How Long Does a Tank of Heating Oil Last?

If you’ve got an oil-heated home, or are thinking about buying one, you may be wondering how long a tank of oil lasts. The answer requires us to know a lot about your house and climate, all of which we’ll break down below!

If you see these pipes sticking out of a house or the ground, that means the house is heated with oil. The fill pipe, on the right, is what the truck hooks up to when it delivers oil. The vent pipe, left, allows air to escape the tank while it’s being filled.

House Size

House size is one of the biggest factors to consider. The larger the house, the more air to heat. Also, the more surface area for heat loss. When there are lots of windows, there’s a lot of potential for heat to escape.

The shape and layout of the house can affect heat loss as well. A ranch house has more exterior surface area per square foot than a two-story home. As a result, more oil is generally required for ranch homes than two-story homes. Another way to think about this is wearing mittens vs. gloves. If you’ve ever gone skiing in 0 degree weather, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Your fingers stay much warmer if they’re pressed up against each other in a mitten rather than exposed on their own in a glove.

In the 1990s, houses in the northeast got bigger and bigger. A 6,000+ square foot house like this will typically burn over 2,500 gallons of heating oil a year.

Energy Efficiency

Older houses that have single pane windows or lack insulation will burn significantly more oil than new homes with high-quality windows. If your house lacks insulation, we would recommend a home energy audit. These are often subsidized by your state and provide incentives for blown-in insulation.

Adding insulation to spaces like the attic can help keep heat in your home during the cold season.

Oil-Fired Hot Water Heaters

Another factor to consider is what the oil is used for. Many homes with oil heat use the same tank of oil to fire their hot water heaters. If this is the case, you should expect to use 0.5 to 1.0 gallons per day to run your hot water heater.

Oil-fired hot water heaters require 0.5 to 1.0 gallons of heating oil per day. This consumption continues all year long.

Outdoor Temperature

This may seem obvious: the colder it is outside, the more oil will be required. As a result, the further north into New England you live, the more oil you can expect to use.

On a typical winter day where the average temperature is 30 degrees, you can expect a 2,500 square foot house to burn approximately 5 gallons.

This chart shows the average consumption based on house size and outside temperature. An old, poorly insulated house may use twice as much oil as shown here!

How Much Oil Is Used in a Year?

Putting all these factors together, we can show you how much oil you may use in a year.

The average home consumes about 880 gallons of heating oil per year in CT.

Tank Size Matters

To figure out how long a tank lasts, you’ll need to know how big your tank is. The most common tank size is 275 gallons. A 275 gallon tank holds about 250 gallons when full. This is because an air space at the top of the tank is maintained to prevent an over fill.

275 gallon heating oil tank
The most common tank size, a 275 gallon oil tank, holds about 250 gallons when full.

That said, you should refill your tank when it gets down to about 1/4 full. This will help prevent a runout in the event it takes a while for the truck to arrive. Therefore, the usable range of the tank will be 70 to 250 gallons, for a total of 180 gallons.

At 5 gallons a day, you can expect a 275 gallon tank to last about 36 days, or just over a month.

In a typical month, the average house will use about 5 gallons of heating oil per day. Therefore, a full tank will last about 36 days.
It is important not to let your tank get too far below a quarter full. If the roads look like this, it can be very difficult to get a delivery of heating oil.

Other Factors

There are other factors to consider as well, such as whether the house will be occupied all winter. If your house is set to 60 degrees, the tank of oil will last quite a bit longer than if it is set to 70.

The age and condition of your boiler or furnace matter too. A newer system will be much more energy-efficient than a 20 year old system. Consider upgrading to a newer system if yours is this old.

The best thing you can do if you have an oil-heated home is install a Smart Oil Gauge to tell you how much oil is in the tank. Get alerted when the tank is low, and order heating oil online in seconds on a site like FuelSnap. You’ll save lots of money in the long run and never have to worry about checking the tank.

