Cold and snow freezing out home oil deliveries

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EAST HAVEN--February was the coldest month on record in Connecticut in 110 years, which put great stress on the home heating oil industry.

Slower than usual delivery was common during February. One of the things that slowed down oil delivery during the excessive amounts of cold and snow: homeowners not having a path cleared to their oil file pipe.

"This season has been so hard on drivers that they're out there in sub-zero temperatures and they're going through 2 and 3 feet of snow and deliveries are taking longer," said Sal Camera, the owner of Aspen Heating Oil of East Haven.

"It slows the process down if you have to have two guys on a truck pull a hose over a nice pile make a delivery," said  Chris Herb, the president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association. "It cut some down by sometimes 40 percent of the deliveries that would be made in a normal day."

One other thing home heating oil consumers should consider doing: make certain you are on automatic delivery. Herb added that it' important consumers don't try to manage their oil supply. "Let the professionals, who've been doing this for generations, manage your supply," urged Herb.

And if you were not on automatic delivery, Camera suggests you hold off calling for a delivery unless you're down to an eighth of a tank.

"If you have a half a tank of oil,  why call and why buy oil at a high price?" asked Camera, who noted that in three weeks the price of oil should be dropping.

The recent cold streak has kept the home heating oil business humming 24/7. And, with demand up throughout the Northeast, delivery to the New Haven terminal via barges has slowed. "A lot of times, the wait down at the terminal could be an hour or two hours," said Camera about the line to fill oil trucks.

The cold stretch happening so late in the winter season is a problem as well because at this time of year, when it is frigid, home heating oil businesses are on strict allocations from wholesalers.

"That just means that we are managing the supply so that everybody, who needs home heating oil, gets it," said Herb.

But because of the allocation limits, trucks have to make more frequent trips in and out of New Haven terminal, which certainly contributes to slower delivery.

There is good news, though. As cold as it’s been over the last six weeks, the average temperature throughout the winter has been about the same as last winter, and this year oil is about a dollar per gallon cheaper than last year.