Boston Dopers: what's heating oil cost?

My husband’s interviewing for a job at one of the colleges in Boston, and I’m poking around on-line just to see what we’re looking at if he gets it. One thing I notice is that many of the apartments don’t include heat (unlike Chicago), and most of them say “Oil Heat”. What sort of budget should I be allowing for that for a 3 or 4 bedroom apartment? Obviously this will vary, depending on insulation, window integrity and so on, but I honestly don’t know if I should be expecting $25 a month or $2500 a month.

For a specific property, can I trust the landlord to know and tell me honestly? Can I ask to see the prior tenant’s heating bills or anything?

While I understand wanting some anecdotal data points from the SDMB, that’s what you’re going to get - just a few data points. Obviously your annual bills are going to be a function of everything from how drafty the windows are and how the house is built, to how hot you keep your thermostat, to what your degree heating days are that season.

Here’s some general info: “Report warns that average 2009 oil bill for Mass. household could top $3,000”

Further, from the EIA: Winter Fuels Outlook, 2008/9

Can you call the utility company and ask them how much oil the apartment used last year?



Wow. I had no idea. So if I find two equivalent places, one with heat included, I should snap it up for even $200 more a month. Good to know. Thanks!

I don’t know. I have no idea how these things work - if it’s a utility like electricity or you buy it at the store by the gallon like lamp oil. Clueless, I’m utterly clueless here.

And I’m researching a gazillion places at once, 'cause he’s applied at over 40 colleges and universities so far. I don’t want to count chickens, but these are the sorts of things I think we need to know long before he starts discussing salary and comparing offers. I’m shocked already to find that rents are much higher in Boston than in Chicago, for instance, and that our income would have to increase considerably just to cover that or he’d need to negotiate a housing allowance. This grown up stuff sucks.

[quote=“Una_Persson, post:2, topic:469501”]

Here’s some general info: “Report warns that average 2009 oil bill for Mass. household could top $3,000”

Holy Crap! I sure am glad I have an electric heat pump. Why do so many homes in NE use heating oil instead of electric heat? Is it a shortage of coal or coal-fired plants to generate the necessary electricty?

Or is it a situation where a lot of the homes are older, were built for heating oil back when it was a cheap option, and now people are just stuck with it? Both?

I’m in Vermont, about 2 1/2 hours from Boston. We’re paying about $350 a month for heating fuel, but we locked in our price before the oil prices collapsed, so we prebought about 700 gallons at over $4 per. Sucks. But we’re in a three bedroom ranch house with a basement, so YMM, of course, V.

We just moved from a 3 bedroom apartment in Boston. Our heating bills were upwards of $250/month. Yeah, it’s scary. And no, there isn’t much you can do about it. Though, I will admit, this is an expense we just don’t skimp on. If we want to be warm, we turn the heat up. We typically kept it at about 72 in our place…at least in the living areas. We did shut off the furnace in the spare bedroom and kept the door closed.

Good luck. Boston is one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

You buy heating oil for your house/apartment from a heating oil dealer, like this one:

You can find more listed here:

These are usually small businesses, sometimes family owned. The advertising often makes a big deal about this, you aren’t dealing with the Big Impersonal Gas Utility but instead are dealing with a real person.

They will deliver automatically, whenever they calculate based on the degree days, that you need more oil in your tank. You can usually get on a payment plan where the payments are spread out over the whole year so you don’t have to pay your entirely yearly heating bill in December, January, and February. Also, as someone said upthread you can lock in your price ahead of time.

Keep in mind that with the emerging worldwide recession oil prices are falling. You probably wouldn’t want to lock in a price under these circumstances.

[quote=“FoieGrasIsEvil, post:5, topic:469501”]

Everything I’ve always read indicates for most situations electric heat is still more expensive than oil or natural gas for most houses. My parents had a house with electric heat in upstate NY and the bills were insane during the winter.

I think you are right though, there are relatively few coal-fired power plants in New England, that seems to be more of a Midwest thing, at least according to all the acid rain stuff I have read.

Thank you so much for this information!

[quote=“Laughing_Lagomorph, post:9, topic:469501”]

I must pay below the norm for electric then. My company is South Eastern Indiana REMC, so perhaps the “member owned” portion of it drives my costs down some. I have about a 2400 sq foot home (3BR) and I’ve never had a heating or air conditioning -driven electric bill over $200 in a month.

My home is also over-insulated, modern-built, modern windows, cedar siding, etc so that likely helps a lot too.

I have looked at older homes in my area that had the big old oil tanks in the basement for oil-fired furnaces, so I assumed that it was a function of older homes, and NE is one of the oldest areas of the USA in terms of settlement.

Perhaps there just isn’t as much coal or power plants there, too.

I cannot imagine paying over $300/month for an apartment, let alone a home.

Well, the rental housing stock in the greater Boston area is certainly old. Many of the buildings commonly used for rentals date from before WWII, although they might have newer furnaces.

