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Common Questions about Bioheat Fuel

bio fuel new yorkThere is no longer any doubt that Bioheat fuel represents a smart solution for the delivery of a better, clean-burning fuel for your home and our environment. With awareness—and curiosity–growing about this remarkable, renewable fuel, we’ve tried to answer the most common questions we’ve been hearing from oil heat consumers in the Hudson Valley.

The Making of Bioheat® Fuel

Bioheat fuel is a blend of ultra-low sulfur heating oil with renewable biodiesel that’s made from organic and recycled products. These products can range from soybean oil, used cooking oils, and inedible corn oil to canola, tallow, fats, and algae.

These renewable products are defined as feedstocks for producing biodiesel. Blends of biodiesel in heating oil are designated in percentages. For example, a 5% blend of biodiesel is defined as B5. B10 refers to a 10% blend, while B20 is a 20% blend.

Can Bioheat Fuel Save Me Money?

Yes. Bioheat fuel burns more cleanly and more efficiently than conventional heating oil. So, you’ll be using less heat to get the same amount of warmth, and your heating system will last longer. You’ll also likely find that you need fewer repairs on your system. You may also be able to extend the time between system maintenance services. All of this amounts to savings!

Is Biofuel the Same Thing as Bioheat Fuel?

No. Biofuel is a broad term that can include various products including not only biodiesel, but ethanol, renewable hydrocarbon diesel, and raw vegetable oil known as RVO or LR100. It’s important to note that raw vegetable oil does not meet industry specifications; it is not biodiesel or Bioheat fuel and it is not suitable for home heating oil use.

Is Bioheat fuel made in the U.S.?

Yes. Bioheat fuel is domestically made and helps our economy by helping meet our nation’s energy needs without incurring the cost of new land use or drilling, or paying premium prices for imported fuels.

The U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel industry now support about 65,000 U.S. jobs and more than $17 billion in economic activity each year.

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. Expect those numbers to get even more impressive as biodiesel takes us farther along the road to clean energy.

Do I Need to Replace My Equipment to Use Bioheat Fuel?

No. Most major heating system manufacturers accept Bioheat fuel as covered under their warranties for use, and you won’t need to make any changes to your furnace, boiler, or oil storage tank to use it. Performance standards for Bioheat fuel have been approved by ASTM International, an organization that sets industry standards for fuels and lubricants.

Learn more about Bioheat® Fuel and then contact your heating oil dealer.

Lowering Carbon Emissions in the Hudson Valley

heating oil carbon emissions new yorkBioheat® fuel is an affordable home energy source that’s making an impact right now on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for our climate. Its efficiency and cleanliness are leading us on a bright path to a carbon-neutral future that is not too far away. 

Here’s just one example of how Bioheat fuel is making an impact. Just two heating oil retailers in New England displaced nearly 1.5 million gallons of heating oil with approved Bioheat fuel in the first half of 2020. Doing this resulted in an 80% reduction in GHG emissions, compared to traditional heating oil.

For the heating oil industry to achieve its stated 2023 goal of 15% fewer emissions, the standard Bioheat fuel blend will need to be in the 20% range. There are already many heating oil companies in the Northeast that are delivering Bioheat fuel at this level. Some are even delivering blends as high as 50% (B50 Bioheat SuperPlus™ fuel)

Pathway to the Future

Thanks to research and development being spearheaded by the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), heating oil is being made more cleanly and efficiently than before.

The overall goal is to transition to even higher levels of Bioheat fuel, which will further reduce the carbon footprint and actually turn heating oil into a carbon-neutral energy source.

During a meeting at the Northeast Industry Summit in 2019, the entire Northeast heating oil industry resolved to achieve a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2023, a 40% reduction by 2030, and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Where Does Bioheat Fuel Come From?

The biodiesel that’s blended with ultra-low sulfur heating oil to create Bioheat fuel is a gallon-for-gallon substitute for petroleum-based fuels, which have a higher carbon intensity. By 2030, it’s estimated that biodiesel will displace 529 million gallons of heating oil.

Biodiesel, a non-toxic, degradable renewable liquid fuel, is generally produced from agricultural byproducts, including used cooking oil, animal fats, inedible corn oil, soybean oil and canola oil.

This puts excess oil and fats to good use. Food is never sacrificed for fuel in the production of Bioheat fuel. Bioheat fuel is also sourced and produced right here in the United States, supporting local farmers, local industries and local economies.

