criteria to choose a heating oil supplier?
July 24, 2009 7:08 PM   Subscribe

Choosing a supplier for oil heating in north-of-Boston; first time homeowner, and first acquaintance with oil furnace. Lots of companies sent us fliers when we bought the house, but what are the criteria for choosing one of them?

Yes, I know it's summer, and heat is the last thing on people's minds right now. When we purchased our first house (in Beverly MA) last spring, it came with about 1/4 tank of oil but I'd like to get it refilled before fall.

If I call up a fuel oil supplier to evaluate them, are there questions I should ask? Or is this as simple as choosing which gas station in town I feel like filling up my car at (with the added commitment of using their fuel all winter)?

And then I see a report like this about disreputable scammy suppliers. I recognized the name, as they stood out from the stack of mailings we got by coming to my house about 3 times to drop off ads and letters in person, which kind of creeped me out - but with no other knowledge I might have called them anyway because their price was quite low. How do I avoid crap like that? Yelp doesn't really cover oil companies, and I'm not a member of Angie's List.

Aside from price per gallon, what should I be looking for in a service?

What does an oil supplier do, besides deliver oil? Are they the person who takes care of the furnace (checkups, repairs, maintenance) or do I get somebody else to check the machinery?
posted by aimedwander to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Most companies will (in addition to delivering your oil) offer a "service package" that usually includes a yearly cleaning/checkup. Probably your best bet would be to poll your neighbors and see who they're happy with. Your local government might have a consumer affairs office that licenses or rates oil companies, and there's always the Better Business Bureau. (Which in my experience doesn't actually do much, but you can look up a name and see if there are a lot of complaints.)

Aside from that, learn from my mistake: I picked Suburban Propane (which also handles oil) and, in an attempt to not kill myself with heating bills, chose "on demand" service--meaning no scheduled deliveries, I just keep an eye on the tank gauge and call them when I need some. I picked them because their customer service person made it all seem very simple. (Ha.) Now, what they neglected to tell me is that they only delivered to my neighborhood twice a month, meaning my "on demand" service effectively would become a scheduled monthly delivery. I discovered this, naturally, in the middle of winter, when it was 10 degrees outside and a quarter-tank would've lasted about 12 hours. After I kicked SubPro to the curb, I went with the company the previous homeowners had used, one that is all over the neighborhood all the time. No further problems. So yeah, ask the neighbors.
posted by scratch at 7:26 PM on July 24, 2009

I recommend joining Mass Energy's bulk-purchase program. Previously and previously.
posted by mkb at 3:40 AM on July 25, 2009

Well, from my experience up here in the great North, you want to ask them about their policies on locking in a low rate for fuel. If, for some reason, oil goes up to $5/g, you definitely want to be locked into that $1.97/g(or whatever). Of course, if they plummet to $.88/g, caveat emptor.

What is the minimum amount they will deliver? For me, 50 gallons minimum means that they care about you freezing your ass off. Some of the bigger companies have the 100/g minimum, and that's fine, but winter is expensive. When I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, being delivered 50 gallons of oil instead of being told to go eff myself was quite refreshing :)

Do they deliver 24/7? Only on Thursdays in your area? Only if other customers in your area are due for their oil?

IMO, the smaller oil companies want your business, and they act like it.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:57 AM on July 25, 2009

Get a company that also provides 24/7 service, and that takes a check. Nothing like having to find an ATM in a hurry to pay the burner service guy on a Sunday. All the oil is the same, so get the cheapest price, excluding anybody you don't trust. .05/gallon adds up. Oil furnace needs a checkup annually.

I saved a lot by not locking in the price the last 2 years, but it's a crapshoot.
posted by theora55 at 10:30 AM on July 25, 2009

Excellent advice, all of you!

It hadn't even occurred to me that some might take cash only - what a pain in the butt. I guess I'll be looking for frequent delivery, as well.

I'll probably start with Mass Energy.

Thank you all!
posted by aimedwander at 4:45 PM on July 25, 2009

mkb linked to my question regarding MassEnergy; we went with it and are very pleased.
posted by dreamphone at 4:47 PM on July 26, 2009

« Older Re-purposing found butcher block wood.   |   European split beds? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.