“We are driving the ‘whole-house’ approach more than we ever did before,” Peter A. Aziz, president of Bantam Home & Energy in Bantam, Conn., tells Fuel Oil News. “We have sort of a moral obligation” to do so, Aziz says, and he goes on to describe the savings in money and environmental impacts that can be achieved through a whole-house approach.
Consider the interplay between insulation and windows, and the affect on heating requirements in a home, Aziz says. “One saves energy,” he says, referring to insulation, “the other”—windows—“wastes energy.” Bantam Home & Energy installs both, and in doing that, weighs the outcome of a job in terms of energy efficiency. Likewise, energy efficiency can be enhanced by adding a central humidifier to a forced air system, Aziz notes. It is an inexpensive and effective way to add 2 degrees to the temperature in a home, he says. “It increases comfort and reduces cost.”
The company also offers plumbing, remodels, and water treatment systems—especially for accounts that have wells.
Aziz is attentive to a different kind of environment as well—the working conditions in the Bantam Home & Energy office, in a converted two-story house in the small community of Bantam in the western part of the state. An interior decorator hired for a remodel of the office installed a white noise system at Aziz’s request. Employees on the first floor work at circular pods; the white noise enables them to communicate verbally with each other as needed, and also allows them to conduct phone conversations without disturbing each other, Aziz says.
On a walking tour of the premises, Aziz stands below two storage tanks elevated on a scaffolding so that the company’s fuel delivery trucks can pull up and be replenished. One is a 20,000-gallon capacity tank for heating oil, the other a 10,000-gallon capacity tank for diesel.
Below is a concrete containment area that was installed to comply with spill prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) regulations set by the EPA.
Near to the tanks is a maintenance garage where the company’s oil, diesel, and propane trucks, plus service vans—numbering approximately 40 vehicles in all—are repaired and maintained. The garage features a heated floor, a nod to the New England winters.
In the 1930s Bantam Supply Co., known as the “General Store,” occupied the site where Bantam Home & Energy now stands. A rail line supplied the operation, which dealt in coal, lumber, feed, and in oil, kerosene and gasoline, says Aziz. His father, Paul, acquired Bantam Supply Co. in 1979. “My first job here was bagging coal,” Aziz recalls. “It’s a really hard job and it‘s not fun.” Aziz was 16.
The company marketed fuel oil, diesel, gasoline and kerosene until 1988, when Paul Aziz narrowed the focus to heating oil and diesel and diversified into propane.
“We were always full-service, doing repair and maintenance,” Aziz says, and in the 1990s the company expanded to installing furnaces and boilers, and then around 2000 into air conditioning, which Aziz called “an interesting transition” for the company’s technicians. “It was different from anything they’d done before,” Aziz said. Designing and installing air conditioning systems for residential and light commercial customers required Bantam’s techs to learn a new set of skills and acquire new expertise.
Peter Aziz bought out his father in 2006, and in November of that year, “We delivered our first gallon of B2,” he says. “We jumped in with both feet.” In the beginning there were growing pains, he concedes. Biofuel based on palm oil was ill-suited for northern climes, he notes, and that threw the fuel’s “green” credibility into question in the early years. But, Aziz says, Sprague Energy, Portsmouth, N.H., led in developing an improved product for the market, notably developing biodiesel from soy and rapeseed that performed well in cold weather. “Now they’ve really worked that out,” Aziz says, even while incorporating diverse sources such as yellow grease, rendered fats and biomass.
Bantam delivered B20 in the 2015-2016 heating season, which included the coldest day—Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day—recorded in the region: -17, Aziz says.
“I was afraid my guys would be calling me with fuel-related problems, but there were no fuel-related problems with the B20,” he recalls.
Bantam blends its own product on site. “It burns cleanly,” Aziz says, “with very little soot. Part of the reason for that is the low-sulfur fuel.”
Remote tank monitoring helps the energy marketer manage its propane accounts, which can have erratic or unpredictable consumption rates, says Jeffrey Crampton, operations manager. The monitoring system measures tank volume by percentage, and is set to give alarms at two levels. This is particularly helpful in the fall when swimming pool heaters run at the homes of weekenders, for example. The alarms, in the form of emails to Bantam’s office, let the energy marketer know that a tank is running low. “The customer never knows” that the propane level was low, Aziz says, and that a timely refill averted a runout. “No matter how silver-tongued I am that day, it’s never going to go as well as it would if we didn’t let you run out,” he says.
The tank monitoring system is provided by SkyBitz, which is owned by Telular Corp., Atlanta, Ga. Aziz and Crampton say the system also is critical to managing residential propane accounts with appliances such as fireplaces, which, depending on how much they are used, can burn the fuel at hard-to-predict rates. Commercial propane accounts such as restaurants and greenhouses can be unpredictable too, Aziz notes.
Ultrasound checks of customers’ oil tanks are another service that Bantam added, six or seven years ago. Bantam uses the TankSure program offered by Boston Environmental, Portsmouth, N.H. “It’s easier than getting down on your hands and knees in a basement with a flashlight” and trying to judge whether there’s corrosion, Aziz says. Besides, a tank might look fine on the outside, but be deteriorating on the inside, he observes. About two or three years ago, Bantam switched to installing double-walled oil tanks exclusively, manufactured by Roth Industries, Watertown, N.Y., Aziz says.
Aziz markets a “dynamic price cap to Bantam customers. “It protects them when the price goes up and when the price goes down,” he says, but the company offers no pre-buy program. On service plans, the company offers a “deep discount” on repairs and maintenance with no exclusions, Aziz says. What does he mean by “deep?”
“Twenty percent,” he says. “It helps with customer retention.”