While there are many different situations that can cause your heating system to operate poorly–or not work at all—we’ll keep the focus of this blog on four common problems that occur a lot. Fortunately, these are usually easy and inexpensive to fix—or to avoid altogether.
Please note that in most cases, these tips apply to both heating oil furnaces and heating oil boilers. Not sure which type of heating system you have? Read Boiler vs. Furnace: What’s The Difference?
If your heat stops working and you’ve confirmed that there isn’t a power outage in your neighborhood, your next step should be to check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse. You also should check to see if the power switches to your boiler or furnace have been accidentally turned off
If you find that power switches for your heating system have been turned off by mistake, simply turn the electrical switches back to the “on” position and your problem may be solved. If only all solutions were that easy!
Typically, there is a power switch located on the side of the heating system or on a wall nearby. In addition, farther away, often at the top of the basement stairs, there is an emergency switch with a red cover plate that is labeled. People will sometimes turn this switch off by mistake, thinking it is the power switch for the basement light.
If your power switches are not the problem, check your circuit breaker box to see if all circuit switches are still in the “on” position. Flipping the proper switch to on again may be all you need to get your system running again.
However, please keep this in mind: a circuit breaker rarely ever trips for no reason. If this happens once and never happens again, it may be just a fluke. But if this happens more than once, contact a heating oil service professional, as this could indicate a serious problem.
Many instances of heating systems not working can be traced to the thermostat, whose job it is to send a signal to your oil boiler or oil furnace to call for heat. But this signal may be interrupted if the wiring of the thermostat has begun to deteriorate. A build-up of dust inside your thermostat is another common reason why your thermostat is not operating correctly. Another thing to look for are weak batteries in the thermostat.
If you have a warm-air oil furnace, change or clean the filter on a regular basis during the heating season. Dust and dirt are the natural enemies of your furnace; a dirty filter compromises efficiency and can even cause your furnace to shut down.
If you have a steam oil boiler, check the water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause for boiler shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be flushed when the water in the gauge looks rusty. Contact your Massachusetts heating oil company if you’re not familiar with this procedure. You can also watch this quick video.
If you have a hot water oil boiler, make sure the water level of the boiler is at half-full. The boiler’s automatic filling system, controlled by the pressure-reducing valve, should maintain the proper water level at 12 to 15 psi of pressure.
And of course, you should always schedule preventive maintenance from your heating oil service provider so you don’t have to worry about your furnace or boiler breaking down during the winter. Annual service will also improve efficiency, helping you to conserve fuel.
If you call to order your fuel, make sure to check your heating oil tank regularly—especially in the middle of a cold snap. You should not let your oil tank fall below the ¼ mark. To prevent run-outs, see if your heating oil company offers automatic delivery service, which is designed to prevent run-outs.
If you have questions or any problems with your heating oil system, please reach out to your Massachusetts heating oil service provider.
In recent years, Massachusetts homeowners have heard about the commonwealth’s plans to reduce carbon emissions. The Clean Energy and Climate Plan proposes the replacement of one million natural gas, propane gas, and oil-fired residential heating systems with electric heat pumps by 2030 to help reduce carbon emissions.
But there are some fundamental questions and doubts about the feasibility of the plan, including the ability of the electric grid to handle the added electricity load of such a massive conversion to heat pumps.
Massachusetts fuel companies are already leading the way on sustainability with Bioheat® fuel, a clean-burning blend of ultra-low-sulfur heating oil and biofuel/biodiesel produced with recycled and organic materials such as animal fats, used cooking oil, and soybeans. Biofuel must meet rigid production specifications and it is a “drop-in” fuel that requires little or no heating system modifications
Biofuel offers a responsible, immediate path for carbon reduction. Biofuels reduce CO2 emissions by 76% to 86% over traditional petroleum heating oil. The fuel also helps eliminate sulfur oxides and particulate matter, which contribute to climate change problems and health issues.
The heating oil industry is on pace to achieve the same 2050 carbon-reduction goals as Massachusetts’ Decarbonization Roadmap — without saddling homeowners with unnecessary and expensive conversions to other energy sources.
