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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
   
Q: How do I know which fuel source is best for my home heating needs?

Q: Isn’t natural gas more reliable than oil heat?

Q: How does an electric heat pump compare with an oil furnace?

Q: Isn’t a tank full of heating oil dangerous to have in my home?

Q: What about underground tank leaks? Aren't they a big problem? And isn't the cleanup really expensive?

Q: Is there assistance if my oil tank leaks?

Q: When is a good time to replace my oil tank?

Q: Isn’t heating oil dirty? Doesn’t it smell?

Q: Why shouldn’t I take advantage of a great offer to convert from oil heat to natural gas or electric?

Q: Which fuel is better for my home’s resale value?

Q: Shouldn’t I just choose the heating fuel that costs least?

Q: Is any fuel source leading the way in advanced, earth-friendly technologies?

Q: How can I determine the age of my heating system? /

Q: Can I use oil to heat my water?

Q: What is that whistling noise I hear when my tank is being filled?

Q: Does it cost me more to pay my bills monthly instead of paying for each delivery?

Q: Can I get government help to pay my heating oil bills?

Q: How can I cut my energy costs?
   
Q: How do I know which fuel source is best for my home heating needs?
A: Review this website thoroughly and other sites you trust, and then come to your own conclusion. In North Carolina, we like oil heat because it’s been more affordable than natural gas and electric heat for most of the past 20 years. In many cases, heating oil is kinder to the environment, and it’s much less combustible.  There’s also a big difference in the personal attention you receive from heating oil dealers vs. other fuel sources.  Heating oil is delivered by a local dealer who comes right to your home. Natural gas or electric heat is delivered to you by a faceless corporation, which, for the most part, only visits your home in the form of complex bills with multiple and mysterious add-on charges.
According to a survey that found 95% of oil heat consumers were satisfied with their fuel source, personal service from their dealer was the most valuable benefit, along with safety and comfort.
Source: National Oilheat Research Alliance, 2002.
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Q: Isn’t natural gas more reliable than oil heat?
A: Quite the opposite. Natural gas can ignite and explode readily; heating oil does not. Heating oil is stored in a tank and used over time, making it as available to you as food in your pantry.  Plus, your energy supply is right on your property with heating oil.  You never have to worry about rolling brownouts, or supply disruptions from the utilities.
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Q: How does an electric heat pump compare with an oil furnace?
A: The average output temperature of an electric heat pump is only 95˚. Your body temperature is higher than that. The average heat output of an oil furnace, however, is 120˚ or higher. Because its heat output is at least 25% warmer than an electric heat pump, an oil furnace will keep your home warmer and more comfortable.  This is especially helpful during those cold winter nights. And, in the summer, oil furnaces are fully compatible with electric central air conditioning systems.  You’ll also save money when you heat with oil instead of electricity.  Click here to see for yourself.  In North Carolina, oil furnaces can save you a substantial amount of money compared with an electric heat pump used as a primary heat source.
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Q: Isn’t a tank full of heating oil dangerous to have in my home?
A: No. Leaks are so rare that residential storage tanks are not regulated by the U.S. government. In the rare instance of a leak, heating oil will not ignite, explode or release hazardous fumes—like natural gas can. Heating oil must be hotter than 140˚F and vaporized before it will ignite. A match dropped directly into it would have no effect, and the match would go out. (However, we are NOT recommending that you try this!)
Compared with a safe, stable storage tank full of heating oil, natural gas is much more dangerous. You have read, no doubt, about explosions from gas main leaks that have leveled entire buildings. And natural gas heating systems are the leading cause of carbon monoxide fatalities in the United States.
For additional information on oil tank issues we suggest visiting the site NCoilheat.org.
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Q: What about underground tank leaks? Aren't they a big problem? And isn't the cleanup really expensive?
A: Contrary to popular belief, the frequency of releases from all underground storage tanks containing home heating oil is well below 1%. And the average cost of an underground tank leak cleanup is only $9,000-$10,000. Now here's the really good news. Every North Carolina homeowner with an underground tank is protected by the NC Leaking Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Fund. This will cover the cost - up to $1,000,000 - of any underground tank leaks. So you can rest assured knowing that underground tank leaks are extremely rare, and when they do occur, are covered by the Tank Fund.
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Q: Is there assistance if my oil tank leaks?
A: In the very rare event of an underground tank leak, North Carolina homeowners are covered by the North Carolina Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Fund. This fund will cover the cost for the assessment and environmental cleanup costs associated with tank leaks. What’s more is there are no additional fees or costs to access funding. For complete details, contact the Department of Environment & Natural Resources in your area.
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Q: When is a good time to replace my oil tank?
A: There are many factors that can affect your decision, and your best bet for specialized, expert advice is to contact your local oil dealer. But here are a few general rules. If you have an underground tank that is pushing 40 years old, it may be a good time to consider upgrading. If your tank is aboveground, you can more easily determine the tank’s condition by “eye-balling” it. For expert advice, contact your local dealer.
