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Homeowner's guide to:

Heating Oil Deliveries


For residences heated with home heating oil, a.k.a "#2 heating oil" or “fuel oil,” heat is one of a homeowner’s biggest annual expenses. Therefore, finding the best price is important: pennies saved per gallon add up to thousands of dollars of savings over a home’s lifetime. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the process of ordering heating oil deliveries in your area that find the right balance between price and convenience that best fit your family’s needs.

Heating Oil Dealers

Unlike utility monopolies such as your electric company or cable company, where you have only a single choice of provider, home heating oil is delivered by 2,000+ dealers (SUSB Annual Data Tables , US Census Bureau) competing for you as a client. This competition benefits homeowners by driving heating oil prices down, and driving quality and customer service up.

Heating oil companies generally fit into one of two categories.

Heating Oil Dealer Categories

  • "Discount" (a.k.a. COD Fuel, Will Call, or Cash Heating Oil)
  • "Full Service"

Discount Heating Oil Companies

a.k.a. “COD fuel” or “Cash Heating Oil“

In the same way that JetBlue is able to offer high quality flights at low prices by eliminating frills like free meals and checked luggage, discount oil companies offer the best prices for high quality heating oil by eliminating frills and focusing on prompt, efficient delivery.

Discount fuel oil dealers are lean oil delivery machines that have eliminated costly expenses that full-service oil companies need to charge a premium in order to afford, for example: teams of salespeople visiting customer homes, newspaper and direct mail ad campaigns, expensive software packages, etc.

Buying #2 heating oil from a discount oil company is as easy as buying gas for your car: when your heating oil gauge says you’re running low, you place an oil order. Typically, orders are delivered the following business day, but many companies will juggle their schedules to make a same-day delivery if you’ve run out of oil or are running dangerously low. Luckily, unlike your car which needs gas every week (or more!), your home heating oil tank is large and only needs 3-4 fill-ups per year.

Heating oil company types

Buying Discount Heating Oil

Discount oil companies tend not to have web-sites or ads, so the easiest way to order discount fuel oil is to use an online heating oil marketplace such as the Heat Fleet iOS app, Android app, or the website to compare prices and place orders. Because discount heating oil companies adjust their prices daily (sometimes cutting prices midday to fill up the next day’s delivery schedule), it’s rare that one company will consistently offer the best price. Online heating oil marketplaces compare prices of multiple dealers, saving you the hassle of making multiple phone calls to get quotes each time you order oil.

How often should I check my oil gauge?

  • Summer: Every two months
  • Spring/Fall: Once a month
  • Winter: Every week and before storms and after severe cold fronts
Buying Discount Heating Oil

Boiler Service & Maintenance

Because discount oil companies don’t maintain in-house service technicians, it’s good to establish a relationship with a professional, dependable boiler service company to call if you run into any unscheduled maintenance issues. Hiring a heating & cooling service company to conduct an annual boiler tune-up will keep your boiler running at peak efficiency, reduce the probability your boiler will require unscheduled service during a severe cold front, and ensure that the company is already familiar with your system in the event you need emergency service.

Full Service Heating Oil Companies

If savings is not your priority and you prefer a “set-it-and-forget-it” heating system, a “full service” heating oil company is for you. Full-service oil dealers charge premium prices, and in turn, provide homeowners with a diverse array of convenience-focused delivery plans, pricing plans, and payment plans.

Full-service Pricing & Payment Plans

  • Automatic delivery: if you sign a 1-year delivery contract, the oil company tracks your oil consumption and automatically makes heating oil deliveries when their software estimates you are running low.
  • Bundled service & maintenance: full-service companies bundle oil delivery contracts with 1-year boiler service contracts. (Purchasing oil with a dicsount oil company requires using a separate company for boiler service).
  • Pricing Plans: full service companies offer “fixed price” and “price cap” pricing plans, which cost more per-gallon, but limit your risk in the event that oil prices steeply spike up.
  • Payment Plans: Because all of a home’s #2 heating oil deliveries are clustered in the winter, a home’s annual oil expenses are concentrated in a very short period of time, which can disrupt a household’s finances. Full-service oil companies offer payment plans where oil consumption is estimated, and billing is evenly portioned out over each of the 12 months of the year.

Finding the right full-service oil company

A full-service oil companies generally has a significant web presence, with customer reviews on sites such as Google and Yelp. Because buying from a full-service company involves signing up for a long-term contract, and because you will be relying on that company in the event of an emergency heating outage, it is very important to review customer ratings and reviews to make sure that you’re selecting a professional, dependable company rather than focusing exclusively on price. An oil contract is like a one year marriage: if you jump into it, you might find yourself in the cold, out of oil or with a broken boiler, and have neither legal recourse nor a way of getting a refound.

Placing Your First Order With A New Company

Before your first delivery, you can help your heating oil company by informing them of your tank location, tank size, and the fill-pipe location.

Oil Tank Location

Most homes’ oil tanks are installed in the basement, some homes’ oil tanks are outside, and a few homes have tanks buried underground. If you’re unsure, look in the basement, and then outside along the perimeter of the house. If you still haven’t found your tank, search the yard for a buried tank’s fill pipe (see “Fill Location” section, below).

Oil Tank Size

New oil tanks have a nameplate on the side of the tank that displays tank capacity. Older tanks are often missing the nameplate. Most homes have a single 275-gallon oil tank, but a variety of tank sizes and combinations exist, and different size tanks resemble each other, but have slightly different dimensions. If the size is not written on the tank itself, use this Tank Size Guide to figure out what you have.

Oil Fill-Pipe Location

While not necessary, you can help make your first oil delivery quick and efficient by relaying to the oil company: (i) which side of the house your fill-pipe is located on, and (ii) any distinctive landmarks the pipe is adjacent to (e.g. “under the bay window”).

Basement tank

Fill pipe projects out of the house and is mounted to an exterior wall.

Outdoor above-ground tank

Fill-pipe is located on top of the tank.

Underground/buried tank

Fill pipe is in the yard, either flush with the lawn or protruding a few inches up.

Oil Delivery

Because your fuel oil fill pipe is located outside, you generally do not need to be home for the oil delivery. A few exceptions where you do need to meet the oil delivery driver are: (a) if you choose to pay by cash/check, (b) if your boiler has run out of oil and needs to be manually primed and restarted.

Heating oil is delivered to your home by a small tanker truck that’s equipped with a metered oil pump (similar to the meter at a gas station pump that counts the gallons). Oil truck meters are verified annually by government inspector.

Planning for snow: When you expect an oil delivery on a snowy day, ensure your driveway is plowed and a path is shoveled to your oil fill pipe.

When the tanker truck arrives, the driver pulls the fuel hose to your fill-pipe, screws the hose-valve to the fill-pipe to establish an air-tight seal, and engages the truck’s fuel-pump, which dispenses 1-2 gallons of oil per second.