What Is A Double-Wall Heating Oil Tank?

If you’re in the market for a new home heating oil tank, you may have come across double-wall tanks in your research. As with any type of a tank, there are pros and cons to this system which we will walk you through here. Before you pull the trigger on a new tank though, make sure to check out our guide here for choosing a new heating oil tank!

How a Double-Wall Oil Tank Works

Double-wall home heating oil tanks are extremely popular in Europe, and increasingly popular in the United States. These tanks feature a plastic interior tank that acts as the primary holding tank for the heating oil. A metal tank – usually aluminum or steel – surrounds the plastic tank. This exterior tank acts as a backup in case the interior plastic tank leaks.

Double-wall oil tanks, shown here, feature a plastic inner tank and a metal outer tank. Roth North America is a leading manufacturer of these heating oil tanks.

Double-Wall Oil Tanks – Pros:

  • Leak protection: The main advantage of a double-wall tank is enhanced leak protection. In the event the inner tank is punctured, the outer tank will prevent the oil from spilling.
  • Space-savings: Double-wall tanks can feature a taller height, but smaller footprint than traditional tanks. This allows you to put two tanks side-by-side in just about the same space as one steel tank.
  • No corrosion: Unlike traditional steel tanks, the plastic inner tank will not corrode with time. This greatly reduces the likelihood of a leak in the tank.
  • Reduced sludge: Because the tank will not rust from the inside out, you will end up with less sludge in the tank.
  • Warranty: A 30-year warranty is typical on a double-wall oil storage tank. Steel tanks usually feature a 10-year warranty.

Double-Wall Oil Tanks – Cons:

  • Expensive: Double-wall heating oil tanks tend to be more expensive than regular heating oil tanks because of their complex construction.
  • Unfamiliar: Many technicians prefer to install what they know. Since traditional heating oil tanks have been around for 70+ years, many technicians prefer them.
  • Not a direct replacement: Double-wall heating oil tanks have a different footprint than steel tanks. As such, changes may be required to the existing fill and vent pipes going to your tank.
  • Complicated installation: If multiple tanks are being installed side-by-side, a very complex piping methodology must be followed for proper installation.
This complicated plumbing setup is required when installing side-by-side double-wall oil tanks.

Summary: Is a Double-Wall Oil Tank Worth it?

We highly recommend a double-wall heating oil tank. They are not only more compact, but the comfort factor that comes with a plastic internal tank is worth the extra money. Further, when it comes time to sell your house, an oil tank with a 30-year warranty is much more appealing than one with a 10-year warranty.

When making the decision to invest in a double-wall heating oil tank, we recommend checking out our post here on the subject: choosing a new home heating oil tank.

Happy summer,

Steve

Should I Lock-In a Heating Oil Price?

Home heating oil is certainly a major expense for many homes in the Northeast. While it generates significant heat per gallon, it can still lead to some high energy bills in the winter months. In this post we’ll cover whether it makes sense to lock-in a home heating oil price.

Types of Heating Oil Prices

Heating oil prices can actually be more complicated that you may expect. The first question is whether you are on automatic delivery or will-call. We break down the pros and cons of automatic heating oil delivery here. The bottom line: will-call is much less expensive than automatic delivery.

If you opt for automatic delivery for the convenience factor, you can expect to pay more no matter what. That said, you should understand the types of pricing you may be offered.

Most heating oil companies offer both automatic delivery, and on-demand oil delivery (known as will-call). They use the same trucks, but charge a premium for automatic delivery because of the convenience factor.

Market Price – Automatic Delivery:

Opting for the market price for heating oil means that you will be charged whatever the ‘going rate’ for heating oil is on the day of your delivery. This rate is usually determined very simply by the heating oil dealer. They take the price they pay, and typically add $0.80 to $1.00 per gallon as their profit. This is an average of $0.50 more per gallon than their will-call customers pay – so keep this in mind if you think you are paying the true market price on automatic delivery!

Market Price – Will-Call:

The market price for a will-call customer is nearly always less – and usually a lot less – than for automatic delivery customers. This is because the will-call market is much more competitive. Since you, the homeowner, are free to order oil from whomever you’d like, dealers will compete for your business by offering competitive prices. You can check heating oil prices at any time on FuelSnap.