Happy heating,


Heating Oil vs. Propane: What to Know

heating oil delivery truck

If it’s time to upgrade your furnace, you may hear suggestions to switch from oil to propane. Take this decision very seriously, as it could be very expensive in the long run. In this post, we’ll break down the real reasons why companies encourage you to make the switch.

Delivered Fuels

Propane and heating oil are both considered ‘delivered fuels‘. Whereas natural gas and electricity come automatically, oil and propane come via truck.

This is important to consider, because you need to maintain a constant supply of either fuel during the cold months. Whereas natural gas and electricity keep coming, oil and propane can run out if you’re not careful.

There are two ways to order oil and propane: on a ‘will-call’ basis or via ‘automatic delivery’. Will-call tends to be more cost-effective, but be careful not to forget to order! If you run out, you could have a very cold house while waiting for the truck to arrive. Automatic delivery comes at a premium (usually 50 cents or more per gallon), but some argue that the peace of mind is worth it.

A home heating oil truck making a residential delivery of oil.

Propane and Heating Oil Storage Tanks

Pipelines carry natural gas through streets and to homes. Fuel companies, on the other hand, deliver oil and propane to homes. Tanks are used to store the fuel for months at a time.

There are three types of oil tanks: indoor above ground, outdoor above ground, and underground.

  • Indoor above ground: This is the most desirable type of oil tank. It does not see snow or rain, and is out of sight.
  • Outdoor above ground: This is the second most desirable type of oil tank. You can easily access and inspect an outdoor oil tank. That said, rain and snow will shorten the lives of these tanks.
  • Underground: These are the least desirable tanks. There is typically no way to gauge how much oil is in an underground tank, other than sticking a long dip stick in the tank. Further, there is no way to know if the tank is beginning to leak. A leaking underground tank can be very costly.
This is the most common style of oil tank. It can be found in the basement (ideally), or just outside the house.
In the 1970s and 1980s, burying oil tanks was very common. The problem with a buried tank is it can rust and begin to leak over time. The 2000 gallon tank shown here is being removed prior to the sale of the house. Many home buyers and mortgage providers will require an underground tank to be removed prior to closing.

Propane tanks, on the other hand, are available in only two styles: outdoor above-ground, and outdoor underground.

  • Outdoor above-ground: Propane tanks are most commonly above ground. They must be located away from the residence in case of a leak. As a result, they are often clearly visible in the yard and are rather unsightly.
  • Underground: Underground propane tanks are rare, but preferred.

Benefits of Propane

Propane is a very versatile fuel. Propane fuels fire places, stoves, water heaters, furnaces, and more. You will also find that propane prices are quite stable.

A cozy gas fireplace fueled with propane.

Downsides of Propane

The biggest downside of propane is the lack of flexibility. In the vast majority of cases, the propane company provides the tank at your home. This means that you cannot choose a different supplier to fill that tank. When a pushy salesman is trying to get you to convert to propane, this is why.

It is extremely profitable for the propane provider to get you to switch from oil to propane. The only way to switch propane providers is to buy your tank (which costs thousands of dollars), or have a new company come and install tanks of their own.

Another downside of propane is that you cannot top off the tank yourself if you run out. You must simply wait for the delivery truck to come if you run out of propane.

Benefits of Heating Oil

Heating oil burns HOT. As a result, you get significantly more heat from a gallon of heating oil than an equivalent gallon of propane.

A gallon of propane produces 91,500 BTUs. Since most equipment is about 95% efficient, a gallon of propane produces 86,925 effective BTUs.

A gallon of heating oil produces 138,500 BTUs. Since most equipment is about 85% efficient, a gallon of oil produces 117,725 effective BTUs.

The result is that you need 1.35 gallons of propane to produce the same heat as 1 gallon of heating oil.

In addition, as a homeowner, you ALWAYS own your heating oil tank. This means you are free to order oil from any dealer at any time.

