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Heating Fuel Deliveries

What’s the Energy Co-op’s policy on spring deliveries?

We don’t deliver oil or kerosene to our members when they don’t want it. Some oil dealers fill their customers’ tanks in the spring, no questions asked. We don’t. If there’s any question about whether you need a spring delivery, we’ll call to check before bringing your oil or kerosene.
Keep in mind, however, that there are good reasons to have your oil tank filled in the spring, especially if it’s an outside tank. Water condenses from the air in oil tanks during the summer and over the years this increases sludge levels in your tank and can lead to corrosion. Full tanks contain less air; less air means less water in your tank.

Off course, if you use oil to for your hot water, you need deliveries year-round, not just in the heating season.

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When does the Energy Co-op charge a trip fee?

If you call us for deliveries, run out of oil and need a delivery right away, we will make a delivery for you. We charge a $150 trip fee to cover the costs of going out of our way to deliver your heating fuel.
If you’re on automatic delivery, you don’t have to keep an eye on your oil tank. And you don’t have to call for a delivery. We’re responsible for making sure you don’t run out of oil. If despite our best efforts, you do run out of oil, and it’s our fault, we deliver your oil or kerosene right way – and give you a $50 account credit.

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What can I do to help your oil truck drivers after a big snow storm?

Our drivers work hard through all kinds of winter weather. After a big snow storm, their job becomes very difficult. They have to pull a heavy oil hose through deep snow and then try to locate the fill pipe to your oil tank – which may be buried under a pile of snow that has fallen off your roof! If you’re able to clear a path to your fill pipe – and uncover the pipe – it makes a huge difference. Our job is to make sure that we deliver oil to everyone who needs it when their tanks are about one third full. After a heavy snow fall, you can help us do our job. And we really, really appreciate it.

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How accurate are oil tank gauges?

Oil tank gauges are not very accurate, especially if they’re old. These gauges work off a float and, over the years, the float absorbs oil, becomes heavier and sinks below the oil surface. So the reading on your gauge is inaccurate – and you often have more oil in your tank than the gauge shows. By all means, call us if your gauge reads a quarter or less – but don’t be too surprised if our computer is more reliable at tracking your oil use than the gauge on your tank!

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Heating Oil Prices

What do you think will happen with fuel prices this year?

That’s anyone’s guess. As much as we wish we could predict whether prices will go up or down, it’s just not possible. Consider that just before heating oil prices plummeted in 2008, many so-called experts were predicting that prices would continue to rise. More recently, few "experts" were predicting that crude oil prices wiould fall to below $30 a barrel in late 2015. Looking back, someone is always right; looking forward, no-one knows who that will be. However, with our price protection plans you know that you’ll be protected from sky high prices.

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I’ve seen prices that are lower than yours. Why is that?

There are always going to be companies that charge more or less than we do (we tend to fall in the lower third). When comparing prices, it’s important to compare apples to apples and to look at the benefits you get from each dealer.

First, does the oil dealer offer 24/7 service, or do they just make fuel deliveries, leaving you to fend for yourself when your furnace or boiler stops running? Do they have a good service plan for your heating equipment? Does the plan include priority service, an annual tune-up, and discounts on repairs and replacements? Does the oil dealer offer the convenience of budget plans? And the benefits of price protection? Do they offer automatic bill payment? Are they advertising a special “introductory” price which doesn’t apply in the winter when you use the most heating oil? Do they deliver top quality, ultra low sulfur heating oil? Or dirtier, high sulfur fuel? Are they locally owned, or part of a large, out-of-state company? Will they help you use less oil not more? Do they supply local, renewable fuels, like wood pellets?  Do they offer energy audits to help their customers make their homes more comfortable and energy efficient?

Remember, when you’re a member of the Energy Co-op, you receive top notch service, dependable fuel deliveries at attractive prices and much, much more.

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Heating Service

What temperature should I set my thermostat?

It’s up to you. In the winter, most people are comfortable with a setting of 68° to 72°. At night, or when no-one is home, you’ll save energy if you turn your thermostat down to 55° - 60°. If your home isn’t comfortable - even with your thermostat as high as 72° - you may need an energy audit in order to figure out how to make your home more comfortable and lower your energy bills.

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What are the benefits of an energy audit?

An energy audit will show you how to make your home more comfortable and where you’ll get the best returns on your investment in energy efficiency. Perhaps there are drafts that can be reduced? Or areas that need more insulation? An old furnace that can’t keep up with our cold winters any more? Or places where moisture is getting into your home? You’ll get solutions to these problems and many more with an energy audit.

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What are the advantages of a programmable thermostat?

