How Long Does a Tank of Heating Oil Last?

how long will a tank of heating oil last

It is January, 2021 right now which means heating oil season is in full swing! While you are thinking about when to order heating oil, you may be wondering how long a tank of heating oil lasts. A tank of heating oil lasts as little as a few weeks, and as long as a season; see how long your heating oil will last below!

Heating Oil Tank Size

An obvious factor that will impact how long the tank lasts is the size of the tank. The most common heating oil tank size is 275 gallons. A 275 gallon heating oil tank holds approximately 250 gallons of heating oil when full. The next most common oil tank size is 330 gallons. A 330 gallon fuel oil tank has a nominal capacity of about 300 gallons.

It is also not uncommon for a home to have ‘twin tanks’ where two 275 or two 330 gallon tanks are plumbed together. This gives the homeowner more capacity and the ability to order heating oil less frequently.

Homes with in-ground tanks tend to have 550 gallon, or even 1000 or 2000 gallon tanks! In-ground oil tanks are less and less common and are often replaced with above ground tanks when the house is sold.

This 275 gallon heating oil tank holds 250 gallons of home heating oil and is the most common oil tank size. The 275 gallon oil tank shown measures 5 feet long. The second most common tank is 330 gallons. The 330 gallon tank measures 6 feet long – or one more foot than the 275 gallon tank.

House Size Impacts Heating Oil Usage

Once you’ve determined the size of your heating oil tank, you’ll need to know how much oil your home requires per day to determine how long the oil tank will last. The factors that impact how much heating oil you use are:

  • The size of your house. A 1500 square foot house may use only 500 gallons a year, whereas a 3500 square foot house may use over 1500 gallons per year.
  • The energy-efficiency of your house. A well-insulated 2500 square foot house may use as little as 600 gallons per year, whereas the same size house with poor insulation and drafty windows could use over 1200 gallons per year.
  • The age of your heating system. Well-maintained heating oil systems tend to last much longer than comparable gas systems, often lasting 30 years or longer! While this is great, technology continues to make these systems more efficient. Upgrading to a new oil-fired heating system can reduce heating oil costs by up to 30%.
  • The temperature (both inside and outside). Turning down the thermostat a few degrees is a sure way to reduce your heating oil usage. But a bigger factor is the outdoor temperature. On a 10° day, an average home may use 8-12 gallons of heating oil to keep warm. On a 30° day, the same home may only use 5-7 gallons of heating oil.

Heating Oil Used Per Day

Once you know your home size, you can use the following tables to figure out how much heating oil you will use per day. With this, you can estimate how long your oil tank will last you.

Keep in mind, however, that you do not want to let your tank go completely empty! Always order heating oil when your tank is at around 1/4 full to ensure you do not run out of heating oil.

A 2500 square foot home will use approximately 4-6 gallons a day on a 30 degree winter day.

How Long Will a Tank of Heating Oil Last

There is one more factor that you need to keep in mind to determine how long your tank of heating oil will last you: the reorder point. Just like with a car, it is important that you do not let your tank run completely empty. This will not only cause your burner to shut down, but can cause sludge to get sucked into the lines, clogging the system.

As such, it is highly recommended to order heating oil when your tank is 1/4 full. “Reorder at a quarter” is a good way to remember this.

“Reorder at a quarter” is a good rule of thumb for when to order heating oil. A heating oil tank gauge only provides an approximation of the oil tank level, so it is important to not let the tank run too low. Since a 275 gallon oil tank holds at most 250 gallons, and you should reorder at 1/4 tank (68 gallons), we can take 250-68 = 182 to determine how much heating you can use between fills. 182 gallons, at 5.2 gallons per day, will last for approximately 35 days, or just over one month.

The 1/4 mark on a 275 gallon tank is approximately 68 gallons. Since a 275 only holds 250 gallons when full, this means you have 182 gallons (250 – 68 = 182) of usable heating oil before you need to order heating oil. Look at the table above to determine your average heating oil usage based on recent temperatures, and divide this number into the total number of usable gallons. Example:

  • Home size: 2500 square feet
  • Average temperature since last fill: 30° F
  • Average gallons per day @ 30° F: 5.2 gallons per day
  • Tank size: 275 gallons (holds 250)
  • Reorder point: 1/4 tank or 68 gallons
  • Usable gallons between fills: 250-68 = 182 gallons
  • Number of Days Between Fills: 182 gallons / 5.2 gallons/day = 35 days

With an average outdoor temperature of 30° F, a 275 gallon tank in a 2500 square foot home will last approximately 35 days between fills.

When To Check Your Heating Oil Tank and Order Oil

The last thing you want is to wake up to a freezing cold house in the middle of winter because you ran out of heating oil. If you do run out of heating oil, check out our step-by-step guide here: what to do if you are out of heating oil.

With an old-fashioned float gauge in your tank, we recommend checking the level once a week, or at least once every two weeks during the winter. Set a reminder in your smart phone to go down and check the tank periodically.

Alternatively, you can install a Smart Oil Gauge on your tank, and simply check your heating oil level from your smart phone. Program text and email alerts when your tank gets low, and never worry about heating oil again.

If you are new to heating oil and are wondering how much heating oil your home may use, consider the table below for the expected usage for an average winter in CT.

This chart approximates how many gallons of heating oil a home in CT may expect to use. The energy-efficiency of your home and outside temperature will skew your results to either side of these ranges in a given winter.