Prices for heating oil, therefore, are much more competitive than propane. You can use sites like FuelSnap to compare prices and order heating oil online.

You can also introduce technology like the Smart Oil Gauge to easily monitor your oil tank. Get low-level alerts and order heating oil right through the app.

You can also add diesel to your tank if you run out of oil. Follow these steps here if you find yourself out of heating oil.

The Smart Oil Gauge provides the ultimate control over your oil tank. Check the app at any time, and order heating oil in seconds.

Downsides of Heating Oil

Heating oil is smelly. If your tank leaks, you could have an environmental hazard on your hands. While rare, it certainly does happen. That said, inspecting your above-ground tank every year and removing underground tanks can help mitigate this risk.

Heating oil is also more prone to global oil price changes. When Ukraine was invaded in 2022, oil prices soared worldwide, whereas propane prices were less affected. When COVID-19 happened, however, heating oil prices were down to less than $1 per gallon. The same was not true for propane.

Be Wary of Salesman Encouraging You To Switch to Propane

Propane is great for many things including cooking, generators, and fireplaces. But it tends to be more expensive that heating oil over the long run when used for heating.

If a salesman simply says you’ll save money by switching to propane, make sure you push back. By switching over to propane you will relinquish a lot of control over your fuel.

The best case scenario is to have both fuels: heating oil for heat and propane for ancillary needs. Run your stove, fireplace and generator on propane. Use heating oil for heat and you should be the best off.

Happy heating,


Reading an Oil Tank Gauge

roth tank gauge

Got heating oil? In this post, we’ll break down how to read a heating oil tank gauge. We’ll also explain how an oil tank gauge works and when to order oil.

How an Oil Tank Gauge Works

A home heating oil tank usually features an internal tank gauge. This tank gauge has a few components:

  1. A float on the end of an arm
  2. A sight glass (ok, it’s actually plastic)
  3. A disc that rises and falls with the oil level

Reading a Tank Gauge

The oil tank gauge features a disc that is visible at the top of the tank through a plastic sight. The sight features tick marks indicating how full the tank is. Look at where the top of the disc lines up with the tick marks to determine the current level in the tank.

Look at where the disc lines up with the tick marks to determine how much oil is in the tank. Always remember to reorder at a quarter of a tank to prevent a runout.

How Much Oil Should I Order?

How much oil you should order depends on the size of your tank, as well as how full the tank is. Use the guide below to determine how much to order. For twin tanks, simply double these amounts.

If you’re down to 1/4 tank, you can safely order 150 gallons. If you order 200 gallons and your tank does not take the full amount, you may end up paying a higher price per gallon.

Types of Oil Tank Gauges

Float gauges like the one above are not the most reliable tank gauges. They can wear out or get stuck over time. Further, they can end up with sludge on the float.

Float gauges can end up with sludge as shown here, which can greatly affect the tank’s readings.

Float Gauge

This is the most common type of tank gauge and comes in a few varieties. The floating arm type, shown above is common in traditional steel tanks. There is also a string type that is common on Roth tanks.

A float gauge with an arm, left, is most common. A less common float gauge (right) has the float connected to a string. A gear system moves the needle to indicate the level.

Dip Stick

The tried and trusted method for being completely sure of your oil tank level is the old-fashioned dip stick. Use the dip stick to measure how many inches of oil you have. Then, refer to an oil tank chart to determine gallons.

Use a collapsible oil tank dip stick to measure the number of inches of oil in your tank.

Smart Oil Gauge

Perhaps the best invention since the discovery of heating oil is the Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the oil level. The device connects to WiFi and uploads readings to the cloud. From there, you can check the level via an app on your smart phone.

The Smart Oil Gauge not only tells you exactly how many gallons you have, it also tells you how much oil you are using and gives an estimate of when you’ll need oil next. It sends you low-level alerts, and lets you reorder oil right through the app.

