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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs on heating oil delivery, heating and cooling systems

Heating and Cooling FAQs

How long should my old furnace and air conditioner last?

Typically a furnace or air conditioner will last 15-20 years. Sometimes it pays to replace the old system sooner because of the higher efficiency (and lower gas & electric bills) provided by newer equipment.

My gas & electric bills are high. Will a new furnace and air conditioner lower my bills?

YES! A new 12 SEER air conditioner can usually cut the electricity used by the old air conditioner in half. Even a 10 SEER air conditioner (this is the minimum efficiency the federal government allows to be sold) will cut the electricity used by approximately 40%. A new 90% furnace can usually cut the gas used by the old furnace by as much as 30%, and a new 80% (minimum allowed by the federal government) will use approximately 20% less.

What is SEER?

This stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. The “size” of an air conditioner is rated in BTU or Tons, however the “efficiency” is rated in SEER. It’s like mpg (miles per gallon) in a car — the higher the mpg (or SEER) the lower the gasoline (electricity) bill.

What is a heat pump? Is it better than an air conditioner?

In the summer, a heat pump is no different than an air conditioner. In the winter, a heat pump operates in “reverse” and heats the indoors. Heat pumps need auxillary heat (electric resistance heat or gas furnace) to help them when it is real cold or when the thermostat is moved more than 2 degrees at a time. The initial investment for a heat pump is higher than for an air conditioner, they have higher maintenance costs, and the ductwork must be exactly “right” for proper operation. One common complaint of a heat pump is that the air coming out of the registers is not hot enough (compared to a gas furnace). With all their drawbacks, heat pumps will reduce the winter heating bills. If you have a gas furnace, the savings usually isn’t enough to justify a heat pump, however if you have electric heating, the savings is dramatic and you will probably want to stay with a heat pump.

What is a 'cracked' furnace? How serious is this?

The part that transfers heat from the gas flame to the air in the house is called a “heat exchanger”. If the heat exchanger has a crack or rust hole in it, the fumes (especially carbon monoxide) enter the air that comes out of the registers. This is why a “cracked” furnace can be so dangerous. A small crack may not be dangerous yet, but will get bigger and even small amounts of carbon monoxide can be dangerous to some people. Heat exchangers can be replaced, however if they are out of warranty, it is usually not much more to install a new higher efficiency furnace.

What is 'Preventative Maintenance'?

Without regular servicing, heating and cooling systems burn more fuel and are more likely to break down. With the proper attention, they can keep you comfortable year-round.

Heat pumps and oil-fired furnaces and boilers need a yearly professional tune-up. Gas-fired equipment burns cleaner; it should be serviced every other year. A close inspection will uncover leaks, soot, rust, rot, corroded electrical contacts and frayed wires. In furnace (forced-air) and boiler (hot-water) systems, the inspection should also cover the chimney, ductwork or pipes, dampers or valves, blower or pump, registers or radiators, the fuel line and the gas meter or oil tank as well as every part of the furnace or boiler itself.

Next, the system should be run through a full heating cycle to ensure that it has plenty of combustion air and chimney draft. Contractors use smoke pencils to check for sufficient draft and also test the air for carbon monoxide.

Finally, it’s time for the down and dirty task of cleaning the burner and heat exchanger to remove soot and other gunk that can impede smooth operation. For the burner, efficiency hinges on adjusting the flame to the right size and color, adjusting the flow of gas or changing the fuel filter in an oil-fired system. A check of the heat pump should include an inspection of the compressor, fan, indoor and outdoor coils and refrigerant lines. Indoor and outdoor coils should be cleaned, and the refrigerant pressure should be checked. Low pressure indicates a leak; to locate it, contractors feed tinted refrigerant into the loop and go over it with an electronic detector.

My brother-in-law works for a heating & air company and says he can install a new furnace (or air conditioner) for me for less money. Is this a smart idea?

Be sure he has a Masters license, obtains all required permits and has adequate insurance. Keep in mind you will be dependent on him and his schedule for warranty repairs. If he meets the above requirements, has the needed experience and you understand that repairs may not be timely – you may save some money, but be sure you are not getting a “cheap” installation that will cost you more in the long run.

I want a 'big' air conditioner. Someone told me this is not good, what are the advantages & disadvantages?

An “oversized” air conditioner will cool your house quicker, but it will use more electricity and will not remove humidity adequately. If your ductwork is not big enough for the “oversized” air conditioner, the coil may freeze and then the air conditioner won’t work at all. Obviously the air conditioner must be big enough to cool the house, but too big is just as bad. We recommend the proper size to cool your home to 77 degrees when it is 100 degrees outside, then increase the size slightly, if needed, based on your temperature preferences.

Will a larger furnace work better than a smaller furnace?

An “oversized” furnace will warm up the house quicker, but it will use more fuel and there will be greater temperature swings. A smaller furnace will maintain more even temperatures, use less fuel, but will take longer to raise the temperature. Roth will calculate the proper furnace size to maintain 80 degrees inside when it is zero degrees outside.

My heat doesn't go on, what should I check?

Here is a list of the most common items to check before a service call:

  1. Be sure emergency switch is on.
  2. Check all fuses and circuit breakers.
  3. Be sure the thermostat is set 5 degrees or more above room temperature.
  4. Check to see if the water is at the proper level (Steam systems only).
  5. Check the clock thermostat to see if it is advanced or retarded according to time changes.
  6. Push the “reset button” on the burner. ONLY ONCE! If burner fails to ignite, turn emergency switch to “off” and call our service department.

