How Home Heating Works

floor vent

In the northeast US, we see the full range of temperatures, and all types of weather throughout the year. And depending on the winter, we even see subzero temperatures at times. If you’re looking into buying a house in the northeast, you’ll want to understand how home heating works. In this post we’ll talk through the different fuel types, as well as the different types of heating systems you may find in a house, so read on below!

Steps in the Home Heating Process

There are three things that have to happen in order for a home to be heated. First, a fuel source must be delivered to the house. We’ll break down the pros and cons of the most common fuel types below. Second, the fuel source must be converted to heat. This is typically done in a boiler or furnace, but electric radiators can be used as well. Finally, the heat must be transferred throughout the house. This can be via warm air that is circulated through ducts, or via water or electricity that warms radiators along the walls throughout the house. We’ll dive further into these below as well.

Three things must take place for a home heating system. The fuel must be delivered to the house, converted to heat, then transferred throughout the house to warm the air.

Home Heating Fuel Types

There are a number of different fuel sources in the northeast, each with their pros and cons. While each of these must be delivered to the house, they are all delivered in different ways:

  • Heating Oil: One of the most popular fuel choices in the northeast, heating oil is delivered to a house by a home heating oil delivery truck. The heating oil is stored in an oil tank that is usually located in the home’s basement but can occasionally be found outside or underground. The nice thing about heating oil is it burns hotter than natural gas or propane, which makes it an extremely cost-effective choice, especially when prices are low like they are in 2020. As a homeowner, you are free to choose from any supplier you want. Just don’t forget to reorder, as you can easily run out if you forget! For more information read How to Fill a Home Heating Oil Tank.
  • Natural Gas: Natural gas is also a great choice for home heating – if it is available where you live. Natural gas is plumbed underground through pipelines and directly to a home from the street. Treated as a utility, the homeowner does not have to worry about having natural gas delivered – it simply comes automatically, and they have to pay the bill. The downside, however, is that you cannot choose from multiple suppliers.
  • Propane: Propane, like heating oil, is delivered to a house via delivery truck. It is stored in a tank – or tanks – outside the house. While propane tends to be more expensive than natural gas or heating oil, the nice thing is that it can also be used for a gas stove, fireplace, or generator. For more information read Heating Oil vs. Propane.
  • Electricity: Since virtually every house has electricity, this can sometimes be used for heating as well. Especially in places where winters do not get too cold, electric heat can be good to have on standby, but is generally too expensive to be considered in larger homes or places with very cold winters.
Heating oil and propane are two fuel types that must be delivered to the home. Natural gas is plumbed directly to the house from a pipeline beneath the street, while electricity is supplied from the power lines on the street as well.
Once the heating oil is delivered, it is stored in a fuel oil tank like the one shown. Typically located in the basement, these can also be found outside the house or underground.

Converting the Fuel Source to Heat

The next part of the process of heating a home involves converting your fuel source to heat. For propane and natural gas, a burner is used to easily ignite the fuel as it is released from the incoming gas lines. The burner is either part of a boiler, which heats water that gets pumped throughout the house, or a furnace, which heats air that gets pumped throughout the house.

Heating oil is a bit different from propane and natural gas because it is actually not flammable at room temperature. In order for home heating oil to ignite in a burner, it must be first heated to 140° F and atomized through a nozzle. Only once heating oil has been heated and atomized can it be ignited in the burner.

Home heating oil is considered extremely safe because it is not flammable at room temperature. Heating oil must be heated to 140° F and atomized before it can be ignited. Shown here is a Beckett heating oil burner. On the left hand side is a filter that the oil travels through before arriving in the burner.

If your house has electric heat, then you will likely have electric radiators throughout the house, or a heat pump. A heat pump is a system that is mounted outside the house and heats your house by extracting heat from the outside air, and transferring it into the house. One of the benefits of a heat pump is that they can often work as an air conditioning system in the summer time by extracting the heat from the house and transferring it outside.

A heat pump is a popular choice for town homes and condominiums. Heat pumps are powered by electricity and work by transferring heat from outside the house to inside the house in the winter time, and in the opposite way to cool the house during the summer.

Transferring the Heat Throughout the House

Once the fuel source has been delivered to the home and converted to heat, that heat must then be transferred throughout the house.

One very common way that heat is transferred throughout the home is through a boiler. In a boiler system, water is heated and then pumped through radiators that are located all throughout the house. Occasionally, a boiler will also send the hot water to a heat exchanger where air will be heated and pumped out via a blower to heat other parts of the house.

