Frequently Asked Questions
Trust Western MA’s heating and cooling experts to answer your questions about home heating oil, propane gas, HVAC service, heating, and air conditioning equipment, and our full-service company. If you do not find the answer to your question within one of the categories below, please contact our office and we will be happy to assist you!
Heating Oil FAQs
Q: Which methods of payment do you accept?
A: You can pay by check (credit-approved automatic delivery accounts only), money order, or credit card. Customers with automatic delivery have the added convenience of choosing SmartPay (our monthly payment program). With SmartPay, we spread your fuel bills evenly over 11 months.
Q: How do you determine my monthly SmartPay payments?
A: To calculate your monthly fuel payments, we use your fuel delivery record from the past year to estimate the number of gallons you will use during the next heating season. We multiply the number of gallons by an estimated price per gallon. This amount is then divided into 11 equal monthly payments.
Q: If I call you this winter, will you know the price for the day, and tell me where prices are going?
A: If you want to know the price for that day, please feel free to call our office. We cannot make any predictions on where prices are going, however. The daily price could change from day to day, depending on the weather, inventory, and a host of other factors. For greater predictability with your fuel prices, learn more about our SmartPay budget plan or our price protection options.
Q: Do I have to be on SmartPay to get your price cap protection?
A: Yes. SmartPay customers have the option of combining the convenience of monthly payments with the protection of a price cap.
Q: Can I call for my oil and still enroll in SmartPay?
A: Unfortunately, no. Because we contract for the oil ahead of time and plan our delivery routes days in advance, we need to be able to predict when we’ll make deliveries.
Q: Is price cap protection always the best option?
A: We make the price cap program available to our SmartPay customers, but it is not necessarily the best fit for every family. We have no way of knowing whether this “insurance” will pay off, or whether prices will go down and never hit the cap level.
So, if you choose to pay our market rate instead of choosing our price cap protection and the price of oil drops during the heating season, you would save money by buying at the daily rate. You would also save money by not having to pay a price cap fee which we require because of the ever-increasing volatility in the oil market. On the other hand, if you pay the market rate and the price of oil rises, you would pay the higher price because you don’t have a cap.
Whatever you decide, know that our commitment is to take the best care of your family we possibly can.
Q: How do you determine what the price cap will be?
A: The price itself of the cap depends on the wholesale price we pay plus an allowance to cover our costs. We analyze pricing trends, study the commodities market, and do research, so we can decide when the time is right to make our bulk fuel purchases. Only in this way can we structure a reliable program you can count on for protection from unpredictable price spikes. It takes time and money to structure a price cap program correctly, and not all heating fuel dealers have the resources to do it, especially in the current market.
Q: Why do I have to pay a fee for your price cap?
A: As you might expect, our suppliers charge us a premium for offering the “insurance” that allows us to keep your price from skyrocketing while at the same time gives us the flexibility of lowering your price should market prices fall.
Q: What is downside protection?
A: Downside protection gives you the opportunity to pay the lowest rate if the market prices of fuel drop.
Q: When do I need to sign up for a price cap?
A: Price cap protection is offered at various times of the year. We mail out letters when the program(s) becomes available. The programs are available for as long as we have protected gallons to offer. We offer a price cap on a first-come, first-served policy.
Q: What should I do if I smell gas in my home?
A: After only the quickest glance at the on/off knobs on your stove (to see if that’s the source of the problem), quickly exit the house with your family. Move quickly and with purpose. Once safely outside, call 911 for help using a cell phone or a neighbor’s telephone.
Q: How should I choose a propane company?
A: We suggest you do the following:
- Review the company’s safety record, any safety programs they enroll in, or safety checks they perform regularly for customers.
- Contact state and local regulatory agencies for information about the company.
- Find out if the company belongs to state and national propane gas associations.
- Ask the company about its gas delivery procedures, service fees, and pricing structures.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau for the company’s reputation and business history.
Q: Can I fix my propane equipment or move my propane tank by myself?
A: No. Combustible gases do not lend themselves to do-it-yourself projects. We know it can be tempting to save money or enjoy a sense of accomplishment by doing work on your propane equipment and tank on your own, but please don’t—for your safety and the safety of your family.
Q: Can I spread out the cost of my propane needs in equal payments?
A: Absolutely, and this is our default method of billing our propane customers. We call it SmartPay! Our SmartPay Even Pay Plan spreads out your annual fuel bills over 11 months.