Check Heating Oil Prices And Order Heating Oil Online

When your heating oil tank is down to 1/4 full, it is time to order heating oil. Check heating oil prices near me online, and go to a site like FuelSnap to quickly compare heating oil prices between local dealers. Read reviews and order oil online with a credit card. Choose exactly how many gallons of heating oil you need to avoid surprises. And finally, set a reminder to check your tank every week or two to make sure you do not run out of heating oil.

Happy heating,

Steve

How To Replace Your Oil Tank Gauge

how to replace an oil tank gauge

Is it hard to tell how much heating oil is in your oil tank? If so, it may be time for a new gauge. In this post we’ll walk you through replacing your home heating oil gauge. If you are not handy, or are having any trouble with this process whatsoever, you should definitely contact your oil or HVAC company for this!

Tools Required to Replace Your Oil Tank Gauge

If you’re handy, replacing the gauge on your heating oil tank is not too difficult. The tools required are:

  • Rubber gloves (remember, heating oil stinks, so make sure to wear old clothes too!)
  • Garbage bag
  • 14″ pipe wrench (or bigger) – get it here
  • Pipe dope / thread sealant – get it here
  • Penetrating Oil (e.g. Liquid Wrench) – OPTIONAL – get it here

How Your Float Gauge Works

Before we begin, it is important to understand how a float gauge works. This will aid in removing it so you know what to expect. In a nut shell, there is a floating piece (the ‘float’) – sometimes cork, but more recently plastic – that sits atop the oil. This float sits at the end of a hinged arm. At the other end of the hinged arm is a plastic disc that moves up and down with the float. The disc is housed behind a plastic vial that can be removed by hand. The disc and vial provide a rough indication of the oil level in the fuel oil tank.

The float in a heating oil tank float gauge sits atop the oil and moves down as the level lowers. Over time, this float can get stuck, or even weighed down by sludge. This can cause it to no longer read properly.

What Causes a Broken Float Gauge

Oil tank float gauges are notorious for going bad. They can go bad for a number of reasons. Most often, the float builds up sludge and no longer floats properly as shown below. Also, the thin piece of metal that connects the hinged arm to the disc can be bent. If you’ve ever removed the plastic vial and pushed down on this disc to see if the float gauge was still working, you could have bent the metal in the arm.

Finally, the whole assembly can rotate inside the tank over time, causing the float to get wedged against the inside wall of the tank. When this happens, it will no longer move up or down. Replacing your heating oil tank gauge is the next step at that point.

heating oil float gauge with sludge buildup
Sludge buildup like that shown here can cause a heating oil float gauge to go bad. This is not uncommon on older heating oil tanks. Installing a non-contact ultrasonic gauge such as a Smart Oil Gauge can avoid any sludge issues in the future.

Step 1: Loosen Fitting

Before you can unthread the float gauge assembly, you must begin by loosening it only. First, remove the plastic vial by hand to expose the disc. Second, position the pipe wrench on the metal fitting that threads into the tank. Use both hands and loosen the fitting ONLY SLIGHTLY! You cannot loosen this more than half a turn yet because the float will hit the inside wall of the tank.

Pro Tip: If you cannot loosen the fitting easily, soak it in a penetrating oil such as Liquid Wrench for several hours or up to a couple of days.

Remove the plastic vial by hand so you can access the disc inside of the assembly. This will allow you to manipulate the arm inside the tank in Step 2. Use the pipe wrench to begin to loosen the assembly.

Step 2: Pull Disc Up and Loosen Fitting Completely

Now that the fitting is loose, you will need to use two hands to continue. If you have someone helping you this would be ideal. If not, no big deal – just continue these steps below.

Pull up the disc as far as it will go. This will lift the float out of the oil (see below) and allow you to rotate the assembly. By lifting the float out, the assembly can rotate without the arm crashing into the inside of the tank.

Pull the disc up to lift the float out of the oil before attempting to loosen the fitting completely. Once the disc is up, you can continue unscrewing the float gauge fitting from the tank.

Step 3: Remove the Float Assembly

Once the fitting is completely loose, you can remove the float assembly. Get your paper towels and garbage bag ready for this step!

Release the disc to allow the float to settle back in the tank. Slowly raise the assembly out and allow the float to fall while doing so. This will allow you to remove the whole assembly from the tank. Use the paper towels to catch any dripping oil, and place the whole assembly in the garbage bag immediately.

Step 4: Install Your New Float Gauge

To install a new float gauge, you’ll want to essentially reverse these steps. Begin by cleaning the fitting on the tank, and applying pipe dope to the threads of the new float gauge assembly.

Use a marker on the fitting to indicate the direction that the arm should fall once the assembly is on the tank. You will need to insure that the float can extend into the open area of the tank so the float does not hit the inner wall.

Gently lower the float into the tank until the fitting mates with the tank. Gently lift the disc to raise the float out of the oil, and hand tighten the assembly as far as you can.

Keep lifting the disc up, and tighten with a pipe wrench until snug. Make sure to stop tightening when the arm is oriented properly in the tank. Once tight, hand-tighten the plastic vial in place and you are good to go!

Mark the fitting with a marker to indicate the direction the float arm will extend. Tighten the fitting until this lines up in this direction.

Alternative To A Float Gauge

If you’re unhappy with your heating oil float gauge, or are tired of replacing it over the years, there are better alternatives available. You can consider a Smart Oil Gauge, for instance. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the level. As such, it is never directly touching the heating oil. This keeps it from getting sludge buildup on it.

