Heating Oil Prices Declining July 2022

heating oil prices july 2022

Some good news to share on the heating oil front: prices are down about 13% since this time last month. It appears the supply constraints are starting to ease off in recent weeks.

While heating oil prices are trending down, the rack prices are trending down even further. In this post we’ll break down why prices that homeowners pay are not as quick to change as we’d hope.

Current Heating Oil Prices in the Northeast

Prices as of July 14, 2022 range from a low of $4.32 a gallon to a high of $5.50 a gallon. The price discrepancies are primarily due to location. In areas with many terminals (where the dealers fill their trucks), prices tend to be lower. You’ll also see lower prices where there is lots of competition. Long Island, for instance, tends to have the best pricing in the winter months because there are so many heating oil dealers there.

In the summer months, there is less competition on Long Island as many of the oil company owners have other businesses that they operate in the off-season.

Heating oil prices range from $4.32 to $5.50 as of July 14, 2022.

Rack Prices Have Declined Steadily This Month

After a dramatic climb in March and April after Russia invaded Ukraine, we’re finally starting to see some relief. Since June, we’ve seen rack prices drop off quite a bit. What do we mean by rack price? Rack price is the price that heating oil dealers pay for their heating oil. They then mark up the oil to cover the costs of delivery (truck, fuel, driver), as well as fixed costs to run their business (overhead, insurance, rent, etc.) and of course, some profit to keep.

A typical heating oil truck holds about 2,500 gallons of fuel. At a rack price of $4.00 per gallon, this represents about $10,000 in oil (at cost) that a truck will hold. With an average margin of about $0.50 per gallon, this dealer will sell this oil for about $11,250.

If rack prices drop to $3.50 a gallon before this dealer sells the 2,500 gallons that were just purchased, they may have a problem. They can’t just sell the oil for the new market price of $4.00 ($3.50 rack price + $0.50 margin), because they won’t make any money whatsoever. But if somebody else is restocking that day, he or she may be able to sell at $4.00. In the winter months when there’s plenty of demand for heating oil, prices tend to move quite quickly.

In the summer months, especially when prices are this volatile, heating oil dealers almost all ‘take their time’ in lowering prices because of the inventory they already own. This keeps them from losing money on the oil they already own and also tends to smooth out the fluctuations that are seen in the rack price.

Should I Buy Heating Oil Right Now?

We don’t have a crystal ball, but we can certainly give some useful insights into pricing. Since the first week of 2022, oil prices have risen 57% to date. That being said, they peaked at the end of April / beginning of May, and are now down 15% since their highs.

If you need heating oil for your hot water heater, it would probably be wise to order 100 gallons for now. We will keep watching prices and let you know if things change drastically in the coming weeks.

Happy summer,


How To Budget For Heating Oil

how to budget for heating oil

It’s a sunny and hot day as I write this, and heating oil is probably the last thing on your mind. That being said, I wanted to plant a seed right now for what to expect for this upcoming heating season.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we’ve seen record-high oil prices. In two years, we’ve seen prices rise from $1 to over $6 per gallon! Since there does not appear to be any relief in site, it’s time to think about a budget for this year.

Heating oil prices are mostly in the $5 to $6 a gallon range as of June, 2022. This is up from a low of about $1 a gallon in March of 2020.

How Much Heating Oil Will I Use In a Year?

We’ve written on this topic a few times and the answer is: it depends. Use the table below to estimate your annual heating oil usage. The bigger and older your house, the more oil you’ll use. The less-insulated your house, the more oil you’ll use. And if your hot water heater runs on oil, expect to use an extra 100 gallons or so throughout the summer months.

With that in mind, the average oil-heated home uses about 900 gallons of heating oil per year in a typical winter. To determine how much heating oil you will use, consider a Smart Oil Gauge to track your usage. Alternatively, gather your oil delivery tickets from the past two or three seasons and calculate an average.

The average oil-heated home uses just under 1000 gallons of heating oil per year.

How Much Should I Budget for Heating Oil?

Heating oil over the past several years has hovered around $2.50 a gallon. While it’s seen some dramatic swings (COVID-19 caused prices to drop precipitously when global travel halted), it was quite unusual to pay over $4 for oil in the past 10 years. At $2.50 per gallon, the average home that uses 900 gallons of heating oil would have spent $2,250 per year. Dividing this into the 5 months where the heat is really on (November through March), and it’s safe to budget $450 a month to get through the cold season.