Radiators, such as those shown below, can also be electric. When they are electric, they simply turn on and heat up when the thermostat calls for heat, then shut off once the room is warm. The benefit to electric radiators is that there is no need for a complex plumbing system to send hot water to the radiators. The downside is that it can get very expensive to heat a larger home with electricity. As such, electric heat is only recommended for small spaces or places with very mild winters.

Baseboard radiators such as the one shown are very common. They are often part of a boiler system which sends hot water behind these radiators to heat the room. They can also be electric, in which case a thermostat inside the room will be used to turn them on or off.

My personal favorite is radiant floor heat. This is where instead of the radiators being placed along the walls, the floor itself radiates heat. The plumbing is installed in the floor and the result is some warm floors throughout the house! The only downside to radiant floor heat is that it can take a while to heat the house up. This means it may not be a great choice for a weekend house where you arrive on a Friday and need to wait several hours for the house to get up to a comfortable temperature.

Finally, perhaps the most common means of heating a house today is through what’s known as ‘forced hot air’. This is where a furnace is used to heat air in the basement, then a blower is used to send that hot air through ducts in the house. Forced hot air is great for quickly changing the temperature inside the house. It is also preferred because the same ducts can often be used for central cooling in the summertime.

A home with forced hot air has a furnace in the basement that heats the air in a heat exchanger. A blower inside the furnace sends the hot air through ducts in the house, and out vents like those shown here.

Summary: How Home Heating Works

If you’re shopping for a home in the northeast, it is important to understand how home heating works. You’ll have to first identify the fuel source for that particular home. If the house has natural gas or electricity, you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to your supplier. For propane, you typically must select one supplier to provide all of your propane for the year, and they will often provide the tank as well. With heating oil, you have maximum flexibility and can use a site like FuelSnap to compare heating oil prices from multiple oil dealers in your area, saving hundreds of dollars a year over automatic home heating oil delivery (where one company provides all your oil for the year). Just remember to also install a Smart Oil Gauge so you don’t accidentally run out of heating oil in the middle of winter!

Next, you’ll want to understand what type of heating system the house has. If the house has forced hot air, it means that it will be very easy to add central cooling to the house in the future. For the best of both worlds, a house with radiant floor heat AND forced hot air will allow you to quickly change the temperature, while also maintaining some nice warm floors!

Happy heating,

Steve

How to Fill a Home Heating Oil Tank

heating oil fill pipe

If you live in the northeast and have an oil-heated house, you may be wondering how your fuel oil tank gets filled. Since most oil tanks are located indoors, and the delivery driver cannot access the basement, the delivery must be made without the driver entering the home. To facilitate this, oil tanks are fitted with a fill pipe and a vent pipe to allow the oil tank to be filled from the outside.

In this post, we will introduce the various components of a fuel oil tank and walk you through what’s involved in the home heating oil delivery process!

What are the Components of a Heating Oil Tank?

Oil tanks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be found inside the house or outside. Occasionally, oil tanks are buried in the ground, but the components below are consistent with most tanks.

The fill pipe extends from the top of the oil tank, through the exterior wall, and outside of the house. There is a cap that screws in place to keep the fill pipe closed. The vent pipe also extends up and out of the house, and allows air to escape as the oil tank is being filled. It also allows air into the tank as the oil is being used.

The whistle (also known as a ‘vent alarm’) is the most critical component when it comes to filling an oil tank from outside. The whistle is located at the bottom of the vent pipe and hangs approximately 6” down from the top of the oil tank. As air is forced out of the tank by the incoming oil, it blows by the whistle, creating a sound that the driver hears outside. Once the oil level rises to the level of the whistle, the sound is muffled, and the driver knows to stop pumping, as the tank is full.

Home heating oil tanks are typically found in basements, but can also be found outside a house, in a garage, or buried in the ground. A fuel oil tank always has a fill pipe and a vent pipe, and often features a vent alarm / whistle to alert the driver when the tank is full.

How to Set the Amount for your Home Heating Oil Delivery

Before the driver begins the home heating oil delivery, he or she needs to determine whether to ‘fill’ the oil tank (keep pumping until the whistle stops), or just deliver a predetermined amount. Since many customers prefer to know exactly what they’re spending, many will order 100 gallons or 150 gallons at a time. In this case, the driver will set the pump to stop once that amount has been delivered. They will still listen for the whistle to ensure that the oil tank is not over-filled.

If you’re wondering how much heating oil to order for your fuel oil tank, consider installing a Smart Oil Gauge. This will tell you not only how much oil is in the tank at any given time, but also how much home heating oil can be delivered.