The Smart Oil Gauge threads into the top of the tank. You can check your oil level from anywhere.

Choosing the Best Type of Oil Tank Gauge

There are pros and cons to each type of heating oil gauge. The float gauge gives a good estimate of the oil level. A dip stick can be more precise, but is cumbersome. The Smart Oil Gauge can be read remotely, but requires WiFi. Use the guide below to choose your oil tank gauge.

The Smart Oil Gauge is the best choice for monitoring your heating oil tank.

Tips for Reading Your Oil Tank Gauge

Knowing your own heating oil gauge is important. Some gauges read high; others low. If you want to be sure your float gauge is accurate, we recommend checking it using a dipstick. If you purchase a Smart Oil Gauge, make sure you input the correct tank style (e.g. 275 vertical or 330 horizontal) into the app. The app will adjust the readings based on this.

If you are relying on a float gauge, remember that it will only provide an approximate level. It should not be relied on as a precision device, and can definitely not be relied upon when the tank is nearly empty.

Happy heating,


How Much Does It Cost To Heat With Oil?

cost to heat with oil

When looking for a new house, you may have different fuel types to choose from. Some houses are heated with oil, some with propane, and some with natural gas. Smaller houses and condos often have electric heat, which can be the most expensive. For new construction, there are also electric heat pumps and geothermal options, but these are not very common. In this post, we’ll speak to the cost of heating with oil, which may surprise you!

Houses in New England are primarily heated with oil, propane, or natural gas. If natural gas is available on the street, that is often the most cost-effective choice. Oil heat tends to be the second most cost-effective, followed by propane. Check out this article on choosing between oil and propane: Heating Oil vs. Propane: What your Propane Provider Wont’ Tell You.

How Heating Oil Is Stored

Oil heat is very popular in the Northeast. Oil burns hotter than propane and natural gas, and is not combustible at room temperature. As a result, it is a very economical fuel for heating your home.

When considering buying an oil-heated home, you’ll want to figure out where the oil tank is located. An oil tank is most often inside the home’s basement or garage. This is the best case scenario, as the tank will be shielded from the elements.

If a tank is located outdoors, you will want to make sure the tank is inspected for rust or an unstable footing. An outdoor oil tank leak can be very expensive to remediate. Lastly, the tank may be underground. If the oil tank is underground, we would recommend having the tank removed and replaced with an indoor tank as soon as possible.

An indoor oil tank like the one shown here is ideal. It is well-protected from the elements and will last many decades.

Scheduling An Oil Delivery

Since oil is stored in a holding tank, it must be replenished when the tank is low. There are two ways of managing oil deliveries: automatic delivery and will-call.

Automatic Delivery: Automatic delivery is a service you can sign up for with one particular oil provider. The oil dealer will estimate when your tank is low and send the truck automatically. Expect to pay approximately $0.50 per gallon more for automatic delivery.

Will-Call: Will-call oil delivery means you ‘will call’ when your tank is low. This puts the onus on you as the homeowner to keep track of your tank level. However, you can save a lot of money by only ordering oil as needed. There are also many tools, such as the Smart Oil Gauge to track our tank from your phone and sites like FuelSnap to compare oil prices in your area.

A Smart Oil Gauge will show you how much oil you have in your tank. You can then shop for heating oil right in the app to make sure you’re getting the best deal on heating oil.

How Much Oil Does a House Use

The average house in the Northeast uses approximately 880 gallons of heating oil per year. The amount you’ll use in your home depends on a variety of factors. These include the size of the house, insulation quality, whether you’re using oil for hot water, etc.

Use this guide here to determine exactly how much heating oil your house will use.

How Much Does Heating Oil Cost Per Gallon

Heating oil prices have been very volatile these past few years. At the start of COVID, prices dropped to as low as $1 per gallon. When Russia invaded Ukraine, however, prices spiked to as high as $6 per gallon.