As we head into heating season in 2022, we’re in for a huge change. If prices stay were they are right now, we’ll be paying approximately $5.36 per gallon this winter. As a result, the average homeowner would go from paying $2,250, to paying $4,824 – or more than double what they paid last year!

Instead of budgeting $450 a month from November to March, expect to budget $965 per month for the same period.

Heating oil prices have more than doubled in the past year.

Start Saving Now To Ease the Transition to Winter

One of the best ways to manage the rising prices of heating oil is to plan a full-year budget. While some oil companies offer to do this for you by putting you on a ‘Budget Plan’, you can do this yourself, while still getting the best price possible.

Begin by estimating your heating oil spend for this upcoming year (in this case, $4,824 for the average home in the northeast). Divide this by 10, for a monthly savings amount of $482. Starting in June, beginning saving this amount each month and you should confidently get through the upcoming heating oil season as today’s prices.

Divide your upcoming heating oil expense for this year by 10. Save this amount each month, beginning in June to prepare for heating season.

It’s never too early to start budgeting for this year’s upcoming heating season. While we don’t know where prices will be when the cold hits, we’re hopeful that they won’t get worse. If you start saving today and prices go down, you’ll be way ahead of the curve come January.

Happy summer,


How Much Heating Oil Should I Order Right Now?

oil prices

If there’s one thing we can agree on right now it’s that heating oil prices are crazy high. I get a lot of texts from friends and family asking for my take on prices, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here.

In the beginning of February, oil prices on FuelSnap averaged $3.30 a gallon. When Putin invaded Ukraine later in the month, prices shot way up. By mid-March they averaged $4.79 a gallon, before temporarily dropping off. In April, once the European Union started to commit to reducing their dependence on Russia oil, prices shot up again, to a high average of $5.66 a gallon by the end of the month.

May, fortunately, saw a bit of a drop off, albeit a short-lived one.

The price heating oil was trading at dipped down significantly in Mid-May. Unfortunately, retail prices (what homeowners pay) never dropped as much as dealers owned inventory at the higher prices.

Current Prices For Heating Oil

Prices are currently hovering from a low of $4.99 per gallon to a high of around $6.00 per gallon depending on where you live.

As we head into the summer months, many are asking how much heating oil to order.

First, if you heat your hot water with propane or electricity, you may want to just keep watching prices and wait. If you are below 1/4 tank and rely on heating oil for your hot water, you’ll want to order heating oil soon. I would recommend ordering a small quantity for now. 100 gallons should suffice to get through the summer months. Keep in mind, a hot water heater typically uses between 0.5 and 1 gallon per day throughout the summer.

Heating oil prices are in the $5 to $6 per gallon range in the northeast.

If it were mid-winter, I would recommend ordering as much oil as your tank can hold – especially if your house uses a lot of heating oil.

The benefit of ordering a large quantity of oil is you can often take advantage of 150 or 200 gallon price breaks.

Given it’s just about summer and we have no idea where prices are going to go, I would recommend just getting enough heating oil to get you to fall for now.

Happy Summer,


How Russia is Impacting Heating Oil Prices

impact of russia conflict on heating oil prices

All winter long I keep our FuelSnap community apprised of heating oil price trends in my weekly email. As we enter the off-season, I tend to reduce the frequency of these emails to once a month. In April, after a mere 3 weeks, I decided to see where things stand and send another update. In the past three weeks alone, heating oil prices have shot up 29%!

In this post I’ll break down how the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is impacting heating oil prices at home.

Current State Of Heating Oil Prices

The first few months of this year’s heating season were relatively uneventful. Prices hovered in the $2.80 to $3.10 per gallon range, which is higher than the year prior, but otherwise typical. As we entered 2022, it became more and more likely that Putin would invade Ukraine. The invasion officially began on February 24, 2022, and we saw oil prices immediately rise.

Prices in February averaged over $3.50 per gallon, and that was not the end of it. Prices stabilized briefly, and then continued upward to an average of nearly $4.50 in March, and nearly $5.00 for April.

As I write this, prices have shot up significantly this week to an average of $5.66 throughout the Northeast.

