heating oil for an old house
October 18, 2010 6:28 AM   Subscribe

I live in the Maryland suburbs of DC, and I recently bought a old house here (Mt Rainier). The house is heated with radiators and heating oil, and I need to refill the oil (there was only about 5 gallons left from the seller). Any suggestions on where and who to have refill the oil? It's my first time doing this.
posted by waylaid to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I have gas heat in Takoma Park, but I would be happy to ask on our neighborhood listserv about oil deliverers if you don't get any good answers here.

In general, for this type of question, I cannot recommend enough the neighborhood email list. I would be surprised if Mt. Ranier does not have one. If you have trouble finding out about it, I would go to GLUT and ask, I would imagine they would know.
posted by OmieWise at 6:57 AM on October 18, 2010

If you are that low, you might just want to use whoever provided the oil before, so you don't run out. After that, you can shop around for bargains. One time we switched, and it was a clusterfuck because they wanted to inspect the entire set-up, and insisted on making changes... lines, tank etc, etc. This could be the case with yours, especially if it is an older house and system. It probably is a good idea to get a thorough inspection, but you don't want to be put in a situation where you have no choice. Congrats on your new home !
posted by lobstah at 6:59 AM on October 18, 2010

Welcome to the neighborhood (I'm just across the line). Seconding Omie about both the Mt. Rainier list serve (if there isn't one, there is always the Brookland, DC yahoo one) and asking at the Glut. Also you could ask around at the Saturday farmer's market too.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:31 AM on October 18, 2010

I don't live in Maryland anymore but I do have years of experience with heating oil, alas. I'd recommend just googling home heating oil delivery in your area and getting on the phone and calling a few companies. You will be surprised at how much the prices can vary. As lobstah says, you need to do this ASAP, because if you run out completely - which you will; five gallons is nothing, like a day's supply - you're almost certainly going to have to have a furnace guy come out to reset your furnace and that's an expensive PITA. You may want to do that anyway to be on the safe side because once you get that low in a tank you could well be dealing with really old sludge which will screw up your furnace like you would not believe.

I would also suggest getting a keep full contract going with someone - that's where they just come by every month and top off your tank. A contract is a lot easier to manage on both a budget and a convenience level than just buying oil. If you don't have a contract and are just going to buy oil then be aware that they will generally not sell you less than 100 gallons at a time. As a rule of thumb, I never let my tank fall below about 20 gallons.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2010

mygothlaundry has it. Call around, make sure you never run out (a contract is an easy way to do that) and keep an eye on the levels.

I don't recommend Petro. They were expensive, pushy and I had a heck of a time getting them to cancel my contract. It took many phone calls.
posted by QIbHom at 11:50 AM on October 18, 2010

Is there a reason you haven't just asked your neighbors? Chances are they have the same type of heating because all of the homes in a neighborhood are around the same age and can provide several referrals.
posted by echo0720 at 7:53 PM on October 18, 2010

Thanks fo rthe thoughts. I did post to the listserv, and a few people recommended Griffith. I haven't asked the neighbors, mostly cause I'm embarassed!
posted by waylaid at 11:12 PM on October 18, 2010

For what it's worth, I do see the Griffith's truck around the neighborhood quite a bit.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:47 AM on October 19, 2010

I grew up in a house with oil heat and had one of my own for several years.

HAVE THE SYSTEM INSPECTED! You do not want to have to deal with the possibility of leakage. It ends up being a toxic waste issue (as in, $$$). You really want to know whether that tank is rusting out. Unless it's brand new you can't assume anything about it.

It's generally a really BAD IDEA to let an oil heated tank get that low. You end up pulling whatever sludge is in the bottom up into the system, likely to gunk it up. And if it goes totally dry then many systems have to be primed manually again. A messy job and potentially dangerous if done wrong. It's not hard to do, but systems vary enough to make it problematic to give useful advice.

I concur with the suggestion to call around for pricing. There can be quite a lot of variation. Also check into 'new customer' breaks for setting up automatic delivery. Some companies used to offer this (but it's been a while since I had an oil furnace).

If your system is more than 15 years old and it needs any sort of work you'd really do well to consider replacing it. Modern gas fired systems are a LOT more efficient.
posted by wkearney99 at 5:25 PM on October 22, 2010

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