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Q: Isn’t heating oil dirty? Doesn’t it smell?
A: Modern, well-maintained oil heat systems burn cleanly and efficiently.  In fact, today’s systems are 95% cleaner than the best systems of the 1970s.  Today’s systems are 99.9% clean, and emit no indoor air pollution.  That means that for every few hundred gallons of oil burned, less than seven ounces of waste is produced.  Plus, a properly functioning system will not emit an order. If you smell anything, that means the system may be out of adjustment. If the system is burning properly, you will not smell a thing.
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Q: Why shouldn’t I take advantage of a great offer to convert from oil heat to natural gas or electric?
A: Because that “great offer” really isn’t so great. A discounted heating system a utility company offers you may not be as energy efficient as you assume. Or the high-efficiency system you really want might cost much more. You’ll also have to remove your oil tank and absorb the cost of any remaining oil. You may also need to install a chimney liner, buy a new water heater, spend money on plumbing and electrical work, and pay license fees (if required). And you’ll still need to pay for your new heating system’s installation. A “great offer” could end up costing you far more than you bargained for.  In addition, most homeowners never recoup the cost of conversion over the lifetime of the system.  That’s why the Consumer Energy Council of America (CECA) calls switching fuels “an expensive gamble” and recommends against it.
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Q: Which fuel is better for my home’s resale value?
A: The fuel your heating system uses has a minimal effect on the value of your home compared with the system’s age and efficiency. In fact, you can increase your home’s resale value by upgrading to the best, high-efficiency oil heating system available. Ask your heating oil company for more information and recommendations.
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Q: Shouldn’t I just choose the heating fuel that costs least?
A: Heating oil and natural gas generally follow similar pricing patterns.  In the last six years, electric heat has cost approximately $1,000 more to heat a North Carolina home.  It’s important to realize that price data from natural gas companies and government sources are often based only on the “supply cost.” The amount the natural gas utility charges you, however, includes add-on fees, such as “delivery charges,” “seasonal adjustments,” “system benefits charges” and “weather normalization adjustments.” These charges can make up more than 25% of a natural gas bill. With heating oil, you get one simple easy-to-understand price.
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Q: Is any fuel source leading the way in advanced, earth-friendly technologies?
A: Oil heat has been “going green” with advances in both equipment and fuel.  How many industries do you know that has spent decades developing new technologies to help you use less of their product?  Plus, there have been fuel developments that include making heating oil more renewable by combining it with biofuels from plant-based oils such as soybean oil and others. Oil heating systems can use many of these fuels with no equipment modifications. Advances like these can make heating oil a partially renewable fuel source, with potential for even greater gains in the future.  In contrast, production of natural gas remains 100% dependent on fossil fuels.  We are excited about having biofuels available in North Carolina soon.
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Q: How can I determine the age of my heating system?
A: Check for a serial number; sometimes the date is in it. Also look for an installation tag or label, which may have been attached on the date of installation. Or ask your oil heat dealer.
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Q: Can I use oil to heat my water?
A: Yes. Oil-fired water heaters offer a low-cost means to abundant amounts of hot water. That’s one of the most attractive benefits of using oil for heating water. Another is that oil-fired water heaters can heat water five times faster than electric units, and cut your water heating costs by hundreds of dollars
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Q: What is that whistling noise I hear when my tank is being filled?
A: vent pipe releasing air from the tank as it is filled. Basement tanks are required to have a vent alarm to indicate when the tank is full.
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Q: Does it cost me more to pay my bills monthly instead of paying for each delivery?
A: No. Many oil dealers let you spread out your payments over the year, so you are not hit with larger seasonal bills. You only pay for the fuel you actually receive, and there are no finance charges. You don’t use more oil and you don’t pay more per gallon. Your dealer estimates your annual fuel bill by multiplying your normal fuel usage by a given year’s projected fuel prices. This number is then divided into lower monthly payments. If the original estimate proves too high or too low, your account is adjusted.
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Q: Can I get government help to pay my heating oil bills?

A: Possibly, depending on factors such as income, age and other eligibility requirements. You may qualify for help from the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federal program that is administered through state agencies. Learn more at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/
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Q: How can I cut my energy costs?

A: There are many things you can do to lower your energy costs.  In fact, we’ve got energy and money saving tips for all seasons.  Click here for some great ideas on ways to become more energy-efficient.
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