Fixed Price Per Gallon:

Some dealers will offer a fixed price per gallon. The way this works is you will agree to purchase a certain number of gallons at a predetermined price. The number of gallons is based on your estimated usage for the year. There is usually a fee for this, or the dealer mandates that you also buy a service contract from them which covers the fee. Because of the fee and the necessary contract purchase, this is a great deal for the oil company. As a homeowner, you may do well in some years, but be left over-paying in others.

Price Cap:

This one sounds the most-enticing of all: you only pay up to a certain price. Why wouldn’t you sign up for this? Remember, if it sounds good to be true, it probably is! First, you pay for this. Whether it is a fee up front, or via a padded oil price throughout the year that keeps you hovering around the price-cap amount, you are paying for this one way or another. Second, just like with the market price for oil, if you are on automatic delivery, the oil company has no incentive to lower the price when the market price falls. As a result, there may be a major lag between the market price falling, and automatic delivery customers seeing their prices lowered.

Expect to pay more if you sign up for automatic delivery instead of will-call. If you do sign up for automatic delivery, sticking with market pricing tends to be the best bet in the long run. If you would like certainty, however, go with a fixed price or price cap. You generally pay more, but it could be worth it to you.

How To Get the Best Price For Heating Oil

For the best ways to save money on heating oil, take a minute and read this post here: 10 ways to save money on heating oil. The best money-saving decision you can make is to switch from automatic delivery to will-call. You’ll need to read your oil tank gauge periodically, or install a Smart Oil Gauge so you never run out of heating oil.

If you do end up sticking with automatic delivery, however, we recommend sticking with the market price so you’re not paying any extra fees for your home heating oil delivery. If you want to lock-in a heating oil price for peace of mind, by all means, go ahead, but just know if will not be the most cost-effective choice in the long run! And finally, if you’re on automatic delivery, check your ticket price and then compare it to heating oil prices here to see how much you could have saved by ordering as needed.

Happy heating,

Steve

How Much Heating Oil Will I Use During the Summer?

oil fired water heater

While heating oil is probably the last thing on your mind during the summer, you may still need to keep track of your tank level! This is because many houses rely on heating oil for not just heat, but also hot water. In this post we’ll explore how much heating oil you can expect to use this summer base on the type of house you have, as well as the type of home heating system you use.

Homes That Use Oil For Heating Only

There are four main sources of heat in the US: natural gas, heating oil, propane, and electricity. The same goes for hot water. That said, just because your house has one particular fuel for heat does not mean you use the same fuel for hot water. In my house, for instance, I use heating oil for my furnace (heat), and propane for my hot water heater and stove.

If your house is like mine, and relies on heating oil for heat only, then you can stop worrying about heating oil around mid-May. I have to admit, I did have my heat on last weekend (it was in the 40s!), but that should be it for the summer.

In October or November you can plan on turning it back on again and checking your heating oil tank level. You should also be aware of how long your oil tank lasts.

This figure illustrates the tank level throughout the course of a year for a house that relies on heating oil for heat only. As you can see in this data provided by the home’s Smart Oil Gauge, no heating oil was used from June until the end of October at this particular house.

Homes Where Heating Oil is Used For Heat and Hot Water

If your house has an oil-fired hot water heater, then you should plan on monitoring your heating oil level year-round. We highly recommend purchasing a Smart Oil Gauge so you never run out. A Smart Oil Gauge will send you low-level alerts any time of year.

An oil-fired hot water heater such as this one shown here will use between a half a gallon and one gallon of heating oil per day in a typical home. More frequent or longer showers will definitely impact this!

As you can see in the figure below, a home that uses heating oil for both heat and hot water will use significantly less heating oil in the summer months. This particular home used 0.7 gallons per day of heating oil during the summer.

Depending on how often you take hot showers, you can expect your house to use between 0.5 and 1.0 gallons of heating oil per day in the summer.

This Smart Oil Gauge data is from a house that uses heating oil for both heat and hot water. The house used an average of 0.7 gallons per day in the summer months, and 6.0 gallons per day in the heating season.