Q: What happens if I miss a payment or I pay late?
A: Just as we must provide fuel at our guaranteed discounted prices, you must pay the specified SmartPay payments on a timely basis. If you fail to make payments or the deliveries are suspended by the buyer for any reason, your account will be placed on credit hold and any monies owed to FSi Oil and Propane will become due in full.
HVAC Service FAQs
Q: What should I do if my heating system doesn’t work?
A: If your heating system isn’t working, first check to see if the heating system is turned on. Then double-check that the circuit breakers are on, as it is common for the circuit breakers to trip. This may save you the cost and inconvenience of an unnecessary service visit. If at this point you still don’t get heat, call us immediately.
When a service technician arrives, let him or her know everything you did to the system before they begin working on it. You should also let them know if anything out of the ordinary happened, like an unusual noise, a strange smell, or smoke.
In many cases, this will help the technician find the problem and get your heat back on faster.
Q: Is there anything you can do about the smell of heating oil?
A: Yes! As long as your heating system is working properly, you should not smell oil in your home. If you do, it means something is wrong. A heating oil smell could come from a leak, combustion or burner troubles, heat exchanger failure, or exhaust system problems. Call us, and we’ll come over to correct the problem. If you have a leak, we’ll remove the oil and help get the smell out of your home. If you ever smell oil coming from your vents, call us immediately. That’s an indication of a faulty furnace that may be releasing dangerous gases in your home.
Q: I’ve been buying my oil from a dealer in the area who sells cheap oil, but they don’t do equipment service. If I lose my heat, can you help me?
A: We offer automatic delivery and 24/7 emergency service for our customers. As we need to give the highest priority service to our current customers, we are therefore unable to make equipment service calls if you are not our customer. Contact us today to learn about becoming a customer.
Q: What type of service plans do you offer?
A: We offer two levels of protection for your heating system: Value and Advantage. The Advantage Plan costs more but eliminates most repair bills. For a modest fee, our Value Plan provides you with our precision tune-up and discounts on repairs. We also provide service plans for air conditioning systems. For your oil tank, you can get protection for a nominal fee through The TankSure® Program.
Q: At what temperature should I set my thermostat?
A: Different people feel comfortable at different temperatures. Pay less attention to the number on the thermostat display and more attention to how comfortable the room feels to you. When you feel comfortable, check the setting. That’s the right temperature for you. Learn about programmable thermostats which can help cut energy costs and give you greater convenience!
Q: Why does it cost so much to run an air conditioning system?
A: Air conditioners run on electricity, and electricity is the most expensive energy source. Converting fuels like coal or natural gas into electricity is inherently inefficient. According to the US Department of Energy, by the time it reaches your home, electricity is only 33% efficient on average. Keep your A/C system as efficient as possible by scheduling an annual tune-up or learn more about purchasing a new A/C unit. Call to discuss how a new unit can save you money.
Q: Do I really need a tune-up for my air conditioning system?
A: Yes. An air conditioning tune-up and inspection will help catch service problems before they get too serious. Many breakdowns occur on the hottest day of the year because that’s when your A/C is under the most stress. And because a tune-up ensures that your system will run at peak efficiency, you’ll lower your electric bills. A system that’s running efficiently can save you about 10% on your cooling costs. So, request service to schedule your annual tune-up!
Q: Do you use your own installation specialists or do you hire subcontractors?
A: We use only our own certified, factory-trained technicians. We never hire subcontractors. Our heating and cooling technicians are the most highly trained in the industry. Your comfort and our reputation are too important to put in anyone else’s hands.
Q: Why should I invest in a service plan?
A: For peace of mind, our plans include a preventive maintenance tune-up, a guaranteed fast response when you need us, and savings on repairs. Depending on the plan you choose, you either get a big discount on dozens of repairs or pay absolutely nothing for them.
Q: Why are tune-ups important?
A: Records show that four out of five system breakdowns could have been prevented with regular maintenance. A tune-up for your heating and/or cooling system will reduce the chance of a breakdown, keep your system running at peak efficiency and cut your energy bills by up to 10%.
Q: Which plan is best for me?
A: It depends on the level of protection you want. The Advantage Plan costs more but eliminates most repair bills, giving you peace of mind. For a more modest fee, the Value Plan provides you with our expert tune-ups for lower fuel bills and fewer system problems, along with a discount on many repairs.
