You can only do so much to reduce the amount of heating oil you use before the cutbacks begin negatively affecting your quality of life. An alternative way to save money on in this area is to join a fuel co-op. These organizations negotiate reduced oil prices with supplier companies for their members. Here are two things you should know about heating oil co-ops to help you decide if joining one is right for you.
Co-Ops Typically Require Participation of Some Kind
There are many benefits associated with joining a heating oil co-op. Not only can you save $0.10 to $0.30 per gallon of oil, you may have access to discounts on equipment repairs and support services that can help you handle problems with the supplier company.
However, those benefits come with responsibility. In most co-ops, you're a member-owner with voting rights. As such, you'll be expected to participate in proceedings where input from members is required. For instance, if someone proposes to change the terms of a contract with a particular supplier company (e.g. eliminate a minimum purchase clause), you'll likely be expected to cast a vote. This is fine if you have time to study up on the issue and give your input. However, it may not be as easy when you're working two jobs and raising a family.
Other duties you may be expected to perform as a member of the co-op includes showing up to required annual meetings and any special meetings called during the year, electing board members, and contributing to the co-op by volunteering in some fashion. For instance, you may be expected to help with promotional activities. The exact requirements will vary depending on the co-op.
You need to be sure you can perform the duties expected of you as a member of the co-op before you join one; otherwise, you may end up with more hassles than the savings are worth.
There are Yearly Membership Fees
To sustain themselves, heating oil co-ops typically charge yearly fees. These fees go towards paying for various expenses incurred by the organization such as paying for office space and obtaining legal services from an attorney. The rates charged vary, but the average is between $20 and $40 annually. Some organizations may charge more, and others may give discounts to people in special categories (e.g. low income; over 55).
Before joining, you need to be sure the savings you get on heating oil justify the yearly membership cost. If the fee to join a co-op is $40 but you only save $25 on your heating oil costs, that's a net loss. This is mostly a problem for people who may not use a lot of oil throughout the year, though. For example, people who only live in their homes for part of the year may not save as much as those who reside in their houses all year long.
Track your oil usage and calculate whether the co-op fee will be paid for by the savings and benefits you obtain from being part of the organization.
For more information about heating oil co-ops or to start service, contact a local heating oil company.