Depending on what area you live in, winters can be either very temperate or brutally cold and grey. If you live in a place that has the latter type of weather, then you probably need to have a really great heating system installed in your home, if you do not have one already. There are many ways to accomplish heating the house, from chopping and burning wood to oil. The cost of heating your home with oil will largely depend on the type of oil used, market fluctuations, and how efficient your system is.
To use heating oil, the first thing you must have is a tank to store the fuel. This needs to be a regulation tank that is brand new or in good repair, because a leak could be costly not just in fines from your municipality, but also to the surrounding environment. The cost of the tank varies according to how big it is. Most start at 250 gallons, and can go up much higher than that, depending on how big your house is and how often you need to use the heating system. An underground tank can be much bigger, up to 1,000 gallons, so would cost much more than an above ground one.
To fill the tank, you need to call a local supplier. They usually charge whatever the market rate is at the time, plus a delivery fee. So the total cost could fluctuate wildly if you get these one-time or spot deliveries done only when you need a refill. There are way to save some money though, and possibly even to lock in a rate.
You could join a cooperative, which is a local or nationwide group of people who gather their money in advance to buy fuel in advance. That means you lock in a rate and get all your oil for one price, instead of wondering what the going rate will be next time you need a refill.
An additional cost is the cleaning the system. If you use a furnace or similar device, it can become less effective over time if it is not properly cleaned. To spend less on this, see if you can negotiate it to be a part of your contract with the delivery service.
You can also ask if the company has a rewards program. Some services will offer a discount for repeat business. This can come in the form of points that you collect for each gallon purchased, which are redeemable for a discount or credit on a future bill.
Another trick for lowering overall expense is to have the first tank fill when prices are traditionally lower. This means signing up for a delivery in early fall or later in the summer. This is traditionally a time when energy prices are lower.
If you know someone who is having trouble purchasing heating oil due to a low income, you can refer them to the US Department of Health and Human Services. They have a program to help people pay for their energy bills, including heating oil. Each state is different about the basic requirements that need to be met to qualify for this program, so look to their website for more information.