Q: How do I save on repairs?
A: Our service plans can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on repair costs over the life of your system. Without a service plan, replacing a furnace’s blower motor would cost around $412. Installing a new fuel pump would set you back by about $271. With our Advantage Plan, replacing these parts—and most others that typically need repair or replacement at some point—costs you nothing. With the Value Plan, you get a 15% discount on repairs and a 50% discount on diagnostic fees.
Q: Can I spread out my service plan cost into smaller payments?
A: Yes. We can divide the cost of your service coverage into smaller payments through our monthly SmartPay program. Contact us for details.
Heating Equipment FAQs
Q: How long does it take to get an estimate on a new heating system?
A: Some estimates can be received the same day you call. Other times, a site visit by our equipment specialist can be scheduled within a short period of time to assess the best options for your home and to discuss any questions you may have. Contact us today.
Q: Approximately how long does it take you to complete an installation of a heating system?
A: Most installations can be completed in one day.
Q: Do you offer equipment financing?
A: Yes. We know that installing a new heating or cooling system can be expensive; that’s why we have financing partners who can make your dream of increased comfort and greater energy savings a reality.
Q: How do you determine a heating system’s efficiency?
A: There are two indicators of efficiency.
Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE): All heating equipment manufactured after 1980 is required to have a label indicating its AFUE. The AFUE ratio is a measurement of a heating system’s seasonal efficiency, considering how well the system performs over an entire season of starts and stops. Modern heating systems range in efficiency from 81%-98%. If your system’s AFUE is lower than this range, talk to us about your replacement options.
Combustion Efficiency: When we tune your heating system, we do a combustion efficiency test that tells us how well your burner is converting oil into heat. If your combustion efficiency is below 78, you may want to evaluate your upgrade options, which could include an oil burner retrofit. A new burner will burn the fuel/air mixture in a cleaner, more controlled manner, resulting in lower heating costs and fewer combustion by-products going out of your chimney.
Q: On mild winter days my furnace runs in short blasts and my home alternates from being too hot to being too cold. How can I fix this?
A: Installing a new furnace with a variable-speed motor is a good solution. These “smart” motors automatically adjust airflow volume and speed based on your home’s temperature requirements. There will be fewer on/off cycles, smaller temperature swings, consistent even heat, and lower fuel bills.
Q: Should I install a programmable thermostat?
A: Absolutely! Programmable thermostats are especially useful for people who are away from home at regular intervals. They allow for customized comfort settings around the clock, and they can cut heating and cooling costs by as much as 10%.
Q: How do I know if it is more cost-efficient to repair my old heating system or replace it?
A: If you’re like many people, the frustration of an equipment breakdown can make it tempting to solve the problem with a quick fix. But while a quick fix may be the least expensive solution, it may not give you the most value in the long run.
Older systems are more likely to break down, which means a bigger chance of emergency service calls and repairs. Worse, a breakdown could mean extensive damage to your home (no heat on a cold winter day can allow your pipes to freeze). And let’s face it—repairing an old system can only restore it to something less than its original level of efficiency. After you’ve recovered from the repair bill and the frustration of a system breakdown, you’ll still be battling high energy bills. Even a system that doesn’t break down loses efficiency as it ages.
Older heating and cooling systems are considered inefficient by today’s standards. The average homeowner can save up to 40% on heating and cooling costs with new high-efficiency equipment. Here are some rules of thumb to help you decide whether to replace or repair.
Replace your system if:
- It is more than 10 years old and only in average condition.
- It does not keep you as comfortable as you would like.
- It breaks down frequently.
- It is burning too much fuel.
- You will be living in your home for at least five more years.
Repair your system if:
- It is less than 10 years old and in good condition.
- Your heating and cooling costs have been acceptable.
- You’re pleased with your level of comfort.
- Its performance is reliable.
- You will be moving within the next five years.
- It is still under warranty.
Q: How long does a water heater typically last?
A: The average conventional water heater lasts about 10 years. A lot depends on the water quality in your area and the quality of the water heater. Hard water, with its high mineral content, can shorten the life of a unit. A tankless water heater lasts longer. Because the unit lacks a tank, the chance for corrosion is vastly reduced. The average life expectancy of a tankless water heater is 20 years.
Q: How does a tankless water heater work?