One of the benefits of heating oil is that you typically only need to fill up a handful of times per season. As such, many homeowners were able to run their tanks low during the high-price months, and refill when prices came back down. This would not have been possible on automatic delivery.

Heating oil prices as of this writing on January 13, 2023 range from a low of the mid $3 per gallon range to a high in the mid $4 per gallon range.

Prices are mostly below $4 per gallon in the Northeast as of mid-January, 2023.

At $4 / gallon, and 880 gallons per year, the average home would cost about $3,520 to heat. Broken down into a six month heating season, this would represent a monthly cost of about $586.

Heating oil prices will hopefully come back down to below $3 a gallon as they had been before 2022. At $3 a gallon, an average home will cost approximately $2,640 per year to heat, or $440 a month for the six month long heating season.

Happy heating,


Heating Oil Trends: 2022

heating oil trends 2022

What a year it has been for heating oil. As we round out 2022, heating oil prices are up 3.8% since last week, to an average low price of about $4.10 a gallon in the Northeast.

Looking back at the year, we started 2022 at around $2.86 a gallon. Prices skyrocketed with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and reached a high of nearly $6 a gallon in May. If you were on automatic delivery during this time, you likely saw prices well north of $7 a gallon as dealers were facing major cash flow issues and had to make up for it any way they could.

Heating oil prices ranged from $2.86 a gallon to start the year, to a high of nearly $6 a gallon in May. Prices briefly spiked again in October before settling down to the $4 a gallon range by the end of December.

Some Dealers Went Out Of Business

We also saw some smaller oil dealers suddenly go out of business during that time, as they didn’t have enough cash in the bank to refuel their trucks at the terminals when the prices jumped.

Fortunately, prices were at their worst toward the spring time so most of us were able to forego a delivery during this time.

We saw a nice gradual decline through the summer months, to a recovery point of about $4.00 a gallon to start the fall heating season. But suddenly the Northeast was faced with a major supply issue. Dealers were showing up at the terminal only to find out there was no oil to be had.

The problem was there was a huge disconnect between the spot price of oil (what the dealer pays to fill the truck that day), and the futures prices. The prediction was that prices were going to drop precipitously (and they did!). This led to everyone from the ports to the terminals being super hesitant to stock up on oil. If they filled up their storage tanks one day, and the price dropped by a dollar a gallon the next day, they’d suffer major losses. This artificial supply constraint caused spot prices to spike even further, before eventually settling down.

Fortunately, we saw a major recovery in the last 6 weeks of the year, and prices are at a somewhat manageable $4 a gallon right now.
Prices are hovering around the low $4 a gallon range as we round out 2022.

A Volatile Year For Heating Oil

2022 was an unusually volatile year, to say the least. It’s too early to say if we’re in the clear for the rest of heating season, but we’ll continue to monitor prices as we head into 2023, and hopefully have good news to share in the coming months.

In the meantime, if you want to closely monitor your tank levels, we highly recommend the Smart Oil Gauge. Keep track of exactly how much oil you are using at home. And when prices spike, see how long your tank will last before you need to refill. It saved many of us hundreds of dollars this year as we were able to let our tanks get very low knowing exactly how many gallons we had left.

Happy heating,


Using Amazon Alexa with your Smart Oil Gauge

echo smart oil gauge

If you have a Smart Oil Gauge, chances are it’s not your only smart home device. For the Amazon Echo users among us, we’ve got an Alexa skill to use with your Smart Oil Gauge. Read along to set up Alexa to work with your Smart Oil Gauge!

The Echo Dot, shown here, is one of the many Amazon devices that can communicate with your Smart Oil Gauge.

Linking Alexa with your Smart Oil Gauge Account

Connecting your Smart Oil Gauge account with your Amazon account is simple.