This chart highlights the average lowest prices for 150 gallons of oil in the Northeast. Prices are averages across multiple zip codes and weeks of each month.
Heating oil prices have risen 29% in the past three weeks in the Northeast.

Russian Oil Output Has Decreased Significantly

With the obvious tension that the war in Ukraine has created, Russia’s overall oil output is expected to be down by 17% this year. This will have a significant impact on the global supply of oil. Many European nations depend on Russian oil and will now have to look elsewhere.

Meanwhile, as the global economy has begun to rebound from COVID-19, demand for oil remains strong. Even the current lockdowns in China are not having a significant enough impact on demand to slow down these price increases. Remember, when demand outweighs supply, prices rise. Conversely, when supply outweighs demand, prices fall.

This was the case in April of 2020 when there was simply too much oil being produced. Suppliers were literally paying to have their oil taken (the price for a barrel of oil was technically negative) because they needed room for storage. Heating oil was available for as low as $0.99 per gallon two years ago!

Energy Traders Are Driving Prices Higher, Despite Our Energy Independence

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the conflict in Ukraine is the impact it’s having on oil prices in the US. After all, we have been, on average, Net Exporters of energy since the final year of the Trump administration in 2020. This means that we, as a nation, produce more energy than we consume and are therefore able to export the remaining oil, coal and natural gas.

Why, then, are we being so adversely impacted by the events overseas? The reason comes down to futures trading. Highly sophisticated traders at banks and energy companies are trading futures contracts and profiting vastly.

These trading effects are overshadowing any actual supply-and-demand price impacts. These trades are based on speculation and unfortunately consumers end up paying more as a result.

Fingers Crossed that Prices Will Decline This Summer

Despite increased production in the US, oil prices have continued to climb this year. The one thing we should be grateful for, however, is timing. We are currently on the tail end of this year’s heating season, so we can all lower the thermostats for a while.

We will be watching for changes over the coming months, and urge everyone to check prices regularly and keep a close eye on their tanks this summer. Take advantage of any dip you can, and hopefully prices will drop before fall comes around.

Happy spring,


How To Save Money on Heating Oil With Prices So High

save on heating oil

Since Russia invaded Ukraine late last month, we’ve seen oil prices surge. The price spike was made worse by panic-buying that ensued. Dealers were left with angry customers, and homeowners were left with less money for groceries if they got a heating oil delivery in recent weeks.

Fortunately, there is good news today: heating oil prices are down about 12% since last week. So what can you do to save money when prices skyrocket?

Heating oil prices are down an average of 12% since last week.

Buy Heating Oil On Your Own Terms

Buying heating oil as needed or on a “will-call” basis on a site like FuelSnap typically saves you $0.50 per gallon compared to automatic delivery. When prices spike like this, that savings can jump up to $1 or more per gallon. We even saw some folks on automatic delivery paying $2 more per gallon than they would have paid on our site!

The main reason for this is that the full-service dealers need to take into account a lot of their customers not being able to pay on time. They have to increase their margins on their automatic delivery stops or they may run into cash flow issues themselves. If an oil dealer does not pay the oil terminal (where they fill the trucks) on time, then they can’t continue to deliver heating oil.

Because orders on a site like ours are paid for in advance, there is less risk to the dealers of not getting paid, and they can therefore accept a smaller margin.

Bottom Line: Will-Call customers save even more per gallon when prices skyrocket.

Take Control of Your Heating Oil Usage

Another way to save on heating oil is to really understand your usage. You can do that with a device like the Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge is a WiFi oil tank gauge that will tell you exactly how much is in your tank, how much you’re burning each day, and even a countdown of how many days until you’ll need to reorder. With this intel, many of us were able to ride out these past two weeks without ordering oil. Folks who were able to do so and fill up this week rather than last week will save over $200 on a tank of oil as we’ve seen oil prices drop significantly.

An added benefit of a Smart Oil Gauge is it will send you text and email alerts when you’re low and it’s time to order oil, ensuring you won’t run out in the middle of the night.

As you get low on oil, you can always check local oil prices right in the app. You can see what kind of discount you get depending on how much you order too.

Bottom Line: Understanding your usage will help you know when to order, and could save you hundreds of dollars on a tank of heating oil.

