With the heat waves of July underway, this may seem an odd time to talk about home heating. But summer is as good a season as any to evaluate your situation and plan ahead for the cold winter months to come.
Norm Woolley Jr., who runs Maplewood’s oldest, longest continually operating business — Woolley Home Solutions — recently answered some of Village Green’s questions about oil heat and oil tanks.
We’ve all seen the giant holes in yards and the scary, rusty-looking metal hulks that come out of them. And we’ve heard tales of home owners or buyers who were surprised that a tank even existed on their property, as well as the cost of removing and remediating if there has been a leak.
Woolley advises home owners to seek out advice and stay calm: you have options. And sticking with oil may be your best bet.
Realtor Tracy Wenk of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New Jersey Properties agrees. She notes, “Oil heat is safe (non explosive), efficient 85-95% efficiency or higher, it’s economical ( consistently lower than natural gas in price) and warmer due to the fact that it burns 300 degrees hotter so it heats your home faster.”
Woolley says that the vast majority of his home heating oil customers do not have those old steel in-ground hulks, but rather are using state-of-art above ground units that sit in your basement and look something like a seriously badass refrigerator. Whether above or below ground, new oil tanks are far safer and more durable than their ancestors.
“A majority of our customers have their tanks above ground,” said Woolley. “I think the ones where the folks changed to a different fuel and left the tank in the ground for 20 year, that’s where the problems arise — like anything else in a home.” Woolley pointed out, “You don’t keep the same siding for 50 years.”
Woolley said that the old, abandoned tanks are often “out of sight, out of mind,” with homeowners thinking, “I’ll deal with when I move out, or my kids will deal with that.”
He noted that there are resources to help owners such as the NJ underground storage tank remediation fund (it however has a wait list; see more information on underground oil tank remediation from the State of New Jersey here).
One upside of removing the old in-ground tank is, “When you install a new tank, there’s no sales tax,” said Woolley. “It’s a capital improvement.”
Although Woolley does not do oil tank removals — “We’re in the business of upgrading underground tanks and installing above-ground tanks,” said Woolley — he explained that the company “can certainly be the resource to make sure customers use a firm licensed by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection” in selecting a removal company.
“It’s always good to look at options,” said Woolley. “Anything you can do to improve the value of your home. For oil tanks, people don’t always think about that right away because they are underground.”
Woolley said that a lot of his customers purchase a Proguard policy that covers cleanup for above- or below-ground units and their associated lines. “See what you’re covered by your homeowner’s insurance,” said Woolley. “And see if your oil provider can help you out.”
And don’t think that Woolley is pushing oil just because it’s his business; Woolley Home Solutions has expanded over the years, now providing gas and plumbing services. “If you want a different fuel, we can give prices on different kinds of fuel. We’ve seen people convert to different fuels and then look at how long to pay off. That ROI — we look at that between the two fuels. We help the customer out with that process.”
Woolley is a big fan of the double-wall, above-ground tanks. “It’s got the leak sensor on it with a 30-year warranty. We’ve been selling them for more than 15 years. Maybe you can save with a single-wall tank, but we prefer this.”
Woolley added, “The great thing about it they’ve got handles on them and everything. The guys can bring them down the steps.”
Finally, he also pointed out that oil heat is getting continuously more environmental friendly and efficient — something important to Woolley Home Solutions which has been offering biodiesel fuel to the Maplewood’s town jitneys and other customers for more than 10 year.
“You want your fuels to be carbon neutral,” said Woolley. “As everyone becomes more and more electric, New Jersey is well on our way to being carbon neutral and we can help with that.” Woolley explained that “the larger percent of bio fuel, the more carbon neutral it becomes. We’re testing how far to push that blend without performance issues.” He said that in some state, providers are using 20-30% blends without an issue: “We’ve used B20 and a B35 blend is the same carbon footprint as an electric heat pump and you don’t even have to modify any oil equipment to get there.”
“We try to get out the word,” said Woolley, “and let people know how much better the fuel is than even a few years ago.”
“I’m excited about the future of our fuel as it continues to get better and better.”