It's hard to believe right now, but in just a few short months, families will start firing up their boilers and furnaces to ward off the winter chill. There's no better time than now to act like a boy scout and be prepared. Heat and air conditioning costs account for the largest percentage of most families' energy bills, and households that rely on oil heat can earn themselves a discount by filling up their tank now while prices hover at lows not seen in years.

Prices Plunging Around the World

Heating a home using oil as fuel can be an expensive proposition. Although prices vary by region, the cost of using oil is almost universally higher than burning natural gas, usually significantly so. Not everybody has access to gas lines, however, particularly people who live in rural areas. Heat pumps are becoming a more popular and efficient option for rural heat and air conditioning solutions, but not everyone has the funds to convert their system or the desire to make the upgrade.

Fortunately, a dramatic drop in the price of oil since last fall means that paying to refill the tank is a much more palatable burden. The price of the oil that fuels your boiler won't track to the barrel price exactly, due to refinery, transportation and other costs, but it does broadly correspond to the ups and downs of the commodity.

See the Commodities Rise and Fall

In general, if you aren't closely tracking commodity prices, you can just keep an eye on the price of diesel at nearby gas stations. This should give you an idea of how oil is trending, as well as provide a better picture of how the price is fluctuating locally. Keep in mind that the price of energy is volatile and unpredictable, so it's always a possibility that you can fill up your tank only to see prices drop even more the next day. All you can do is act using the best information available, so if you're happy with the price you pay today, there's no point in beating yourself up if a better opportunity appears later.

In any event, if you buy now, you will protect yourself against a spike in prices that could drive your heating costs into the stratosphere. Some companies even allow you to make a contract to purchase a certain amount of oil in the future at a set price so you can lock in your cost to refill your tank later in the winter.

Keep Harmful Condensation at Bay

If the savings aren't persuasive, there's one more benefit to buying your heating oil now rather than later – when the tank is empty, condensation can cause water to build up inside and you may have to perform additional maintenance to keep it functioning properly.

If you need to fill up your heating oil tank, or have any other heat and air conditioning needs, contact an expert HVAC specialist today.