The Smart Oil Gauge allows you to know exactly when you need to order heating oil. This allowed many of us to ride out the recent price spikes and only order heating oil after the prices dropped.

These Tips Saved Me Over $200 This Month

When oil prices skyrocketed two weeks ago, folks with Smart Oil Gauges did one of two things: they either ordered oil immediately to get out in front of the increase; or they turned the heat down and rode out the spike. I did the latter, and just had 100 gallons delivered this week, at a price that was over $2 less than the peak.

Folks on Automatic Delivery were not so lucky. Not only could they not request a delivery to preempt the rise, they also could not prevent a delivery while prices were high. One friend paid $6.24 a gallon, while prices on FuelSnap in his town were only $4.20 that day!

Hope these tips help you consider how to manage your heating oil moving forward. In the meantime, Spring is just around the corner, so hopefully we can all cut down on our usage soon.

Happy heating,


Why Are Heating Oil Prices So High Right Now?

heating oil prices

Wow. Heating oil prices are crazy right now. When COVID-19 halted global travel in 2020, heating oil bottomed out at around $1 a gallon. While it has slowly rebounded as the pandemic has gotten under control, it was still manageable at $2.50 to $3 a gallon through most of this year’s heating season.

Well, that all changed in the past few weeks. A gallon of heating oil as of today (March 9, 2022) is a minimum of $4.59 right now! In many areas we are seeing prices above $5, and it’s WAY worse for folks on automatic delivery. 

Why Are Heating Oil Prices So High Right Now?

Since Putin launch his attack on Ukraine, the world’s oil economy has been put under the spotlight. Here are some important things to know about Russia’s role in oil production: 

  • Russia is the #3 largest producer of oil and gas in the world. 
  • The United States Historically Imports 8% of its oil from Russia. 
  • Germany relies on Russia for a third of its natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. 
  • Nearly 100% of homes in Italy are heated with natural gas from Russia. 

Now that Putin has begun this war in Ukraine, it is up to Western nations to enact sanctions on Russia, thus cutting off funding to his administration. 

Thus far, we have seen American companies take the following actions:

  • Apple has suspended all sales in Russia
  • Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have stopped supporting the use of their cards in Russia. 
  • Exxon and other oil and gas companies have discontinued investments or cut ties with Russian counterparts. 
  • McDonald’s and Starbucks have suspended operations in Russia, although some are still paying their employees.

As a result of this pressure that is mounting on Russia, the global supply of oil is being squeezed. Countries that traditionally buy from Russia are looking elsewhere, and prices are skyrocketing accordingly. 

These heating oil prices from last week were the highest since 2014. Prices are up another 20% since then, but have hopefully peaked.

Prices May Be Declining Soon

President Biden announced yesterday that the US will stop importing any oil from Russia while this war persists. It appears, however, that markets had priced this into the price for oil this week, as prices may have reached a short-term peak yesterday.

According to OilPrice.com, heating oil has dropped 20% today, with rack prices decreasing from a high of $4.44 per gallon on March 8, to a more palatable $3.56 per gallon tonight.

Heating oil has dropped significantly in the past 24 hours so we’re optimistic that these lower prices will be passed onto consumers in the coming days.

What To Do

Hang in there, folks. If you can, turn the heat down until we get to the end of Winter here. Hopefully this fighting in Ukraine comes to a stop and the US is able to make some energy decisions that lower our reliance on foreign oil. Keep checking oil prices right here, and stay well.

Happy heating,


Choosing the Right Adapter for Your Smart Oil Gauge

Proper installation is critical to the accuracy of your Smart Oil Gauge. Using an incorrect adapter can cause the sensor to give false readings, potentially causing you to run out of oil. In this post, we’ll explain the different types of adapters available for the Smart Oil Gauge. When we’re done, you’ll know exactly which adapter is appropriate for your tank.

There are three adapters available for the Smart Oil Gauge. That said, most oil tanks have a standard 2″ NPT fitting and do not require an adapter at all.

