This is a good time of year to review the basics of how your heating oil boiler (also known as a hydronic system) keeps you and your family warm. That way, if you run into heating issues over the next few months, you’ll be better prepared to discuss the situation with your heating service contractor.
While most new homes built today rely on a warm-air furnace for central heat, there are many other homes in Maine that depend on a boiler for heat instead.
There are generally two main types of boilers found in Maine homes: a steam boiler, commonly found in the oldest homes, and the modern, and more energy-efficient, hot water boiler. Steam boilers require special safety precautions because of the temperature of the steam (the water must be heated to 212°F). As a result, it is vitally important to follow a regular maintenance schedule.
Your boiler extracts heat from heating oil as it burns; it can also be powered by propane gas, natural gas or wood pellets. This heats the water (or creates steam) that will run through the zones in your home that are calling for heat. The heat is delivered into your living space through either radiators or baseboards.
The problem is that some heat (as much as 30% in some older boiler models) will be lost as exhaust, which means you are paying a lot of money for heat that will never reach your living space. See how much you can benefit with a new boiler installation.
A more efficient version of the hot water boiler is the condensing boiler, which is designed to keep heat loss to a minimum. By recycling heat from the exhaust process – and by operating at lower temperatures overall – your condensing boiler can improve operating efficiency by 10-15% compared to a non-condensing boiler.
However, a condensing boiler is not practical for all homes. Plus, condensing boilers cost more to manufacture. Installing a condensing boiler correctly requires highly trained technicians who know how to capitalize on the efficiency benefits of these sophisticated heating systems.
Regular maintenance is a vital money-saving investment for home heating oil systems– not just because it can keep your equipment running safely and at peak efficiency, but also because four out of five heating system breakdowns are preventable if you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.
A professional tune-up and safety check allows your heating service contractor to fix minor issues before they become big problems (worn parts, etc.). Regular tune-ups can also help you conserve heating fuel over the winter.
Contact your local heating oil service company in Maine for further information.
If you have a modern heating system and you’ve have been diligent about getting regular maintenance service done, you’re well ahead of most folks when it comes to maintaining heating oil efficiency during the winter.
But you shouldn’t stop there. Why not look beyond your heating oil boiler or heating oil furnace to find other ways to make your home as energy efficient as possible? With that in mind, here are some cost-effective ways to help you conserve energy during the cold winter months in Maine.
Here are steps you can take to stop cold air from getting into your home–and warm air from going out.
If you have a warm-air system (furnace), check your air filter regularly, cleaning or changing it when needed. A clogged, dirty filter robs your furnace of efficiency by making it overwork to keep your home warm. That means higher heating bills and more wear and tear on your furnace. The same principle about air filters applies in the summer if you have a central air conditioning system.
During the cold months, keep curtains and shades open in sun-exposed rooms to absorb all that free solar heat energy during the day. Don’t forget to close your shades and blinds at night so you can retain some of the heat you gained.
An open fireplace damper is like an open window; close it when you are not using your hearth so heated air doesn’t go up your chimney. You should also move any furniture, draperies, or rugs away from your radiators, baseboards, or heating vents. This helps improve air flow and keeps heat freely circulating into rooms.
Investing in a smart programmable thermostat pays off. You’ll save both time and money. When used correctly, a smart thermostat can pay for itself in just a short time. If you choose a Wi-Fi thermostat, you can control your home’s temperature from your smartphone.
In the winter, the optimal setting is 68°F when you’re at home. Program this setting down to the 60°F range when you’re asleep or out of the house. According to the U.S., Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting.
If you have any questions or concerns about staying warm in your home this winter, please reach out to your local Maine heating oil company. Read how your supplier can make your heating oil delivery easier and stress-free.
If your heating oil tank is located in your basement and you’re home when a driver makes his delivery, you’ll probably hear a whistling noise as your tank starts to fill up. Did you ever wonder why that happens?
Safety codes require that all indoor oil tanks with outside fill pipes have a vent alarm to prevent an overfill. This alarm is mandatory on any heating oil tank where the tank is not visible during filling, such as in a basement.