The Smart Oil Gauge gets threaded into an extra opening on your tank, and can even be used in addition to a traditional float gauge. Installing a Smart Oil Gauge is much more straightforward as well. Simply apply pipe dope to the threads, and tighten it in with a pipe wrench. Download the app on your phone to connect the device to WiFi beforehand, and then start monitoring your usage remotely. Check out this great installation video if you would like to install a Smart Oil Gauge.

Installing a WiFi heating oil gauge is a much easier alternative to the float gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the oil level in the tank. You can watch the full installation video here.

Reading Your New Oil Tank Gauge

For some helpful insights into your new float gauge, read our post here on how to read an oil tank gauge. If you went with the Smart Oil Gauge, just make sure you configure it for the proper tank size, and set up your alerts in the app as well. The Smart Oil Gauge can send text and email alerts when the tank is low. This way you will never be caught off guard and run out of heating oil again!

Hopefully this illustrates how to replace your heating oil tank gauge. Remember to check FuelSnap when your tank is low to make sure you’re getting the best deal on home heating oil!

Happy heating,

Steve

Why You Should Buy A Home That Uses Heating Oil

Oil-heated homes are among the most popular in the Northeast. While natural gas is more common elsewhere, the age of homes and the rocky ground make pipelines less prevalent here. Heating oil is popular because it is cost-effective, easy to come by, and extremely safe. Read on to learn about the benefits of oil heat!

Introduction to Heating Oil

Heating oil is one of the most popular fuel types in the Northeast. It is stored in an oil tank somewhere on the property, and fed into a boiler or furnace where it is burned and converted to heat. You will mostly likely find the oil tank inside the basement of the house.

However, heating oil tanks can also be found outside the house, in the garage, or even underground. Underground heating oil tanks are less common these days, and are generally undesirable as they could unknowingly start leaking over time.

If you are considering buying a home with an underground oil tank, we recommend removing it and replacing it with an above ground tank. Follow this guide on choosing a new heating oil tank if this is the case.

275 gallon oil tank
An oil-heated home will have a heating oil tank like the one shown here. There is usually one single tank, but occasionally two tanks that are connected. If your home has an underground oil tank, you may consider removing it and installing an above-ground tank like the one shown here.

Heating Oil Delivery

To keep the heat running, you must periodically fill your heating oil tank. We break down the process of filling a heating oil tank in this blog post here. To keep your heating oil tank filled, you must sign up for automatic delivery or plan on ordering heating oil online each time your tank is low. There are pros and cons to automatic delivery which we break down here.

In a nut shell, it is much more cost-effective to only order heating oil as needed. Automatic delivery costs several hundred dollars more per year, and devices like the Smart Oil Gauge make it so this is no longer necessary.

heating oil delivery truck
Heating oil must be periodically delivered to your home. You can elect to sign up for automatic delivery and pay a premium, or buy oil only as needed. Order through a site like FuelSnap to get the best deals on heating oil.

Benefits of Home Heating Oil

There are many benefits to home heating oil, including:

  1. It is safe. Heating oil has a flash point of 140° F. Because of this, it is actually not even flammable at room temperature. This makes it extremely safe, and not something you have to worry about having in your home. To ignite heating oil, you must first preheat it, and then atomize it.
  2. It is efficient. A gallon of heating oil generates 138,500 BTUs per gallon (BTUs are a unit of heat). Since burners tend to be about 85% efficient, this equates to 117,725 effective BTUs per gallon. Propane, on the other hand, only generates 91,500 BTUs per gallon. With a 95% efficiency burner, this equates to only 86,925 effective BTUs per gallon. In sum, it takes 1.35 gallons of propane to generate as much heating as a single gallon of heating oil! Read this post here on what your propane provider won’t tell you if you are thinking about propane.
  3. It is widely available. There are literally thousands of heating oil dealers throughout the Northeast. With a site like FuelSnap, you can compare prices from local dealers, all of which are competing for your business. This ensures you are getting the best price whenever you need to order heating oil. With propane, you will lose the flexibility of shopping around. This is because propane dealers – not the homeowners – own 95% of the propane tanks in the Northeast!
  4. It is cost-effective. Because of its ability to generate so much heat per gallon, heating oil is extremely cost-effective. Oil prices have fallen drastically over the past decade, and as a homeowner you have the ability to price-compare between different suppliers. This competition keeps oil prices as low as possible – so long as you don’t sign up for automatic delivery. If you sign up for automatic delivery, you will be paying more per gallon to get your heating oil from one single supplier. While this is convenient, it costs you a lot of money in the long run. Check out this post here on the pros and cons of automatic heating oil delivery.

Should I Buy a Home with Heating Oil? Yes.

In summary, oil heat is a safe, cost-effective fuel for heating your home. If you are choosing between propane or heating oil, heating oil wins out all day long. If you have the option for natural gas, then we would recommend considering it. Natural gas is not only cost-effective, but you do not have to worry about maintaining your supply.

However, heating oil affords you the ability to choose between suppliers to ensure you are always getting the best price. You can order oil only as needed on a site like FuelSnap where you can comparison shop between dealers. And to make sure you don’t run out of heating oil, install a Smart Oil Gauge to keep an eye on your tank from your phone.