Homeowners are using Bioheat fuel today across Massachusetts. It can be utilized with existing oil-fired equipment and is as economical as traditional heating oil. Bioheat fuel burns so cleanly, it is helping homeowners save money on system maintenance.
Nationwide, some three billion gallons of biofuel were consumed last year, and biofuel use is expected to exceed six billion gallons by 2030. This will eliminate over 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions annually. That is excellent news for the environment! Read more.
As we look for more ways to decarbonize our economy, Bioheat fuel is leading the way in Massachusetts and across the country. For more information about Bioheat fuel, please go here.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are close to solving a problem that could make biofuel production even more eco-friendly.
To reduce the carbon intensity of biofuel production, researchers wanted to find a way to break down cellulosic biomass found in straw, switchgrass, and unused parts of corn. The problem is that when you extract fermentable sugars from this biomass, you generate chemical compounds that kill the yeast cells needed to make biofuel.
So, MIT researchers developed a yeast strain with a more durable cellular membrane that could withstand these compounds and convert them into ethanol. The results of their study were stellar – with this heartier yeast, they improved fuel ethanol creation in five cellulosic biomass types by 80%!
This study is extremely exciting. It could move biofuel generation away from more carbon-intensive plants like corn and toward less intensive feedstocks that would otherwise go unused. It’s another example of how research is driving innovation in biofuel. Scientific advances make the product that heats your home cleaner and more sustainable every day!
With all of this good news about the positive benefits of using various organic products like switch grass as a biofuel crop, you might wonder where home heating oil stands. Don’t worry. Not only is today’s heating oil environmentally friendly but it’s also a vital part of America’s progress toward reaching net-zero carbon emissions.
Advanced heating fuels like Bioheat® fuel combine ultra-low-sulfur heating oil and biodiesel, composed of organic products like used cooking oil, tallow, fats, and algae. Produced in the United States, it is one of the cleanest-burning energy sources.
Biodiesel is a gallon-for-gallon substitute for petroleum-based fuels. Widespread regional use of Bioheat fuel annually prevents more than 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of removing 320,000 vehicles from the road.
Plus, homes that heat with energy-efficient Bioheat fuel use less energy overall. Right now, and in the years ahead, you should feel great about heating your Massachusetts home with renewable heating oil!
You can learn more about Bioheat fuel here.
Like any piece of equipment, your heating oil boiler will eventually have to be replaced one day. Here are five signs that will help you determine if a replacement system is in order.
Well-designed and properly maintained boilers can last 20 years or more. But why should you hold onto an aging, fuel-guzzling monster that is constantly demanding you feed it more and more oil? This costs a lot of money! You’ll save money on your annual heating costs by replacing your aging boiler with a new, more efficient system. New oil boilers heat your home using significantly less energy compared to older generation equipment. But more on that later in this blog.
Just like your water heater, if you see outward signs of rust on your boiler, its time is running out. A professional inspection may also reveal damage to piping or other boiler components.
Is your old boiler keeping you warm enough? A properly working heating oil boiler should keep you comfortable even on the coldest Massachusetts nights, but a boiler’s operating performance diminishes with the passage of time.
Your boiler’s efficiency slowly degrades the older it gets. Lower efficiency means higher heating costs and things get even more painful when you mix in today’s high heating fuel costs. Add in a higher number of repairs for an old system and this is another strong sign that you would do well to let go of your old oil boiler and upgrade to a new one.
If you depend on your boiler to heat your domestic hot water—and you’re not getting as much hot water as before–this could be a sign of a leaking or corroded coil on the boiler, a warning of potential boiler failure.
The latest oil boilers—along with modern oil furnaces–are small, smart, and super-efficient and can save you 20% or more on your annual heating costs. There are many different equipment options to fit your budget and your local heating oil company has expertise in all types and models of heating oil equipment.
