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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you suspect you are out of heating oil, there are a few steps you should take:
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. Before you get roped into switching to propane, be sure to be wary of the many disadvantages of heating with propane.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is January, 2021 right now which means heating oil season is in full swing! While you are thinking about when to order heating oil, you may be wondering how long a tank of heating oil lasts. A tank of heating oil lasts as little as a few weeks, and as long as a season; see how long your heating oil will last below!
Heating Oil Tank Size
An obvious factor that will impact how long the tank lasts is the size of the tank. The most common heating oil tank size is 275 gallons. A 275 gallon heating oil tank holds approximately 250 gallons of heating oil when full. The next most common oil tank size is 330 gallons. A 330 gallon fuel oil tank has a nominal capacity of about 300 gallons.
It is also not uncommon for a home to have ‘twin tanks’ where two 275 or two 330 gallon tanks are plumbed together. This gives the homeowner more capacity and the ability to order heating oil less frequently.
Homes with in-ground tanks tend to have 550 gallon, or even 1000 or 2000 gallon tanks! In-ground oil tanks are less and less common and are often replaced with above ground tanks when the house is sold.
House Size Impacts Heating Oil Usage
Once you’ve determined the size of your heating oil tank, you’ll need to know how much oil your home requires per day to determine how long the oil tank will last. The factors that impact how much heating oil you use are:
The size of your house. A 1500 square foot house may use only 500 gallons a year, whereas a 3500 square foot house may use over 1500 gallons per year.
The energy-efficiency of your house. A well-insulated 2500 square foot house may use as little as 600 gallons per year, whereas the same size house with poor insulation and drafty windows could use over 1200 gallons per year.
The age of your heating system. Well-maintained heating oil systems tend to last much longer than comparable gas systems, often lasting 30 years or longer! While this is great, technology continues to make these systems more efficient. Upgrading to a new oil-fired heating system can reduce heating oil costs by up to 30%.
The temperature (both inside and outside). Turning down the thermostat a few degrees is a sure way to reduce your heating oil usage. But a bigger factor is the outdoor temperature. On a 10° day, an average home may use 8-12 gallons of heating oil to keep warm. On a 30° day, the same home may only use 5-7 gallons of heating oil.
Heating Oil Used Per Day
Once you know your home size, you can use the following tables to figure out how much heating oil you will use per day. With this, you can estimate how long your oil tank will last you.
Keep in mind, however, that you do not want to let your tank go completely empty! Always order heating oil when your tank is at around 1/4 full to ensure you do not run out of heating oil.
How Long Will a Tank of Heating Oil Last
There is one more factor that you need to keep in mind to determine how long your tank of heating oil will last you: the reorder point. Just like with a car, it is important that you do not let your tank run completely empty. This will not only cause your burner to shut down, but can cause sludge to get sucked into the lines, clogging the system.
As such, it is highly recommended to order heating oil when your tank is 1/4 full. “Reorder at a quarter” is a good way to remember this.
The 1/4 mark on a 275 gallon tank is approximately 68 gallons. Since a 275 only holds 250 gallons when full, this means you have 182 gallons (250 – 68 = 182) of usable heating oil before you need to order heating oil. Look at the table above to determine your average heating oil usage based on recent temperatures, and divide this number into the total number of usable gallons. Example:
Home size: 2500 square feet
Average temperature since last fill: 30° F
Average gallons per day @ 30° F: 5.2 gallons per day
Tank size: 275 gallons (holds 250)
Reorder point: 1/4 tank or 68 gallons
Usable gallons between fills: 250-68 = 182 gallons
Number of Days Between Fills: 182 gallons / 5.2 gallons/day = 35 days
With an average outdoor temperature of 30° F, a 275 gallon tank in a 2500 square foot home will last approximately 35 days between fills.
When To Check Your Heating Oil Tank and Order Oil
The last thing you want is to wake up to a freezing cold house in the middle of winter because you ran out of heating oil. If you do run out of heating oil, check out our step-by-step guide here: what to do if you are out of heating oil.
With an old-fashioned float gauge in your tank, we recommend checking the level once a week, or at least once every two weeks during the winter. Set a reminder in your smart phone to go down and check the tank periodically.
