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Heating Oil Fundamentals for the New Homeowner

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Diagram of heating oil system

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It’s difficult buying a home for the first time. There’s so much to learn and figure out about running and maintaining your house.

If you recently purchased a home that uses heating oil, understanding a few basic fundamentals help ensure that you heat your new home safely and negotiate the best heating oil prices.

During the walk-through, the inspector or realtor should have reviewed the basics of the heating oil system with you. You may have even received a report conducted by a professional home inspector.

You also need to make sure that the heating oil system is operating properly.

Check out the Heating Oil System

Besides the information provided during the walk-through, it’s a good idea if you also check-out the condition and become acquainted with the operation of the heating oil system:

  • Inspect the tank - Look for obvious condition problems, like buckling or rust, check the fuel gauge to determine how much oil is in the tank, and determine where the port for filling the tank is located.

  • Check the furnace - Look for signs of rust, which can indicate the oil is not burning properly, the color of the flame ( should be a blue to greenish color with a yellow tip), and make sure the filter is clean.

  • Set the thermostat - Try setting the thermostat to different temperatures to see how the furnace responds.  

  • Find the vents and registers - Open and check the airflow from the vents, and remove any obstructions from both the vents and registers.

If any part of the heating oil system appears to be faulty or not operating properly, you should have it inspected by a heating system repair professional.

Ensure Safety

Fortunately, heating oil is cleaner than ever before and is a safe and efficient fuel for heating your home.

However, you should monitor carbon monoxide emissions from the furnace, which can occur if the furnace isn’t properly maintained or if it’s simply old and needs to be replaced. Consider the following steps to keep you home safe:

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector - You can install one yourself or hire a qualified technician.

  • Routinely have the furnace inspected - Typically, have the furnace inspected in the late summer or early fall, before the cold weather sets in.

Research and Decide on a Vendor

Finding and deciding on a heating oil vendor is daunting at best.

There are so many ways you might find a vendor: a recommendation from a neighbor, the yellow pages, or an Internet search.

You might do a search on current heating oil prices, fuel providers, or home heating oil prices. All of these search terms will bring up a long list of vendors, but frequently you won’t find pricing on their websites.

Often, the search results are not terribly helpful.

Regardless of the research you do on the Internet, you will end up calling several or more vendors in attempt to get the best price. Of course, heating oil prices fluctuate depending on the market. You’ll also find that many of the vendors will negotiate.

Besides pricing, consider these other issues when choosing a vendor:

  • Fuel contracts - If you choose a contract, the vendor may offer a better price-per-gallon. However, beware, should you cancel the contract early, typically you’ll pay an early-termination fee.

  • Scheduling - Consider whether you want the oil delivered on an automatic basis or on “will-call.” Automatic scheduling helps ensure you’ll never run out of oil.

  • Discounts - When you call for pricing, ask about the discounts the vendor offers. Senior and electronic funds transfer (EFT) discounts are most common.

  • Maintenance - Depending upon the contract you choose, it can help reduce the cost of repairing and maintaining your oil heating system.

You need to consider all of these issues and potentially more when deciding upon the best vendor for you. Pricing is not always the most important factor.

Click here to see current prices and reviews of local heating oil companies provided by real customers.

Helpful links for additional information about heating your home with oil:

Consider reading Heating Oil Explained for general information.

Read Get the Best Price for Heating Oil this Winter if you want the full story about vendors and pricing.

Find a better deal on heating oil or propane from local vendors in 30 seconds or less:

Fuelwonk recommends comparing local vendor propane and heating oil prices before you make the decision to fill up your home tank - use our online comparison tool to find the best offers in your area.

Have questions about heating oil or propane, choosing the right vendor, or heating your home economically?
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