According to the National Oilheat Research Alliance, homeowners now need about 700 gallons less oil to heat their homes each year than they needed in the 1980s. That’s because new, high-efficiency heating systems feature enhanced technology and control capabilities to provide optimal comfort while decreasing energy costs. Another popular feature of modern, high-efficiency heating systems is that they operate significantly quieter than old heaters.
In contrast, heating systems from the “old days” were built with thick metal components that do a poor job at transferring heat. Unfortunately, many of these systems are still in use today and people who hang on to them pay so much more to heat their home than someone who has upgraded their heating oil system in the past few years.
Despite this potential for big savings, many people don’t bother to update their heating system until something major goes wrong. They don’t realize that a new, high-efficiency system could actually pay for itself in a fairly short period of time.
The combination of continually improving ultra-low sulfur Bioheat® fuel with increasingly efficient heating oil systems is the 1-2 punch that will help homeowners save significant money on their heating bills. At the same time, their oil-heated homes will be on the path to becoming carbon-neutral.
To get started on the road to energy savings, reach out to your local heating oil service provider and they’ll be glad to crunch some numbers for you. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much you could save.
Now is an ideal time to make some home improvements, especially in terms of raising your home’s energy efficiency levels.
Besides partnering with your home heating oil company to replace low-efficiency heating equipment and schedule heating system maintenance before the fall, do your own self-audit to find areas where you can make improvements. Here are some suggestions:
Caulk any air leaks around exterior doors and windows. While you’re at it, replace door weatherstripping that might have worn away.
Also, consider hiring an expert to evaluate the insulation levels in your home. Most homes are under-insulated, especially in the attic. Adding enough insulation to meet recommended R-values is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your home’s overall efficiency and comfort. Read the Energy Department’s Guide to Home Insulation.
Using ceiling fans will help you feel cooler in the summer even with your thermostat set at a higher temperature. You can also use them during the winter to push down warm air trapped near the ceiling, which means you can use less heating oil and still stay warm.
You can reduce your hot water use by as much as 50% without affecting shower pressure. Make sure you also scrub away mineral deposits on your showerhead from time to time to prevent clogs.
Studies show that about nine out of ten people say they’ve rarely or never programmed their thermostats because they’re not sure how to do it. That’s a shame, considering that managing the temperature of your home is one of the easiest ways to save energy and lower both heating and cooling expenses. (Tip: Spend a little time watching “how-to” videos online).
Once you’re more comfortable programming your thermostat, follow this advice. In the spring and summer, the U.S. Energy Department recommends setting your central air conditioning system to 78°F when you’re at home. Program your A/C system to shut off 20-30 minutes before you leave home each day; return the temperature setting to normal comfort levels 20 to 30 minutes before you come home.
In the winter, the optimal setting is 68°F when you’re at home. Dial it down toward the 60°F range when you’re asleep or out of the house. The temperatures you ultimately choose will depend on factors like the outdoor temperature and your family’s comfort preferences. Remember, these are just guidelines.
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, getting one is a smart move. When used correctly, it will 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.
If you have a forced-air system (one with vents rather than radiators or baseboards), the most important self-maintenance task you have is to check your air filters regularly, cleaning or changing them when needed. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Clogged filters rob your furnace of efficiency by making it overwork to keep you warm; that means higher heating bills and more wear and tear on your equipment. Note: the same principle about air filters applies if you have a central air conditioning system in your home.
If you have an older steam boiler, check the water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause for boiler shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be “flushed” when the water in the gauge looks rusty. If you have a modern hot water boiler, the boiler’s automatic filling system should maintain the proper water level.
To learn about how you can positively impact your home’s energy efficiency through upgrades to systems like high-efficiency heating oil boilers and heating oil furnaces, please go here.
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.
This latest news seemed as if an unseen force somewhere was taking pleasure in piling on more misery for consumers already exhausted by two years of surviving a pandemic. 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. You can view a heating oil price update from the U.S Energy Information Administration by going here.
You can also check out the history of heating oil prices in Massachusetts here.
So how did we get here and where are we going now?