After your delivery driver arrives, he connects the hose from his oil truck to the fill pipe that connects to the basement tank and starts pumping in the oil. As heating oil flows into the tank, air is pushed back out through the vent pipe. As the air goes through the vent alarm–located between your tank and vent pipe–it makes a whistling sound. When the whistling stops, the tank is just about full.
Since your basement tank is out of sight from the driver, the vent alarm prevents overfilling and the possibility of a spill. Safety codes do not allow your heating oil company to deliver fuel to the indoor tank if the vent alarm is not working.
The ice and snow we all experience in Maine can turn an already tough job into a potentially hazardous one for heating oil delivery drivers. Maneuvering with a heavy hose while navigating slippery surfaces can be challenging. Sometimes, delivery drivers lose their footing and get injured.
You can help the driver stay safe and injury-free by keeping the path to your heating oil tank clear of snow and ice and removing any nearby obstacles, such as fallen branches.
It is also important to shovel or plow your driveway and keep it free of ice. Safety codes prohibit your heating oil company from parking an oil truck on an incline unless it is perfectly dry.
Marking the edges of your driveway makes it easier for delivery drivers to navigate. Remember, just because you can get your car down your driveway doesn’t mean a 15-ton heating oil truck can make it too.
To make winter deliveries easier and stress-free, ask your fuel supplier if they offer automatic heating oil delivery service. When you sign up for automatic delivery, your supplier will use your fuel-usage history and predictions for upcoming weather patterns to determine the most accurate time to deliver your heating oil.
You will no longer have to worry about checking your tank level and then calling for more fuel. Automatic delivery lowers the risk of a run-out, which saves you the hassle—and expense—of ever needing an emergency heating oil delivery, which also involves start-up service for your oil burner.
However, if you still prefer to call for your heating oil, you need to give your heating oil supplier extra time when conditions are harsh to avoid running out of fuel. It’s best to call in your order when your heating oil tank falls to the one-quarter mark.
If you have any questions about deliveries or your heating oil storage tank system, please reach out to your local Maine heating oil company.
If your heating oil boiler or heating oil furnace is 15-20 years old and repairs are becoming a frequent occurrence, consider replacing your heating system soon. This makes sense since the performance and reliability of heating equipment typically deteriorates after 15-20 years (sooner if maintenance has been neglected). Heating equipment also becomes outdated over time.
With better technology, a new high-efficiency heating oil system can often pay for itself within a relatively short period of time with the money you save each year on heating costs. After that, you can start adding up all of your energy savings!
At minimum, a new system should help you save up to 20% on your annual heating costs. (If you significantly improve system efficiency, savings can be even higher.) You’ll feel the difference in comfort too. You’ll also save on repairs because you’ll minimize the potential of a system breakdown, a common problem with old systems.
Besides the age of your heating oil system, here are other factors you should take into consideration.
If you’re not dealing with small, relatively easy and inexpensive repairs, it’s time to crunch some numbers. If the cost to repair your heating oil system is at least half the cost of replacement, it makes sense to invest in a replacement system.
An older heating oil system could be operating at around 70% efficiency levels—or even less. That means nearly one-third of the heat that’s generated for your home will get wasted. Compare that with new heating oil systems, which tend to operate at 85% efficiency or higher. If you can gain a lot in efficiency, it may be best to replace now and reap the energy cost savings in the years ahead.
Heating oil systems can have longer lifespans if the equipment has been properly installed and maintained. Regular preventive maintenance for every HVAC system is highly recommended. Proper maintenance may enable you to put off replacing your system for a few years; but do keep in mind that no amount of maintenance will make your equipment more efficient than it was when you first bought it.
Be aware that structural remodeling of your house (a room addition, finished basement, etc.) will likely affect the “load” of your HVAC systems – the amount of energy needed to keep your home comfortable. If you’ve done work to your house – or plan to – your heating system needs to be able meet the demands of a larger load. Your heating oil service provider or HVAC contractor can help you determine what size system is best for your home comfort.