Alternatively, you can install a Smart Oil Gauge on your tank, and simply check your heating oil level from your smart phone. Program text and email alerts when your tank gets low, and never worry about heating oil again.
If you are new to heating oil and are wondering how much heating oil your home may use, consider the table below for the expected usage for an average winter in CT.
Check Heating Oil Prices And Order Heating Oil Online
When your heating oil tank is down to 1/4 full, it is time to order heating oil. Check heating oil prices near me online, and go to a site like FuelSnap to quickly compare heating oil prices between local dealers. Read reviews and order oil online with a credit card. Choose exactly how many gallons of heating oil you need to avoid surprises. And finally, set a reminder to check your tank every week or two to make sure you do not run out of heating oil.
Is it hard to tell how much heating oil is in your oil tank? If so, it may be time to replace your oil tank gauge. In this post we’ll walk you through the process of replacing your home heating oil gauge. If you are not handy, or are having any trouble with this process whatsoever, you should definitely contact your oil or HVAC company for this!
Tools Required to Replace Your Oil Tank Gauge
If you’re handy, replacing the gauge on your heating oil tank is not too difficult. The tools required are:
Rubber gloves (remember, heating oil stinks, so make sure to wear old clothes too!)
Penetrating Oil (e.g. Liquid Wrench) – OPTIONAL – get it here
How Your Float Gauge Works
Before we begin, it is important to understand how a float gauge works. This will aid in removing it so you know what to expect. In a nut shell, there is a floating piece (the ‘float’) – sometimes cork, but more recently plastic – that sits atop the oil. This float sits at the end of a hinged arm. At the other end of the hinged arm is a plastic disc that moves up and down with the float. The disc is housed behind a plastic vial that can be removed by hand. The disc and vial provide a rough indication of the oil level in the fuel oil tank.
What Causes a Broken Float Gauge
Oil tank float gauges are notorious for going bad. They can go bad for a number of reasons. Most often, the float builds up sludge and no longer floats properly as shown below. Also, the thin piece of metal that connects the hinged arm to the disc can be bent. If you’ve ever removed the plastic vial and pushed down on this disc to see if the float gauge was still working, you could have bent the metal in the arm.
Finally, the whole assembly can rotate inside the tank over time, causing the float to get wedged against the inside wall of the tank. When this happens, it will no longer move up or down. Replacing your heating oil tank gauge is the next step at that point.
Step 1: Loosen Fitting
Before you can unthread the float gauge assembly, you must begin by loosening it only. First, remove the plastic vial by hand to expose the disc. Second, position the pipe wrench on the metal fitting that threads into the tank. Use both hands and loosen the fitting ONLY SLIGHTLY! You cannot loosen this more than half a turn yet because the float will hit the inside wall of the tank.
Pro Tip: If you cannot loosen the fitting easily, soak it in a penetrating oil such as Liquid Wrench for several hours or up to a couple of days.
Step 2: Pull Disc Up and Loosen Fitting Completely
Now that the fitting is loose, you will need to use two hands to continue. If you have someone helping you this would be ideal. If not, no big deal – just continue these steps below.
Pull up the disc as far as it will go. This will lift the float out of the oil (see below) and allow you to rotate the assembly. By lifting the float out, the assembly can rotate without the arm crashing into the inside of the tank.
Step 3: Remove the Float Assembly
Once the fitting is completely loose, you can remove the float assembly. Get your paper towels and garbage bag ready for this step!
Release the disc to allow the float to settle back in the tank. Slowly raise the assembly out and allow the float to fall while doing so. This will allow you to remove the whole assembly from the tank. Use the paper towels to catch any dripping oil, and place the whole assembly in the garbage bag immediately.
Step 4: Install Your New Float Gauge
To install a new float gauge, you’ll want to essentially reverse these steps. Begin by cleaning the fitting on the tank, and applying pipe dope to the threads of the new float gauge assembly.
Use a marker on the fitting to indicate the direction that the arm should fall once the assembly is on the tank. You will need to insure that the float can extend into the open area of the tank so the float does not hit the inner wall.
Gently lower the float into the tank until the fitting mates with the tank. Gently lift the disc to raise the float out of the oil, and hand tighten the assembly as far as you can.