Bioheat Fuel: Readily Available in the Hudson Valley

Bioheat fuel is readily available now through local retail oil companies and it requires no modifications to your existing system.

The bottom line: in the Hudson Valley, we are well on our way along the road to a carbon-neutral future!

To learn more about the benefits of Bioheat fuel, please go here.

Guidelines to Help Make Your Decision

boiler installation new yorkMuch like your car, regular preventive maintenance goes a long way in extending the lifespan of your heating oil equipment, including oil-powered boilers. But even the best-maintained heating equipment eventually wears out.

You will then reach a point where repairs will cost more than they’re worth since an old boiler will continue to have low fuel-efficiency – along with poor performance and a greater chance for further breakdowns.

So how do you determine whether to repair or replace your oil boiler? Here are some guidelines.

Signs of Corrosion

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.

Your Comfort Levels

Is your old boiler keeping you warm enough? A properly working oil boiler should keep you comfortable even on the coldest Hudson Valley nights, but a boiler’s operating performance diminishes with the passage of time.

Diminished Hot Water Production

If you also 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.

Understanding Boilers

There are two types of boilers: a steam boiler, often found in older homes, and the modern, and more energy-efficient, hot water boiler. Steam boilers require special safety precautions because of the temperature of the steam (the water must be heated to 212°F). As a result, it is vitally important to follow a regular maintenance schedule.

Your boiler extracts heat from heating oil as it burns; this heats the water (or creates steam) that will run through the zones that are calling for heat. The heat is delivered through your radiators or baseboards.

The problem is that some heat (as much as 30% in some older boiler models) will be lost as exhaust, which means you are paying a lot of money for heat that will never reach your living space.

Condensing Boilers

In a high-efficiency condensing boiler, heat loss is reduced dramatically. By recycling heat from the exhaust process – and by operating at lower temperatures overall – your condensing boiler can improve operating efficiency by 10-15% compared to a non-condensing boiler.

So why aren’t all boilers condensing, considering their obvious efficiency advantages? For one thing, condensing boilers cost more to manufacture. Plus, a condensing boiler is not practical for all homes. What’s more, installing a condensing boiler correctly requires highly trained technicians who know how to capitalize on the efficiency benefits of these sophisticated machines.

Heating Oil Keeps Getting Better

By upgrading to a new oil boiler, you’ll be able to enjoy all of the great benefits of oilheat—now and in the future.

Besides better, more efficient equipment, there have been significant improvements in the quality of heating oil itself. This is due to the vast reduction of the sulfur content in heating oil and blending it with renewable biodiesel. Known as Bioheat® fuel, this fuel contains biodiesel that is composed of various organic products, including vegetable oils, animal fats, and even algae and various grasses.

Why will this reduce carbon emissions? Biodiesel is considered a biogenic fuel that reduces carbon by 100%. By contrast, when fuels that do not contain biodiesel are burned, they take carbon that was stored in the ground and put it back into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the combustion of biofuels and other biogenic energy sources recycle carbon-dioxide emissions through renewable plant materials and other biomass feedstocks. That’s why you’ll be hearing a lot about net-zero carbon emissions in the years ahead. You can read more about Bioheat fuel here.

If you’re ready to explore new heating system options for your home, reach out to your local heating oil service company and be sure to ask about saving money on new heating oil equipment with New York State rebates.

Schedule Annual Equipment Maintenance This Spring

Energy saving tips new yorkThe key to saving energy and money at home is improving efficiency! And when it comes to improving the energy efficiency of your heating system, one of the best things you can do is schedule an annual heating system tune-up with your equipment service provider.

Tune-ups (sometimes called “system cleanings”) are typically recommended once a year. Not only do they ensure that your heating oil system is running properly, but this preventive maintenance will also ensure that the system is operating at peak efficiency. In fact, a tune-up can help reduce heating oil usage by up to 10%!

Proper and regular maintenance by a professional heating oil technician helps your home heating system operate more efficiently, saving you on energy costs and helping to avert costly repairs. Following a proper maintenance schedule can also keep your equipment warranty in force and can extend the life of your heating system too.

Why put this on your “to-do” list right now? Scheduling your heating oil system maintenance before autumn arrives makes sense for a few reasons.