Smart Oil Gauge Dimensions

The body of the Smart Oil Gauge is essentially a pipe nipple: it is a short piece of pipe with threads on the top and the bottom. The thread size is 2″ NPT which actually measures approximately 2.375″ in outer diameter. “NPT” refers to a tapered thread (National Pipe Tapered), which means the threads get tighter as they are screwed into a fitting. Tapered threads are great because once tightened, they can create a good seal. You may be wondering why these threads are 2″ NPT when the outer diameter is actually 2.375″. This is because the 2″ dimension refers to the inner diameter of the threaded pipe, and you will be measuring the outer dimensions.

With the cap screwed on, the total outer dimensions of the Smart Oil Gauge are 2.8″ x 2.8″ x 5.3″. In order to remove the cap and access the batteries, we recommend a clearance of 6.2″ above the oil tank. This ensures you can open the cap with the unit installed.

As you can see here, a 2″ NPT fitting actually has an outer diameter of approximately 2.375″.

Where to Install a Smart Oil Gauge

You must install the Smart Oil Gauge or adapter directly into the top of the tank. Any raised pipe or off-the-shelf adapter will cause interference for the sensor. If your tank has an existing float gauge, it may be necessary to remove the float gauge to free up an opening for the Smart Oil Gauge.

If your float gauge is part of the vent pipe (see below, right), you CANNOT use this opening for the Smart Oil Gauge. Even with an adapter, the sensor will not be able to see down inside the oil tank to measure the level.

The Smart Oil Gauge or adapter must thread directly into the top of the tank. You CANNOT use an adapter on a float gauge / vent pipe combo fitting, as shown above on the right.

Adapter for the Roth Double Wall Tanks

If you have a Roth Double-Wall Tank, you will most definitely need our adapter (CCF-906). The adapter features an internal guide cone to help the sound wave from the sensor reach the oil level without interference.

The Roth adapter is compatible with the Roth 1000L, 1000LH, 620L and 400L. It is NOT compatible with the 1500L due to an internal baffle in the tank. If you have the corresponding Granby double-wall tank, find the matching Roth model when selecting your tank in the Smart Oil Gauge app.

The Roth adapter works on all Roth tanks except for the 1500L.

Adapter for Steel Tanks with Small Fittings

As mentioned above, the standard fitting is 2″ NPT. If your tank is less than 20 years old, odds are it has 2″ fittings. If this is the case, you should not need an adapter.

For older tanks and less common tanks, you may need an adapter.

2 x 1.5″ NPT Adapter:

The 2 x 1.5″ NPT adapter (CCF-905) is our most common adapter. Its threads that mate with the tank measure approximately 1.9″ outer diameter.

The 2 x 1.5″ NPT adapter (CCF-905) looks like this.

2 x 1.25″ NPT Adapter:

The 2 x 1.25″ NPT adapter (CCF-908) is far less common than the 2 x 1.5″ adapter. It measures approximately 1.5″ outer diameter.

The 2 x 1.25″ NPT adapter (CCF-908) looks like this.
Refer to this grid to determine which size adapter is appropriate for your tank.

Setting an Offset For Your Adapter

Once you’ve selected the right adapter, you may want to set an offset. Since the adapter raises the Smart Oil Gauge up about an inch, it will affect the level readings. To set an offset, open your Smart Oil Gauge app. Go to Settings >> Tank Style >> Advanced >> Sensor Offset and set an offset of 1.0″ for either the 1.5″ or 1.25″ adapter. No offset is necessary for the Roth adapter.

Set an offset of 1″ to ensure your Smart Oil Gauge is properly calibrated once installed.

Now that you’ve taken the time to measure the fitting on your heating oil tank, you should now know exactly which adapter – if any – is necessary for your tank. If you’re still unsure, please feel free to email us here with a picture and measurements of your tank and we can help choose the fitting for you.

Happy heating,


How to Install a Smart Oil Gauge On a Tank With Only 3 Openings

top feeding oil lines

Installing a Smart Oil Gauge is one of the best things you can do for your heating oil tank. A Smart Oil Gauge alerts you when the tank is low so you never run out of heating oil. It also frees you up to only buy oil as needed. This can save you hundreds of dollars a year over automatic delivery. And further, it will show you how much oil you’re using so you can conserve heating oil.