As was noted before, global crude oil production hasn’t yet caught up with pent-up demand. So, why can’t we just drill for more oil at home?
It’s not that simple. 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 awaiting us in the future with Bioheat® fuel.
When prices spike like this, people tend to think that their local heating oil company makes more money. In fact, the opposite is true. Customers cut back on fuel use, and they have trouble paying their bills. Meanwhile, heating oil companies have to pay their suppliers within a few days at much higher rates. Supply chain issues remain a big challenge to overcome. It’s an awful mess for everyone.
Although your local heating oil company cannot control world energy prices, they do have some ways to make things a little easier. Consider your Massachusetts heating-oil company your energy-saving partner.
During the heating season, your full-service heating-oil company will always maintain and ensure an ample supply of fuel to make sure you stay warm and safe.
Your local heating-oil company may be able to make life easier with automatic deliveries of fuel so that you don’t have to worry about calling for deliveries or running out of fuel when you need it the most.
To take away any worries about the normal ebb and flow of oil prices, contact your heating-oil company. Many companies offer programs designed to save you money and keep your heating bills manageable—no matter what happens with world oil prices or heating-oil prices in Massachusetts.
Rest assured, your Massachusetts heating oil supplier will do everything possible to ensure that they can make deliveries—no matter the cost or difficulty they face.
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 Massachusetts 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.
As with oil boilers and oil furnaces, periodic storage tank inspections can help you ward off problems with your fuel storage system and extend its life. But eventually there will come a time when it makes sense to upgrade with a new storage tank.
Beyond vast improvements in fuel quality, you should know that there have been many advances in heating oil equipment, including oil storage tanks. Designed with corrosion-resistant materials, today’s tanks can last for decades. Plus, new technology allows for remote monitoring to protect against the rare event of a leak and guarantees that you will always have a sufficient supply of heating oil on hand.
If your oil tank is more than 30 years old, it’s a good idea to speak with your local heating oil company about your replacement options.
There have been big improvements in heating-oil tanks over the years. One of the most important is double-walled construction with an outside layer of corrosion-proof galvanized steel. This keeps the chance of a costly leak to a minimum. Other innovations include:
As with a water heater, it can be hard to see when a heating oil tank is failing, because it usually corrodes from the inside out.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get regular, professional tank inspections done on your oil tank. You should also do your own visual inspections periodically, because some trouble signs can be seen, including:
Other warning signs that your tank may need to be replaced:
Here’s another reason for tank failure: condensation. When there is a lot of empty space in an oil tank during the spring and summer, condensation can form along the inside walls. This turns into sediment later, and, if ignored, can result in corrosion.
TIP: To avoid condensation from forming, you should keep your oil tank full during the warm-weather months.
If you notice any trouble signs with your heating-oil storage tank, you should reach out to your local Massachusetts heating oil company for assistance and advice.
There is no longer any doubt that Bioheat® fuel—a blend of renewable biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur heating oil—represents a smart solution for the delivery of a better, clean-burning fuel for your home and the environment.
Heating oil companies in Massachusetts understand that Bioheat fuel blends represent the future. Some companies that started off delivering Bioheat® fuel blends as little as 2% (known as B2) have now moved up to a B20 blend. Even the largest heating oil distributor in the country has made a commitment to deliver Bioheat fuel.
In some cases, forward-thinking companies with the necessary resources now deliver a B50 blend, while a few have even begun delivering 100% renewable B100 Bioheat fuel.
Today, more than 125 production plants around the country make biodiesel. The United States biodiesel industry produces about three billion gallons of biodiesel now.
Increased production isn’t just about achieving a cleaner environment. It’s about building a stronger economy too. The biodiesel industry supports nearly 60,000 jobs and generates billions of dollars in GDP, household income and tax revenues.
Transitioning to Bioheat fuel is a win-win situation: it’s been proven to reduce emissions because it is a low-carbon heating —and it doesn’t require any expensive system upgrades in your home.
The biodiesel blend in Bioheat fuel is composed of various organic products, including vegetable oils, animal fats and even algae. New studies have also shown the viability of using various grasses for the production of biofuel.
