BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Queens Native, Bob Silverstein, remembers back to his childhood in Queens when his father would sign up for a heating fuel vendor and stuck with that vendor for decades, without taking the time to check for better pricing because it was “too difficult and time consuming” to pursue.
“The same challenge still exists today,” said Silverstein. “Unlike food, appliances and many services, consumers have no way to easily shop for and compare heating fuel prices. There’s no Angie’s List, Priceline or Amazon for heating fuels, until now.”
After years of uncertainty, Silverstein went with his heart and founded Fuelwonk, a crowdsourcing website that provides consumers with a comprehensive, nationwide vendor database where people from all over the county can search for and share the lowest heating oil and propane prices.
“This is something that I thought about for a long time, as it was brought about through my childhood in Queens,” said Silverstein. “This site is my way of giving back.”
At this time of year, homeowners turn their focus to filling up their tanks. Even though prices are stable for the 2016-2017 seasons, there are big disparities in what different vendors charge for their fuel. This is important to consumers trying to manage the cost of heating their homes when the price spread on heating fuel can be up to .35/gallon. Even with a smaller spread, consumers can save big if they research and negotiate with vendors.
Consumers spend on average $1,400 a year to heat their homes. Twenty-two million United States households are dependent on heating oil and propane. That amounts to $31 billion of recurring, non-discretionary spending each year for households that rely on delivered heating fuels.
Silverstein said that because his father was a busy man with a job and a family to take care of, he would call the same guy when he was running out of oil because he didn’t have time to do the research. Fuelwonk does the research for you.
“It’s the way of the future,” said Silverstein. “The industry works off of the advances of technology. I’m not selling anything. They don’t go to me. What fuelwonk does is makes shopping for heating oil easier for people to make a better choice.”
According to Silverstein, the website gets most of its traffic on Mondays and although he currently lives in California, he is able to get an idea of the weather change up north because he has been seeing the numbers of website visitors doubling recently.
The website also eases crowd sourcing, which is the process of collecting small pieces of information from a large group of people and when all pieces are put together, they form a bigger picture that can be used for many purposes such as price-sharing and data analysis.
“Fuelwonk will not charge a fee for consumers who register before June 2017,” said Silverstein. “We have no secretive relationships with heating fuel vendors, nor do we request any personal data. We place information in the hands of consumers and ask them to make a smart vendor choice and reevaluate their choice regularly.”
Silverstein’s overall goal is to inform Queens residents, in addition to people all over the country, about their options and the importance of shopping intelligently for propane and heating oil.
“Fuelwonk has the potential to spread across the United States,” said Silverstein. “It is the education I received from John Bowne High School and Queens College that has contributed to this becoming a reality.”
For more information on the website, visit Fuelwonk.com
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org