Happy heating,

Steve

FuelSnap Mobile App Featured on News12 CT

steve williams of fuelsnap

Last weekend on Small Business Saturday I was able to meet the folks at News12 CT. We had a conversation about FuelSnap and ordering heating oil using the Smart Oil Gauge. Check out the video below!

Smart Oil Gauge allows you to check your heating oil tank from your phone, then reorder through FuelSnap right form an app on your phone. Read the article from News12 CT below for more information.
https://connecticut.news12.com/ridgefield-man-creates-app-to-simplify-process-of-buying-home-heating-oil

About FuelSnap

FuelSnap was actually founded by two Ridgefielders – Steve Williams and Joe Mygatt – and has been growing fast thanks to a third former Ridgefielder, Carl Shaw, who manages our dealer onboarding and growth programs. Since launching in 2019, FuelSnap has added nearly 100 oil providers covering over 3,000 zip codes in the Northeast.

The company has expanded in recent months to offer dealers online ordering on their own websites – in addition to FuelSnap. “Heating oil dealers loved our order management software so much, they asked if they could use it for their own sites.” says Carl Shaw. Dealers can enable a Shopify-like experience almost immediately utilizing the company’s ECommerce solutions.

“It’s a low cost option that allows a heating oil dealer to start selling online, without spending thousands of dollars up front on web development” says Shaw.

Contact Information

For questions about FuelSnap: click here or call 203-456-1015.

For questions about Online Ordering or Turn-Key ECommercie sites: click here or call 203-456-1012.

How Much Does It Cost to Heat With Oil?

Heating oil is one of the most popular home heating fuels in the Northeast. It is cost effective, readily available, and found in more than seven million homes. But how much does it cost to heat with oil? Heating the average home will cost $1,200 to $2,000 per year for will-call customers, and $1,500 to $2,500 per year for automatic delivery customers. We will break this down – and more – in the post below!

How To Save Money On Home Heating Oil

There are five primary factors that contribute to how much it costs to heat a house with oil:

  1. Automatic Delivery vs. Will-Call: Will-call customers are those who only order heating oil as needed. By doing so, they save approximately $0.50 per gallon compared to automatic delivery customers. By shopping around and ordering heating oil online, you can realize tremendous savings in your heating oil costs.
  2. Size of the House: The larger the house, the more heating oil you can expect to burn. A 2,500 square foot house will use 570 to 1200 gallons of heating oil per year.
  3. Insulation and Windows: A well-insulated house with good windows can save up to 50% on heating costs. Check out these 10 tips for more ways to save on heating oil.
  4. Inside Temperature: The temperature you set the thermostat to can have a major impact on home heating oil costs. Monitor your fuel usage and program your thermostat to optimize temperature settings in your house.
  5. Outside Temperature: Sorry, but short of moving to the South, there’s not much we can help you with here!
it costs between 1200 and 2000 per year to heat the average home in the northeast with heating oil
An average-sized home in New England will use between 570 and 1200 gallons of heating oil per year. The average home will cost $1,200 to $2,000 per year to heat for will-call customers, and $1,500 to $2,500 per year for automatic delivery customers.

Annual Home Heating Oil Cost in New England

By choosing to order heating oil online as needed, homeowners will save an average of $0.50 per gallon. Just search for heating oil prices near me and check prices in your town. The alternative – automatic delivery – may be more convenient, as you don’t have to remember to order home heating oil. There is also the option of manually checking your oil tank gauge to identify when you need home heating oil, but with products like the Smart Oil Gauge, you can easily track your heating oil tank and order oil only as needed.

The other ways to save money include sealing up drafty windows, and adding insulation to cold spaces. You may also consider investing in a programmable thermostat to optimize thermostat settings. If your home has forced hot air (hot air that comes through vents in the floor), it likely makes sense to turn the heat down during the day. If you have a boiler, you are probably better off leaving the temperature constant.

annual  heating costs for oil-heated homes in the northeast
The total annual heating costs for oil-heated homes are broken down here. These were based on an average 2018-2019 will-call price of $2.29 per gallon and automatic delivery price of $2.79 per gallon. Heating oil usage rates were based on an average heating season in Connecticut.

How To Save Money On Heating Oil

With all this in mind, you should consider steps to save money on heating oil. The biggest and most immediate cost savings comes from switching from automatic delivery to will-call. Ordering heating oil online through a site like FuelSnap saves you an average savings of $0.50 per gallon – and often more!

Consider improving how well your house retains heat by upgrading windows and insulation. And finally, program the thermostat to lower the heat at night or when you’re not home, and you will reduce energy costs at your house.

Happy heating,

Steve

When is the Best Month to Buy Home Heating Oil?

fall leaves

One of the benefits of home heating oil is that you can buy it on your own schedule. Some house have multiple tanks which last for several months between fills. In this post we explain the best month to buy home heating oil.

What Causes Heating Oil Prices to Fluctuate?

To determine when to buy home heating oil, it is important to understand why prices fluctuate. There are three primary drivers of heating oil prices to be aware of:

  1. Crude oil supply and demand.
  2. Local heating oil supply and demand.
  3. How you buy your heating oil (i.e. whether you order heating oil online or rely on automatic delivery).

Crude Oil Supply and Demand

Crude oil prices have the most significant impact on heating oil prices. Since home heating oil is a derivative of crude oil, the global supply and demand for crude oil can move heating oil prices up or down. Crude oil is the base fuel that is used in gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, and lubricants in all sorts of machinery.

