Tuesday, September 20, 2011

As Weather Cools, Seek Smart Bargains On Heating Oil By: Asa Aarons

As the weather gets colder, consumers should be mindful of what they’ll be paying for heating oil. NY1's Consumer Watch reporter Asa Aarons filed the following report. 

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It's almost hard to imagine, but snow-covered scenes will soon be common and consumers will have the usual questions about heating oil prices.
Traditionally, a prepaid agreement with a price cap was the standard advice to home owners. During the winter of 2008, a drastic drop in price caused thousands of customers to cry foul and blame the supplier for overcharging them even though it was a price they agreed to.
Many oil companies went out of business. Others stopped offering price lock contracts.

This led to an increasingly popular way to buy oil: cash on delivery.
“The number one question is what are the prices going to be doing this year, and nobody really knows the answer to that question. I do want to stress one thing: don’t lock into a price,” says John Franco of Codfuel.com.
Franco runs a for-profit website that monitors heating oil prices by the minute. Put in a zip code and gain instant access to who is selling nearby and for how much.

Many of these companies offer service contracts to clean and fix boilers ala-carte. A number have no minimums.

One doesn’t have to fill up in a month like December when money is tight.
Finding the best heating oil bargain will require some research.
“The best thing you can do for yourself right now is log in and check the daily prices. Sometimes they change multiple times a day. Every time you go on, prices will be current,” says Franco.