Convenient Scheduling

When the first hint of fall foliage appears, it’s the beginning of the busy season for your local Hudson Valley heating oil service provider. Their schedule is quickly filled with requests for heating oil deliveries, emergency repairs, and heating system tune-ups from people who have delayed getting their equipment maintenance done. You may find it difficult to get your tune-up service done at a time that’s convenient for you.

On the other hand, your heating oil service provider’s schedule is much more open at this time of year. That means you can more easily schedule your tune-up for a time that works for you.

Repairs Without the Time Pressure

Annual maintenance is important because your professional heating oil technician can discover small problems before they become bigger and more costly problems. When you schedule your tune-up in the spring or summer, your technician has more time and flexibility to get any repairs done—without the need to rush off to someone else’s no-heat emergency.

Heating Repair Warning Signs

If you noticed anything out of the ordinary this past winter with your heating system – like one of these telltale signs for a heating repair– contact your equipment service provider as soon as possible to get your system evaluated.

If you have an old system that is not as reliable as it was before and you’re tired of spending money on repairs, you should start researching your options for replacing your equipment.

This is especially important if the age of your heating system is 25 years old or older. That’s because just like any other piece of equipment around the home, systems will eventually deteriorate and require replacement.

If you’re ready to explore new heating system options for your home, reach out to your local heating oil service company and ask about saving money on new heating oil equipment with New York State rebates.

Understanding the Energy Markets and Price Fluctuations

fuel prices new yorkHeating oil prices in New York—and everywhere else—will always ebb and flow because many factors come into play. Everything from supply and demand to the weather to geopolitics can influence the markets and the cost of all energy, including heating oil. And, as you probably already know, the war between Russia and Ukraine has had a tremendous effect on all energy prices.

It’s important to point out, however, that for the most part, the price of oil has been fairly stable since 2014. But there have been a lot of changes over the past year that have upended the markets. You can view the history of heating oil prices in New York over the past 25 years by going here.

Russia Invades Ukraine

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.

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 seemingly 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.

Oil Supply Hasn’t Caught Up with Demand

As was noted before, global crude oil production hasn’t yet caught up with pent-up demand. Unfortunately, a simplified and misinformed solution to the production shortfall that’s regularly offered up by some pundits and politicians in the U.S. is that, “we just have to drill for more oil at home.”

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 of Bioheat® fuel.

Another factor influencing oil companies is the memory of the breathtaking fall of crude oil prices during the early days of the pandemic. In the Spring of 2020, crude oil prices fell all the way to negative $30 per barrel! Traders had to pay buyers to take oil! Since then, however, prices have been steadily rising before they exploded in late February after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Could they drop that far again? Well, by mid-March, crude oil prices had begun to fall–but quickly took a U-turn and went up again as the situation in Ukraine remained unstable and the call for boycotts of Russian energy products picked up steam.

To say that we are currently in the midst of an extremely volatile energy market could be viewed as an understatement.

How Your Hudson Valley Heating-Oil Company Can Help

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 New York.

Rest assured, your Hudson Valley heating oil supplier will do everything possible to ensure they can make deliveries—no matter the cost or difficulty they face.

What Will Happen Next with Oil Prices?

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 Hudson Valley 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.

hvac repair new yorkWhile spring is not too far away, we all know from experience that it’s way too soon to pack away our winter yet. No matter what the calendar says, we’ve seen plenty of chilly springs here in the Hudson Valley.

So, if it’s been a while since you’ve had your heating oil boiler or furnace checked by a technician, start thinking about arranging for spring maintenance service.

Regular equipment maintenance is a vital money-saving investment for heating systems– not just because it can keep your equipment running safely and at peak efficiency, but also because four out of five heating system breakdowns are preventable if you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.

A tune-up service also allows your heating oil technician to spot minor issues before they become big problems (worn parts, a burner that needs adjustment, etc.) 

Be Aware of Red Flags

If you’ve noticed any problems with your system this winter, please don’t ignore it. These are most likely “red flags” alerting you to the need for professional service.

Here are just a few examples.

Unusual Noises

Here are a few sounds and the possible cause. Note: a correct diagnosis can only be made with an onsite visit by our service technician.

If you are experiencing problems or have questions about reducing your heating costs or simply using energy around your home in smarter ways, please get in touch with your local Hudson Valley Bioheat® fuel company and they’ll be glad to help.

Here Are 10 Reasons

modern heating oil tank new yorkAn important part of the “energy system” in your house, heating oil storage tanks are built to safely store your fuel while keeping it available and accessible for immediate use. Here are 10 fast facts about the heating oil tanks that are being installed today.