When the global demand for crude oil declines – so does the price. This is because production of oil does not stop immediately, and producers still need to offload their supply. This scenario played out in early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic ground global travel to a stop. All of sudden, nobody was flying on airplanes or even commuting to work anymore. As a result, there was suddenly too much oil being produced, and prices dropped dramatically. In April, 2020 prices for heating oil futures contracts even dipped below zero! We broke this down in a pretty cool post here when this happened. At the time, folks were paying as little as $0.99 per gallon for heating oil on FuelSnap!

As COVID-19 ground global travel to a halt in April, 2020, crude oil futures prices went negative. There was suddenly more oil supply than demand and producers needed to offload their supply. This directly impacted heating oil prices at the time, which we broke down in this blog post here.

Local Heating Oil Supply and Demand

Local heating oil supply and demand also impacts heating oil prices. In densely populated areas on Long Island, there are hundreds of thousands of oil-heated homes, and many heating oil dealers to choose from. As a result, the dealers must be very efficient and offer competitive pricing and fast delivery. The end result: heating oil prices in Long Island tend to be lower than other parts of the Northeast.

In less densely populated areas, there may be only one or two heating oil dealers to choose from. They can charge significantly more for heating oil, and don’t even have to deliver right away. Where there is a reduced supply like this, heating oil prices tend to be much higher.

There is also the question of the best month to buy heating oil. You may expect to get a better price during the summer / off-season. However, heating oil dealers tend to make fewer deliveries during the off season. As a result, they are less inclined to lower prices and be very competitive. Below is the historical price for heating oil over the past 30 years. The takeaway: the effect of crude oil supply and demand on prices far outweighs any seasonal effects on heating oil prices.

heating oil historical prices
Heating oil prices fluctuate with the market price for crude oil. As can be seen over the past 30 years, heating oil prices tend not to fluctuate with the seasons. In other words, cold weather generally does not lead to increased heating oil prices. Source: MacroTrends.net.

Will-Call or Automatic Heating Oil Delivery

While the price for heating oil will move up or down with the market, the biggest factor that dictates the price you pay for heating oil is whether you buy as needed (will-call) or have automatic delivery. Automatic delivery is billed as a ‘premium’ service and comes with a premium price. This price premium is generally around 40 to 50 cents per gallon, but as high as $1.00 per gallon or more with some dealers! Imagine a winter where you use 1200 gallons of heating oil, and your neighbor paid $1200 less than you for the same oil. That’s the difference between automatic delivery and will-call. If you’re on automatic delivery, then the best month to buy home heating oil does not apply, since the oil will be delivered on the company’s terms.

You can take advantage of significant savings on heating oil by only buying heating oil as needed on a site like FuelSnap. FuelSnap dealers compete for your business by offering the best prices for heating oil possible. And if you’re worried about running out of oil, just install a Smart Oil Gauge to send you alerts when the tank is low.

Bottom Line: Order Heating Oil Any Month of the Year

So, when is the best month to order heating oil? Since heating oil prices depend on the market price for crude oil, it does not matter which month you order heating oil. The only exception to this is when it is really cold, as you may find it difficult to get heating oil in a timely manner.

Even during a cold snap, you can always check heating oil prices near me on a site like FuelSnap. You will see which dealers are available in your town, as well as when they can make the delivery. You will save hundreds of dollars on average compared to automatic delivery over the course of a season.

Just remember, do not let your tank get too low waiting for a good price. If you run out of oil in the middle of the winter, you make have frozen pipes and a much more expensive problem on your hand. At that point, the best month to buy home heating oil no longer matters. As we like to say, the best thing to do is reorder at a quarter (tank) – no matter what month of the year.

Happy heating,

Steve

p.s. About that link to the Smart Oil Gauge in the article…As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Automatic Delivery vs. Will-Call: Home Heating Oil Pros and Cons

275 gallon heating oil tank

If you’re new to home heating oil, the first decision you’ll have to make is: should I sign up for automatic home heating oil delivery? Automatic delivery means you sign an agreement with a single heating oil company for the year. This agreement says you will buy all your heating oil for the whole season from them, and they will automatically deliver it to you. This sounds like a great idea on the surface, but there is a major cost to this which we will touch on below.

The alternative to automatic home heating oil delivery is being a ‘will-call’ customer: someone who only orders heating oil as needed. There are pros and cons to each, and we’ll break them down in this post.

Automatic delivery means all your heating oil will come from one heating oil supplier. You will pay a premium for this but will not have to worry about ordering oil. You can save money by being a ‘will-call’ customer and only ordering heating oil as needed, but you have to make sure you know when to order heating oil.

Heating Oil Basics

Unlike natural gas or electricity, you must have heating oil periodically delivered to your home. Before you order heating oil for the first time, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with these terms:

  • Automatic Delivery: An agreement, usually for one year, that a heating oil company will delivery all the necessary heating oil to you on their own schedule. The dealer uses a system called ‘Degree Days’ to estimate when you’ll need oil next. The system uses outside temperature and delivery history to estimate your tank level. Expect to pay a premium price for heating oil to receive automatic delivery.
  • Will-Call: The alternative to automatic delivery, wherein you simply order heating oil as needed. By being a will-call customer, you can take advantage of significantly lower prices for heating oil. The downside is you must monitor your own oil tank. When you’re low, just check heating oil prices and order heating oil online with a credit card.
  • Service Contract: A maintenance plan that provides 24/7 support if a heating system fails during the winter. This is sometimes included ‘free’ with automatic delivery, but be wary of this. You are likely paying an extra dollar per gallon of heating oil to pay for this ‘free’ service contract. This adds up to $800 – $1000 per year on an average home in the Northeast! There are many reputable service companies that will service your system in the event of an emergency. Further, you should learn to inspect your own oil tank as well.
  • Budget Payment Plan: A payment agreement with the heating oil company that spreads out your total heating oil spend over 9, 10, or even 12 months. This helps eliminate very large bills during peak heating season by spreading the bills out over many months. This is the most profitable type of customer for the oil heating company, as they can charge extremely high heating oil prices without the homeowner noticing.
  • Fixed-Price Agreement: An agreement when signing up for automatic home heating oil delivery that you will pay a fixed-price for heating oil that season. This helps protect against major price increases that may occur. It comes at a cost, however: usually 20 cents per gallon for your estimated usage. Also, you may pay above-market prices if the prices fall during the season, as happened in 2020.
  • Price-Cap: A price-cap plan is an agreement that your heating oil price fluctuates with the market price but will not exceed a certain price. Many homeowners fall for the price-cap agreement, as they believe there is no downside to it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! This is because when the market price for oil lowers, the oil company is under no obligation to lower their price accordingly They may lower it only slightly, for instance. So while you may be protected if the price for oil skyrockets, you’ll be left paying extra if the price drops. This played out in early 2020 when oil prices fell by over 50% and folks on automatic delivery did not even see their price budge at all.

How to Choose Between Automatic Oil Delivery and Will-Call

Historically, those were the two options: pay a premium for automatic delivery or run down to the oil tank periodically as a ‘will-call’ customer. Automatic delivery was obviously much more convenient than running down to the basement, so fuel oil dealers could charge a huge premium for this service. Even today, fuel oil dealers are charging an average of 40-50 cents per gallon for automatic home heating oil delivery, with some charging more than a dollar extra per gallon! Be careful to not get lured in by a ‘first fill’ price of $1.49 to sign up for automatic delivery. The price ALWAYS goes up after that.

To avoid over-paying for heating oil, will-call is the next option. To be a will-call customer, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with checking your heating oil tank gauge. For a detailed explanation read how to check your heating oil tank gauge. Remember, running out of heating oil can be very costly, so don’t forget to check that oil tank!

To be a will-call customer, you must remember to periodically check the gauge on your heating oil tank. This type of float gauge will give an approximate indication of how much oil is in your heating oil tank.

Fortunately, these are no longer your only two options. There is now a third option, which brings the cost-savings of being a will-call customer together with the peace of mind of automatic delivery: a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge is a WiFi heating oil tank gauge. It tells you on your phone how much heating oil is in the tank. It will alert you when your tank is low and it’s time to order oil. You can even order heating oil right from the app.

The Smart Oil Gauge provides the peace of mind of automatic home heating oil delivery and enables homeowners to realize the tremendous savings of being a will-call customer. It screws into the top of the heating oil tank and uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the tank level. The level is reported to an app where it also displays daily usage and gives a countdown to the next fill. The Smart Oil Gauge will even send text and e-mail alerts when it’s time to order oil

What is the Best Option for Heating Oil Delivery?

So what’s best? We rate the three options below.

While automatic delivery is more convenient than will-call, it is much more expensive. The average homeowner pays 40-50 cents per gallon more to be on automatic delivery. This equates to $300-500 more per year for the average home in the Northeast. Since the homeowner is locked in with a single heating oil dealer, flexibility is low. And there is still a risk of running out of heating oil when on automatic delivery, so you won’t get the same peace of mind that you will get with a Smart Oil Gauge.

3rd Place: Automatic Home Heating Oil Delivery

We recommend automatic delivery for folks who just don’t want to think about heating oil. Sign up at the beginning of the season, and then get a bill every month for your deliveries. This is an expensive option, but if money is no object then we recommend it. You may also prefer a budget payment plan which spreads out your payments over the course of the season. This is usually only possible with automatic delivery. But remember, you pay much more over the course of the season for this benefit.

There is still a risk of runout with automatic delivery. So, ask your heating oil company to install an oil tank monitor, or buy your own to make sure you don’t run out.

2nd Place: Will-Call

Will-call will save you hundreds of dollars per year, and thousands over the long-term. That said, those savings can be wiped away if you run out of oil when you’re away from home. Frozen pipes can lead to a catastrophe that costs tens of thousands to repair.

If your oil tank is in a convenient location, however, will-call may be the way to go. You’ll have total flexibility when it comes to choosing a supplier. And you can shop around for the best price for heating oil whenever you are low. Just don’t forget to check the tank!

1st Place: Will-Call with a Smart Oil Gauge

If you want to save money on heating oil, go with will-call, and invest in a Smart Oil Gauge. For around $150 a Smart Oil Gauge will give you even more peace of mind than automatic delivery. It will tell you how much oil is in the tank, and alert you when it’s time to order heating oil.

Within the app, you can even check heating oil prices near me and order heating oil online in seconds. Pay with a credit card and take advantage of will-call pricing right through the app.

What about a Service Contract?

Some dealers will insist that you MUST be on automatic delivery for them to provide a service contract. If that’s your dealer, we recommend finding a new one! There are plenty of dealers who offer service contracts and do not require automatic delivery. DollarWise Oil is one of these companies that offers various maintenance options. Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service Inc. is another one – they offer maintenance plans and do not even sell heating oil! So next time a heating oil dealer tells you that you have to buy all your heating oil from them if you want a service contract, find another company!