When To Order Heating Oil

In the summer or winter months, we recommend ordering heating oil when your tank gets to 1/4 full. This will ensure that there is plenty of time for the delivery to be made before running out. Make sure to compare heating oil dealers in your area.

It’s also good to not let your tank level get too low. If this happens, the incoming oil could stir up some sludge. When your tank is low, check heating oil prices online and place your order right away. Choose from reputable, local suppliers and make sure you have oil in that tank all year.

Stay cool,

Steve

Kerosene Heating Fuel Guide for Homeowners

blue can for kerosene

Quick History of Kerosene Oil

Remember learning about John D. Rockefeller and his oil empire in the 1800s? One of the main fuels he was selling back then was kerosene. Derived from crude oil, kerosene gained popularity as a fuel for light fixtures and was available all over the country.

Today, kerosene is primarily used for home heating and in jet fuel. In this beginner’s guide to kerosene we will break down the basics of kerosene in the modern world. Let’s dive in!

What is Kerosene?

Kerosene is a low-viscosity, combustible clear liquid that is derived from petroleum. It has a flash point between 100 and 150° F and, importantly, freezes (turns to gel) at around -40° F. Because heating oil gels at around 16° F, kerosene can be stored in significantly colder air without the risk of it gelling.

What is Kerosene Oil Used For?

Kerosene was originally used in the late 1800s as a fuel for lighting fixtures. Its popularity soared and price dropped dramatically as a result of Standard Oil’s marketing and distribution practices. Its popularity waned, however, once electricity became commonplace throughout America. Electric lamps, which did not require refueling, soon eliminated the need for kerosene deliveries.

Today, kerosene is primarily used as a fuel for home heating. It is also used as a fuel additive and can be mixed in with a tank of heating oil as well. Kerosene is also the primary ingredient of jet fuel used in aircraft today.

Kerosene lamps were commonplace in the late 1800s as Standard Oil brought down the price for kerosene and made it readily available throughout the country. In the 1900s, however, electric lamps that did not require refueling soon replaced kerosene lamps.

How is Kerosene Different From Other Types of Heating Oil?

Kerosene is similar to heating oil, but the two are not interchangeable. There are some differences between home heating oil and kerosene. Kerosene has a lower flash point of 100 to 150° F. It starts to give off flammable gases at around 100° F, making it a bit more hazardous than heating oil. Heating oil must be atomized and heated to 140° F to be ignited.

One of the benefits of kerosene, however, is its freeze point. Kerosene begins to gel at around -40° F, compared to 16° F for heating oil. This means kerosene can be stored in outdoor tanks in colder climates than heating oil, making it better for colder climates where temperatures can drop well below freezing.

Kerosene should be stored only in approved blue cans. This safely distinguishes it from gasoline (red cans) and diesel fuel (yellow cans). Diesel fuel can be used as a direct replacement for heating oil in a pinch if you are out of oil. Kerosene, however, should only be used in kerosene-burning equipment, or when mixed in with a full tank of heating oil.

Can I Add Kerosene to My Heating Oil Tank?

It depends. While kerosene oil is similar enough to heating oil to be mixed together and burned together, it is not similar enough to replace heating oil outright. In other works, it is OK to add kerosene to a full heating oil tank. It is not OK to fill an empty heating oil tank with kerosene. Heating oil equipment can be permanently damaged if running kerosene for an extended period of time.

All that being said, some technicians recommend adding kerosene to a tank periodically as a cleanse of sorts. There are other additives available that may be able to do this as well.

If you are out of heating oil at home, we recommend picking up 5 or 10 gallons of diesel fuel and adding it to your tank until you have have heating oil delivered. Follow this step-by-step guide for what do do if you run out of oil here.

Can I Switch From Heating Oil to Kerosene?

The only way to make a wholesale switch from heating oil to kerosene would be to upgrade your burner and nozzle for kerosene-specific components. This would be recommended for extremely cold climates where an indoor heating oil tank is not permitted, and an outdoor heating oil tank has trouble with gelling.

