I would guess by now, with all the heating topics that have been mentioned in the media, many of you will have had to answer your customers’ questions about their heating systems. Of course, many of you who are in the business may be as confused as your customers as to how they can upgrade their heating equipment in order to help reduce costs. Should you recommend oil, solar, geothermal, gas or even pellet stoves?
Many of you may even scratch your head, wondering why this is happening. Well, by now we all have all experienced the higher than normal oil prices that had almost reached the $5 mark. (However, as this article goes to press, it does seem as though there may be some relief in sight, with oil hovering around $70 per barrel.) Then right behind the high-priced oil were the advertisements from the local gas company offering a special low-priced equipment replacement program. This program is for those who will convert from the other fuel, and in some advertisements the gas companies have suggested an almost 50 percent cost savings can be achieved by simply installing their new atomizing heating equipment. I would question this statement when one analyzes all the true conversion costs. Some have labeled this a bait and switch tactic. Even though 50,000,000 homes are heated with gas, according to the American Gas Association, natural gas companies are still looking to capture the 9,000,000 homes heated with oil.
On another note, just imagine your ready-to-retire customer who just got a quarterly statement for his 401K that was enough to cause him to say “I don’t believe it,” and he finds out he needs a new heating system. Who will get the call? The customer might consider solar, which is offered as another way to lower the fuel costs, heat hot water and provide personal warmth as well. But perhaps, geothermal might also capture the customer’s fancy. Both of these can become very complex and require a very large financial commitment. Is there a payback? I would say the answer is yes, but it will take awhile.
Oil heating equipment is still a smart choice and my pick. If you haven’t noticed, there are now low NOx high-efficiency units available at 89 percent+ AFUEs and high/low fired residential oil burners available on heating equipment sold right here in the good old U.S. They all have the same goal in mind—to provide both comfort and a reduction in oil consumption, which translates to lower heating cost.
The pellet stove has become a very popular topic also and many of your well- known heating supply companies have taken on this line. I’m also told they have become so popular in the Northeast that a shortage exits, and the prediction of a lack of pellet availability is real possibility. I have heard some prices on the units and they often exceed the cost of a more conventional type of heating boiler. Some additional problems with pellet stoves I’ve learned include: complaints of whining sounds from the blower, which happens when the blower is turned on before the stove reaches operating temperature; a particular type of fire is needed, one that is compact and orange; the unit can start smoking or the glass can turn black when the air control knob needs adjusting; installing these in unlined chimneys can cause problems; and like with lots of heating equipment, think about adding a fresh air kit.
So which is the best? You be the judge. Wind power is coming on strong recently, so be prepared to answer questions on this subject as well. Also, when it comes to selecting a fuel, freedom of choice is still important as to whom you do business with.