We are all very conscious of gasoline prices and most of us know within a few cents what a gallon of gas costs us on any given day. We also have a good sense as to which stations have higher and lower prices. Some of us may even drive out of our way to save a few cents a gallon.
Unfortunately, in my experience as a consumer columnist, most heating oil customers rarely think about comparison shopping when it comes to their oil purchases. Too many just simply stick with their oil dealer in the mistaken belief that there is not a big difference in what companies charge, or worry that switching dealers could leave them in the cold.
The reality is that it’s more important to know what the price of heating oil is than gasoline because the average family uses more oil than gasoline. And there is a wide spread between the highest and lowest priced oil retailers, frequently more than a $1 a gallon difference.
While it takes a little more work to learn what the fair price of heating oil is in any particular week, if you have a computer, itâ€™s a snap.
The first place one should go to is the State of Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management website www.ct.gov/opm and go to the Energy Management segment, where you will find all the up-to-date data for retail and wholesale oil prices as well as average propane prices in Connecticut.
When I checked on Thursday for Hartford County, the spread between the lowest and highest price was from $2.05 and $3.49, with the average price being $2.39. So you know if you are paying $3.49 a gallon, you are being hosed. In fact, $3.49 a gallon is the most charged anywhere in Connecticut and $2.05 was the lowest.
There are two heating oil buyers’ clubs that you might want to check out, both with full-service oil companies: Pinergy, at www.pinergy.org, and Citizen’s Oil Co-op, at www.oilco-op.com. Pinergy’s phone number is 860-833-4832 and Citizen’s is 860-561-6011. I have yet to receive a complaint against either one in the four years I have been a consumer watchdog.
According to Pinergy’s website on Thursday, it was charging $2.469 a gallon. Citizen’s charges between $2.40 and $2.45 this week.
Something to keep in mind as the winter winds down (can’t happen soon enough), don’t let your supplier fill up your tank at the end of the season.
Why? Because oil prices will probably be the highest at that point. You are probably much better off waiting until the middle of summer to fill your tank.
While we are on the subject of heating oil, make regular checks of your oil tank to make sure it isn’t leaking. If you have an old oil tank, you might consider either getting insurance to cover the cost of a leak – which could cost thousands of dollars – or consider having your tank replaced. I will be writing a separate column on this issue later.
Social Security Secrets Series
Those of us who are getting close to 62 – or like me just got there – have a major decision to make: when to start collecting Social Security.
Until last summer when I got fired by The Courant for refusing to be nice to key advertisers, I hadn’t done much research on this issue.
Now, the more I learn, the more I realize that it’s very complex, especially if you are married. If you are earning at the maximum level, the decision on whether to start collecting your Social Security benefits at 62 or at 70 could make a $400,000 difference over your life.
To give you some idea of the factors, I have started a video series on my website – CtWatchdog.com – called Social Security Secrets. Check it out. Itâ€™s a topic we will examine in more detail, along with whether you should convert your IRA to a Roth IRA – both crucial issues.
- Save Money On Heating Oil, Compare Prices
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- Memorial Weekend Gasoline: Plentiful And Cheapest In Two Years For Start Of Summer
- Save Money On Heating Oil By Comparing Prices
- Connecticut Heating Oil and Propane Price Comparison web sites
- Save On Heating Oil: Check Out Citizen’s Oil Coop In Connecticut