Homes see lower heating oil prices, but experts urge caution - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Homes see lower heating oil prices, but experts urge caution

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Experts caution homeowners about home heating prices. (WFSB) Experts caution homeowners about home heating prices. (WFSB)

Costs for heating oil are tumbling just like gas prices, but fuel experts are still urging caution.

The full service retail price for heating oil, including delivery charges, is $1.20 less per gallon than a year ago. It's actually the lowest it's been since 2009, according to the Energy Information Administration.

That could translate into hundreds of dollars in savings for the average customer.

It's hard to forget last year's brutal and expensive winter.

"Last year was definitely one of the worst because it was colder longer," said Sean Donadio of Middletown.

Donadio said he and his family burned through more than $2,000 in fuel. While he added some insulation, he said there's only so much he can squeeze ou of his 100-year-old home.

One of the two major reasons for this year's price drop, according to the Energy Information Administration, is supply.

The northeast has 15.8 million more barrels of oil than it did this time last year. Inventories across the globe are high as well. The warmer weather has also been key.

That means customers across Connecticut, like many others nationwide, are seeing lower prices.

The average price of retail heating oil across the state as of Oct. 5 was $2.32 per gallon. In Oct. 2014, it was $3.52.

“I have a family of six,” said Suzzane Russell of Middletown. “The money can go elsewhere.”

"Heating oil really started to really settle down at the beginning of this calendar year and continued to go down and go back up and down and so it's been up and down quite a bit especially during the summer," said Rose Viola Rainville of Teddy's Oil, Tank Works.

Teddy’s Oil in Manchester said it has been busy getting trucks ready and out to fill tanks across Greater Hartford.

Its owner said the retail price has changed drastically since the start of the year, but has been trending downward.

“I'm not surprised at all. I always expected this day to come,” Rainville said. “I don't think it’s bottomed out yet. But again, it's volatile every day of the week.”

Still, it’s lead to a number of happy customers.

"We're pretty excited because usually it’s the natural gas that’s lower so we're hoping to save a lot of money this winter," Donadio said.

“The average house uses between 800 to 1,000 gallons per year,” Rainville said. “So if the price is in the $2 to $2.50 range as opposed to the $4.00 range, it's a sizable difference. It could be as much as $12 to $1,500 less.”

Rainville said that volatility is a reason for caution when it comes to what to do with the savings. She said customers would be better off budgeting as though the price was higher.

Some fuel companies allow customers to lock in the rate for a year. Even if the rate is locked, there's no guarantee that the price won't drop further.

"We don't recommend any particular type of contract," the state Department of Consumer Protection said.  "Just that the consumer reads all of the fine print, understands what they are agreeing to and that it fits in with their budget and other needs."

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