A: Tankless, or on-demand, water heaters will only heat water when you turn on your hot water faucets. In contrast, conventional water heaters continue to reheat the unused water that sits in the tank which is a waste of energy.
Q: How much can I save with a tankless water heater?
A: Compared to conventional water heaters, a tankless unit can save you as much as 40% on your annual water heating costs. Some tankless water heaters also qualify for a federal tax credit which can help you save up to 30% on the cost of the unit. Many tankless water heaters qualify for energy efficiency rebates as well!
Q: What are my options in tankless water heaters?
A: We install and service both oil and gas tankless water heaters. We also install and service direct-fired and indirect-fired oil and gas water heaters.
Q: How do oil and propane water heaters compare with electric water heating units?
A: One of the biggest energy wasters in many homes today is the electric water heater, and, with electricity rates on the rise, the cost to operate this type of unit is going up. This is because the electric resistance coil that heats water is slow and extremely inefficient. Compared to a propane or oil water heater, it takes an electric unit two to three times longer to heat the water in your tank. This means you have to wait longer (and pay a lot more) for electrically heated water.
Q: My home has a forced-air furnace but no air conditioning. Can I add central air?
A: You bet! We can mount a cooling coil on top of the furnace and install a condensing unit outside. We can have a new central air conditioner installed within a day in homes with existing ductwork.
Q: My home does NOT have ductwork. Can I still get air conditioning?
A: Absolutely! Today’s simple ductless air conditioning options make it possible to install a quiet, efficient air conditioning system in your home even if it doesn’t have ductwork. Ductless air conditioning systems consist of one or more indoor air distribution units linked by refrigeration lines to an outdoor compressor. These flexible refrigeration lines can be positioned inside your walls and ceilings with a minimum of inconvenience. Installing ductless air conditioning costs a little more than standard central air conditioning systems but much less than the cost of installing ductwork and a central air conditioner.
Q: What does indoor air quality refer to, and how does it affect my home and family?
A: Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the impact, good or bad, of the contents of the air inside a structure on its occupants. Good IAQ is the quality of air which has no unwanted gases or particles in it at concentrations that will adversely affect someone. Poor IAQ occurs when gases or particles are present at an excessive concentration and affects the satisfaction or health of occupants.
When do you shut outside faucets off in the colder months?
You should always shut off your outside faucets at the inside of the house, and DO NOT leave hoses attached all winter long! If you do not have working shut-offs inside the house, give us a call.
I want a new toilet; what do I do?
FSi works with several different showrooms throughout the area: Degrees of Comfort in Northampton (413) 247-5311, Frank Webbs in Springfield (413) 726-9950 and Northampton (413) 586-8003, The Plumbers Showcase in Chicopee (413) 736-5484, Bath & Kitchen Gallery in West Springfield (413) 642-2318, and Bay State Plumbing (413) 733-6696.
Insulating the pipes in my basement, good idea or bad?
Great idea! Insulating cold water pipes in your basement will help prevent them from sweating (or dripping condensate) in the summertime. Insulating hot water pipes in your basement will help deliver more efficient hot water to your shower in the wintertime.
Does FSi replace sump pumps?
Yes we do! If you have a sump pump that is old, we would be happy to replace it. If you do not have a sump pump but have problems with water in your basement, give us a call, and we can walk you through some solutions.
Can I put a gas fireplace insert in my existing wood fireplace?
If you have natural or propane gas in your home and you have a wood fireplace, chances are you can. FSi has done hundreds of these types of installations. Please give us a call, and we can inspect your gas lines and see if it will work for you.
What can go down my garbage disposal?
Any soft item that is edible is able to go down a garbage disposal. No plastic, no paper, no bone, and no coffee grounds should go down it because it may cause the motor to malfunction.
Water Treatment FAQs
Why do I have streaking and stains on my dishes and shower doors?
When you notice streaking or stains on your dishes and shower doors, you probably have hard water. Hard water (or excessive minerals in the water) will leave stains when the water dries. A water softener may be right for you: give us a call to learn more.
My water smells like sulfur or rotten eggs; can FSi help?
The infamous rotten egg smell is no match for FSi. So yes, we can. FSi has filtration systems that remove foul odors caused by Hydrogen Sulfide. Get in touch to request water treatment.
There’s chlorine in my water; what do I do?