When you weigh the costs and benefits of repairing or replacing older equipment with more efficient HVAC equipment, it’s clear that there are significant advantages to replacing an older system. So, when is a repair ever a viable option? Here are a few reasons.
Your home’s HVAC system should be considered a long-term investment whose components work together to ensure your comfort. Like any investment, you need to do your research to find the best way to spend your money. Read more about a new boiler or furnace installation.
When you replace your old heating oil system with a new one, you may be eligible for rebates and federal tax credits on qualifying high-efficiency heating oil systems. Remember, not only will you be adding value to your Maine home when you upgrade your system, you could also be cutting your annual heating costs by 20% or more. You’ll also continue to enjoy all of the benefits of clean-burning, highly efficient Bioheat® fuel.
Read about Maine heating oil rebates.
What do you call the fuel that your Maine heating oil company delivers to your home and pumps into your tank? Heating oil? Fuel oil? Maybe you just call it oil. Have you ever described it as Bioheat® fuel?
First, a lot of people tend to interchange heating oil with fuel oil when describing their home heating fuel. That’s perfectly fine, but be aware that the term fuel oil is not limited to home heating oil.
Fuel oil is a broader term because it refers to any petroleum product that can power a home heating system or an engine. For instance, diesel fuel is a good example of a fuel oil, as is gasoline.
Both fuel oil and hone heating oil are sourced from crude oil during the refining process, which separates crude oil into different “fractions” while removing impurities. The lighter fractions of crude oil eventually become propane, butane, and petrochemicals.
Slightly heavier fractions are used to produce gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel fuel, and No. 2 home heating oil. But that’s not all. There are also heavier fractions refined from crude oil that are transformed into No. 4 or No. 6 heating oils. These heavier grades of heating oil are commonly used to fuel the large heating systems found in commercial and industrial buildings, schools and hospitals.
Many heating oil companies, including those in Maine, now deliver Bioheat fuel—ultra-low sulfur heating oil blended with renewable biofuel.
The most refined grade of heating oil available, Bioheat fuel is one of the cleanest burning heating sources for your home. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly compared to the heating oil from the past and no changes to your existing heating oil system are necessary.
The biodiesel blend in Bioheat fuel is composed of various organic products, including vegetable oils, animal fats and even algae and wood waste.
Biodiesel is considered a biogenic fuel that eliminates carbon output. By contrast, when traditional fossil fuels that do not contain biodiesel are burned, they take carbon that was once stored in the soil and transfer 100% of that carbon into the atmosphere.
On the other hand, the combustion of biofuels and other biogenic energy sources recycles carbon-dioxide emissions through renewable plant materials and other biomass feedstocks. That’s why you’ll keep hearing a lot about net-zero carbon emissions and carbon neutral fuels in the years ahead.
Find out more about getting reliable heating oil delivery from your full-service Maine heating oil company.
Did you know that condensation can be a common problem for heating oil tanks during the summer? Hot and humid days, followed by cooler nights, create the perfect atmosphere for condensation buildup to form inside your tank. And if your storage tank is aboveground, outdoors and in an unshaded area, it’s especially vulnerable to condensation.
To avoid condensation build-up inside your storage tank, it’s best to keep your tank full during the warm months. Don’t worry, your heating oil won’t spoil or go bad if it sits in your tank unused for a couple of months. The average life span of home heating oil ranges between 18 and 24 months. In comparison, regular gasoline only has a shelf life of three to six months
After water forms on the bare walls on the empty area of the tank, it drips down and sinks to the bottom of the tank because water is denser than heating oil. There, it becomes an ideal environment for bacteria and other microorganisms.
Over time, these organisms turn into sediment. If ignored, this can result in corrosion inside your tank. Another problem is that sediment, also known as sludge, can get into your fuel lines and clog them. This will cause your heating system to shut down.
