the thermostat is set to the desired temperature. This means that the system should be telling the burner to turn on. Since the system was starved of fuel oil, you will need to press the reset button. This tells the burner to try to start burning fuel again. The reset button can be found on the oil burner and is usually a big red button. Sometimes they are harder to spot, like on this late-model Becket burner shown below. Once you press the reset button, you will hear the system start up. After about 15 seconds, it will either stay on (a good sign) or shut back down. If it shuts back down, it may mean you have to bleed some air out the lines. Press the reset button once more and see if that does the trick. Do not press the reset button more than 2 or 3 times. If the system does not start at this point, you may have other issues and need to contact an HVAC technician.

If you have run out of home heating oil, you will need to reset your burner once you've added heating oil or diesel fuel to the tank. This is the reset button on a late-model Beckett oil burner. Most systems have an easier-to-spot red reset button.
If you ran out of heating oil, you may need to add 5 or 10 gallons of diesel fuel to the oil tank to get you through the night. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to hit the reset button on your fuel oil burner. Usually the reset button is a big red button that is easy to spot. On this late-model Beckett oil burner, however, it is more difficult to see.

Conclusion – What To Do If You Run Out of Heating Oil

At the end of the day, running out of heating oil is not a pleasant experience. In the best-case scenario, you can simply have heating oil delivered the same day through a site like FuelSnap. Pressing the reset button on the burner may get you up and running again in no time.

If you are less fortunate though, your heating system may have sucked in some sludge from the bottom of the oil tank, clogging the oil filter or the fuel oil lines. In this case, you may need an expensive emergency service call to get your heating system up and running again.

To prevent all this, the best investment you can make is in a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge will alert you before your tank gets too low. You’ll be able to track gallons used per day, and days to 1/4 or 1/8 tank. And even if you forget to check the app periodically, it will send you text and email alerts when the oil tank is low. You can choose from local oil companies and reputable dealers on a site like FuelSnap, and order heating oil online before you ever even come close to running out of fuel oil.

Happy heating,

Steve