Keep lifting the disc up, and tighten with a pipe wrench until snug. Make sure to stop tightening when the arm is oriented properly in the tank. Once tight, hand-tighten the plastic vial in place and you are good to go!
Alternative To A Float Gauge
If you’re unhappy with your heating oil float gauge, or are tired of replacing it over the years, there are better alternatives available. You can consider a Smart Oil Gauge, for instance. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the level. As such, it is never directly touching the heating oil. This keeps it from getting sludge buildup on it.
The Smart Oil Gauge gets threaded into an extra opening on your tank, and can even be used in addition to a traditional float gauge. Installing a Smart Oil Gauge is much more straightforward as well. Simply apply pipe dope to the threads, and tighten it in with a pipe wrench. Download the app on your phone to connect the device to WiFi beforehand, and then start monitoring your usage remotely. Check out this great installation video if you would like to install a Smart Oil Gauge.
Reading Your New Oil Tank Gauge
For some helpful insights into your new float gauge, read our post here on how to read an oil tank gauge. If you went with the Smart Oil Gauge, just make sure you configure it for the proper tank size, and set up your alerts in the app as well. The Smart Oil Gauge can send text and email alerts when the tank is low. This way you will never be caught off guard and run out of heating oil again!
Hopefully this illustrates how to replace your heating oil tank gauge. Remember to check FuelSnap when your tank is low to make sure you’re getting the best deal on home heating oil!
Oil-heated homes are among the most popular in the Northeast. While natural gas is more common elsewhere, the age of homes and the rocky ground make pipelines less prevalent here. Heating oil is popular because it is cost-effective, easy to come by, and extremely safe. Read on to learn about the benefits of oil heat!
Introduction to Heating Oil
Heating oil is one of the most popular fuel types in the Northeast. It is stored in an oil tank somewhere on the property, and fed into a boiler or furnace where it is burned and converted to heat. You will mostly likely find the oil tank inside the basement of the house.
However, heating oil tanks can also be found outside the house, in the garage, or even underground. Underground heating oil tanks are less common these days, and are generally undesirable as they could unknowingly start leaking over time.
If you are considering buying a home with an underground oil tank, we recommend removing it and replacing it with an above ground tank. Follow this guide on choosing a new heating oil tank if this is the case.
Heating Oil Delivery
To keep the heat running, you must periodically fill your heating oil tank. We break down the process of filling a heating oil tank in this blog post here. To keep your heating oil tank filled, you must sign up for automatic delivery or plan on ordering heating oil online each time your tank is low. There are pros and cons to automatic delivery which we break down here.
In a nut shell, it is much more cost-effective to only order heating oil as needed. Automatic delivery costs several hundred dollars more per year, and devices like the Smart Oil Gauge make it so this is no longer necessary.
Benefits of Home Heating Oil
There are many benefits to home heating oil, including:
It is safe. Heating oil has a flash point of 140° F. Because of this, it is actually not even flammable at room temperature. This makes it extremely safe, and not something you have to worry about having in your home. To ignite heating oil, you must first preheat it, and then atomize it.
It is efficient. A gallon of heating oil generates 138,500 BTUs per gallon (BTUs are a unit of heat). Since burners tend to be about 85% efficient, this equates to 117,725 effective BTUs per gallon. Propane, on the other hand, only generates 91,500 BTUs per gallon. With a 95% efficiency burner, this equates to only 86,925 effective BTUs per gallon. In sum, it takes 1.35 gallons of propane to generate as much heating as a single gallon of heating oil! Read this post here on what your propane provider won’t tell you if you are thinking about propane.
It is widely available. There are literally thousands of heating oil dealers throughout the Northeast. With a site like FuelSnap, you can compare prices from local dealers, all of which are competing for your business. This ensures you are getting the best price whenever you need to order heating oil. With propane, you will lose the flexibility of shopping around. This is because propane dealers – notthe homeowners – own 95% of the propane tanks in the Northeast!