Kerosene is generally not as readily available as heating oil though, so it is quite unusual for folks to make this switch. Due to its scarcity, especially in the Northeast, we would recommend heating oil over kerosene. It comes with a lower price per gallon, and you can easily use an additive to keep it from gelling in the colder months. Plus, with a Smart Oil Gauge you can be saving even more money every month and keeping your home heating system efficient.

Happy heating,

Steve

Owning vs. Renting a Propane Tank

above ground propane tank

Are you moving into a house heated with propane? Or thinking about switching propane suppliers this year? If so, you may be wondering if it’s better to rent or own a propane tank. In this post we’ll talk about the pros and cons of each. If you’re thinking about switching from oil to propane, we have a great post on heating oil vs. propane here.

Why Does It Matter If I Rent Or Own My Home Heating Propane Tank?

Propane, like heating oil, is different from regular utilities – such as electricity and natural gas – in that it must be delivered via truck. Once delivered, it must be stored in a tank on your property. If the tank is above ground, it can be rather unsightly. Fortunately, home heating propane tanks can be safely buried out of sight as well.

While a heating oil tank is always owned by the homeowner, a propane tank is not. As a homeowner, if you own your propane tank, you are free to order propane from any company you’d like. If your propane company owns the tank, you must buy your propane exclusively from that company – you cannot shop around. This makes buying a propane tank for home slightly more complicated. As such, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of owning or renting a propane tank.

A propane tank like this one can either be owned by the homeowner or the propane company. By owning your tank yourself, you have the freedom to choose any supplier you would like. By allowing the propane company to own the tank, you must buy all your propane from that company, but may save a little money up front by not having to purchase a tank.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Propane Tank

Owning a Propane Tank – Pros:

  • Save money in the long run. Buying a propane tank for home gives you the ability to shop around, and make sure you’re getting the best price on propane when you need it.
  • No minimum consumption amounts. Many propane companies have minimum consumption amounts in order to be a customer. If you do not meet these requirements, they will want to charge you exorbitant prices or a propane tank rental fee.
  • You can hide it underground. If you own your propane tank, you have the option of burying it underground. This keeps it out of sight, and unlike a buried oil tank, does not present the same environmental hazard if it leaks.

Owning a Propane Tank – Cons:

  • Higher upfront cost. You may be spending around $1,000 or more to purchase a propane tank up front when you move into your home.
  • Maintenance is on you. When it is your equipment, it is your responsibility. You may have to pay to have the propane tank serviced if there is a leak or any other issue with the tank.

Pros and Cons of Renting a Propane Tank

Renting a Propane Tank – Pros:

  • No upfront cost. Your propane company will usually install a tank for free when you sign up for a delivery contract.
  • No maintenance concerns. It will be the propane provider’s responsibility if the tank need to be repaired or replaced.

Renting a Propane Tank – Cons:

  • More expensive over time. You cannot shop around between propane suppliers to get a better price. It is actually illegal in many states for a propane provider to fill another provider’s tank(s). Even where it’s not illegal, many will not do so out of courtesy to the other company.
  • Minimum annual usage. You must meet certain annual usage amounts to avoid a propane tank rental fee or especially high prices per gallon.
  • No control over pricing. If one supplier is less expensive than your current supplier, you cannot simply switch suppliers for your next propane delivery. Instead, you must wait until your contract is over and then have a new propane tank installed.
When you rent a propane tank, it will often have the propane company’s logo on it, and if you look closely at this particular tank, you will see DO NOT FILL written on it as well. This is to prevent other propane companies from filling these tanks, which would be in violation of the homeowner’s delivery contract. It is actually illegal in some states for one propane provider to fill another provider’s tank(s).

Deciding Whether to Rent or Buy a Propane Tank

There are a few questions to ask when buying a propane tank for home or deciding to rent a propane tank:

  • How long do you plan on staying in the house? If you plan on living in the house for 5 years or more, then it may make sense to spend the money up front for your propane tank(s). When you spread out the up front cost of the propane tanks over that many years, it will pay to own the tanks.
  • How much propane do you plan on using? If you are only using propane for cooking and hot water, then it is probably not worth it to buy the propane tank. If you are using it for heating your house, then it will definitely pay to own the tank yourself.
  • How many propane suppliers are there in your area? If you have many suppliers to choose from, you may want to own the propane tank. This way you can price-shop each time you are low and fill up only as needed. If there is only one or two suppliers in your area, then you may want to stay on their good side and just rent their tank so you can always get filled or serviced.

