With heating oil prices low, homeowners debate locking in

RYE BROOK, New York (WABC) -- As winter approaches, many homeowners are deciding whether to lock in their heating oil rates. It's an option that can save money with fluctuating prices, but it didn't exactly pay off last year.

On an 80-degree day, the Dolce family had 196 gallons of heating oil delivered to their Rye Brook home. Susan Dolce said she was surprised when her husband put in the order.

"And I thought, it's 150 degrees outside, are you sure that's wise?" she said. "He said, 'the prices are so good, it's too good to be true.' So he's filling up the tank."

Heating oil prices are hovering around $2 per gallon, and Paul Fortuna of A&N Heating Oil says the low prices are a win for consumers as we head into the colder months.

"Doesn't affect me at all," he said. "I make so much a gallon, and if it goes down, the customer saves money."

Last year, many homeowners locked in when prices were low, only to see them fall even lower. So what about this year?

"It's a crapshoot," Fortuna said. "You don't know what it's going to do from year to year. But inventory in the U.S. is up, so I think the prices are going to stay low."

Experts agree and say last year's mild winter resulted in a glut of oil on the east coast.

"We're something like 60 million barrels, we're something like 80 percent above the five-year average," said Jeff Mower, of S&P Global Platts. "It's a lot of inventory."

Many oil companies, A&N included, are willing work with customers looking to re-work agreements should prices drop after locking in. The best bet is to shop around, and to that end, the Westchester County's Board of Legislators website features a price tracker.

"Tthis year, we're going to going to play the field and see how it goes," Dolce said.

But for customers, it's just about keeping warm without breaking the bank.
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