Because they are electronic, programmable thermostats are more accurate and efficient than the old familiar clock thermostats. Plus, they allow you to automatically control the temperature in your home at different times of day without ever touching your thermostat. You don’t have to remember to turn the thermostat down at night or when you leave. And if your schedule changes, you can easily override the programmed settings to keep your home warm and toasty.

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How often should I change the air filter in my furnace?

The Energy Co-op of Vermont recommends replacing or cleaning the air filter on your furnace once a month during the winter. This will help your heating system operate at peak efficiency, improve indoor air quality, ensure proper air flow and keep your home free from dust, allergens and germs.

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Where is my air filter located?

Your air filter should be located in either the blower compartment of the furnace, in an attached filter case, or in a return air grille in a wall or ceiling of your home. If you cannot find the air filter, our service technician will be happy to show you where it is located and how to change it during your next annual tune-up.

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Where can I purchase air filters?

Most hardware stores carry a large selection. They are inexpensive, so buy several at a time to make sure you always have one on hand when needed.

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Is it OK to hit the re-set button to get my furnace up and running?

Only a couple of times. If this doesn’t start your furnace, call the Energy Co-op of Vermont and we’ll get a service technician out right away. If you keep hitting the re-set button over and over, your furnace may start eventually – with a loud bang from the accumulated fuel.

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What is priority service for Guardian Plan members?

It’s pretty simple. When it’s really cold, we get lots of “no heat” calls. Many Co-op members need our services. If you have signed up for the Co-op Guardian plan, however, and you call with a “no heat” emergency, you get bumped to the front of the line for service. It’s like walking into a crowded restaurant with a filled seating area, requesting the next open table – and getting it!

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How do I know whether to replace or repair my heating equipment?

We can’t give you a definite answer to this question. It’s a bit like trying to decide when to replace your car. Here are some things to consider:

  • How old is your furnace or boiler? If it’s more than 15 years old, you should think about replacement because new equipment is much mores efficient than old equipment.

  • What is the history of your heating equipment? Has it needed frequent repairs? Is it noisy? Has it been well maintained or somewhat neglected over the years?

  • Are there any rebates or tax credits available to help offset the cost of new equipment? Is attractive financing available? What is the payback from an investment in new high efficiency equipment?

  • Does your current system provide the level of comfort that you want in your home?

  • How much will repairs cost…and how many more will you need in the future? Is keeping an old system running worth the time, money and inconvenience?

Sometimes it's hard to know what to do. When you work with the Energy Co-op, however, we will guide you to the best solution for your home and your budget. Therre is no charge for site visits, estimates and recommendations. And no-one at the the Energy Co-op is on commission - so we won't sell you something you don't need.

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What should I look for when choosing a new heating system?

Here are some general things to keep in mind:

  • Choose an equipment manufacturer with a good reputation for quality and durability. Consumer Reports may be helpful.
  • Choose a high efficiency system for a more comfortable home and lower heating bills.
  • Make sure that your new equipment is correctly sized for your home and climate.
  • Ask if your money is best spent on new heating equipment or something like adding insulation, sealing air leaks or other efficiency improvements.
  • Finally, choose a reliable company for your installation. Talk to your friends and neighbors.

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How much does a new heating system cost?

We can only answer this question by visiting your home, learning about your needs and completing a thorough assessment of your existing heating equipment. The good news is that there’s no charge for this service. Simply contact Joe Cobb (802) 860-4090,,  to schedule a site visit.

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Price Protection Plans

When are the Energy Co-op's price protection plans available?

Co-op members may enroll in our price protection plans each year from early July through the end of October.

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Is price protection worthwhile?

Generally, it works in our members’ favor. When we looked at average prices over the past five years, here’s what we found:

  • Price protection (our pre-buy or Smart Choice plans) was the best choice in three years out of five.
  • In the other two years, our cash price (paying for each oil delivery within 10 days) produced the lowest average price.

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Which price protection plan is the best?

There is no one type of plan that always works out the best, but no matter what you decide, you can count on us to follow through on our promises, and to stand behind our plans. Choose the plan that best matches your situation and your concerns – and call us with your questions, especially when you’re deciding which plan is right for you.

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What are you recommending to your members this year?

Your heating fuel purchase decisions should be based on your personal situation, and whichever option makes you feel most comfortable. Many people like our Smart Choice plan because it gives them protection whether prices go up or down. And both our Smart Choice and Easy Pay plans make your fuel bills easier to manage by spreading them evenly over eight to eleven months.

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Are all oil dealers’ price protection plans similar?