In sum, whether it makes sense to rent or buy your propane tank depends on your personal situation. If your house comes with a propane tank buried in the ground, this gives you maximum flexibility. You can make sure you are always getting the best deal on propane, and can switch suppliers at any time.

Happy heating,

Steve

How Long Do Roth Oil Tanks Last?

side by side roth oil tanks

Spring is finally here, so now is a good time to think about heating system upgrades. If your oil tank is showing signs of rust, it may be time to replace it. A Roth Double-Wall storage tank is one of the best values today, and we talk about its longevity here.

About Roth Fuel Tanks

Roth Double-Wall storage tanks are a unique, European style tank assembly. On the inside is a plastic tank that stores heating oil. This internal tank is encapsulated by a rust-proof aluminum housing. This external tank holds 110% of the plastic tank’s capacity, and is designed to prevent a leak in the event the internal oil tank ruptures.

Roth double-wall storage tanks feature an internal plastic tank and an external aluminum tank for heating oil storage.

Pros and Cons of Roth Double Wall Fuel Tanks

Roth fuel tanks tend to have a love-them or hate-them reputation among HVAC technicians. Here are some of the Pros and Cons of the double wall Roth Fuel Tanks:

Roth Fuel Tank Pros:

  • Small footprint – can be hidden in a closet in a finished basement.
  • Lightweight – easy for one or two technicians to carry into a basement for installation.
  • Rust-free design – plastic internal tank and aluminum external tank will not rust – even if exposed to the elements.
  • Cover for outdoor installations – Roth double wall tanks for outdoor installations feature an angled cover that shields the fittings, gauge, and top of the tank from sun, rain, snow and ice.
  • 30 year warranty – included from the factory.

Cons of the Roth Double Wall Fuel Tank:

  • More expensive – Roth fuel tanks can be 20-40% more expensive than traditional steel tanks.
  • Unfamiliar – many technicians are unfamiliar with Roth oil tanks and are hesitant to install them.
  • Complex installation for twin-tank setups – when installing side-by-side, a very specific procedure must be followed to ensure the tanks will be filled evenly.
  • Limited ports – unlike steel tanks which have a drain port at the bottom, Roth fuel tanks only have openings at the top. As such, the oil lines use one hole, the fill pipe and vent pipe each use one hole, and there is one hole for a gauge. This means that with a Roth tank you must choose to use either a float gauge or a Smart Oil Gauge – you cannot have both.
Roth fuel tank installation can get very complicated when multiple tanks are involved. Also, since there are no fittings on the bottom of the tank, there is only room for one gauge. You can choose to install a float gauge (shown) or a Smart Oil Gauge which will display the level on your smartphone.

How Long Will a Roth Double Wall Fuel Tank Last?

Since Roth has been manufacturing tanks since the early 1970s, they have a good idea of how long they last. Because of the plastic internal tank and durable design, the oil tanks actually come with a limited 30 year warranty. This warranty is only valid for installations done by a certified Roth oil tank installer. With this in mind, we would estimate that Roth double wall fuel tanks last at least 15 years, with many making it past the 30 year mark.

To maximize longevity of your Roth tank, do not store anything on top of the oil tank. This causes the top to bow in, putting stress on the tank and fittings.

If you’re in the market for a new heating oil tank, check out our guide here for choosing a home heating oil tank. And when you’re low on heating oil, check prices here and don’t forget to fill up at a quarter tank!

Happy heating,

Steve

What is the Best Oil Tank Monitor?

best oil tank monitor

Keeping track of your heating oil is probably the last thing on your mind these days. With more time spent at home, however, your oil usage may be up this year. In this post we’ll discuss the three most common oil tank gauges: dip sticks, float gauges, and the Smart Oil Gauge®.

