By Paul Nazzaro, Advanced Fuel Solutions, Inc.
As an Oilheat dealer, it’s hardly in your purview to educate customers on the importance of home maintenance. And you certainly don’t need to tell them about the enormous amount of time, energy and money that goes into it. But you can tell them about an often-overlooked element that can help them save on all three of those things.
I’m talking about their heating oil.
Typically, when a heating oil customer sees the oil delivery truck pull up to their house, the first thing they think about is the bill they’ll be receiving later in the week. The last thing they think about, I would wager, is the expansive petroleum supply chain the oil traversed to get there. Little do they know about the water, microbial life and sediment that inevitably found its way into the product as it was being transported and stored, repeatedly offloaded and on-loaded, on its way from the refinery to their home. And later, when their heating system malfunctions, or their service technician is prematurely having to replace filters, hoses, gaskets or other components, or they’re burning through oil before their prescheduled delivery, little will they realize that those very contaminants are to blame.
Even if contamination weren’t the problem—even if their oil were hand-delivered from the refinery in an airtight sterile drum—there are a number of other operability issues inherent in heating oil, particularly with the emergence of ultra-low-sulfur heating oil (ULSHO).
Less Sulfur, More Problems
Because sulfur acts as a natural lubricant, for example, ULSHO is “dryer” than traditional heating oil, meaning that it is lower in lubricity, more prone to holding water, and more susceptible to microbial contamination. The refining process used to remove sulfur also removes oxygen, nitrogen and other functional elements, yielding a fuel that is waxier, to the detriment of its cold flow operability, and less stable in storage. Salts that are commonly found in diesel are less soluble in ULSHO, and can be abrasive to engine components and deadly to fuel injectors. ULSHO is also more solvent, or liable to loosen filter-plugging deposits in tanks. Lastly, just because ULSHO is “cleaner” than traditional heating oil, it is not any less corrosive to tanks, pipes and system components if left untreated.
Today’s advanced additive technology can eliminate such problems and optimize performance to create a premium product tailored to meet the needs of your customers. Cold flow additives prevent fuel gelling to keep heating systems running smoothly through the winter. Detergents keep tanks and injector systems clean. Combustion catalysts increase efficiency and decrease emissions. Corrosion inhibitors protect tank linings. Biocides control microbial contamination. Water control treatments prevent fuel degradation and other water-related issues. Biodiesel (though not an additive) is a cleaner burning, renewable fuel that can be blended with traditional heating oil at rates that beat natural gas on environmental benefits. For a comparable cost per gallon, your customers can have a far cleaner, more efficient and higher performing product that will quickly pay for itself in the form of fewer service calls, longer delivery intervals, and less downtime.
Offering a premium fuel can serve as a differentiator only if consumers are educated on the subject. Raising consumer awareness via websites, social media, marketing brochures, traditional advertising, customer newsletters and through personal interaction are all good ways to market fuel quality.
But the most effective marketing strategy is to provide evidence that the enhanced fuel actually works. Showing customers their fuel filters, tracking efficiency measures, and recording drops in maintenance issues goes a long way toward strengthening your value proposition and building loyalty to your brand.
For more information on fuel quality, additives, and premium treatment solutions, contact Advanced Fuel Solutions at 978-258-8360 or firstname.lastname@example.org.