The National Oilheat Alliance issued its 2015 Annual Report on April 4, 2017. Presented here are excerpts dealing with NORA’s state programs. To view or download the complete NORA 2015 Annual Report, including the Alliance’s financial accounts, go to www.NORAweb.org.
In its report, NORA notes that it is an alliance of more than 21 state and local associations representing heating oil marketers across the U.S. “Each state association is qualified to request rebates from NORA for programs that meet the criteria of the NORA statute,” the report states. Programs must match the NORA mission, which is to conduct research, development and demonstration projects; provide consumer education, safety and training; and to support enhancement of product efficiency and upgrades.
The following excerpts have been edited and condensed.
MARYLAND & DELAWARE
The Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association (MAPDA) continued to focus on the area of their greatest vulnerability: the real estate community. The reality is that Realtors, home inspectors and new homebuyers who are unfamiliar with oilheat have misconceptions about tanks, systems and using heating oil as a home’s heat source. MAPDA has combated this challenge since 2007, through the Partnership for Realty and Oilheat Success Program, which focuses on achieving three primary goals:
- Engage with Realtors so they understand oilheat’s potential as an energy efficient fuel and convey that to homebuyers
- Get pro-oil and pro-efficiency materials into the hands of homebuyers, who will be moving into homes heated with oil
- Build bridges between Realtors and local heating oil companies, who can provide support and expertise today and in the future
In 2015, these goals were achieved as more than 35 in-office presentations were conducted by Mid-Atlantic area dealers, educating more than 650 agents in person, and more than 1,000 Realtors at various trade shows and conferences.
Looking ahead, MAPDA will be continuing its focus on the real estate community in 2016 and beyond and will be launching a tank replacement rebate program to help Maryland and Delaware homeowners replace their tanks with new above ground tanks.
Kentucky businesses supplying oilheat and Bioheat benefited greatly from the NORA check-off program in 2016. The funds provided by the program contributed to several new initiatives for the state.
Of particular interest, Kentucky introduced Bioheat vinyl truck tank wraps to promote the use of Bioheat in the Commonwealth. Partnering with several organizations in the state that supply the product, the Kentucky Petroleum Marketers Association (KPMA) worked with a local artist to design Bioheat truck wraps that included participating oil dealers’ company logo and Kentucky’s oilheat dedicated website, heatingkentucky.com. The KPMA is in the process of having 20 trucks wrapped.
Heatingkentucky.com is a website the KPMA developed to connect oilheat customers with suppliers in the state. The website also promotes the features and benefits of Bioheat for interested consumers.
The Maine Energy Marketers Association (MEMA) created a digital education effort that helped Maine citizens understand the cleanliness, value and current applications of today’s modern oilheat. The message of the program was “Modern oilheating systems, in well-insulated homes, allow homeowners to achieve the same amount of warmth using 40% less fuel. This reduces emissions while lowering heating costs.”
MEMA has also created education programs for customer service personnel to enable them to inform customers about the facts of heating oil. With the help of NORA, MEMA is training dozens of technicians, giving them the latest skills needed to install high-efficiency boilers and furnaces, integrating other fuels into the central system and understanding and promoting renewable liquid biofuels (Bioheat) use in the home.
In 2015, the Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association (MEMA) utilized its NORA funds on several projects targeting the heating oil industry and heating oil consumers. MEMA conducted Silver certification training classes across the state and supported Bronze certification classes, as well. MEMA trained hundreds of oilheat service technicians statewide on the newly-adopted installation code for Massachusetts (NFPA 31). It also offered NORA workshops for techs on non-technical skills for interacting with customers. For business owners and customer service representatives, MEMA arranged NORA seminars on the evolution of the industry to Bioheat fuel; communicating the attributes of energy efficiency and new equipment installation; best practices for employee and vehicle safety; and new concepts on service department efficiencies, and purchasing and marketing fuel and equipment.
MEMA also used NORA funds to create fresh marketing and customer communication tools for retailers including newsletters and billing inserts focused on energy efficiency and Bioheat fuel. MEMA also conducted a statewide media outreach campaign aimed at educating consumers on the evolution of Oilheat to Bioheat. The campaign included print, television, radio and internet media.
“Having access to NORA funds has enabled our association to help advance the skills of Oilheat business owners and their employees, bring new jobs to the industry, and educate Oilheat consumers on important industry developments and initiatives including advancing energy efficiency and clean, renewable Bioheat fuel,” said MEMA President Michael Ferrante.
Michigan ran a statewide program of radio advertisements. The radio ads included over 10,000 spots in both 2015 and 2016 hitting a cross section of talk shows and radio networks across the entire state. A full-page ad was placed in the Detroit Tigers’ game program and in the Detroit Red Wings’ yearbook. Both the radio ads and print ads focused on the benefits of oilheat being clean, efficient, safe and renewable. A Bioheat seminar was held that was well attended with productive discussion taking place.