Oil Tank Dipstick

The most basic type of heating oil gauge is a dipstick. A dipstick can be used to manually measure how many inches of oil are in a tank. Once you’ve taken this measurement, you can refer to a heating oil tank chart to determine how many gallons are in the fuel oil tank. Dipsticks are most commonly used with below ground tanks, as there is no other way to measure the contents of the tank.

An extendable yard stick like this can be used to measure the level of heating oil in a tank. This is most often used in conjunction with an underground oil tank, as there is often no visual gauge on underground tanks.

Fuel Tank Float Gauge

The second type of gauge is a float gauge. This is the most common type of gauge for above ground tanks. It features a float that sits atop the oil and moves down as the level lowers. This type of fuel oil gauge gives only an approximate oil level in the tank.

A float gauge like this is very common in heating oil tanks. It gives an approximate level of the oil in the tank, but is not very accurate.

Smart Oil Gauge – WiFi Heating Oil Gauge

The most modern style of heating oil gauge is the Smart Oil Gauge. This type of oil tank gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to precisely measure the oil level. It is extremely accurate except for in the top 8″ of the tank. When the oil is that high in the oil tank, it is too close to the ultrasonic sensor to get a precise reading.

The Smart Oil Gauge is the most versatile heating oil gauge available. It allows for remote access via its app, and even sends low-level text and email alerts.

Which Oil Tank Monitor is the Best?

To compare these oil tank gauges, we looked at four factors: Value, Accuracy, Remote Access, and Ease-of-Use. The dip stick is the most cumbersome to use, so it has the lowest value for money. Furthermore, we gave the float gauge 2 out of 5 points for ‘remote access’ because some folks install WiFi cameras to look at the float gauge remotely.

The Smart Oil Gauge provides the best combination of remote access, ease-of-use, accuracy, and value for money. The float gauge is second, and the dipstick is third.

In sum, the Smart Oil Gauge is by far the best overall heating oil tank monitor available. And the nice thing about the Smart Oil Gauge is that you can still keep the old float gauge in the oil tank. Additionally, if you’d ever like to use a dip stick to verify the tank level, you can do that as well. Just open up a bung on your heating oil tank and insert the dipstick.

Happy heating,

Steve

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Can I Put Diesel Fuel in My Home Heating Oil Tank?

out of heating oil

If you are getting low on heating oil, you may be wondering if diesel fuel can be used. Good news: diesel fuel and heating oil are nearly identical. In this post we will walk you through when it is appropriate to substitute diesel fuel for heating oil.

Add Diesel Fuel When You are Out Of Heating Oil

If you suddenly find that your house is cold or you have no hot water, you may be out of heating oil. That said, just because you have no heat doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of heating oil. Sometimes a burner simply needs to be reset to be restarted. In other cases, there may be air in the feed lines, or a clogged filter that needs to be replaced.

diesel is a substitute for heating oil
Diesel if a great substitute for heating oil if you are running low on or out of heating oil.

If you suspect you are out of heating oil, there are a few steps you should take:

  1. Verify that you are actually out of heating oil. Do this by checking the float gauge on the tank. Remove the plastic cover and gently lift up on the disc to see if the float is stuck. If it moves freely and the disc sinks to the bottom, you may be out of heating oil. (If you are not out of heating oil, skip to step 4).
  2. Go to the gas station and buy 5 or 10 gallons of diesel fuel. Diesel is a perfectly fine short-term substitute for home heating oil.
  3. Locate your oil tank’s fill pipe on the outside of your house, and remove the cap. Pour the diesel fuel down into the fill pipe so it can enter the tank. Do not attempt to remove a plug from the oil tank in your basement and add the fuel that way.
  4. Wait 5-10 minutes for any sediment to settle back down to the bottom of the tank. Then, press the reset button on your burner to start the system back up. If it does not start up, you may have to bleed the lines to release any air in the system. This can be a messy process, so we do not recommend this if you are not mechanically inclined. For a more detailed action plan if you are out of heating oil, check out this post here.

