Come winter, life becomes more uncomfortable and expensive. For almost everyone, there is a major addition to the monthly home budget from the heating costs. Although there is nothing much you can do to avoid this expense because you need the heat to stay healthy and comfortable, there is certainly a lot you can do to keep the expenses low. One of the best ways of doing this is to compare prices of oil service plans that different oil dealers provide, and choose the one that suits your budget the best. Price is indeed a primary criterion, but there are other equally important aspects you ought to consider when choosing a service contract. Here are a few pointers on how to go about choosing the best of the oil service plans for your home heating needs this winter.
Duration of the Contract
One of the first things to check is the duration for which the service contract is valid. While some companies give you contract validity for a year from the time you sign up, others end the contract on a fixed date, irrespective of when you sign it. In case of the latter scenario, you tend to lose out on value for your money and, therefore, it is best to find a contract that covers your expenses for the entire year.
Check the rate of oil the oil service plans specify and compare this with the existing market rates. Is this rate higher or lower? Is there a separate price for the service contract? What are all the costs covered under the contract? Is there any chance of a special discount? These are some of the questions to ask the oil service provider before signing on the dotted line. Also find out if there are any penalties specified for using the services of any other heating oil company during the duration of the contract. Some contractors will not tell you all this on their own, so make sure you ask about it and ask these terms to be put in writing.
A reputable oil company never hesitates to put its estimates in writing and this is one of the key aspects to help you hire the right contractor. Look for complete details of the services covered under the contract, and the estimates the contractor provides for replacement or repair of parts such as the electrical wiring, ducts and registers during the duration of the contract. Pay attention to the size of the equipment that the contract specifies. If this is different from the size of your heating equipment, ask about whether the same terms apply or if there is going to be an additional expense or a discount possible.
Take a good look at the terms of the warranty mentioned in the oil service plans from different service providers. Read the fine print to understand exactly what the warranty covers, the warranty period, and the things excluded from the warranty. This is important because unless you get this aspect clarified, you may be setting yourself up for some major expenses in the future when the oil service provider asks you to fork out additional money for some repair or replacement work.
A home heating oil delivery company’s job is not just to provide you with heating oil and carry out just one perfunctory check; the company ought to be available to meet any enquiry or service requests you have in the long run. Check if the service contract mentions anything about repeat inspections and charges that apply to these.
Also try contacting the contractor using the telephone number or email details provided to you, and see how long it takes for them to respond; this will give you valuable information about the level of customer service they provide. Was there someone manning the phone and did they provide you with the information you wanted? Were they pleasant and concerned about your problem or did they sound like they couldn’t care less? Did someone follow up with you to ensure your problem was solved or did you have to keep calling to remind them? Having this information is vital because when you call with an emergency request for an inspection or a repair, you do not want to be put on endless hold or face a situation where there is absolutely no response.
Once you find an oil provider whose contract matches your requirements, it is vital to ensure the company is a reputable one. Check the website of the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has the necessary certification and licenses, or ask at the local consumer affairs office.
Ask the oil service provider for references of clients with whom they have worked in the recent past, especially those located in your area. Any provider who has nothing to hide will willingly part with such information and an unwillingness to do so may indicate there is something wrong.
Once you get the references, make sure you check them out by speaking with at least two or three people. Ask about the terms that were included in their service contract and how well the contractor adhered to those. Find out if the contractor provided prompt and efficient service, or was difficult to get hold of after the initial inspection and payment.
While there are many contractors with oil service plans that are appropriately tailored to meet your heating requirements, it is quite likely that there will also be others who are looking for a way to make a quick buck without much effort. Some people experience this the hard way when a contractor scares them into carrying out major repair work or replacing the heating system, although there may have not been any real problem with it. Such contractors will often seek to take advantage of a customer’s ignorance and, therefore, it is vital you get familiar with the general aspects of heating.
Learn a little more about your state’s specifications on heating contractor licensing and also understand the oil furnace guidelines. Being prepared with such information can mean you get yourself a service contract that provides you all the service you require for the duration of the contract, without being forced to spend a huge amount on heating for the winter.