  1. Open your Amazon Alexa app on your phone.
  2. Click More in the bottom right, then Skills & Games
  3. Search for Smart Oil Gauge by clicking on the magnifying glass in the top right.
  4. Link your account by logging in with the email address and password you used for your Smart Oil Gauge account.

What to Ask Alexa

You can ask Alexa various questions about your oil tank. Since your Smart Oil Gauge takes readings all throughout the day, it knows quite a bit about your heating oil consumption!

Start off by saying: “Alexa, ask Smart Oil Gauge how much oil we have”.

Then, once Alexa answers, follow-up with: “When will we need oil next?”

Alexa will give you an estimated countdown of days until you’ll be at a quarter of a tank and therefore due for a fill-up.

With the Smart Oil Gauge skill linked, you can ask Alexa how much oil you have or when you’ll need oil next.

The Best Way To Manage Your Home Heating Oil

There is no better combination than a Smart Oil Gauge, coupled with FuelSnap and Alexa. You can also know exactly how much oil is in your tank without taking a trip to the basement. Alexa will tell you how many gallons of heating oil you’re using, and when you’ll need to order oil next.

And with FuelSnap, you can quickly shop for heating oil right through the Smart Oil Gauge app. Get the best prices for heating oil near you and order oil in seconds.

Happy heating,


Low on Heating Oil? How Long Until a Runout

heating oil 101

The temperature in the Northeast has gone from the low 70s this weekend, to the high 20s today. The heat is on, and it’s time to check those heating oil tanks.

With heating oil prices at near record highs, it can cost over $1,000 to fill up a typical oil tank. This may have you wondering: how long until I run out of heating oil?

With heating oil prices north of $5 a gallon, you may be tempted to wait until the last possible day to order heating oil. Just be careful not to let your tank get too low, as this may cause issues with your heating system.

How Much Heating Oil Does A Tank Hold?

A typical oil tank has a nominal capacity of 275 gallons, and can hold about 250 when full. That said, we don’t recommend letting the tank get too low. After several years (heating oil tanks often last decades), sludge can build up and settle at the bottom of the tank.

If you let your tank get below 1/8 full, you could start to stir this sludge around. At this point, the sludge can get sucked into the burner lines, causing a clog and a no-heat condition. This is a big problem that must be dealt with right away.

With this in mind, the usable capacity of the tank is only down to about 1/8 full. For a 275 gallon tank, that’s about 35 gallons. DO NOT LET YOUR TANK LEVEL FALL BELOW 1/8 (35 GALLONS). This can result in sludge being sucked into the lines and your burner shutting down.

As a result, a 275 gallon oil tank only has about 215 usable gallons inside.

A 275 gallon tank – shown here – is by far the most common oil tank size. It measures 5 feet long. A 330 gallon tank looks the same, but measures 6 feet long.

How Long Does A Tank Of Oil Last?

Knowing the size of your tank, and the usable number of gallons, allows us to figure out how long the tank will last. The next question is how much heating oil your house requires. Refer to this article here for a detailed look at how much oil your house uses.

In the winter time, the primary use of heating oil is for heating the air in your house (it can be used for hot water in the summer months). A typical home will use between 2 to 7 gallons of heating oil per day depending on the outside temperature.

With 215 gallons available, and an average usage of 5 gallons a day, a full tank will last about 43 days. Of course, this can change dramatically with a major winter storm or extreme cold.

Use this chart to estimate how much heating oil your house will use during the winter. If your house is not very energy efficient, you can expect usage of 2 to 3 times these amounts shown here.
While this is true for most homes, your personal situation may vary based on a variety of factors, including thermostat settings, insulation, etc.

Avoid a Runout: Reorder at a Quarter

Now that you have an idea of how long a tank of heating oil will last, you should be better equipped to avoid a runout.

A rule of thumb to live by is: reorder at a quarter of a tank. This will ensure your delivery company has plenty of time to deliver heating oil to you before your tank gets down below 1/8 full. You can always order heating oil online, or better yet, install a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge will automatically alert you when your tank gets low.