To make deliveries easier and stress-free for you, ask your heating oil company if they offer automatic heating oil delivery. This allows them to be accurate about your fuel needs so they can make a heating oil delivery. A delivery will be scheduled when your oil tank is about one-quarter full. This takes away the hassle of having to check your tank and order your fuel. It also lowers the risk and expense of running out of oil—and ensures you don’t go through summer with a near-empty tank.
There is no need to schedule and wait for deliveries, and you’ll avoid the expense and hassle of having your heating oil system tested and primed for restart, which needs to be done anytime a runout occurs.
Knowing you’re protecting your investment in a heating oil tank should give you plenty of motivation to get a summer fill. But there are other benefits to filling your heating oil tank now, rather than later.
If you call for your fuel and your tank is less than one-quarter full, reach out to your local Maine heating oil provider to schedule a heating oil delivery soon. After that, you can get back to enjoying some warm weather fun without worrying about your heating oil tank—or the heating oil inside of it.
Thinking about replacing your old oil tank? Learn about your options in new heating oil tanks.
You may already know about all of the positive changes taking place within the oilheat industry. If you’ve ever thought about switching fuels rather than upgrading to a modern, ultra-clean heating oil system, here’s a reminder about all you get when you rely on heating oil to keep your Maine home warm and safe.
The latest heating oil systems are small, smart and super-efficient and can save you about 20% or more on your annual heating costs.
Plus, the heating oil industry remains firmly committed to green energy solutions that not only protect the environment but also enhance comfort, convenience and savings for all heating oil consumers.
That’s why the industry has dedicated itself to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for heating oil by 2050. This means that your oil-heated home will have a carbon footprint of zero.
How is this possible? Many gallons of heating oil now delivered in Maine also feature Bioheat® fuel, a blend of traditional heating oil and renewable materials like vegetable oils, animal fats and recycled cooking oils. For anyone who wants to use Bioheat fuel, no changes to your existing heating oil system are necessary!
Another significant transition in heating oil has been the movement toward ultra-low sulfur heating oil. This refined fuel lowers maintenance, improves efficiency and reduces emissions from heating systems. Additionally, this cleaner burning fuel has also paved the way for the next generation of compact, super-efficient furnaces and boilers.
Did you know that heating oil cannot explode? The fuel that sits in your tank is as likely to explode as the water in your backyard swimming pool. It’s that safe.
Plus, with a heating oil tank on your property, you can always count on having a secure, on-site supply on your property. Heating oil is easily transported and handled by highly trained professionals, who use equipment and techniques that keep safety at the forefront.
Additionally, a heating oil system poses a very low risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If an oil burner malfunctions (most often due to a lack of maintenance), the safety devices in the unit will typically shut the oil furnace or oil boiler off.
Heating oil generates nearly 140,000 Btu of heat for every gallon burned and warms a home evenly and efficiently.
This is because the flame in a heating oil system burns much hotter than many other energy systems. This produces more heat and hotter air or water. So, when the outdoor temperatures are below freezing, that powerful heat output can help keep your home as cozy as ever.
Technology has also brought great improvements in heating oil equipment efficiency that has reduced annual fuel consumption by 20% or more. This has saved heating oil consumers a lot of money on fuel.
Today’s heating equipment regularly achieves efficiency levels of 85% or better. With the introduction of higher blends of Bioheat fuel, we will start to see more super high-efficiency systems available in the U.S. These systems will achieve efficiency levels of 90% or more!
See how much you can save right away with heating oil system rebates.
Finally, as an oilheat consumer, keep in mind that the cornerstone of the heating oil industry – outstanding customer service – cannot be topped. Learn more about how full-service companies do so much more than making reliable heating oil deliveries.
These days, everyone is searching for smart ways to save money. When it comes to figuring out how you can conserve on your heating oil usage next fall and winter, the key is to improve home energy efficiency.
One of the best things you can do is schedule an annual heating system tune-up with your heating oil equipment service provider.