Save Money And Only Order Heating Oil As Needed

With today’s technology, you can now take advantage of the lowest pricing possible by only ordering heating oil as needed. Get the peace of mind of automatic delivery by installing a Smart Oil Gauge to keep an eye on the tank level. Configure your alerts so you know when the tank is low. And when it’s time to order heating oil, come back to FuelSnap and get the best heating oil prices possible.

Happy heating,

Steve

When to Order Fuel Oil

when to order fuel oil

Ordering home heating oil can be a daunting task. Choosing a home heating oil dealer and deciding how much oil to order are two important questions to consider. But another important question that comes up is when to order fuel oil. In this blog post we’ll talk about the right time to order heating oil online.

Home Heating Oil Basics

If your home is heated with fuel oil, there are a few things to be aware of. First, your home will have an oil tank to store the heating oil. This tank will be in the basement, garage, outside the house, or even in the ground. Check out this blog post here to learn how a heating oil tank works.

To maintain a consistent supply of home heating oil, you will have to order oil. A truck will come and deliver a specific number of gallons to your tank. Alternatively, you can order a ‘fill’ and the truck will fill the oil tank to its capacity.

When to Order Heating Oil

When deciding when to order home heating oil, there are a couple of factors to consider. First, you do not want to run out of heating oil. Second, you want to get the best price for heating oil.

Avoid Running Out of Heating Oil

If you are out of heating oil right now, check out this blog post here for what to do. Fortunately, you can add diesel from the local gas station to get you through the night.

To avoid running out of heating oil, we recommend reordering heating oil when your oil tank is at a quarter full. This is true whether it is the summer or winter. Heating oil prices tend to not fluctuate too widely throughout the season. Most home heating oil dealers work on a target ‘cents per gallon’ margin which does not often change throughout the year.

“Reorder at a quarter” is a great rule to live by.

The reason to not let your tank get down past 1/4 full is occasionally it can take a few days before your heating oil is delivered. A quarter tank is usually enough to hold you over. Since a typical heating oil tank holds 275 gallons of oil, a quarter of a tank is approximately 70 gallons. A typical house burns approximately 3-5 gallons per day in the winter, so this gives you a cushion to prevent a runout.

Reorder heating oil when your tank gets to 1/4 full to avoid a runout and make sure you get the best deal on heating oil. Order oil online through FuelSnap to compare prices and choose the best delivery date.

Order Heating Oil Online To Get The Best Price

Ordering heating oil online when your tank is at 1/4 full has another benefit as well. This leaves enough space in the tank for a 150 gallon delivery. Most oil dealers require a minimum delivery size of 100 gallons. Some even give a price break for 150 gallons. If your dealer gives a price break for 200 gallons, you will have to let your tank get down to 1/8 full. Check our tank charts here to see how low your oil tank must get for a 200 gallon delivery.

When you order heating oil online through FuelSnap you can not only compare prices, but also delivery dates. If you can wait a few days for your home heating oil delivery, you may get a better price for heating oil. Searching for heating oil near me will bring up multiple sites. Check FuelSnap to easily compare several dealers and order heating oil online.

Check Your Heating Oil Tank Gauge And Reorder Oil At A Quarter Full

Make sure you learn how to check your float gauge and avoid running out of heating oil. Order heating oil online when your gauge reads one quarter full. And if you want to make sure you do not run out again, consider getting a Smart Oil Gauge for your tank. The Smart Oil Gauge gives you a readout of your oil level on your smart phone. It will send you text and email alerts when the tank is low as well.

Happy heating,

Steve

How Accurate Is An Oil Tank Gauge?

heating oil tank gauge

Heating oil tanks have remained virtually unchanged for decades. And unfortunately, so have the gauges inside them! The most basic type of oil tank gauge, which most heating oil tanks have, is called a float gauge. Float gauges notoriously go bad over time, and in this post we will talk about the accuracy of a heating oil tank gauge.

How a Float Gauge Works

A float gauge is a very simple mechanism that is mounted in the top of a heating oil tank. It features a plastic sight at the top, with a disc inside to indicate the level. This disc is attached to an articulating arm with a hinge in the middle. At the other end of the arm is the float itself. While the floats were originally made of cork, they are now usually a plastic material that lasts longer.

As the level of oil lowers, the float lowers with it, and the disc is lowered accordingly.

Most oil tanks feature a float gauge like the one shown above. The float only provides an approximate oil level.

How To Read a Float Gauge

The disc in the plastic sight on a float gauge indicates an approximate level. The key word here is approximate. A float gauge is not a precision instrument.

When reading a float gauge, you will need to know what size oil tank you have. Most oil tanks are 275 or 330 gallons and look like the one pictured below.

Tip: A 275 gallon fuel oil tank measures five feet long, while a 330 tank measures 6 feet long.

Once you know your tank size, you’ll have to determine what your float gauge is reading. The levels are primarily fractions of a tank: 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, or Full. Refer to our heating oil tank charts to determine how many gallons are in the tank.

To be safe, always reorder home heating oil at a quarter (of a tank) when using a float gauge!

The disc shown above indicates roughly how much fuel oil is in the oil tank. Once you know the approximate level, check our oil tank chart to determine the number of gallons.

How Accurate is the Float Gauge?

Unfortunately, a float type gauge is not a very accurate device. There are two main reasons for this.