Happy heating,


p.s. If you are already out of oil, check out our What To Do If You Are Out of Oil checklist here!

Heating Oil Inventories At Historically Low Levels

heating oil prices

If you have not heard the news, things are not looking great for the oil industry right now. With what has happened in Ukraine, the world is struggling to manage the oil supply. In 2022, oil prices have skyrocketed. Further, OPEC+ has decided to cut production in anticipation of a recession. The result? Crazy high prices, and scarily low inventory levels.

Heating Oil Prices As Of October, 2022

As we finish October, 2022, residential heating oil prices are ranging from just under $5/gallon, to nearly $6/gallon in the Northeast. Put another way, heating oil prices are up 80% over this time last year!

A look at residential heating oil prices in the Northeast. We are seeing prices range from around $5/gallon to a high of just under $6/gallon.

An Underlying Inventory Problem

One of the challenges that is not getting nearly enough attention is inventory. Heating oil inventories are at record low levels in the Northeast. I have spoken to several oil companies who are having trouble filling their trucks up at the terminals. They are often arriving at a terminal to refuel, only to be sent away with an empty truck because there is no oil available.

Why are heating oil inventories so low? The problem has to do with a very unusual disconnect between current “spot” pricing and futures pricing. There is always some difference between the two depending on anticipated demand, etc. But right now, the spot price (what dealers pay if they fill up their trucks today), is in the high $4/gallon range. The futures prices for November, on the other hand, show oil in the high $3/gallon range.

If the market is forecasting oil prices to drop by a dollar a gallon in the next few weeks, it is very risky for an oil company to stock up on oil now. As one dealer who I interviewed put it:

“There’s a big problem with futures pricing right now. The price we pay today (in October) is nearly $5/gallon, but the contracts for a month out are over a dollar less. As a result, there’s a huge financial risk to us if we stock up on oil now and the price drops a dollar – we’ll lose money on our entire inventory”. ~Mark T. – Owner of four heating oil companies

The current sentiment is that heating oil dealers and wholesalers are having a hard time justifying oil purchases. If the price drops in the coming weeks, they could lose a lot of money.

Diesel Supplies Are Low Too

According to the EIA, diesel supplies could run out in the next 25 days if inventories are not replenished. This would cause the entire economy to come to a grinding halt. Imagine if trucks did not have enough fuel to deliver goods as we head into the holiday shopping season? Since diesel and heating oil are virtually the same, we could see homeowners having a hard time managing their own supply as well.

Keep an eye on those oil tanks, and consider maybe having a little more oil on hand in your own tank as we head into cold season.

Happy heating,


How Accurate Is The Smart Oil Gauge?

oil tank with smart oil gauge

If you’ve got a big old heating oil tank in your basement, you’ll want to know the level every now and then. The Smart Oil Gauge provides tank readings right to an app on your phone. It uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the level in the tank. So you may be wondering, how accurate is a Smart Oil Gauge? We’ll break down how it works and how accurate it is here.

What is a Smart Oil Gauge?

The Smart Oil Gauge® is a WiFi heating oil tank gauge. It uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the level in the tank, then reports this level to an app. The device relies on WiFi in the house to send readings up to the cloud, then the homeowner can see the level from anywhere in the world.

The Smart Oil Gauge threads into the top of the tank and uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the oil level in the tank. The level is displayed in an iOS or Android app as shown here.
The Smart Oil Gauge is installed directly into the top of the tank as shown here.
Once the Smart Oil Gauge is installed, it is tightened in with a pipe wrench to ensure the sensor gives an accurate reading.

How Accurate Is The Smart Oil Gauge?

The Smart Oil Gauge is very accurate when the tank gets low. The one limitation is at the very top of the tank. In the top 8″ of the tank, the oil level ends up too close to the sensor to get a good reading.