With all that being said, you may go to install your Smart Oil Gauge and find you don’t have an extra opening on your tank. If this happens, you may not be entirely out of luck…

Heating Oil Tank Overview

A heating oil tank typically has 4 openings along the top:

  1. An opening for the fill pipe. This is where the driver pumps oil into the tank.
  2. An opening for the vent line. This is where air escapes to the outside. The vent line may include a float gauge in the fitting as well.
  3. An opening for the float gauge.
  4. An extra opening. Installers will often use this opening to connect a second tank. They may also install top-feeding oil lines. This means instead of the oil coming out of the bottom of the tank, it is drawn from the top. This is common in outdoor tanks or tanks in a recessed area where the bottom is difficult to access.
Most oil tanks have 4 openings: 1) fill pipe; 2) vent pipe (sometimes incorporating a float gauge); 3) float gauge; 4) extra opening (ideal location for a Smart Oil Gauge). In the tank shown, the oil is drawn to the oil burner from the bottom right of the tank, and not through one of the openings at the top.

Where to install a Smart Oil Gauge if there are only 3 openings

If there are only three openings, you have a couple of options. The path you choose depends on your particular tank.

Orientation 1: Fill Pipe / Vent Pipe / Float Gauge

If the openings are as follows: Fill Pipe / Vent Pipe / Float Gauge, then you will have to remove the float gauge to make room for a Smart Oil Gauge. Removing the float gauge can be tricky. You cannot just unscrew a float gauge, as its arm will crash into the inside of the tank. Follow this step-by-step guide to remove the float gauge to free up space for your Smart Oil Gauge.

Removing a float gauge can be tricky. Follow our step-by-step guide here to remove it properly.
Pulling the disc at the top of the float gauge up will raise the arm out of the way and allow the float gauge to be unscrewed.

Orientation 2: Fill Pipe / Vent & Gauge Combo / Top Feed Oil Lines

Most oil tanks have the oil lines coming out of the bottom of the tank and going to the burner. Occasionally, however, the lines can come from the top. This is always the case with Roth double-wall tanks, and is sometimes the case with steel tanks.

If your oil lines come out of the top of the tank, then you will have to have a technician come out and re-route the lines to the bottom of the tank. This is NOT something many homeowners would be capable of doing. The technician will have to create a vacuum in the tank to remove the plug without losing the oil in the tank. They will then have to ensure there is not too much sludge in the bottom of the tank. As you can imagine, this is a last resort for your oil tank, but may be the only way to open up a spot for your Smart Oil Gauge.

Top-feeding oil lines look like this. There are often two lines: one going to the oil burner (usually with a shut-off valve as shown); the second coming back from the burner (the ‘return’ line). Some systems do not have a return line. This top-feeding fitting would have to be removed, and the oil lines re-routed to the bottom of the tank to free up an opening for the Smart Oil Gauge. This should only be considered with newer tanks that will not have much sludge built up inside.

The Bottom Line When Your Oil Tank Only Has 3 Openings

A Smart Oil Gauge is a fantastic tool for monitoring heating oil usage. Many folks will go to great lengths to install one. Fortunately, you can remove a float gauge quite easily. Just follow this guide here on replacing your float gauge.

If you need to re-route your oil lines, we recommend waiting until your HVAC technician is at your house for another reason, and asking for a consultation at that time. They will be able to tell you if it’s feasible to move the lines to the bottom of the tank.

Happy heating,


Tips to Avoid Frozen Pipes

frozen pipes

We’re just at the tail end of a cold snap here in the Northeast where we’ve seen temps in the single digits for the past few days. When it gets this cold, frozen pipes can become a major issue. While most common in older homes, pipes can freeze in newer homes too!

Especially in mass-produced cookie-cutter homes where corners are cut during construction. All it takes is one section of insulation to be missing from an exterior bathroom wall for pipes to freeze. In this post, we’ll highlight tips to keep your pipes from freezing.

In older homes like mine, ice can form on the single-pane windows. This is because the single pane of glass provides very little insulation and the heat ends up escaping right through it. Whenever you have pipes near a cold spot like this, make sure to leave the water dripping!

Why Are Frozen Pipes Bad?

At first glance you may think that having frozen pipes is simply a nuisance. In many cases, that’s all it is: you don’t have water flowing in a certain faucet for a period of time. In other cases, the pipes can actually burst, causing major flooding and damage to your home.

Why Do Frozen Pipes Burst?

