Fuel Oil News

Fuel Oil News July 2016

The home heating oil industry has a long and proud history, and Fuel Oil News has been there supporting it since 1935. It is an industry that has faced many challenges during that time. In its 77th year, Fuel Oil News is doing more than just holding

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14 JULY 2016 | FUEL OIL NEWS | www.fueloilnews.com BECKETT ROCKET WIRELESS GAUGE The Beckett Wireless Rocket Gauge uses infrared technology. The gauge, installed on the top of the tank, bounces an infrared beam off of the liquid level of the fuel in the tank, and then that information is wirelessly communicated to a display module installed in a conve- nient place for the homeowner, such as the kitchen or a hallway, said Craig Butler, product manager, residential oil burners and tank accessories for R.W. Beckett Corp., Elyria, Ohio. The module, which must be installed within 150 feet of the tank, displays how much fluid is in the tank on a continuous basis, Butler said. It gives a visual and audible indication— the module will begin to beep—if the fuel level drops below a pre-set point, typically an eighth of a tank. Butler also pointed out, "A lot of dealers today can no longer keep their customers' [tanks] filled" by relying solely on the degree-day system because of the prevalence of hybrid systems in some regions. These hybrids may include an oil-fired boiler and either a heat pump or a mini-split ductless heat pump. In residences where such hybrid setups are installed, "it becomes very difficult for the dealer to maintain a proper level [in the tank] with a degree-day system," Butler said. "They end up putting a lot of customers on will-call." With the Rocket gauge installed, will-call customers can see and hear when they need to order more oil without having to go down to the basement or to an outdoor tank to read the gauge, Butler said. For more information visit https://www.beckettcorp.com/product/rocket- wireless-gauge/ ENERTRAC The EnerTrac monitoring system, a product of Senet Inc. in Portsmouth, N.H., is built not on a proprietary technology, but on a global open standard for low-power wide-area networks called LoRa, said Ben Doyle, vice president of EnerTrac sales. BY STEPHEN BENNETT Because LoRa uses radio technology to transmit data, EnerTrac can use "very affordable" sensors for monitoring propane and distillates including home heating oil. That affordability can help dealers deploy sensors on a majority of their tanks, Doyle said, "and that's what we recommend as opposed to deploying sensors on a small portion of your tanks. We use radio fre- quency to allow [dealers] to cover 80% to 100% of their tanks. The benefit of doing that is it allows a dealer to automate their entire fuel delivery process." Fuel delivery automation is the goal, as opposed to tank monitoring "on just a handful of key tanks or a handful of tanks, because the real return on investment from monitoring is when you can save one or two deliveries per tank per year across all of your tanks," Doyle said. Senet is building a LoRaWAN network in the U.S. to help enable what is being called the "Internet of Things" in which billions of devices, machines and items can be wirelessly linked to the internet, allowing them to be monitored and better managed. The EnerTrac system is a piece of that developing Internet of Things or "IoT," Doyle said. In the EnerTrac system the sensor for pro- pane tanks plugs into a gauge on the tank to monitor the fuel level; the sensor for fuel oil tanks is designed to be installed in a bung on the tank; a wire descends to the bottom of the tank, and is held there with a weight on its end; an electrical current running through the wire "essentially measures the air space in the tank," Doyle said. "Our sensors talk to the LoRa net- w o r k " — S e n e t e q u i p m e n t o n c e l l towers—"and the data gets sent across the internet back to our cloud software," Doyle said. Fuel dealers can access their tank data in one of two ways: via EnerTrac's cloud- based web service or EnerTrac feeds the data to dealers' back office software. "Our sensors send a signal every hour, so twenty-four times a day," Doyle said. For dealers who want to manage the moni- toring through their back office software, EnerTrac typically sends tank level data one time per night. "Degree day will still run in the back office software, but we're updating the tank level so degree day, the K-factor, is always running off a very accurate tank level," TANK MONITORING Precision and timeliness are benefits of today's tank monitoring systems, vendors say Technology is making tank monitoring increasingly accurate, and is helping fuel oil and propane marketers improve delivery efficiency, according to vendors of the systems. Generally when a fuel company implements monitoring technology they use it first on high-revenue, profitable accounts because they want to protect those customers and at the same time reduce delivery costs, said Hank Smith, vice president of Independent Technologies-Wesroc, a company in Blair, Neb., that markets remote monitoring technology. "Accounts that are busy and hard to predict are the ones that you typically see the monitors go on first," Smith said. But, Smith also noted, "A lot of companies spend a lot of time going to homes where they put very little fuel in the tank"— because they don't know what the level is until the deliveryman gets there. "With fuel monitors you can really manage how many miles you put on your delivery trucks," Smith said. Here are details on some of the systems that are available for monitoring fuel oil, propane and, in some cases, other fuels as well.

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