WhyNot just to be clear…the oil company will automatically fill up your tank when it needs it if you have contracted with them ahead of time. You need to initiate a relationship with them, and as you see you have your choice of independent vendors so you should be able to haggle a little. You don’t want to be frantically dialing numbers with an empty tank during a cold snap.

As a general rule I don’t trust landlords to be 100% honest when they are trying to rent an apartment. You can certainly ask to see the prior tenant’s heating bills but the landlord may not have access to them, the tenant may not have kept them, they may have already moved out of town, and as Una has pointed out they may not reflect what you end up paying, for a variety of reasons.

Sure. When does it start getting cold enough to need heat there? If we move in in early August, will we have some time to get things sorted out locally?

I have to admit, looking at the cost of living there, it’d have to be a *really *good paying job for us to make it work. I’m kinda rooting for the Allentown, PA position at this point, although husband has friends around Boston he’d love to live nearby. Ach! Such decisions! Although, realistically, we’re pretty much constrained by who actually offers a job, not just an interview. I just like to worry about things and get information way before I know if I’ll actually need it. Information is my security blanket.

I’m near Philadelphia, which is significantly warmer than Boston. According to the oil supplier when we bought the house, the 1900 sq. ft. house used 800 to 1000 gal of heating oil a year. I replaced the 50 year old windows and put in a programable thermostat. This cut the consumption to under 500 gal last winter (which was warmer than usual). I’m figuring on 600 gal this winter.

You can see how insulation, windows, and temperature setting make a huge difference in heating costs. An apartment, with shared walls, will require less oil. Apartments are also generally less than 1900 sq. ft.

Current prices for home heating oil are between $2.50 and $3.00/gal. However, the price has been extremely volatile – a few weeks ago prices were nearing $5.00/gal.

I turned on the heat around the end of September or beginning of October this year, but I probably could have delayed it a couple of weeks if I had really wanted to. Also I am in the suburbs which get colder faster this time of year than Boston/Cambridge/Brookline/Somerville.

Early August should certainly give you enough time to sort things out, these guys love to sell you oil, it basically only takes a phone call. On top of that the oil tank is likely to not be empty from the previous season anyway, you would most likely get a little bit of a grace period just from that.

if you are renting an apartment most landlords will have an account with an oil company already. the cost of the oil will be shared by the tenants.

i live in a lightly insulated 2 story house with full basement in phila. the tank will be filled 2-3 times per winter. i have a charge account so it gets filled then i get billed. last year each fill up was around 500 dollars.

this year i managed to get onto the pay through the year method so i pay xxx per month and when the oil is delivered the amount i have paid is subtracted from the amount delivered.

thankfully the price has gone down.

if you rent a home where you are responsible for the oil, try for a monthly plan and a repair plan. have the funace cleaned and ready to go in aug. or sept.

boston is a very high standard of living city. you will have a bit of sticker shock there.

“Back when it was a cheap option” wasn’t that long ago. Oil was eighty something cents a gallon back in 1998. Historically, it’s been * much * cheaper than electricity. This all changed roughly 3-4 years ago when the price of oil topped $2.00/gallon and never looked back. This summer, during the peak of the oil bubble, heating fuel was selling for around $4.70/gallon and there were dire predictions that it would go higher. The $3000/year article referenced earlier in this thread was written in August. Since then, heating oil has fallen considerably, although it’s still more expensive than it was last year.

Currently, many oil users are migrating to gas, but that’s an expensive process and, anecdotally, there’s enough demand so that a lot of units are backordered. So decreased demand will probably put some further downward pressure on fuel prices unless we have an unusually cold winter.

For the OP – apartments are generally smaller than full-sized homes, so I’d generally expect you to be able to heat for a winter on 1-2 275 gallon tanks worth of oil. But it depends on the insulation and how many other units surround it.

How does this work? Does each tenant get a meter that shows how much they consumed?


So, traditionally speaking, that part of the country (and I suppose, many others, as I witnessed when house-hunting in the Midwest last year and looked at older homes) used this option because it was cheap, and the house was already retrofitted with that kind of setup.

OK…so how expensive is electricity in NE? Why haven’t more homes converted to an electric heat pump? Them’s some cold winters up there, and people need heat to survive. Is it just a matter of “what worked for so long is becoming less viable due to cost”?

[quote=“Laughing_Lagomorph, post:9, topic:469501”]

It all depends on what utility you’re under and what technology. In my area the cost can be lower for electric heat pumps, or higher for resistance heaters. Heating oil here would be quite dear.

There are indeed several coal plants in New England, I have been working at several of them this year in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts…I need not go on. I’m not sure of the percentage of MWh on a State-by-State basis; that info can be readily looked up though. However, what sets the average cost of electricity is a function of many things. I can say general averages for an area, or a State, but saying exactly why “Utility X has prices of this” would take more research than I’m willing to do.