Once water starts to turn to ice, it creates a blockage in the pipe. This blockage keeps any water from flowing through the pipe at that point. Further, it may result in water being trapped between the ice blockage and a closed spigot. Since water expands as it turns to ice, it begins to create pressure in the pipe. Since this pressure has nowhere else to go, the pipe ends up expanding from the inside out until it bursts. Water then just keeps flowing from the burst pipe until someone notices and closes the valve.

As ice forms inside a pipe, it begins to expand and create an immense amount of pressure in the adjacent water. Since this water often gets trapped between the ice and a close spigot or faucet, the water has nowhere to escape under pressure, and the pipe ends up bursting.

Tips to Avoid Frozen Pipes

The best way to handle frozen pipes is to avoid them altogether. Follow these tips to prevent frozen pipes from causing damage to your home:

  • Leave the Water Dripping on Cold Nights. Water has a much harder time freezing when it is flowing. On cold nights, open the faucets slightly throughout your house. This is especially important for pipes in exterior walls. These pipes will be much more prone to freezing than pipes in interior walls.
  • Insulate Problem Pipes. In old homes like mine, you will start to know which pipes freeze. Adding foam insulation to these pipes can keep them from freezing. It’s inexpensive and easy to apply, and helps shelter the pipe from the cold air nearby.
  • Leave Cabinet Doors Open. Often the pipes in a kitchen or bathroom can freeze inside cabinets. Even though the room itself may be warm, the air inside the cabinets can be below freezing on a cold night. Open the cabinets to let the warm air in and keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Turn The Heat Up. People often turn the heat down on cold nights to save money. When it’s really cold, do the opposite! Raising the temperature in the house can help prevent those really cold areas from freezing.
  • Put a Space Heater in Cold Areas. In my house, there’s a section of the basement that extends under my back porch. This area is extremely cold, and is the one spot where pipes can freeze. On cold days (like this week), I run a space heater in this area to keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Use Heat Tape or Heated Cables. Apply a heat source to the area where pipes tend to freeze. This is a more “involved” solution, as you’ll need to turn it on and off at times. Consider this as a last resort if insulation and leaving faucets dripping doesn’t do the trick.
  • Make Sure You Have Enough Heating Oil. If you run out of heating oil, you will have no heat. With no heat, your pipes will be very likely to freeze. Order heating oil online when you’re at a quarter of a tank to prevent a runout. If you do run out of oil, follow these steps here. You can also grab 5 or 10 gallons of diesel to keep the heat on until the truck arrives.
Installing insulation on exposed pipes is one of the best ways to keep pipes from freezing. It is inexpensive and super easy to install. Especially in cold crawl spaces or unheated basements, this should be your first line of defense against frozen pipes.

Always Inspect Cold Areas

Catching frozen pipes before they burst will save you thousands of dollars and lots of headaches. Always turn the heat up when the temperatures are forecast to be extremely low. Touch the baseboards in various corners of the house to make sure they’re all warm. This will indicate that water is flowing and there is not a blockage.

Leave your faucets dripping, leave those cabinet doors open, and hopefully you have no issues. If you do have frozen pipes, call a plumber right away! Sometimes the pipes can burst when thawing, so you’ll want a professional there to shut the water off right away if this happens.

Happy heating,


How Much Heating Oil Will I Use a Day?

cold house

It’s peak heating season in the Northeast, and many folks have heating oil on their mind. Questions like ‘what is the price of oil near me?’ or ‘how much heating oil will I use in a day?’ are being asked non-stop. So I figured I’d break down how much heating oil you can expect to use in a given day.

Keep this in mind as you’re planning for your next heating oil delivery, or if you run out of oil. If you do run out of oil, you can always add 5 or 10 gallons of diesel to your tank. Knowing how long 5 gallons of heating oil will last will help you determine how many trips to the gas station you’ll have to make!

The outside ambient air temperature is the biggest contributor to heating oil usage at your house. On a cold day in New England, your house may use 5-10 gallons of heating oil or more, depending on its square footage!