Connecting the Hose to the Fill Pipe

Once they have determined how much heating oil to deliver, they must find the fill pipe. Since this can be located anywhere at the house, remember to give instructions when placing your heating so they know where to find it!

Once they locate the fill pipe, they will pull the hose from a reel on the back of the truck. If you have a small driveway, the driver may opt to park in the road and pull the hose all the way to the fill pipe. If you have a larger driveway or your house is too far from the road for the hose to reach, expect the driver to pull in to get close to the fill pipe. Once they’re at the fill pipe, they will remove the cap, and screw the end of the hose in place to secure the hose to the house.

A home heating oil delivery driver preparing to bring the hose to the fill pipe of a heating oil tank. The pump features a meter that records how many gallons of fuel oil are delivered during the stop. The driver can set the pump to stop at a predetermined amount based on what the customer ordered.

Pumping Heating Oil into the Fuel Oil Tank

Once the hose has been attached to the fill pipe, the driver is ready to start pumping the heating oil into the tank. There is a lever on the nozzle that allows the driver to start the flow of heating oil into the tank. They will typically begin pumping slowly by only partially opening the nozzle. This will allow them to listen for the vent alarm and ensure the oil tank is not full before pumping too much oil into the tank. Since these trucks pump at a rate as high as one gallon per second, an oil tank can be overfilled very quickly if the driver is not careful!

After the driver hears the whistle, they’re able to turn up the flow on the pump and fill the tank. If the customer ordered a specific number of gallons, the pump will shut off automatically once that amount has been pumped.

If the customer has ordered a ‘fill’, then the driver will continue pumping until he hears the whistle sound stop. At this point, he will shut the pump off.

Printing the Home Heating Oil Delivery Ticket

Once the pump as stopped, the driver removes the nozzle from the fill pipe and reinstalls the cap. They retract the pump back to the truck, and prepare the delivery ticket.

A delivery ticket will be printed to include the heating oil company information, as well as a starting volume (0.00 gallons), and an ending volume that shows how much oil was delivered. There will also usually be additional information such as the price paid per gallon, delivery date, etc.

In-Ground Oil Tanks

In-ground oil tanks are less and less common these days but are still out there. They also often do not have a vent alarm / whistle to alert the driver when the oil tank is full. If this is the case, the driver will typically use a stick to measure the amount of oil in the tank before making the delivery. With this knowledge, and knowing the size of the heating oil tank, they will know how much oil can safely be delivered.

If the driver and homeowner do not know what size oil tank is buried, then the driver will take a measurement of the oil level, pump a certain amount of oil (e.g. 100 gallons), then take another measurement. They will then compare the two levels on a tank chart to determine what size oil tank it is.

Some drivers also carry a specially-designed vent/fill pipe that can be inserted into the fill pipe. It features a vented pipe that extends just past the fill pipe into the top of the buried oil tank. The truck’s nozzle is able to thread onto this, and pump oil by the vent section. A whistle sound will be created until the oil tank is full, at which point the driver knows to stop pumping oil.

Summary: Filling a Home Heating Oil Tank

Since most home heating oil delivery drivers cannot see the oil tank while making a delivery, they must rely on the vent alarm / whistle to know the fuel oil tank is safely being filled. As long as they hear that whistle making noise, they know that air is escaping from the vent pipe, and the oil tank is not full.

If you’d like to see a heating oil tank get filled in-person, go on outside next time your heating oil truck arrives! Most of the drivers I’ve met are super friendly and always willing to explain how everything works.

Happy heating,

Steve

How to Conserve Heating Oil in an Old Home

If you live in an older home, you probably dread the heating bills that come every winter. Since older homes tend to have older windows and less insulation than newer homes, then tend to require more heating oil to maintain a comfortable temperature inside. As someone with firsthand experience living in an older home, I will share some tricks and tips on how to conserve heating oil in an old home and track your oil usage while doing so.

Three Areas to Focus on to Conserve Heating Oil

My house in Connecticut was built in 1865 and is virtually all original. While this can be extremely charming, it comes with its downsides! For instance, the windows are from 1865. As you can imagine, they are not sealed very well. When I first moved in, the wind would literally blow papers off the kitchen table. As cold air would blow in, the warm air would blow out, and my heating oil bills were outrageous.