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 stored in soil and put 100% of that carbon into the atmosphere.
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 in the years ahead.
The heating oil industry in Massachusetts—and around the country—have committed to supporting a decarbonization strategy.
In fact, the industry has set broad goals for transitioning heating oil supply to higher blends of clean-burning, renewable Bioheat fuel.
Reaching a 50% biodiesel blend (B50) by 2030 would line up with many of the carbon-reduction targets being set by local and state governments.
You can read more about Bioheat fuel here.
Most people refer to their heating oil system as “a furnace.” As in, “I need to get my furnace repaired.” But there is another type of oil heating system that may be keeping you warm right now–except it gets much less name recognition. When was the last time you heard someone say, “I need to get my boiler repaired??
In other words, your heating oil system can either be a furnace or a boiler. Both of these heating units will keep you warm, but there is some information you should know that may come in handy if a problem arises. If it’s something minor, you may be able to correct it yourself. And if you need to discuss something with a heating oil service technician, you will at least have a working knowledge of how your heating system operates.
A furnace refers to the heating unit in a warm air, or forced air, system. After the air is heated in the furnace, a blower forces it through ducts. The warm air is then released through vents or registers in your home.
If you have a hot water (hydronic) system, water circulates around your boiler’s combustion chamber. A circulator pumps the hot water through pipes to heat baseboards or radiators. Eventually, the water returns to the unit to begin the cycle again. If you have a steam system, the boiler turns the water into steam, which then rises through pipes to radiators.
Read more about furnaces and boilers.
If you think it’s time to replace your old furnace or boiler, please contact your heating oil company about your options. Today’s oil boilers and oil furnaces offer homeowners a great opportunity to increase their comfort while decreasing their energy usage.
New systems now heat your home using significantly less energy compared to older generation equipment. Energy-efficient equipment can be installed with controls to use only as much fuel as needed to heat your home or a specific part of your home.
If you want to take advantage of today’s energy-efficient heating oil systems, your heating oil service company can work with you to design a new heating system that fits your Massachusetts home and your budget. Contact your local company this spring to get an estimate on the cost to replace your boiler or furnace.
AFUE, an acronym for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, is a type of energy efficiency rating used for furnaces and boilers, including those fueled by heating oil. The AFUE number—usually found on a yellow sticker attached to your heating system—represents how much of the fuel your equipment consumes is being directed toward producing heat for your living space.
For example, in a heating unit with an 85% AFUE unit, 85% of the fuel consumed by the heating system goes toward heating your home; the remaining 15% is lost in the combustion process—usually getting wasted up the chimney.
Another way to think about AFUE is to consider it in terms of the dollars you spend on fuel. In an 85% AFUE furnace, 85 cents of every dollar go toward heating your home. But if your oil-powered furnace or boiler is old and not well maintained, your actual AFUE could drop into the 60s or even 50s. This is a big reason why the decision to upgrade your heating equipment often pays for itself fairly quickly.
Today’s advanced equipment operates with improved efficiency, so you use less energy to keep your home comfortable. You’ll also see savings on maintenance and repairs when you update your system.
Knowing the AFUE rating remains an important bit of information when it comes time to invest in new high-efficiency home heating equipment. Of course, AFUE doesn’t tell the whole efficiency story – proper heating system installation and periodic heating system maintenance are also extremely important pieces of the equation, as are several other factors.
So, while efficiency ratings can be a good general starting point, it’s important to remember that the tests to determine AFUE are all done in a laboratory. Efficiency performance is only as good as your installer. Equipment needs to be installed to the manufacturer’s specifications so you can get the best performance and value for your investment.
Only a full-service heating oil company can escort you through the process that results in an ideal home comfort solution. That’s because everyone from the equipment service manager to the technicians to the installation team is a certified expert.
Don’t wait until your system fails on the coldest day of winter! Start doing your homework now by contacting your full-service heating oil company about your options in new heating oil equipment. Read more about oil boilers and oil furnaces.