It is cost-effective. Because of its ability to generate so much heat per gallon, heating oil is extremely cost-effective. Oil prices have fallen drastically over the past decade, and as a homeowner you have the ability to price-compare between different suppliers. This competition keeps oil prices as low as possible – so long as you don’t sign up for automatic delivery. If you sign up for automatic delivery, you will be paying more per gallon to get your heating oil from one single supplier. While this is convenient, it costs you a lot of money in the long run. Check out this post here on the pros and cons of automatic heating oil delivery.
Should I Buy a Home with Heating Oil? Yes.
In summary, oil heat is a safe, cost-effective fuel for heating your home. If you are choosing between propane or heating oil, heating oil wins out all day long. If you have the option for natural gas, then we would recommend considering it. Natural gas is not only cost-effective, but you do not have to worry about maintaining your supply.
However, heating oil affords you the ability to choose between suppliers to ensure you are always getting the best price. You can order oil only as needed on a site like FuelSnap where you can comparison shop between dealers. And to make sure you don’t run out of heating oil, install a Smart Oil Gauge to keep an eye on your tank from your phone.
Last weekend on Small Business Saturday I was able to meet the folks at News12 CT. We had a conversation about FuelSnap and ordering heating oil using the Smart Oil Gauge. Check out the video below!
FuelSnap was actually founded by two Ridgefielders – Steve Williams and Joe Mygatt – and has been growing fast thanks to a third former Ridgefielder, Carl Shaw, who manages our dealer onboarding and growth programs. Since launching in 2019, FuelSnap has added nearly 100 oil providers covering over 3,000 zip codes in the Northeast.
The company has expanded in recent months to offer dealers online ordering on their own websites – in addition to FuelSnap. “Heating oil dealers loved our order management software so much, they asked if they could use it for their own sites.” says Carl Shaw. Dealers can enable a Shopify-like experience almost immediately utilizing the company’s ECommerce solutions.
“It’s a low cost option that allows a heating oil dealer to start selling online, without spending thousands of dollars up front on web development” says Shaw.
For questions about FuelSnap: click here or call 203-456-1015.
For questions about Online Ordering or Turn-Key ECommercie sites: click here or call 203-456-1012.
Heating oil is one of the most popular home heating fuels in the Northeast. It is cost effective, readily available, and found in more than seven million homes. But how much does it cost to heat with oil? Heating the average home will cost $1,200 to $2,000 per year for will-call customers, and $1,500 to $2,500 per year for automatic delivery customers. We will break this down – and more – in the post below!
How To Save Money On Home Heating Oil
There are five primary factors that contribute to how much it costs to heat a house with oil:
Automatic Delivery vs. Will-Call: Will-call customers are those who only order heating oil as needed. By doing so, they save approximately $0.50 per gallon compared to automatic delivery customers. By shopping around and ordering heating oil online, you can realize tremendous savings in your heating oil costs.
Size of the House: The larger the house, the more heating oil you can expect to burn. A 2,500 square foot house will use 570 to 1200 gallons of heating oil per year.
Inside Temperature: The temperature you set the thermostat to can have a major impact on home heating oil costs. Monitor your fuel usage and program your thermostat to optimize temperature settings in your house.
Outside Temperature: Sorry, but short of moving to the South, there’s not much we can help you with here!
Annual Home Heating Oil Cost in New England
By choosing to order heating oil online as needed, homeowners will save an average of $0.50 per gallon. Just search for heating oil prices near me and check prices in your town. The alternative – automatic delivery – may be more convenient, as you don’t have to remember to order home heating oil. There is also the option of manually checking your oil tank gauge to identify when you need home heating oil, but with products like the Smart Oil Gauge, you can easily track your heating oil tank and order oil only as needed.
The other ways to save money include sealing up drafty windows, and adding insulation to cold spaces. You may also consider investing in a programmable thermostat to optimize thermostat settings. If your home has forced hot air (hot air that comes through vents in the floor), it likely makes sense to turn the heat down during the day. If you have a boiler, you are probably better off leaving the temperature constant.
How To Save Money On Heating Oil
With all this in mind, you should consider steps to save money on heating oil. The biggest and most immediate cost savings comes from switching from automatic delivery to will-call. Ordering heating oil online through a site like FuelSnap saves you an average savings of $0.50 per gallon – and often more!