The sensor in the Smart Oil Gauge works just like a backup sensor in a car. It sends out a sound wave and then records how long it takes for that pulse to return to the sensor. The sensor has a minimum operating range of 8″. The maximum operating range is approximately 72″.

Smart Oil Gauge Accuracy Depends On Tank Geometry

The sensor tends to work best on vertical tanks. The pictures below depict the operating range for the sensor for the most common tanks. When the oil level is above the max level, you may get false readings from the sensor.

275 Vertical

275 Horizontal

330 Vertical

330 Horizontal

Roth 1000 L

Tank Readings After A Fill

If you keep the oil level within the operating range of the sensor, you should always get reliable readings from the Smart Oil Gauge. These readings may vary by up to a few gallons from tank to tank. The reason for this is that tank dimensions can vary slightly from one tank manufacturer to the next. You can also see differences due to air temperature and humidity.

If you have your tank ‘topped off’, the oil will likely be in the top 8″ and outside of the sensor’s operating range. If this happens, just wait a few days (during the winter time), or weeks (in the summer time) for the level to drop down. At that point, the readings should be correct again. For more information on tank readings after a fill, check out this detailed article here.

Happy heating,


How Much Heating Oil Should I Order?

One of the benefits of heating oil is you can order heating oil on your own terms. With oil heat, you can keep track of your tank level and only order oil as needed.

It does beg the question though: how much heating oil should I order? In this post we’ll break down things to consider including tank size, price per gallon, and more!

Oil Tank Sizes

Oil tanks range from 138 gallons on the low end (very rare), to 2000 gallons on the high end (also very rare). Most homes feature one oil tank that is either 275 gallons or 330 gallons. Depending on the size of your house, a single tank of oil may last a whole season, or as little as two weeks in the winter.

Steel tanks are generally oval-shaped and range in capacity from 138 gallons to 330. Occasionally you will see these tanks plumbed together, doubling the capacity for the installation.

Oil Tank Capacity

Oil tank sizes are just one part of the equation: you must also understand the oil tank capacity. Since an oil tank requires an air space at the top (to prevent the tank from being over-filled), it can only hold about 85-90% of its nominal capacity.

Use this chart to determine how much oil your tank can hold and how much to order when the tank is low.

Reorder at a Quarter to Prevent a Runout

When considering how much heating oil to order, the most important consideration is that you do not run out of oil. If you are out of oil, follow these steps here.

Reorder oil at a quarter of a tank to help ensure there is enough to for the delivery company to get to your house before you run out of heating oil.

Reorder heating oil at a quarter of a tank to prevent a runout.

Order More Oil To Get a Discount

In most areas, 100 gallons is the minimum order amount. It is quite expensive for the delivery company to deliver to your house. By requiring a minimum of 100 gallons, the company can ensure they do not lose money on the delivery. If you would like fewer than 100 gallons, expect to pay a steep premium.

Price breaks are often available at 100, 150, and 200 gallons. As a result, we recommend ordering 150 gallons or more to get a great price.

Just refer to our tank charts to ensure you have the capacity to take delivery of 150 gallons. If you order more oil than your tank can hold, you will likely end up paying a higher price per gallon.

Track Your Oil Tank With a Smart Oil Gauge

A Smart Oil Gauge will allow you to track your oil level, and know how many days until you are at 1/4 tank.

With a Smart Oil Gauge, you’ll not only know how much oil is in your tank, but also how much it can hold.

Check heating oil prices right in the app, and click the Fill button to see how many gallons the tank will hold.

How Much Oil Should I Buy While Prices are High?

We certainly don’t have a crystal ball when it comes to oil prices. That said, we’ve been tracking oil prices all year and you can do the same. If you are betting that oil prices will come down soon, I would recommend only ordering 100 gallons at a time. This will limit your exposure if prices fall. Just remember, prices can and often do go the other way! So keep an eye on your tank level to make sure you don’t run out of oil.

Happy heating,