Wednesday, July 2, 2008

you're our best customer

When we moved into our house 13 years ago, home heating oil was 87 cents a gallon.

Good thing, because our oil burner was original to the house. It was a dinosaur from the 60's.

Every winter, we would wake up one morning (sometimes two) to a freezing cold house, because the furnace had stopped working.

Our furnace would typically break on the coldest day of the year, on a Sunday when repair rates were tripled, and on the day when every one's furnace also broke.

We would turn on the electric oven, light a fire, and huddle under blankets, while we waited hours for the repair guy to come.

Bit by bit, we replaced just about every part of that old oil burner.

One day, a coworker was telling me how her new furnace paid for itself in just one year, because they had used so much less oil. Their new furnace was much more efficient.

I mentioned this to Jeff. He argued that we had already replaced everything major that could go wrong, so why spend the money on a new one. He had a point. We decided to wait a little longer, and continue purchasing the service contract from our oil company, which paid for itself in one service call.

About six winters ago, I came home from work one afternoon, and our house seemed really warm. I thought the furnace must have just kicked off. Sometimes the radiators would get really hot.

I noticed the dogs were panting. I let them outside to go to the bathroom. Misty laid down in the snow, and refused to come back inside. I went back in, and realized the house was unusually hot. I walked over to our ancient thermostat, and saw the red line was as high as it could go. The house must have been over 100 degrees. I began throwing windows open. Not an easy task, since all my storm windows were in.

I called my oil company. They asked for my name and phone number. I could hear him punching on a keyboard.

"Oh yes," he says. "You are one of our best customers."

What does that mean?


He tells me to go in the basement and look for the emergency shut off switch.

I look all over the place, and find nothing.

"Oh," he says. "Your system must be really old. You'll have to hit the breaker."

I nervously hit the breaker, hoping I don't blow myself up, and he sends someone out to fix the dinosaur.

Misty stays in the snow for hours. Jeff and I eat dinner, in the middle of February, with the kitchen windows wide open.

I realize our dogs could have died from heat exhaustion that day, if I hadn't come home when I did.

Turns out, a couple of wires had fused themselves together, which kept the furnace from shutting off.

We had the furnace fixed, and then had a new one installed in the Fall, along with a shiny, new, emergency shut off switch.

After our first winter with our new furnace, I realized why we were our oil company's "best customer". With our old furnace, we had been burning 1200 gallons of oil a year. With our new one, we average around 500.

With the price of home heating oil inching up to $5 a gallon, I'd say the new one has paid for itself.

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