When You Are Low On Heating Oil

If you are getting low on heating oil, you run the risk of your system shutting down. This is because some tanks cannot use all of the oil in the bottom of the tank. There is sometimes sludge in there, but often time the feed lines come from the top of the tank and simply don’t reach all the way to the bottom.

If you are low on heating oil and cannot get a delivery right away, think about getting some diesel. Your house can use 5-10 gallons of heating oil per day in the cold months. Adding diesel once a day for a few days will certainly help you sleep better until the truck comes!

When adding diesel fuel to your heating oil tank, make sure you locate the fill pipe on the outside of the house. The fill pipe (shown on the right in this picture) will have a hex-shaped fitting on the cap. Remove this fitting and pour in your diesel fuel. The pipe on the left with a mushroom-style cap is the vent pipe. This is where air escapes the tank.

Diesel Is a Great Short-Term Substitute for Heating Oil

If you are worried about running out of heating oil, make sure you order heating oil right away! You can check prices and delivery dates on a site like FuelSnap. Once you’ve ordered heating oil, run to the gas station and buy 5 or 10 gallons of diesel. Diesel is taxed differently than heating oil, so it tends to be more expensive.

That said, the cost of frozen pipes as a result of a runout is far worse! Adding diesel every day or two until you get a fillup should help you avoid a runout. To see how many gallons your house requires on a cold winter day, check out this guide here. Alternatively, consider installing a Smart Oil Gauge. A Smart Oil Gauge will tell you exactly how many gallons per day you are using. It will even give you a countdown of days to 1/4 tank and 1/8 tank.

Happy heating,

Steve

Disadvantages of Heating With Propane

propane gas stove

Ever think about making the switch from heating oil to propane? Ten years ago this was touted as a great way to save money. Today, however, this could not be further from the truth. I use both heating oil and propane in my house, and I wanted to share some thoughts about both here.

above ground propane storage tank
Heating with propane means having an outdoor tank that is either above ground like this one, or buried beneath the ground. Since these tanks are usually owned by the propane provider, switching providers is very difficult.

Benefits of Propane

Propane is one of the most versatile fuels. If you do not have access to natural gas where you live, propane offers many of the same benefits:

  • Powering a generator.
  • Fueling a gas fireplace.
  • Fueling a gas cooktop.

There are also tasks that can be accomplished by either heating oil or propane, and these include:

  • Heating your house.
  • Heating your hot water.

Since heating oil creates significantly more heat per gallon than propane (you will need 1.35 gallons of propane to create the same heat as 1 gallon of heating oil), you are much better off heating your home with oil. That said, you can still have propane at your house for other purposes, such as a gas fireplace or generator.

Propane Fueled Fireplace
Propane is an extremely versatile fuel. It can be used for ancillary items like fireplaces and stoves, but is a very expensive option for heating a home.

Disadvantages of Propane

While propane is very similar to natural gas, the main difference is that it needs to be delivered. This puts it into the same category as heating oil: fuels that are delivered via truck. That said, there is a big difference between heating oil and propane: with heating oil, the homeowner always owns the tank. With propane, the supplier almost always owns the tank. This leads to some often overlooked disadvantages, including:

Switching propane suppliers is very difficult. This is because 95% of the time the propane company owns the tank on your property – not you! This means that another company cannot fill your tank, even if you wanted them to.

Propane is very difficult to price-compare. Try calling around for a price per gallon for propane. Most dealers will not give this to you – even over the phone. They will ask you a series of questions such as how many gallons you plan on using over the course of the year. With heating oil, there is a very clear market price per gallon. You can use a site like FuelSnap to compare prices for heating oil and order oil online.

Propane is more expensive than heating oil. Not only does propane cost more per gallon than heating oil, you actually need 35% more propane to generate the same amount of heat as heating oil! So if you’re comparing prices of propane and heating oil, multiply the propane price by 1.35 to see how it compares to today’s going rate for heating oil.

What is the Best Fuel Type for Heating Your Home?

If you have access to natural gas where you live, then this is the hands down winner. It is not only very versatile, it is also economical and does not have to be delivered. You simply pay your bill every month as you do your electric bill.