Factors That Impact Heating Oil Consumption

There are several factors that will impact how much heating oil you use at your house:

  • Outside Temperature: Your home’s heating system works to keep the inside of your home at a comfortable temperature. The colder the air outside, the harder it has to work, and therefore the more heating oil you will consume.
  • Inside (Set) Temperature: Setting the thermostat around 68-70 degrees is common and provides a comfortable internal temperature. The higher the set temperature, the more heating oil you will use. Consider adding a few layers and lowering the heat to 65 if you want to conserve oil.
  • House Size: The larger your house, the more heating oil you will consume. The layout of your house can also impact this. A ranch house is often harder to keep warm than a two-story house because there is more exterior surface area relative to interior space. This means more surfaces for heat to escape through.
  • Insulation: A well-insulated house will retain the heat much better than a poorly-insulated house with single-pane or drafty windows. Sealing up drafty windows in an old home will pay dividends and make your home more comfortable on cold winter days.
  • Age of Heating System: As heating systems age, they lose some of their efficiency. This means that you will use slightly more heating oil to generate the same amount of heat as a newer system. High-quality oil-fired equipment can last over 30 years. A new furnace can start to pay for itself, however, as you’ll see much improved efficiency.
  • How You Heat Your Hot Water: Another consideration is what you’re heating with oil. If your hot water heater runs on oil, you will use more heating oil than just for heat alone. This also means that you will consume oil year round.
Replacing this 30 year old Oneida Royal oil-fired furnace with a new ThermoPride unit in 2018 allowed me to cut down on my heating oil usage almost 25%. To determine this, I used exported data from my Smart Oil Gauge to summarize my usage by day, and overlaid temperature data to account for outside temperature.

Home Size And Temperature Impact Heating Oil Usage

To keep things simple, we’ll focus on two factors: house size and outside temperature. Find your house size on the chart and you’ll see a range of usages. If your house is well-insulated and new, consider a lower amount. If, like mine, your house is old and poorly-insulated, consider an amount on the high end.

This chart will give you a good indication of how many gallons of heating oil you can expect to use on an average day. For a 2500 square foot house, for example, you will use 5-7 gallons of heating oil on a typical New England winter day.

On a typical New England Winter day, expect to use 5-7 gallons of heating oil per day. Use this as a baseline, and plan your oil deliveries accordingly.

If you have a 275 gallon oil tank, you’ve got a maximum capacity of about 250 gallons. You also don’t want to get too low, as you can get sludge in the tank sucked into the lines. With this in mind, consider a ‘usable’ capacity of about 200 gallons. At 5 gallons per day, this should last about 40 days in the winter before needing to be filled up.

A 275 gallon oil tank like the one shown here is the most common size in the Northeast. The maximum capacity for a tank this size is approximately 250 gallons. Since it’s important not to let the level get too low (sludge can get stirred up), its usable capacity ends up being about 200 gallons. At 5 gallons a day, this will last approximately 40 days in the winter.

Heating Oil Used Per Year

While most of us only use oil in the winter months, many use it year round. If you use oil for your hot water, expect to use approximately 0.5-0.8 gallons per day in the summer months.

In the winter months, we must go back to the factors above: house size and outside air temperature. For this calculation, we looked at a typical winter in CT.

The average house in the Northeast uses about 880 gallons of heating oil per year. In a typical winter in CT, you can expect to use between 600 and 1200 gallons per year for an average-sized house.

Track Your Heating Oil Consumption

The best way to track your oil consumption is to measure it. The best way to measure your oil consumption is to use a sensor in the oil tank. A Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the oil level at hourly intervals throughout the day. It reports these readings onto an app on your phone. It provides history that allows you to track your usage throughout the day, week, month, or year. You can even export the data from your Smart Oil Gauge for true numbers crunching.

My Smart Oil Gauge shows me my current level, as well as my current and historical usage rates. It is REALLY cold this week, so you can see that my usage is off the charts. I also have an extremely old house (1865) which is mostly original (no insulation). But despite all that, I know exactly when I need to order oil at any given time.

Check Your Oil Tank Regularly Throughout the Winter

You should now be able to estimate your daily usage of heating oil. That said, a good estimate is still no substitute for regularly checking your oil level. Check out this post here on how to read a heating oil tank gauge. Running out of oil can lead to sludge in the feed line, and even worse, frozen pipes. Set a reminder on your phone to check your tank level at least once a week during the cold months. And better yet, get a Smart Oil Gauge and get alerted when your tank is low!

Happy heating,