The Canadian Oil Heating Association (COHA) is teaming up with the Ontario Real Estate Association to dispel what it says are three common, outdated misconceptions about heating a home with oil.
COHA says that many people think of oil heat as "dirty, smelly and expensive," but the COHA aims to change people's image of oil heat to "clean, efficient and modern."
The association says that more than one million Canadian households use oil heat, and that there's a lack of information available about the many benefits of the fuel. It says improvements to oil heating equipment make oil more efficient than electricity, propane and natural gas.
"Oil heat is a lot cleaner than it was 25 years ago, and today's high efficiency fuel oil appliances operate in the 85 per cent range, with some ultra modern furnaces in the 95 per cent efficiency range," says the association in a news release. It says that emissions from oil burning equipment have been reduced to "near zero levels" and the industry says it has decreased the amount of sulfur in fuel oil, leading to better air quality.
A new consumer website, Today's Oil Heat, lists 10 reasons to feel warm and comfortable about oil heating, and offers direct comparisons to other fuel sources. The website is designed to educate homeowners and Realtors about changes in the oil heat industry.
COHA admits that a major problem is aging oil tanks, which the association says "have cost Canadian insurance companies and homeowners a lot of money in recent years."
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that spills from outdoor oil tanks can quickly contaminate soil and ground water, and that one litre of leaked oil can contaminate one million litres of drinking water.
"The cleanup can cost from $5,000 for a common spill to $150,000 for a large one," says the IBC. "At the very least, cleanup means replacing the tank and the connection lines and removing the contaminated soil. A more serious spill might require replacement of the house foundation. You as a homeowner are responsible for reporting spills and cleaning them up."
The IBC says if you have a house with a tank that's over 15 years of age, it should be replaced.
With insurance claims from oil leaks increasing by more than 50 per cent in the last 10 years, insurance companies now "balk" at insuring homes with older tanks, says COHA. But Merril Mascarenhas, a spokesperson for COHA, says, "Today's state-of-the-art tanks are composed of double-walled, corrosion resistant, steel and fibreglass. That means long life and safety. He says that getting insurance is not a problem if the tanks have been properly inspected and maintained.
"In our discussions with homeowners and Realtors, we've discovered that people just don't know enough about maintaining and upgrading their furnaces," he says.
COHA says that when selling a home that's heated by oil, Realtors should ask questions about the age of the oil tank, and get proof that the tank installation meets safety requirements. Buyers should expect to be asked for this information when they apply for insurance, says COHA.
Realtors should also recommend an inspection of the heating equipment by a qualified home inspector prior to closing, and the buyer should contact the fuel oil supplier of the home to insure that inspections of the tank have been completed. Fuel oil suppliers should have information about the servicing and inspection program for the home, says COHA.
Along with providing better air quality and near-zero emissions, COHA says oil heating can provide consumers with long-term savings. "History tells us that, adjusted for inflation, the price of oil heat hasn't changed much since the 1950s," says the association.
"Not many other energy sources can say that. In fact, the price of oil heat is projected to rise at a lower rate than natural gas and electricity."