Whether there’s chlorine present in your water, or it just smells off, FSi can help. If you live on a Municipal Water System, then the EPA mandates that the water system be chlorinated in order to protect from bacteria. However, that chlorine has done its job once the water enters your house. You can filter out the chlorine with a carbon filter from FSi.
Should I be concerned about contaminants in my drinking water?
There are many Municipal Water Systems throughout the region that have contaminants of varying degrees of severity. Check out our service area map with a guide to water reports for your community. We would be happy to come out and discuss what these reports are telling you and how you can protect your family.
Is there lead in my drinking water?
Almost all water systems have at least trace amounts of lead. Some systems more than others. If you have small children living in your home, it is always a good idea to install a Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water System to protect against lead in drinking water.
Water Heater FAQs
The average water heater life span would be…
Most tank-type water heater (electric, natural gas, propane gas, and oil) manufacturers suggest that the tanks can last about 7–11 years.
Is there any way to increase the life of my water heater?
It is suggested to drain down a tank-type water heater yearly, in order to decrease the amount of sediment that settles to the bottom and in order to improve efficiency and prevent excess corrosion.
Are tankless water heaters good for your home?
Tankless water heaters offer far more efficiency and last longer than traditional tank-type water heaters. However, they are more expensive and installation challenges need to be considered. The most efficient and cost-effective tankless water heaters are usually fired by natural or propane gas. If you already have this type of gas in your home, call and we can give you a cost estimate.
What is the best temperature for my water heater?
Your water heater can safely run at 120 degrees F; however, you’ll typically find that most water heaters are automatically set to run at 140 degrees F. If your water heater falls below 120 degrees it runs the risk for bacteria to develop inside your water heater. Hot water burns bacteria and harsh chemicals that can stay stagnant and build up in your pipelines. Old, dirty water can get into your home and cause certain skin conditions, illnesses, and other like problems. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep your water heater running at a recommended temperature that is hot enough.
Do you offer free water testing?
FSi plumbing offers free water testing to better educate you on what particles are contaminating and living in your water system. Your waters contaminants can be from a variety of different factors. One of which, is where your water comes from. If you have a private well, then any contaminants in your water will slowly develop over time based on environmental factors like flooding, agricultural runoff, and seal in your pipeline or home that wasn’t filled correctly, and more. If your home’s water is supplied by a public or town source, you run the risk of heavy metals, pesticides, nitrates, and chlorine chemicals all building up in your water system. Contact FSi plumbing today for your free at-home water test!
How often should I test my water?
The regular standard to test your home’s water varies whether or not it is a private well or a public supply. When your water gets tested, the test will look for total coliform bacteria counts, nitrates, and total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If your home’s or business’s water supply comes from a private well, you should have it tested annually. A good time of year for this is usually found to be the springtime. If your water supply is coming from a public source, since there are hundreds and thousands of individuals using the same supply, your town should test it once every season.
Why should I test my water?
If you start to notice any of the following signs, we can help!
- The water tastes different than usual
- The color isn’t crystal clear
- There appears to be a foul odor coming out of the faucet
- You notice a change in consistency; does your water feel chalky? Or does the pressure seem a bit off?
When your living area undergoes any special circumstances or environmental changes, then it may be a good idea to get your water tested sooner rather than later.
- A tropical storm
- An earthquake
- An abrupt change in water pressure from heavy rainfall or excessive drainage
- Runoff from any sort of agricultural farm, and more
General FSi Oil and Propane FAQs
Q: What are your hours?
A: We are open 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. every weekday, but when it comes to a heating emergency, we are always open. We have a service technician on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And, if you are enrolled in one of our service plans, you’ll receive priority service. If you lose heat, we are usually at your home in fewer than three hours.
Q: How long have you been in business?
A: We are a family-run business that has been operating for more than three decades, serving our customers with the highest quality fuels and service in the area. We are eager to continue growing our business and to provide service to more home and business owners who are interested in working with a local, reliable fuel company. Click here to apply to join the FSi Oil and Propane team.
Q: Which towns in our area do you service?
A: We provide heating oil delivery, kerosene delivery, propane services, and HVAC and plumbing services to more than 30 towns in the Greater Springfield, MA area.
Q: How can I contact you if I have a question or need a delivery?
A: If you are in need of emergency service, please call us at (413) 650-6298 or (888) LPG-CLUB. Additional contact information can be found on our website.