Consider improving how well your house retains heat by upgrading windows and insulation. And finally, program the thermostat to lower the heat at night or when you’re not home, and you will reduce energy costs at your house.
One of the benefits of home heating oil is that you can buy it on your own schedule. Some house have multiple tanks which last for several months between fills. In this post we explain the best month to buy home heating oil.
What Causes Heating Oil Prices to Fluctuate?
To determine when to buy home heating oil, it is important to understand why prices fluctuate. There are three primary drivers of heating oil prices to be aware of:
Crude oil supply and demand.
Local heating oil supply and demand.
How you buy your heating oil (i.e. whether you order heating oil online or rely on automatic delivery).
Crude Oil Supply and Demand
Crude oil prices have the most significant impact on heating oil prices. Since home heating oil is a derivative of crude oil, the global supply and demand for crude oil can move heating oil prices up or down. Crude oil is the base fuel that is used in gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, and lubricants in all sorts of machinery.
When the global demand for crude oil declines – so does the price. This is because production of oil does not stop immediately, and producers still need to offload their supply. This scenario played out in early 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic ground global travel to a stop. All of sudden, nobody was flying on airplanes or even commuting to work anymore. As a result, there was suddenly too much oil being produced, and prices dropped dramatically. In April, 2020 prices for heating oil futures contracts even dipped below zero! We broke this down in a pretty cool post here when this happened. At the time, folks were paying as little as $0.99 per gallon for heating oil on FuelSnap!
Local Heating Oil Supply and Demand
Local heating oil supply and demand also impacts heating oil prices. In densely populated areas on Long Island, there are hundreds of thousands of oil-heated homes, and many heating oil dealers to choose from. As a result, the dealers must be very efficient and offer competitive pricing and fast delivery. The end result: heating oil prices in Long Island tend to be lower than other parts of the Northeast.
In less densely populated areas, there may be only one or two heating oil dealers to choose from. They can charge significantly more for heating oil, and don’t even have to deliver right away. Where there is a reduced supply like this, heating oil prices tend to be much higher.
There is also the question of the best month to buy heating oil. You may expect to get a better price during the summer / off-season. However, heating oil dealers tend to make fewer deliveries during the off season. As a result, they are less inclined to lower prices and be very competitive. Below is the historical price for heating oil over the past 30 years. The takeaway: the effect of crude oil supply and demand on prices far outweighs any seasonal effects on heating oil prices.
Will-Call or Automatic Heating Oil Delivery
While the price for heating oil will move up or down with the market, the biggest factor that dictates the price you pay for heating oil is whether you buy as needed (will-call) or have automatic delivery. Automatic delivery is billed as a ‘premium’ service and comes with a premium price. This price premium is generally around 40 to 50 cents per gallon, but as high as $1.00 per gallon or more with some dealers! Imagine a winter where you use 1200 gallons of heating oil, and your neighbor paid $1200 less than you for the same oil. That’s the difference between automatic delivery and will-call. If you’re on automatic delivery, then the best month to buy home heating oil does not apply, since the oil will be delivered on the company’s terms.
You can take advantage of significant savings on heating oil by only buying heating oil as needed on a site like FuelSnap. FuelSnap dealers compete for your business by offering the best prices for heating oil possible. And if you’re worried about running out of oil, just install a Smart Oil Gauge to send you alerts when the tank is low.
Bottom Line: Order Heating Oil Any Month of the Year
So, when is the best month to order heating oil? Since heating oil prices depend on the market price for crude oil, it does not matter which month you order heating oil. The only exception to this is when it is really cold, as you may find it difficult to get heating oil in a timely manner.
Even during a cold snap, you can always check heating oil prices near me on a site like FuelSnap. You will see which dealers are available in your town, as well as when they can make the delivery. You will save hundreds of dollars on average compared to automatic delivery over the course of a season.
Just remember, do not let your tank get too low waiting for a good price. If you run out of oil in the middle of the winter, you make have frozen pipes and a much more expensive problem on your hand. At that point, the best month to buy home heating oil no longer matters. As we like to say, the best thing to do is reorder at a quarter (tank) – no matter what month of the year.
p.s. About that link to the Smart Oil Gauge in the article…As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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