Annual maintenance (also known as a tune-up), is typically recommended once a year. Not only does this ensure that your heating oil system is running properly, this preventive maintenance will ensure that the system is operating at peak efficiency. In fact, a tune-up can help reduce heating oil usage by 5-10%!
But why do this now, when Fall is so far away? Here are a few good reasons.
It’s great to be able to choose your appointment time when you call your local Maine heating oil service provider for a tune-up. At this time of year, you will have very few obstacles standing in your way of setting up a time of your choosing—and your provider will appreciate it!
When the weather is still warm, you won’t be competing with people having a heating emergency or system breakdown to get an appointment. However, once the temperatures drop again, service providers’ schedules fill up quickly with unexpected no-heat issues.
These emergency appointments always take priority over other appointments, so even if you have a tune-up scheduled for early winter and that’s all you need, you may find yourself getting “bumped.” By that point, it will be much harder for you to get a new appointment time—or at least one of your choosing.
This may come as a surprise, but tune-ups don’t “wear off” after a period of time so there’s no reason to delay it until cold weather arrives. If you get a tune-up on your oil furnace or oil boiler in the spring or summer, it will last until you need to use the heating unit through next fall and winter.
And if it turns out that you need a more serious heating repair or a new boiler or furnace installation. you’ll have time to make that happen before the season changes.
If you need a replacement system, your heating oil company can help you qualify for heating oil equipment rebates and take care of the whole process for you. Funds are limited for this program and rebates will be allotted on a first-come, first-served basis.
When you install new, high-efficiency heating oil equipment, not only will you use less fuel and save money, you’ll be doing your part to help the environment. Emissions from an old system that burns conventional heating oil can be significantly reduced by upgrading to a high-efficiency system that is powered by Bioheat® fuel with an ultra-low sulfur content. That’s the secret to why today’s oilheat is efficient and emissions are negligible. Bioheat fuel not only supports more efficient equipment, it also eliminates the source of many equipment breakdowns because it burns so cleanly.
Read more about improving efficiency and reducing emissions with a new boiler or furnace installation.
As you know, the price you pay for your heating oil in Maine can change quite a bit from year to year. Why does that happen?
It’s because the market price of oil is always tied to a variety of factors that are constantly changing. If you would like to view a long-term history of residential heating-oil prices in Maine and see how prices fluctuate, please go here.
As far as the reasons for energy price increases, there are many factors that cause energy prices (crude oil, fuel oil, natural gas, electricity, coal, propane, etc.) to rise and fall. These include:
Global crude oil prices soared to their highest point in eight years after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. As you probably know all too well by now, as the price of crude oil goes, so goes gasoline, heating oil and the many other products derived from it.
Prior to this, energy prices in all sectors—oil, propane, natural gas and electricity—had been on a steady rise because global oil production hadn’t yet caught up with the pent-up demand that quickly followed the perceived end of the pandemic.
Even before the war in Ukraine further accelerated price increases, frenetic consumer spending–combined with persistent supply shortages–had sent inflation rates in our country to their highest level in 40 years.
The only good news is that this shocking price spike occurred near the end of winter, instead of the beginning. And it’s also important to point out that for the most part, oil prices have remained fairly stable since 2014. You can view a heating oil price update from the U.S Energy Information Administration by going here.
As was noted before, global crude oil production hasn’t yet caught up with pent-up demand. Unfortunately, a simplified and misinformed solution to the production shortfall that’s regularly offered up by some pundits and politicians in the U.S. is that, “we just have to drill for more oil at home.”
First, even if the U.S. did drill for enough oil and keep it all here to gobble up for ourselves, that crude oil would still be tightly married to the global oil market—and beholden to whatever the world’s highest bidder is willing to pay for it.
This “solution” is also ignoring the fact that right now, oil companies are feeling enormous pressure to give up fast growth in favor of steadier profits and stock-boosting finance moves, such as higher dividends, more share buybacks and reduced debt. Read more about this here.