  1. Oil tanks last for years—but not forever. If your tank is approaching 30 years old, it’s time to look into an upgrade (see #10 for how to minimize this cost).
  2. The latest aboveground oil tanks can be installed in small spaces of garages or basements—even those that have an unusual shape.
  3. With the help of tank enclosures, oil tanks can be installed outside.
  4. Residential oil tanks almost never leak, and the latest models have leak-detection systems built in.
  5. The latest tank designs are constructed with a double wall that includes galvanized steel, which is corrosion resistant.
  6. They come with long-term warranties, so you’re protected if something goes wrong.
  7. With the help of the latest technology, it’s easy to monitor storage tanks from afar, which keeps homeowners and dealers informed of when it’s time for a delivery and in the unlikely event of a leak.
  8. They’re much more aesthetically pleasing than tanks from decades ago.
  9. The cost to upgrade from an old oil tank is less than many people believe! Contact your heating company today for details and an estimate.
  10. Rebates are often available—while they last. Homeowner rebate information can be found here.

Understanding Your Tank Gauge

Long-time heating oil consumer or not, it never hurts to review the basics of reading your heating oil tank gauge so you don’t get caught short.

If you don’t want to spend time reading your tank gauge and placing an order when you need more fuel, your heating oil full-service company may be able to set you up on an automatic delivery schedule.
Your heating oil supplier will estimate when your next delivery is needed based on computer modeling and your past usage. In most cases, they will get your heating oil to you when your tank is about one-quarter full.

Read what a full-service heating oil company can do for you.

It’s All About Safety

oil delivery sound new yorkIf you have a basement oil tank and you’re home when a driver makes his delivery, you’ll probably hear a whistling noise as your tank starts to fill up. But don’t worry. This is perfectly normal.

Besides the tank itself, your heating oil storage system includes important components like the fill pipe, vent pipe and vent alarm.

The Basics of a Heating Oil Delivery

After the driver arrives, he connects the hose from his oil truck to the fill pipe and starts releasing the oil. As oil flows into the tank, air is pushed back out. As the air goes through the vent alarm–located between your tank and vent pipe–it makes a whistling sound. When the whistling stops, the tank is just about full.

Since your basement tank is out of sight from the driver, the vent alarm prevents overfilling and the possibility of a spill. Safety codes do not allow your heating oil company to deliver your fuel if the vent alarm is not working.

About Your Oil Piping

You Can Help Keep Your Driver Safe Too

Ice and snow can turn an already tough job into a potentially hazardous one. Maneuvering with a heavy hose while navigating slippery surfaces can be challenging; sometimes delivery drivers lose their footing and sustain injuries.

You can help the driver make safer deliveries by keeping the path to your oil tank clear of snow and ice and removing any nearby obstacles, such as fallen branches.

It is also important to shovel or plow your driveway and keep it free of ice. Safety codes prohibit your heating oil company from parking an oil truck on an incline unless it is perfectly dry.

Marking the edges of your driveway makes it easier for delivery drivers to navigate. Remember, just because you can get your car down your driveway doesn’t mean a 15-ton heating oil truck can make it too.

If you have any questions about deliveries or your oil storage tank system, please reach out to your heating oil company.

If you’re thinking about replacing your oil storage tank, read about your options here.

Be Smart—and Safe—As You Try to Save Money

home heating tips new yorkFrom skiing to ice skating to snowboarding, there’s a lot to like about winter—except when it gets too cold!

When we come home, we expect to warm up quickly, especially for anyone who uses heating oil to heat their home. And why not? The flame in a heating oil system burns hundreds of degrees hotter than in other energy systems.

But when temperatures dive into the single digits and the wind chill is below zero, people get worried about burning too much fuel. That’s when some will try hard to save a little money on heat.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save money on heating your home, but please do it in a smart way and never take chances with your safety.

With that in mind, here are a few tips.

Use Space Heaters Carefully

  • Always turn space heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Keep your space heater away from anything flammable
  • Never plug a portable space heater into an extension cord or power strip. Extension cords and power strips have not been designed to handle the high flow of electric current needed for a space heater. Doing so can cause the heater to overheat or even catch on fire.
  • Don’t Close Your Heating Vents

    Another common mistake is closing the heating vents in seldom-used rooms. The belief is that this will conserve heat and save money but this is not recommended

    Closing some vents disrupts normal air flow, causing an imbalance that will just make your furnace work harder. Closing vents can also raise the risk of frozen pipes, especially in rooms that tend to be on the cold side anyway.