There are really only two kinds of price protection; those that fix your price and those that set a ceiling (often known as a cap) on the price you pay and also allow your price to drop if market prices go down. Payment methods for fixed and capped price programs include pre-buys (payment in full in advance) and budgets (monthly payments for 8 to 12 months).

When you purchase price protection, you should make that decision based not just on what could happen to prices, or on the actual fixed or capped price that different companies offer, but also on the integrity and reputation of the oil dealer. Over the years, some companies have gone out of business after making very attractive price protection offers. The decision about which dealer you use to protect your oil price is even more important than which plan you choose.

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Are price protection programs regulated?

Yes. Vermont law (9 V.S.A.§2461e) requires oil dealers to have contracts with their suppliers for at least 75% of the heating oil they sell to their customers. We are also required to have written contracts with our members setting out our terms and conditions in plain language.

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What’s the difference between a fixed price plan and a cap price plan?

With a fixed price plan, your fuel price is fixed at one set price throughout the heating season. If prices go up, that’s great. However, if they go down, you’re stuck. You have already committed to pay a certain price and you can’t benefit from a price drop.

When you are enrolled in our Smart Choice plan, your price is guaranteed not to rise above a set “cap price” no matter how much fuel prices rise. And because this program also includes downside protection, if prices go down, you’ll benefit, because your price will drop, too.

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Would I be better off waiting to see if prices drop?

It's impossible for us to say. No one knows if prices will drop or surge higher over the next few months. It depends on international events that are beyond anyone's control. It's up to you to decide what to do - and we would be happy to discuss your options. It may be helpful to think about two scenarios. Which would be harder for you?

  • You don't sign up for price protection and prices go up, or
  • You sign up for a pre-buy plan and prices go down?

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Budget Plans

When are the Energy Co-op's Easy Pay plans available?

Members may enroll in our Easy Pay plans for heating oil, kerosene and wood pellets from July through October each year. These plans end on May 31st the following year.

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What’s the difference between your Easy Pay and Smart Choice plans?

Our Easy Pay and Smart Choice plans are both budget plans. Instead of paying for each delivery, you make the same monthly payments for eight to eleven months, ending in May each year. Our Easy Pay plans do not include price protection; our Smart Choice plan comes with a cap price.

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How do you figure my monthly Easy Pay payments?

To calculate your monthly Easy Pay payments, we use your fuel delivery record from the previous year to estimate the number of gallons you will probably use during the next heating season. We multiply the number of gallons by an estimated price per gallon. We then spread this total amount out into equal monthly payments. That way, you won’t get hit with two or three huge bills in winter. Even if you get two deliveries in one month, you'll still get one low monthly bill.

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Can my monthly payment amount change?

Yes, it can. Remember that your monthly payment is based on estimated use. If you use more or less oil than our estimates, we may adjust your payments accordingly. You might add new insulation, and use less oil. An especially cold winter might mean you're using more oil than usual. We adjust monthly payments, as needed, in either January or February each year.

Also, if fuel prices rise more than 25 cents a gallon through the early winter, we may need to adjust monthly payments for our Easy Pay plans.

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Cap Price Plans

When is the Energy Co-op's cap price plan available?

Members may enroll in our Smart Choice plan for heating oil - with a cap price and monthly payments - from July through October each year. Our Smart Choice plans end on May 31st the following year.

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What is your Smart Choice plan?

Our Smart Choice plan places a cap on how high your price can rise, and because it includes downside protection, anytime our daily price drops during the season, you pay the lower price. Here’s an example of how the cap price works. You sign up for our Smart Choice plan with a cap price of $2.89, say. When we deliver your heating oil, if our daily price is $3.29 – you pay $2.89. And if our daily price is $2.59 when we deliver your heating oil, that’s the price you pay.

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Am I guaranteed to save money with your Smart Choice plan?

Not necessarily. If prices rise above your cap and stay there, this program could pay off for you in a big way. If prices go down you benefit as well, because you’ll pay our daily price, which will reflect this drop. But if prices remain stable or only go above the cap briefly, you won’t recover your “price protection fee.” Most members who choose our Smart Choice plan select this option because it gives them some protection when the oil markets become volatile.

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Why is there a price protection fee for your Smart Choice plan?

As you might expect, our suppliers charge us a premium for offering the “insurance” that keeps your heating oil price from skyrocketing and, at the same time, lets us lower your price when market prices fall. We pass this cost along to our members on our Smart Choice plan. We do not make any money on this fee. We simply pass our cost on to our members who want the protection provided by a cap price.

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How is the price protection fee determined?

