New York Suburbs Still Run on Oil: How One Family Broke Its Oil Dependence Without Breaking the Bank

New York City is a modern cornucopia of lights. It’s emblazoning a landscape rife with excitement and opportunity. However, when some commuters retreat to the surrounding suburbs. I mean for they all step back in time and away from the radiance that defines the city skyline

New York City. Photo by Oliver Niblett on Unsplash.

New York City is a modern cornucopia of lights. It’s emblazoning a landscape rife with excitement and opportunity. However, when some commuters retreat to the surrounding suburbs. I mean for they all step back in time and away from the radiance that defines the city skyline.

That’s the story of Jason Anderson, the publisher and editor at large of G Style Magazine and an IT professional, who lives in Hudson Valley, NY in the town of New Windsor, an 80-minute drive from Manhattan. 

After a lifetime of city living, Anderson moved to the suburbs in 2016. He purchased a four bedroom, two bath single family home for his fiancé and teenage daughter. The family is tech-centric, quickly outfitting the home with smart gadgets, motion sensors for lights, and other accessories that gave the home a distinctly Jetson’s feel.

In many ways, the Anderson’s home was the peaceful, modern living space the family envisioned, except for one critical pitfall.

An Ancient Appliance

Like many older homes in New York’s surrounding suburbs, the Anderson’s home was powered by a combination of electricity, propane, and fuel oil for heating. It also lacked air conditioning, which was particularly challenging during sweltering east coast summers.

As Jason recalls, “Being a city person my whole life and having a landlord, oil was a shell shock to deal with.”

Jason Anderson moved to the New York City suburbs in 2016.

If heating a house by burning oil sounds antiquated, you’re not alone. Nevertheless, the practice remains commonplace as the cost to upgrade equipment and to connect to centralized, modern fuel sources is often prohibitively high.

Fuel oil for heating is problematic on many fronts. The emissions are dirty, downgrading air quality and leaving unpleasant byproducts. At the same time, these outdated heating systems require frequent system maintenance to keep them operational and leak-free.

In addition, describing the dirty nature of oil fired boilers, one technician describes, “heating oil sits idly in its storage tank when it’s in-between oil deliveries. Over time, it becomes contaminated by water. Also bacteria too and all until it breaks down into thick sludge.”

They are also expensive in their own right. The price of oil can fluctuate significantly, and an untimely refill in a frigid winter can be a serious financial setback.

“In our first year, we had to pay for an emergency delivery. It came with a major tax and was not at all convenient,” Jason recalls.

Unfortunately, the starting price for linking to local utilities exceeded $15,000, a nonstarter for most families, including the Andersons.

COVID & A Pamphlet Prompts a Change

Like many people, the Coronavirus pandemic made Jason a homebound worker, accentuating the home’s heating and cooling shortcomings. While the transition prompted a broad home makeover, solving the heating and cooling problems seemed out of the question until a timely pamphlet arrived in his mailbox.

After working from home, Jason’s first project was reimaging his home office desk.

Dandelion, a geothermal heating and cooling provider, recently expanded in Jason’s area. Although he was unfamiliar with the concept of geothermal heating and cooling, Dandelion was a product of Google X, which captured Jason’s attention. “I use a lot of Google products, so seeing Google spin out this company made me want to dig further,” he explains.

The product and premise geothermal heating and cooling is surprisingly organic. While air temperatures soar in the summer and plummet in the winter, the ground five feet below the surface maintains a constant temperature year-round. By installing a heat pump in place of a traditional furnace and burying pipe, known as ground loops, below the surface, it’s possible to heat and cool a home using this closed system. 

Ultimately, the decision to switch to geothermal was multifaceted. He discovered that he could reduce his winter energy bills by $1,700 while eliminating oil purchases altogether. He would no longer have to monitor oil levels, worry about drastic temperature changes, or compromise comfort for cost.

In the end, sustainability was the cherry on top. Jason felt that “the fact that this is a renewable resource is an added bonus, and the decision to save money helps the environment as well.”

A drilling rig prepares to install ground loops under the Anderson’s home.

Comfort and Control

A geothermal pump was the best fit and most readily-available solution, allowing in-home comfort control in all seasons. The family used to dress in layers in the winter. Now, Jason notes, “no one has extra layers or thermals walking around the house,” and custom temperatures can be achieved in as little as fifteen minutes.

For the Anderson’s, similarly, geothermal is just the first upgrade they plan to make to their home. Secondly, they will tackle upgrades to the home office and kitchen. Along the way, freezing temperatures and blistering heat won’t be part of the equation. 

In conclusion and instead, Jason beams, “we have a steady bill from a renewable resource.”  That’s because uniting efficiency, effectiveness, and cost works. I mean to support a home that suddenly feels a lot more central to their lives.