Heating Oil Hold-up!

June 23, 2008 8:47:11 PM PDT
It's a harsh reality. Today, home heating oil is up four cents from Friday's closing rate. And with a volatile market, consumers need to start thinking about how they'll pay their home heating oil bills this winter. If you're trying to get a jump start on locking in to a rate, you may be stuck. Most companies we spoke to aren't taking the risk this year. Here's why: "A lot of people aren't filling their tanks anymore. They're getting 100 gallons here, 150 gallons," said George Smith with Jay Gress, Inc.

Delivering oil for 20 years, George Smith has seen his share of price hikes. But nothing like this.

"I wonder where it's going to end," he added.

Action News recently rode along with George as we delivered oil to some of his regulars. But, on this trip, George not only delivered oil but also bad news to Bill Lutter. "The total is $702," said Lutter.

But, Lutter's bill could have been steeper.

He still had a few gallons of oil left from last years lock in price of $2.65. The rest of his tank was filled up at a steep price of over $4.50. "We'll have to scale back on something," he said.

"If you pre-paid last year and forgot about it and now all of a sudden you're going to take a look at what your pre-pay is this year, you're going to be very surprised," said Rob Walker with Jay Gress.

Walker said consumers could be playing Russian Roulette they lock in a pre-pay price right now.

He said that's why he is not gambling with his customers money.

"The thing that most heating dealers use to lock in their prices for next year is going through such turbulence that we're unable to decide where that pricing is going to be," added Walker.

Today, the market is calculating a pre-pay price of around $4.59.

That's double of last years lock in rates!!!

And, since companies typically only offer the option of only locking in during the summer months, consumers like Jim Mahar says he is planning to roll the dice, when that option becomes available to him.

"You never know what its going to do," said Mahar. "You're going to have to economize a lot." Action News did find one company already offering a lock in price.

"We buy our oil ahead of time with contracts so that's how we can offer pre-pay because we are protected on the other end," said Bob Williamson with Moyer Indoor-Outdoor.

Williamson said customer demand, price protection and convenience are the main reasons his customers want to pre-pay and that's why he's offering the choice.

"There's a good chance the price may drop there's a good chance the price may may go up," he added.

A gamble is anyone's guess.

When shopping for home heating oil here are some tips to go by:
-First check out the company your doing business with.
-Look for a reputable, experienced dealer.
-Make sure the dealer offers adequate protection. You may not be able to recoup money you've already paid if the company goes out of business.
-You may want to also consider plans that let you pay in monthly or period installments.
-Most companies will also offer budget plans that also allow payments over time.
-Consider price-cap programs that offer protection against unexpected price increases.

In Pennsylvania, you have three business days to cancel any oil supply or service agreement, as long as you that agreement was made at your house, either in person or by telephone.

Energy Saving Tips from The Energy Coordinating Agency:
1. Install a Setback Thermostat. For every degree you set the temperature back, you'll save 3% of your heating bill. For example, if you lower your thermostat setting from 72 at 68 during the day, you'll save 12% of your heating bill. Air conditioning savings in the summer are comparable if you set your temperature up.
2. Repair and Seal those Leaky Windows Use caulk, rope caulk and storm windows to seal out the cold air. Tighten your window locks. Repair all broken windows. Replace all broken glass. Reglaze any panes that need new glazing.
3. Seal Drafts around Doors Use V-seal, caulk, door sweeps and other weatherstripping to provide a tightly sealed door.
4. Seal up Penetrations, Leaks and Holes in your Basement using expanding foam or insulation stuffed into plastic bags.
5. Build a Basement Under Porch Partition to keep cold air from infiltrating through the porch floor and into your basement. Put a door into the partition wall to access the front of your basement.
6. Seal all leaks into your Attic This includes your attic hatch or stairway to the attic.
7. Increase the Insulation in your Attic. If you have R-11 or less, add insulation up to R-38. Make sure to air seal before you insulate.
8. Buy Energy Star Appliances when replacing your refrigerator, heater, air conditioner, dishwasher etc.. If you're replacing your heater, consider a condensing furnace. EPA's Energy Star website has listings of equipment and where it is available locally. www.energystar.gov
9. Install radiator reflectors and bleed your radiators to get rid of air trapped in them, or if you have a forced air system, replace your furnace filter before winter.
10. Seal leaky ductwork with mastic. Duct tape is for packages ? not ducts.
11. Turn your water heater down to 110 degrees and install an insulating jacket and pipe wrap on at least the first 5 feet leading off the water heater.
12. Use Compact Fluorescent Lamps (cfls) instead of incandescent bulbs and save 75% of your lighting cost. Cfls last 8 years on average.
13. Coat your Roof with White, Acrylic, Elastomeric Roof Coating to reduce your air conditioning bill by 22%. These coatings can go over existing rolled roofing, modified bitumen (aka rubber roofing), metal and any seamed roofing material. They also extend the life of your roof by at least 10 years! Go to www.roofcoatings.com for more information on coatings.
14. Install a Solar Water Heater and save 50% to 70% on your water heating costs. Federal tax credits make solar water heating extremely cost effective. www.phillysolar.org
15. Save Water by installing low flush toilets, low flow showerheads and faucet aerators Always repair leaks as soon as they start.