    It’s always better to keep the temperature at a comfortable level throughout your home and program it to energy-saving settings when the house is empty or everyone is asleep.

    Don’t Go too Low with Thermostat Settings

    You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it about 8°F lower while you’re asleep or away from home. But you should not set your thermostat below 60°.

    Moving your thermostat setting too low is another way to raise your risk of frozen pipes. Water pipes near outside walls or in unheated spaces are especially prone to freeze-ups. The risk increases if cracks in your foundation allow cold air to enter.

    Why You Save with Energy-Efficient Temperature Settings

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature.

    The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer — a higher temperature inside your home will slow heat gain into your house, saving you money on air conditioning costs.

    The U.S. Energy Department concludes that you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply adjusting your thermostat 7°-10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting.

    If your heating system has not been keeping you warm enough, please explore current heating oil equipment rebate opportunities and then reach out to your heating oil service provider for advice.

    Many Factors Have Caused All Energy Prices to Rise

    oilheat prices new yorkHeating oil prices in New York—and everywhere else—will always ebb and flow because many factors come into play. Everything from supply and demand to the weather to geopolitics can influence the markets and the cost of all energy, including heating oil. And, as you may have guessed, the COVID-19 pandemic has also influenced where energy prices stand today.

    You can view a history of heating oil prices in New York here.

    The Energy Price Surge of 2021

    Once again, as happened in the past, we’re seeing heating oil and other energy prices surge across the board. This is not uncommon in the energy markets, which are prone to volatility, but higher prices hurt just the same—especially on top of a still-lingering pandemic.

    COVID-19 has played a large role in the current state of the market. Demand for oil sunk to deep depths as more countries went into lockdown in 2020. Global supply became diminished as producers responded by scaling back oil input. Now, with the wide availability of vaccines in most countries, people are traveling again and businesses have opened up. But global supply hasn’t caught up with all of this increased demand. When you match low supply with high demand, prices go up. Of course, this is true for many other commodities, not just for heating fuel.

    We’re seeing this right now across the board with increased costs for consumer goods because of many tangles in the global supply chain. COVID-19 has played a role in this situation as well.

    Wall Street Influence

    Right now, Wall Street speculators are not “bullish” on investing in the fossil fuel industry. They’re still skittish about how the crude oil market crashed and burned last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

    In the Spring of 2020, crude oil prices fell all the way to negative $30 per barrel! Traders had to pay buyers to take oil! Since then, prices have been steadily rising.

    Investors are also holding back as they watch legislators try to move toward more renewable energy. The irony is, the heating oil industry is making excellent progress with making their fuel more dependent on renewable energy too.

    Bioheat® Fuel and Renewable Energy in the Hudson Valley

    The heating oil industry is committed to helping to ease the impact of climate change with Bioheat® fuel — a blend of ultra-low sulfur heating oil and biofuels made from renewable sources.

    Thanks to research and development being spearheaded by the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), heating oil is being made more cleanly and efficiently than before.

    The overall goal is to transition to even higher levels of Bioheat fuel, which will further reduce the carbon footprint and actually turn heating oil into a carbon-neutral energy source.

    Read more about Bioheat fuel.

    [h3] Hudson Valley Heating Oil Companies Stand Ready to Help

    In times like this, people sometimes misunderstand how negatively higher prices impact local fuel dealers. Heating oil companies don’t make more money when prices rise—they actually make less.

    It’s like when the cost of coffee, milk or orange juice rises. It’s not the local grocery store that is profiting. (That’s left to the Wall Street investors). Heating oil customers have a harder time paying their bills. They reduce expenditures. Heating oil companies may need to tap into their lines of credit more. Phones light up with questions from customers. So the sooner energy prices drop, the happier your heating oil company will be.

    In the meantime, please reach out your heating oil supplier to find out ways they may be able to help you reduce your energy costs, or handle payments more easily.

    Rest assured, your Hudson Valley heating oil supplier will do everything possible to ensure they can make deliveries—no matter the cost or difficulty they face.

    Local, independently owned heating oil companies in the Hudson Valley work hard to ensure homeowners and businesses get the best prices possible without compromising on quality, safety or environmental concerns. They also ensure you have the heating and home comfort experience you deserve in several other areas as well, regardless of what’s happening in the market.