Float Gauges Go Bad Over Time

After many years sitting in heating oil, the float can actually build up sludge over time. This float below was removed after it was no longer working properly.

Furthermore, the float gauge can occasionally end up getting stuck. If the gauge rotates at all in its fitting, the float arm will get stuck against the side of the oil tank, causing the level to not change.

This is what the float on a heating oil float gauge looks like after years in an oil tank. For this reason, float gauges cannot be counted on to provide an accurate oil level.

Float Gauges Do Not Account For the Actual Tank Geometry

Since float gauges simply work by having the arm go up and down, they do not take into account the curvature of the oil tank. In the middle of the fuel oil tank, the walls are straight up and down. As such, there is significantly more oil than in the bottom section of the oil tank where the walls curve in (see below). When an oil tank gauge reads 1/4 or below, the level will suddenly start lowering more quickly without warning.

An oil tank float gauge does not account for the rounded bottom of a tank. There is much less oil in the bottom 8″ of the tank than elsewhere in the tank. So how can we properly track our oil tanks’ heating oil level if the float gauges go bad over time and do not account for the oil tank geometry?

A More Accurate Heating Oil Tank Gauge

Fortunately for heating oil users, there is a more reliable oil tank gauge available now. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the oil level in the tank. It also knows the exact geometry of the oil tank – including the rounded edges! As such, it outputs a specific number of gallons remaining instead of just an approximate level.

Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the level of oil in the tank. Because it does not come in contact with the oil itself, it does not get sludge built up and lose accuracy the way a traditional float gauge does.

Smart Oil Gauge Tracks Gallons Per Day

Because the Smart Oil Gauge records readings all throughout the day, you can get a handle on exactly how much home heating oil you are using. Some of the useful statistics it will provide are:

  • Current oil usage (gallons per hour and gallons per day)
  • Days until you will be at 1/4 tank
  • Days to 1/8 tank
  • Total gallons used (per day, week, month, or year)
  • How much home heating oil can be delivered to your oil tank
Smart Oil Gauge outputs a specific number of gallons in the oil tank. It also tracks consumption so you can see exactly when you need to order home heating oil next.

Track Your Monthly Usage, And Reorder Heating Oil Online Quickly

With the Smart Oil Gauge, you can track exactly how much heating oil you are using. The app ties directly to FuelSnap so you are able to shop for heating oil online as soon as you are low. This information will allow you to schedule your home heating oil delivery around your own needs.

With a Smart Oil Gauge installed, you can watch how quickly you are consuming heating oil, and order heating oil online in seconds with FuelSnap.

An Accurate Heating Oil Gauge

While a float gauge is not very accurate, a Smart Oil Gauge is. The one limitation to the Smart Oil Gauge is that it cannot give a precise reading in the top 8″ of the oil tank. This is because the oil is too close to the sensor when the oil tank is topped off.

Below that top 8″ mark, however, and the Smart Oil Gauge is extremely reliable. And if you would still like a visual oil tank gauge, you can often leave the float gauge installed as well. The Smart Oil Gauge would go in an extra opening on the tank. Knowing how to read a heating oil tank gauge is undoubtedly important, but with Smart Oil Gauge you can view your oil tank level on your phone!

I use my Smart Oil Gauge to make sure I only order oil when I need it. I can watch prices periodically, and then order heating oil online through FuelSnap using my saved credit card when I’m ready. It really doesn’t get any more convenient than that, and I never have to worry about how much heating oil is in my oil tank.

Happy heating,

Steve

Is Home Heating Oil Safe?

flammable sign

While heating oil is one of the most popular sources for fuel in the northeast, it is also one of the safest. And did you know that heating oil is not even flammable at room temperature? In this post we’ll walk through how heating oil works, and what makes it one of the safest ways to heat your home.

How Home Heating Oil Works

Heating oil, sometimes referred to as fuel oil, is stored in an oil tank at home that is connected your heating system. This fuel oil tank is typically in the basement or garage, but occasionally can be found outside the home or underground. A heating oil truck must come on occasion and refill the heating oil tank to make sure the system always has heating oil when called for.

The heating oil is drawn from the tank by a pump in the burner – or occasionally by gravity – to the burner itself. Once there, the ignitions process takes place as follows:

  1. Heating oil is drawn from the tank through an oil filter to filter out any particulates or contaminants.
  2. The burner preheats the oil and activates a fan that mixes in air to help ignite the fuel.
  3. The heating oil then passes through a nozzle where it is atomized (turned into a fine mist), heated further, and ignited to create a flame.
  4. A sensor inside the system confirms that ignition has occurred, and the system continues to burn heating oil until a thermostat inside the unit tells it to stop.

Is Heating Oil Safe?

Since heating oil must be atomized and heated to 140° F before it can be ignited, it is considered extremely safe. In fact, if you were to drop a match into a bucket of heating oil, the match would simply go out (don’t try this at home though – as heating oil stinks!). This is because heating oil is not flammable in liquid form.

Check Your Heating Oil Tank for Safe Operation

The main thing to watch out for if your home is heated with oil is that it is properly stored in a secure heating oil tank. If your tank is underground and over 30 years old, we recommend removing it from the ground and installing a tank (or tanks) inside your home. This will prevent an environmental hazard that could result of an underground heating oil tank begins to leak.

If your house has an above-ground heating oil tank, then we recommend following our step-by-step guide for inspecting your heating oil tank here.

Happy heating,

Steve