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How To Prepare Your Home For Winter
Some of these require professional help - call early, as calendars get full in the weeks leading up to winter.
1. Add a second layer of insulation to your attic. R-30 Insulation is considered the minimum. If your house is relatively new, it probably conforms. If not, consider adding insulation.
2. Caulk around window and door glass and trim, and all exterior trim. Install or replace weather stripping on all doors and windows. Check for cracks around pipes and electrical outlets entering or exiting the walls.
3. Install storm windows and doors if you have them. Considered purchasing storm windows if you have older windows that are not made from modern insulated glass.
4. Have your heating system checked by a licensed heating/air-conditioning professional. Most furnace manufacturers recommend at least annual inspections.
5. Check gutters and clean them if necessary. Clogged gutters can result in basement flooding when the snow melts.
6. Replace any roof shingles that are missing or damaged.
7. Have your chimneys inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned
8. Check the foundation for areas where water may puddle.
9. Trim trees away from the house. Have dead trees and branches removed by professional tree trimmers, or do it yourself.
10. Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets.
11. Insulate any water pipes that are exposed to freezing cold.
12. Replace the batteries in carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and check to make sure these are all in working order.
13. Check fire extinguishers and charge and replace as necessary.
14. Make sure you are stocked with rock salt, sand, snow shovels, and any other items you will need during the winter.
Order oil when gauge reads 1/4 and ensure you always have enough fuel to stay warm during winter storms.
Hometown Offers to Help Flynnís Customers
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In Exeter: Flynn's Oil customers tell of previous issues, By Leslie Modica
Wendy Collins has become fairly accustomed to Flynn's Oil's automatic delivery not arriving on time.
In fact, over the past few years, she has spent hundreds of dollars on new nozzles for her fuel tank that needed to be replaced after her tank ran dry, including the $112 she just spent in November when her delivery to her Rye home didn't arrive on time.
So when she knew she was approaching the bottom of her tank right before Christmas, she decided to be proactive. During that week before the holiday, she e-mailed and called the Exeter-based oil company several times, but never heard back.
On Dec. 26, she ran out. When she called again that day, the voice mail box was full.
"I didn't know at that point that they had any problems," Collins said. "Then I started reading all these articles."
Those news articles were about the Christmas Eve announcement by the state Attorney General that the state had filed, and the court granted, a petition for injunctive relief against the heating oil company. In that petition, the state alleges that Flynn's Oil entered into prebuy agreements with customers but has failed to comply with the contracts and has not delivered the correct amount, or any, oil to many of those customers.
Bob Cooke, of Nottingham, found himself in a similar situation to Collins when he ran out of oil on Dec. 21.
Like Collins, it wasn't the first time it had happened. He ran out once this summer, when the oil is used to run his hot water tank, but at that point he chalked the incident up to an honest error.>
But this time, running out of heating oil was more disruptive.
"The first time we ran out was prior to the winter. It wasn't during heating season, so we could go a day," Cooke said.
Fortunately, unlike Collins, Cooke was able to get in touch with Flynn's Oil on Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. when he discovered that he was out. By the time they came to his house at 10 p.m., when he was about ready to go buy diesel to put in his tank, the upstairs of his house was down to 58 degrees, he said.
When the delivery driver did arrive that night, they only put 40 gallons of oil in his tank. But the next day, the company did send another truck to deliver 200 gallons.
In both cases, Collins and Cooke should not have had to call Flynn's Oil to tell them they were low on oil. According to the automatic delivery contract posted on Flynn's Oil's website, the company would use a "computer degree day system" to track usage and determine when the next delivery was needed, before the tank was less than one-third full "at any time during the contract."
"No need to monitor oil usage, Flynn's will do this for you!" the contract boasts.
For Collins, it wasn't until Monday that she was able to find a different oil company that was willing to deliver to her without charging her an emergency delivery fee, and that took quite a few tries, she said.
"I don't think they should punish all those people that ran out of oil for no reason of their own," Collins said.
Hometown Oil of Portsmouth has taken that same stance, publicly stating they are staffing up and waiving emergency fees to help Flynn's Oil customers who have been left in the cold.
"All week we have been hearing horror stories from customers who have lost as much as $3,000," Hometown Oil General Manager Julieanne Estes said.
For the past week, Estes said hundreds of Flynn's Oil customers have called Hometown Oil for deliveries.
"We are probably doing between 10 and 20 same-day deliveries for people who are desperate because they are so empty," Estes said.
Estes said in addition to waiving their emergency delivery fee, the company is also working with Flynn's Oil prebuy customers to sell them a tank of oil at cost, and then subsequent deliveries at a discount.
"These people are out hundreds and thousands of dollars," Estes said.
Estes said that many of the former Flynn's Oil customers who have been calling recently are actually former Hometown Oil customers who were drawn by Flynn's Oil's promise of low prebuy rates earlier this year.
"At the time, it was hard, because we couldn't match a price like that," Estes said.
Both Collins and Cooke are frustrated with their ordeal, but they also know that they are still better off than the customers who have lost money on prebuy contracts.
"Oh yeah, I'm very happy I didn't do a prebuy," Cooke said. "I don't know what is happening to those people. That's a bad situation."
Collins said she used to always prebuy oil, but didn't last year after companies were selling for inflated prices based on summer markets. This year, she decided to take the gamble again, and she said she is really glad she did.
After receiving a delivery from another company, Collins said she has moved on from Flynn's Oil, but Cooke is still waiting to see what happens before making a decision.
"I don't want to abandon them if they are able to still do business," Cooke said.
Technically, Cooke said he would have to break his prebuy contract to go somewhere else, but he isn't worried about that.
"They have already broken the contract as far as I'm concerned," he said.
Flynn's Oil customers who have complaints can file them with the state electronically by logging onto www.doj.nh.gov/consumer and clicking "Filing a Consumer Complaint," or by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-468-4454 and request a complaint form to be mailed to them.
A voice-mail message at Flynn's Oil Wednesday said the company is "temporarily closed." The machine then directs oil customers to a voice mail box that is full.
Why Cleanings Are Important!
Cleanings save money by increasing efficiency up to 20%.
Dirt and neglect are the #1 cause of heating system failure. One of the most important steps to prevent problems and unwanted costs is proper maintenance by having an annual cleaning.
A Guide to Energy Efficiency Heating and Cooling