What is a hot water (hydronic) system?

hydronic system

A hot water (hydronic) system, circulates water around the boiler’s combustion chamber (10). A circulator (11) pumps the hot water through radiators or baseboards. An expansion tank (12) lets the system adjust to varying pressure. Eventually the water returns to the unit to begin the cycle again.

Steam systems work similarly, but steam that’s generated rises to the radiators, so no circulators are needed. A low water cut-off prevents damage to the boiler by shutting it down in case water levels drop too low. In all systems, the combustion emissions go up the flue (13), never mixing with either the heated air or water going through the house.

How Does an Oil System Make Heat?

hot air system

Its thermostat (1) has a sensor which measures room temperature.

When the temperature drops below the thermostat setting (or its setting is raised above the room’s temperature), it signals theburner’s (2) controls (3) to get into the action. A fuel pump (4) draws oil through a filter (5) to the burner where it turns the oil into a fine spray, mixes it with air and ignites it in the combustion chamber (6), causing the chamber to get very hot. What happens next depends on the type of system.

With a hot air system (as pictured), air absorbs heat in the furnace’s heat exchanger (7). A blower (8) sends this air throughducts (9) into the home.

Heating Oil FAQs

How much oil is in my tank?

If you have a 275 gallon tank, the following readings indicate that your tank contains approximately this many gallons:

1/8 = 40 gals
1/4 = 70 gals
3/8 = 100 gals
1/2 = 130 gals
5/8 = 160 gals
3/4 = 200 gals
7/8 = 240 gals
“full” = 265 gals

When should I call for an oil delivery?

Will-call customers should call when the tank is down to a ¼ full. Automatic delivery customers do not need to call, we will deliver as necessary.

What is the difference between Automatic and Will-Call Delivery?

When you heat with oil, you have two options for delivery service. Will-call delivery requires a customer to check the tank oil level and call to order when the tank is ¾ full. Delivery will be the day following receipt of the order, except for Sundays. Automatic delivery shifts the burden of monitoring the oil level in the tank to PFO. PFO uses a computer forecasting program to determine delivery dates based on temperatures and use. Customers do not need to be at home at the time of delivery.

Who should I contact in an emergency?

You can reach PFO in an emergency 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I have an above ground tank in my garage. Should I be concerned that it can explode or leak fumes into my home?

Fuel oil is a very stable petroleum product, unlike gas heat you do not need to worry about your house blowing up if you have a leak or smell. Regardless of how safe oil is if you do have those problems you should contact us to fix them as soon as possible.

How do I know that we are getting the best quality fuel oil available?

All oil companies in our area get their fuel from the same sources. The fuel is set to state specifications and can only be improved upon by additives.

What happens if I pull my oil tank out of the ground and we discover ground contamination?

The licensed tank removal company removes all the contaminated soil and replaces it with clean dirt.

Does D.E.P. have to get involved?

Yes, but all they want to know is that a licensed contractor is on the job and that he disposes the contaminated dirt properly and provides the correct documentation.

How do oil prices compare to gas, electric and propane?

From 1981 to 1992, retail oil prices in the U.S. actually dropped 28%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). During the same period, the average price for electricity went up 32%, natural gas rose 37%, and propane rose 17%. What’s more, the DOE predicts that from 1992 to 2010, the price of natural gas will rise 31% faster than heating oil.

What's the price situation in New Jersey?

According to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, New Jersey sports some of the highest priced gas companies in America, making oil an even greater bargain. And propane and electricity are even higher.

How does oil's efficiency stack up?

For the past 20 years, oil-heated systems have regularly outperformed other fuels in terms of efficiency. Even oil systems 10 to 15 years old are often more efficient than newer equipment using other fuels. Today, oil-fired systems often reach efficiencies of 85% and higher without sacrificing reliability.

Is there a low-cost way to upgrade an oil system's efficiency?

Yes. A professional tune-up once a year can increase its efficiency by 10%. Homeowners can improve efficiency up to 25% by simply replacing an older burner with a modern flame retention head burner — a very modest investment with a rapid payback. Since 1981, oil heat customers have installed 400,000 of these burners and have thereby conserved 250,000,000 gallons of fuel.

What makes oil safe?

After the Edison gas explosion, safety seems to be a bigger concern than ever. But unlike gas, oil is not explosive. It has to be turned into a fine mist and ignited with a 140 degree spark before it will support a flame. It’s also one of the safest home heating fuels when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Is oil clean?

In the old days some oil-fired systems produced soot, especially those that were converted coal systems. But today’s oil heat technology has been tested by the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and found to be virtually soot free! Even on older systems, excess dirt can be substantially eliminated through timely professional tune-ups.

What about the dark streaks near baseboards, radiators and ceilings?

Dust that collects in these areas is baked on by excess heat buildup, regardless of the fuel used. But because it often shows up in older homes, where oil heat is prevalent, oil gets a bad rap. To prevent streaking, dust frequently in winter.

Is oil heat worse for the environment than other fuels?

No. Residential oil heat equipment is so efficient and emissions are so negligible that they are not even regulated by the Federal Clean Air Act, unlike other petroleum products. In fact, according at a 1994 report by the Energy Information Administration, no heating fuel “has any significant advantage over the others in terms of … environmental impact.”

What about comfort?

Oil heat has distinct comfort advantages. It burns far hotter than other fuels — 400 degrees hotter than gas, for instance. So oil heated homes heat up faster on less fuel. They also maintain a desired temperature more evenly.

Does oil heat contribute significantly to our reliance on foreign products?

No. Heating oil represents less than 3% of our total petroleum consumption, and remember that half of that petroleum originates in the United States.