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The Deep Freeze 2015

By Charles Bursey

By the time this article arrives in your mailbox, the snow and cold will most likely have faded away and the spring flowers will be starting to show. However, I’m sure that we will be reflecting on the Deep Freeze of 2015, long after.

As I reflect, many of the oil dealers and service technicians that I have had the opportunity to speak with say they’ve had enough of this year’s deep freeze that has attacked the Northeast and surrounding states with recorded temperatures in the sub-zero range.

Is this what is referred to as a real winter? In my mind this has been what I would refer to as a most unusual winter, with Boston for example exceeding 100 inches of snow, a record breaker.  For the month of February, Hartford, Conn., could record the lowest average temperature in its history.  In 1934 the lowest average February temperature was 16.5°F and on Feb. 27, 2015 the average to date was 16.2°F.

The reasons for the above comments are simple, several companies had fallen behind in oil and propane deliveries and service calls. Why? The answer is simple—trudging through and over exceptionally high snow banks, often over 6 feet tall, and working 12-hour days, seven days a week. The result added physical stress. Incoming calls to customer service from those not trusting the automatic delivery system has added to the mental stress. For my money, those who were not on automatic delivery knew well in advance that the storms and cold weather were coming. But, as usual, they always call when they supposedly have 1/8th of a tank and talk with a threatening voice, like they are the company’s only customer.  Too bad they don’t realize that, as the old saying goes, “you get more with honey than vinegar.”

Then there are the no heat calls and the frozen pipes that never seem to end, that wear down company personnel. I also heard from people that any company selling any type of fuel is just getting richer. Really? In talking to oil/propane company owners, the real facts are companies have delivered fewer gallons per day due to the winter conditions. Most companies have been working longer daily hours, seven days a week, just trying to keep their customers from running out. This in turn has created higher delivery costs, due to the overtime required, resulting in less profit.

I still can’t believe that home owners will even consider taking a vacation this time of the year to escape the fridge cold, but it happens. One contractor told me that he recently got a call from a home owner that returned from sunny Florida, only to find the house colder than when he left for vacation. This will-call customer had no fuel in the tank, and every pipe in the house had split. What do you think the customer learned? Maybe he or she should have been on automatic delivery with their fuel company, had their system winterized, had someone visit the home on a regular basis and installed a freeze alarm.

Many of you will remember the age old device called the Winter Watchman, that was plugged into a receptacle and a light would be placed in a specific window with a bright orange bulb. When the temperature dropped to a determined setting of between 35 and 60 degrees, the light would come on alerting the house sitter there was a problem. A 35 degree setting makes no sense as it’s too close to freezing! I would use the 50-60 setting. There are now more sophisticated freeze devices available that will not only monitor the house temperature, but call three designated numbers and allow the home owner to call from anywhere and get a temperature reading. 

When it comes to anti-freeze in the heating system, I still heard freeze-up horror stories. Why? The simple answer is, the antifreeze was installed five years or more ago, never tested on an annual basis as required, nor was there any tag or sign with the date the solution was installed visible to the technician. A sign would alert the fuel company of the winterization and a reminder to perform the anti- freeze strength test annually.

As I end this article, I would like to say congratulation to every company that survived Deep Freeze of 2015. Oh, and by the way, what freezes faster: cold or hot water?

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