Investors have also been reading the tea leaves, and realize that a zero-carbon emissions world is not too far off in our future. Big money is holding back on fossil fuel investments as legislators try to move the country toward more renewable energy. Investors instead are looking to sink their money into long-term, profitable opportunities in the burgeoning green energy field. By the way, the heating oil industry is making excellent progress with making our fuel more dependent on renewable energy too. Read about the benefits Bioheat® fuel.
Another factor influencing oil companies is the memory of the breathtaking fall of crude oil prices during the early days of the pandemic. In the Spring of 2020, crude oil prices fell all the way to negative $30 per barrel! Traders had to pay buyers to take oil! Since then, however, prices have been steadily rising before they exploded in late February after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Could they drop that far again? Well, by mid-March, crude oil prices had begun to fall–but quickly took a U-turn and went up again as the situation in Ukraine remained unstable and the call for boycotts of Russian energy products picked up steam.
People sometimes misunderstand how negatively higher prices impact local fuel dealers. Heating oil companies don’t make more money when prices rise—they actually make less.
Think of it this way: it’s like when the cost of coffee, milk or orange juice rises. It’s not the local grocery store that is profiting. Heating oil customers have a harder time paying their bills. They reduce expenditures. Heating oil companies may need to tap into their lines of credit more. Phones light up with questions from customers. So, the sooner energy prices drop, the happier your heating oil company will be. In short, this is an awful mess for everyone.
In the meantime, please reach out to your heating oil supplier to find out ways they may be able to help you reduce your energy costs, or handle payments more easily.
Local, independently owned full-service heating oil companies in Maine work hard to ensure homeowners and businesses in the area get the best prices possible without compromising on quality, safety or environmental concerns. They also ensure you have the heating and home comfort experience you deserve in several other areas as well, regardless of what’s happening in the market.
We don’t know where things will go from here, but if history is a guide, we can expect to see prices drop pretty significantly in the not-too-distant future. If you would like to read the U.S. Department of Energy’s short-term energy outlook, please go here.
Nothing will make your local Maine heating oil company happier than when prices return to normal. Until then, trust your heating oil supplier to look out for you and let’s hope that—regardless of what happens with energy prices—we will soon be living in a more peaceful world.
Most Maine oilheat consumers recognize their heating oil company as a local, family-oriented company that goes above and beyond. That’s true whether it’s delivering heating oil, providing superior service, or taking extra care of their customers—especially during the winter.
An independent consumer survey once asked Maine homeowners who heat with oil whether they trusted their heating oil company or other energy providers more. Homeowners chose local heating oil dealers by almost a four-to-one margin!
Trust is the foundation on which your Maine heating oil company operates, and they are proud to have earned the confidence of so many customers. Consider your Maine heating oil company your energy savings partner who takes pride in delivering service with a personal touch.
If there’s a no-heat situation related to equipment failure, that’s when a certified heating oil service technician steps up to help. Often, they’re available 24 hours a day in the event of a customer emergency.
Being a service technician is a job that requires a high skill set, and Maine is fortunate to have the MEMA Technical Education Center (MTEC) in Brunswick. The nonprofit center is funded by members of the Maine Energy Marketers Association (MEMA).
The center is owned and operated by more than 300 Maine and New England member companies, who help to design educational programs, donate equipment, and hire graduates from the school they themselves fund. This means that almost all MTEC graduates get hired upon graduation.
Since its founding, MTEC has helped to jump start the careers of high school graduates as well as veterans transitioning to civilian life.
If you’re looking for a well-paying job in a very stable industry with a lot of room for growth, consider MTEC’s Oil Burner Technician Training program as an option.
In just six weeks, students earn a certification of completion. With this certificate, six months of on-the-job training, and successful passage of the State of Maine Journeyman’s exam, students will be qualified for the Journeyman Oil Burner License. The course is comprised of hands-on training in the lab, video-simulated operations, and classroom lecture and discussion
Students work on leading high-efficiency technology and equipment and learn the latest energy conservation practices being implemented by professionals in the field.
If you or someone you know is interested in exploring the rewarding career opportunities in the heating oil industry, please go here to learn more.