A statewide internet campaign has begun that will be used to bring information to oilheat customers in Michigan. This web-based campaign done through search engines and social media with content-based advertising is helping to ensure consumers in Michigan understand the value of oilheat. The messages in the outreach ads vary, but focus on consistent temperature, quick, clean, safe, reliable and plentiful heat.
In 2015, with the help of NORA funding, the Oil Heat Council of New Hampshire (OHCNH) created a consumer education program that ran state-wide both in print media and online. The focus of this campaign was the good news surrounding oilheat: low cost, increased efficiency, Bioheat and abundant supply. The campaign ran in the early fall and then again just before the end of the year.
A consumer facing website (cleanoilheatnh.com) was created to be a dedicated resource for New Hampshire oilheat consumers. A blog and other content on the site are updated quarterly to keep the site current and relevant.
In November and December of 2015, OHCNH conducted two separate focus groups, one in Concord and one in Portsmouth. The sessions were used as both an opportunity to gain a higher level of understanding as to the average oilheat consumer’s knowledge about oilheat and also as an opportunity for education. An extensive report of the focus group’s findings was distributed to all oil companies in the state of New Hampshire.
Additionally, OHCNH invested in home inspector and real estate outreach, wherein NORA-approved training is being provided to home inspectors and real estate agents statewide. Content was added to OHCNH’s cleanoilheatnh.com specific to these stakeholders and electronic newsletters are distributed to class participants.
The OHCNH was able to expand its training classes and offer them at a lower cost to members.
2015 saw a significant expansion of NORA activities in New Jersey under the direction of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey (FMA). FMA led the charge to develop the NORA Oilheat Consumer Attitude, Perception and Behavior Research Study, which ultimately captured responses and insights from nearly 3,000 oilheat users across the Northeast.
FMA expanded its outreach to the real estate community, through the Partnership for Realty and Oilheat Success Program. More than 1,000 agents were trained and educated in-person, and tens of thousands of pro-oil and pro-energy efficiency materials were made available to Realtors and homeowners to help them make better decisions during the transaction of an oil-heated home.
Two issues of the Efficiency Matters in New Jersey newsletter were created and distributed to more than 125,000 oilheat homeowners, promoting energy efficiency, Bioheat, saving energy and money with oilheat. More than 100 oilheat customer service representatives, technicians, drivers and other customer-facing employees attended the Keeping Your Customers with Oil employee training sessions.
Finally, FMA launched an innovative, new social media campaign called Love My Oilheat New Jersey, which has grown to have more than 5,000 followers in a little over a year.
HUDSON VALLEY, NEW YORK
The Hudson Valley Oil and Energy Council has been extremely active supporting its member companies and the oilheat industry in general across the six New York counties that comprise the association. NORA funds have provided critical resources to communicate the value of heating with oil while also helping customers recognize that oilheat is an excellent option for achieving energy efficiency in the home. Currently, the HVOEC is focusing on two programs to generate positive impact for consumers while supporting the Hudson Valley oilheat industry.
Homeowners often make decisions about their energy choices during the real estate transaction. We provide information, tools and tips to help buyers, sellers and Realtors make the best decisions during this process. Hudson Valley aims to:
- Educate Realtors so they have a better understanding about the benefits of heating oil and so they can serve their clients with more accurate information
- Get oilheat and energy efficiency information into the hands of homebuyers and home sellers, so that they are making better energy decisions for their home
- Build bridges between Realtors, oilheat homeowners and local oilheat dealers
This program reaches hundreds of Real Estate offices, thousands of agents and countless homeowners through a combination of in-office educational presentations, oilheat and energy efficiency material distribution, printed and email newsletters, trade show engagement and local Realtor association efforts.
Upgrade and Save Hudson Valley Rebate Program—The Upgrade and Save Hudson Valley Program provides financial assistance for heating system and oil tank. The direct financial benefit provided by these rebates reduces the consumers’ investment while ultimately improving the energy efficiency of their oil-heated home. Rebates of $250 for the installation of a new aboveground oil tank and $500 for a new oil-fired boiler or furnace are available.
OILHEAT COMFORT CORP., LONG ISLAND, N.Y.
2015 was the most exciting and successful year, by far, for the Oil Heat Comfort Corp. (OHCC) of Long Island, N.Y. Through the judicious use of the financial resources provided to OHCC by NORA, a partnership with NORA established the first, totally independent, Liquid Fuels R&D and Technical Education Center. Located in Plainview, N.Y., this “state of the art” facility has a multi-unit fully operational heating laboratory, classroom, and R&D capacity. OHCC has been able to use this new space to conduct both introductory and advanced industry-oriented technical training classes, extend the outreach program to Realtors and home inspectors, and perform important oil tank and fuel quality research.
In addition, OHCC provided incentives for homeowners on Long Island to upgrade their home heating systems and oil storage tanks. Through the Upgrade & Save L.I. Energy Efficiency and Safety Rebate Program (which provided direct consumer rebates) OHCC encouraged homeowners to install new, high-efficiency heating systems and above-ground oil tanks. This was an enormously successful program which OHCC intends to continue into the upcoming year.