Our suppliers set the cost for this "insurance" depending on the volatility in the market and how far into the future we are looking. Market volatility varies year by year, as do our price protection costs. We calculate your price protection fee based on your expected heating oil use and our cost, currently about 25 cents a gallon. This is a one-time cost that is included in your first month’s payment. It is non-refundable.

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How do you figure my monthly Smart Choice payments?

We use your fuel delivery record from the previous year to estimate the number of gallons you will probably use during the next heating season. We multiply the number of gallons by an estimated price per gallon. Then we add in your price protection fee, which is about 25 cents a gallon. We then spread out this total amount – heating oil plus price protection - into equal monthly payments. This way, you don’t get hit with two or three huge bills in winter. Even if you get two deliveries in one month, you'll still get one low monthly bill.

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Can my monthly payment amount change?

Yes, it can. Remember that your monthly payment is based on estimated use. If you use more or less oil than our estimates, we may adjust your payments accordingly. You might add new insulation, and use less oil. An especially cold winter may increase your oil use. We adjust monthly payments, as needed, in either January or February each year.

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When do I need to sign up for your Smart Choice plan?

You may sign up anytime between July and October. Because heating oil prices change daily, we cannot guarantee that our cap price will be the same next week as it is today. It could move higher or lower.

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Fixed Price Plans

When are the Energy Co-op's fixed price plans available?

Members may enroll in our fixed price, pre-buy plan for heating oil from early July through October each year. This plan ends on May 31st the following year.

Our Early Buy plan for wood pellets is available from early April through May or June each year.

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What is the Energy Co-op’s fixed price pre-buy plan?

We offer a fixed price pre-buy plan for heating oil. Members may enroll in this plan on our web site from early July through October each year. Our pre-buy plans end on May 31st of the following year. The minimum purchase is 400 gallons, which is paid in advance. Our fixed price is always lower than our cap price.

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What is the advantage of a pre-buy plan?

It provides certainty during volatile times. If you like certainty, our pre-buy plan works best. No matter how high – or low – oil prices go, your price for the gallons that you pre-buy won’t change. Our pre-buy plan has a minimum purchase of 400 gallons.

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Is there a risk to signing a pre-buy contract?

Yes, absolutely. We have learned several times over the years, that while prices can skyrocket up, they can also go down by large amounts. If you pre-buy when prices are high, you will be stuck at the higher rate. There will be nothing we can do. Of course, because you have a fixed price, you are protected if prices go above the pre-buy price you paid for your oil.

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What if I change my mind?

You can’t. After your pre-buy agreement goes into force, we can’t refund your purchase because we will have secured your heating oil from our suppliers. They don’t allow us to get out of our agreement with them.

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What happens if I use less oil than the amount I pre-buy?

It's up to you - as long as you take delivery of at least 75% of your pre-buy oil.  At the end of the season any unused pre-buy gallons become a dollar credit on your account. 
You can put this credit towards future oil deliveries or price protection plans, or you can get a refund - whatever works best for you.

When you pre-buy your oil, we agree to buy that specific amount of oil from our suppliers at a set price. As a result, you are responsible for taking delivery of at least 75% of your pre-buy oil. If you don’t, the Co-op reserves the right to retain 60 cents a gallon on the undelivered gallons.

Here’s an example: A Co-op member pre-buys 1,000 gallons but takes delivery of only 600 gallons (60%). The Co-op has the right to retain $240 to cover its costs (400 gallons x $0.60 = $240. So please be clear about how much oil you really want to pre-buy.

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What happens if I use more oil than the amount I pre-buy?

Once we have delivered all your pre-buy oil, future deliveries are at our daily price. This may be above or below your pre-buy price.

Some of our members choose to buy less oil than they will need for the whole year. When that’s used up, they pay our regular daily price. This gives them some protection against rising prices, but also allows them to benefit if prices drop later in the season.

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Is there another way to get price protection?

Yes, there is. Many Co-op members sign up for our Smart Choice plan with monthly payments and a cap price. There's no large upfront payment. During the season, your price cannot go above our cap, but it will also drop if the market falls. So you're covered either way.
We are charged a fee from our suppliers for this "flexible protection" and so we must pass that along to you. It costs 25 cents per gallon, which we charge as soon as you sign up. However, we allow you to pay the fee over 8 to 11 months. Keep in mind that prices have risen and fallen more than a dollar up and down in two of the last five years, so downside protection is definitely valuable.

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Member: Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Renewable Energy Vermont, Local First Vermont

© 2008–2017 Energy Co-op of Vermont, 73 Prim Rd., Ste. 3., Colchester VT 05446 | Tel: (802) 860-4090 - Toll Free: (866) 626-4328 - Fax: (802) 951-9157