Between heating oil and propane, however, heating oil is far superior. It is not only less expensive, but you have significantly more freedom with heating oil. You can price compare to make sure you’re getting the best deal, and order heating oil online whenever your tank is low.

Furthermore, if you still want to run a gas stove top or fireplace, you can also have propane! Just get a single propane tank for these ancillary uses and you can get the best of both worlds. If you’re still deciding between heating oil and propane, check out this post here for a deeper dive into the topic.

Happy heating,

Steve

How to Tell if Your Underground Oil Tank Needs to be Removed

removing buried oil tank

Does your home have a buried heating oil tank? If so, you may consider having it removed at some point. Underground oil tanks could become an environmental hazard if they start to leak. In this post we’ll talk about signs that it’s time to remove and replace your inground heating oil tank.

How to Identify an Underground Heating Oil Tank

If you are new to heating oil, you’ll first want to understand the basics. Oil-heated homes will have a tank somewhere on the property to store heating oil. You will have to order heating oil and fill this tank periodically to maintain your fuel supply.

Tanks are most often above-ground – located in a basement, garage, crawl space, or just outside the house – but occasionally underground. Underground heating oil tanks gained popularity in the 60s, 70s, and 80s as they kept the giant heating oil tank out of sight. However, after many decades in the ground, some started to leak. The resulting environmental hazard led to the removal of these tanks starting in the 90s.

Very few houses built since the 1980s have underground heating oil tanks. Look for one or two pipes sticking out of the ground to identify a buried oil tank.

underground oil tanks will have a fill pipe and a vent pipe coming out of the ground to the surface
Pipes like these that stick out of the ground are a good indication that an underground oil tank is present on the property. The fill pipe (right) allows oil to be pumped into the tank. The vent pipe (left) allows air to escape from the tank while the oil is being added.

Reasons to Remove an Underground Heating Oil Tank

There are a variety of reasons that a heating oil tank should be removed. The most important reason is to prevent a leak. A leak can result in contaminated soil which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remediate.

  1. The Tank is Over 30 Years Old: If your home has a buried heating oil tank and was built prior to 1990, then your tank is likely over 30 years old. After 30 years, the inner walls of the tank can start to corrode. After a while, the walls are too thin and oil can begin to leak out. While you can have the soil around the tank tested, it is not an easy process. If your tank is over 30 years old, consider having the tank removed or abandoned and replaced with an above ground tank. For assistance choosing a new heating oil tank, check out this post here.
  2. The Tank Is Leaking: Inspecting an underground oil tank is nearly impossible. Catch a leak by keeping close tabs on the amount of heating oil you are using. By tracking your usage, you can tell if you are suddenly going through more heating oil than expected. Track your heating oil usage by taking regular measurements of your tank level using a stick. Refer to a heating oil tank chart to record the level in the tank. Do this weekly to see how quickly the level is declining. Use this guide here for how much oil you should be expecting to burn if there is no leak. Another sign of a leak is your burner shutting down due to water in the oil lines. If the tank is taking in water, then it is likely the oil is also escaping the tank. This could result in an environmental catastrophe.
  3. You Plan on Selling Your Home Soon: Underground heating oil tanks can be a deal-breaker for a new homeowner. In fact, some banks will not mortgage a property with a buried oil tank due to the potential liability. Removing an oil tank and remediating soil are time-consuming and costly. Remove your tank ahead of the sale to eliminate this potential issue.
removing an underground heating oil tank
Consider removing your underground oil storage tank if your house is over 30 years old, you suspect the tank is leaking, or you plan on selling your house soon. The presence of a buried heating oil tank is a turn off to most potential buyers.

Replace Your Heating Oil Tank Before It Leaks

Remove your buried heating oil tank once it gets to the 30 year old mark. After three decades in the soil, it is hard to know the condition of the tank. Hire a reputable tank removal company to remove your buried oil tank. They will not only properly dispose of the old tank, but also test the soil around the tank. This will ensure the ground is not contaminated with oil

Install a new above ground heating oil tank – preferably inside the house. Indoor oil tanks are not subject to the elements and will last much longer than outdoor tanks. Then, all you have to worry about is ordering heating oil online and staying warm.

Happy heating,

Steve