The Ohio Oilheat Council (OHC) is a statewide collective created to administer the funds collected by NORA, allocated for approved check-off activities. The council implements forward-thinking programs and projects relating to safety, training, consumer education, energy efficiency, and research and development in the oilheat industry.
A powerful resource for oilheat marketers across the state, the Ohio Oilheat Council delivers timely information and insight on industry trends and ongoing challenges. The Council also takes great pride in educating Ohio consumers about the benefits of oilheat, how to find a supplier in their community, tips for properly maintaining oilheat equipment, energy efficiency and much more. The Ohio Oilheat Council’s activities heated up in 2016. Throughout the year, the council:
- Offered HVAC education and training courses designed to educate specialists who install and service oil-fired residential heating products on the latest oilheat technologies
- Created a monthly e-newsletter, which quickly became the go-to resource for Ohio’s oilheat marketers in need of tips for navigating the latest industry trends and technologies and business impacting regulations
- Kicked-off a Realtor outreach and education program
- Initiated the development of a rebate program to incentivize homeowners to upgrade their equipment, Upgrade and Save Ohio
There’s even more on the horizon. Beginning in early 2017, the Oilheat Council will launch a revamped Ohio Oilheat Council website and debut an all-new, consumer-focused public relations campaign. Plus, the Council will unveil renovations and enhancements to its interactive Bioheat® exhibit at the M-PACT Show in Indianapolis in mid-April. In the spring, we look forward to partnering with the National Biodiesel Board to educate Ohioans about the benefits of Bioheat with a co-branded vehicle wrap program specially designed of delivery trucks.
The PPA hosted NORA-accredited training and educational courses throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Over 155 organizations participated in these various courses, which resulted in individuals receiving NORA accreditation. The consistent educational theme for each course focused on energy efficiency and product safety. The PPA also worked in local markets across the state by implementing awareness programs directed to better educating oilheat consumers and industry stakeholders.
The National Oilheat Research Alliance through its check-off program has enabled the Oil Heat Institute of Rhode Island (OHIRI) to focus awareness, as well as offer and participate in programs to further educate consumers on the benefits of advanced heating oil (Bioheat), energy efficiency recommendations and equipment replacement/upgrades. Additionally, NORA funds were used for employee educational training.
The industry faces a tightening labor pool due to an aging workforce and inability to attract millennials to a career in the trades. With the support of NORA funds, OHIRI has conducted Basic Oilheat Technician and Pipefitter courses for 40 individuals in the last two years.
OHIRI has offered education programs developed by industry partners to maximize and help frontline employees with tools to better serve their customers’ needs by providing whole home energy efficiency products and services. OHIRI has offered classes that help customer service representatives (CSRs) better understand the technical aspects of customers’ needs.
In 2015 OHIRI, along with several other New England heating oil associations, participated in a consumer research study to better understand customers and the future of oilheat. The study reported the demographics of the heating oil customer in each state, consumer sentiment, historical trends, and perceptions of heating oil/ Bioheat. Illuminated in the study was the direct correlation between awareness of the renewable component of heating oil (biodiesel) that would give the consumer a more favorable feeling about staying with oilheat.
In 2016, OHIRI launched an Upgrade & Save rebate program incentivizing replacement of inefficient boilers/ burners and heating oil tanks. To date, 20 R.I. oilheat dealers are participating, providing 26 boiler/furnace replacements and 10 tank replacements with a total of $15,500 rebates to R.I. heating oil consumers
Other programs and initiatives that OHIRI has participated in and offered with NORA funding include:
- Great Outdoor Challenge — 2015 & 2016 Bioheat education, distribution of energy efficiency ideas, general consumer awareness and hands on children’s educational activities
- Realtor outreach and education— website and resources for R.I. Realtors on the benefits of and promoting of heating oil home listings
- Energy Efficiency Newsletter—two issues 2015/2016
- Keeping your Customers with Oil Heat —customer service rep training
- Tech Advantage—Improving Client Interaction for service technicians
- Radio campaign—Bioheat radio campaign
- Print advertisement—Bioheat print campaign
- Upgrade & Save—Rhode Island rebate program 2016-2017
- OHIRI website upgrade—upgraded warmth4ri.com website to serve as a consumer and heating oil dealer resource
R.I. has a mandate requiring biodiesel blends in heating oil. The Biodiesel Heating Oil Act of 2013 established the mandate starting in 2014 at 2% blend of biodiesel in every gallon of heating oil ramping up to 5% by July 2017.
Vermont oilheat technicians have benefited greatly from NORA training programs. The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association held training seminars to provide heating technicians with NORA credit hours. Hundreds have attended these seminars and benefitted greatly from the knowledge and expertise provided by NORA certified trainers.
NORA has also helped develop a seminar that provided continuing education credits for Vermont Realtors. Realtors also participated in the NORA Tank Seminar, which informs Realtors on oilheat tank safety and Vermont Aboveground Storage Tank Regulations.
In addition, the University of Vermont Center of Rural Studies is conducting an analysis of the implementation of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy installations, as well as the training needs for home energy companies in order to advance the installation of more energy efficient heating equipment.