Over the years I worked out several ways on how to conserve heating oil, and I spend significantly less now on heating oil. The three areas to focus on for conserving heating oil are:

  1. Heat loss – identifying where heat is escaping
  2. Heat generation – keeping your burner in good condition
  3. Heat setting – adjusting your thermostat and monitoring your oil consumption
This 1865 Victorian has taught me how to best conserve heating oil. By sealing up drafty windows, I have been able to keep heat in, and cold air out. I use a Smart Oil Gauge to track my oil consumption by the hour, and have programmed my thermostat for optimal heating oil conservation.

Heat Loss: Identifying Where Heat is Escaping

If it sounds like your furnace or boiler is working overtime, you probably have a lot of heat escaping your house. As warm air escapes, cool air comes in and replaces it, lowering the temperature inside. The main sources for heat loss in a home are:

  • Windows
  • Walls
  • Doors
  • Duct work

Windows

Single pane windows create much of the charm of older houses. However, they do very little to keep the heat in. Modern windows have two panes, with an air pocket in between. This air pocket acts as insulation to keep the heat in your home. If your home has single pane windows, you should consider applying plastic film to seal them. This film is easy to come by, and not too difficult to install. Just cut the film to size and use double-sided tape to adhere it. Once secure, use a hairdryer to shrink it in place. If done properly, you will not even notice it! But it will undoubtedly feel more comfortable in the house once done.

Sealing off drafty windows is a great way to keep heat from escaping your house. This will reduce your heating oil consumption in the wintertime.

Walls

Walls are also a major source of heat loss. As such, if you are embarking on any major renovations to your house, you should consider adding insulation to help you conserve oil. Blown in insulation tends to be quite cost-effective and can often be subsidized through an energy audit that your state offers. Once the insulation has been added, you should see a decline in heating oil usage immediately.

Doors

Since doors are constantly being opened and closed throughout the day, it is unlikely that they are perfectly sealed when shut. As a result, you likely have drafts at your exterior doors, especially at the bottom. On a cold day, place your hand near the base of your doors to feel for cold air. If it feels cold, you should consider a ‘door sweep’ or ‘draft blocker’. There are various types of these, with varying degrees of installation difficulty and effectiveness. The simplest ones can be slid right under the door without any screws and will do a good job of keeping the cold out.

Duct Work

This one came as a major surprise to me when I had my energy audit done. My house has what’s known as ‘forced hot air’ as its heating type. With this setup, I have a furnace in the basement that heats air in a heat exchanger. Once the air is hot, the furnace blows this hot air through ducts into the rooms of the house. At the same time, it sucks in air through ‘return’ vents in the house. Since these return ducts are bringing in the room-temperature air from the house, the furnace does not have to heat cold air from the outside.

With my house, however, I have a VERY cold, unheated basement. As a result, the air in the basement is constantly cooling the ducts. This makes the furnace work extra hard, as it is inadvertently heating the basement. Wrapping these ducts in insulation helps keep this heat headed to its final destination and keeps the return air from being unnecessarily cooled as it returns to the furnace. Also, the insulation helps seal any leaks on the ducts, keeping the hot air inside.

Heat Generation: Keeping Your Burner in Good Condition

Your boiler or furnace is the ‘engine’ that creates the heat in your home. Just like it’s important to change the oil in your car on a regular basis, servicing your burner should be a regular event. A furnace tune-up should be done at least every other year. Best case, you should have your furnace tuned up annually. An annual cleaning and tune-up will help allow the technicians to spot any potential issues before they occur. Staying ahead of problems with your system will ensure the heat stays on all winter and save you money in the longrun.

A furnace tune-up should be done at least every other year.

There are also catastrophic issues that the technicians can spot, such as a crack in the heat exchanger. This can lead to harmful exhaust gases entering the home. When this happens, it is definitely time to replace your furnace.

An oil-fired furnace or boiler is usually built to last 20-30 years. If your system is much more than 20 years old, you should consider replacing it. Newer systems are much more efficient, quieter, and can generally output more heat. My system was 28 years old when I replaced it in 2018. Prior to replacing it, I had gathered lots of data on my oil consumption through my Smart Oil Gauge. This allowed me to see exactly how much oil the new system was saving me each winter.

Replacing this 1990 Oneida Royal hot air furnace with a 2018 Thermopride unit saves me approximately 470 gallons of heating oil per year, keeping the thermostat setting unchanged.

Heat Setting: Adjusting the Thermostat and Monitoring Oil Consumption

The best thing I did since moving into this house was install a Smart Oil Gauge to track my heating oil usage and consumption. Since the Smart Oil Gauge shows me my hourly burn rate throughout the day, I was able to determine what to do with my programmable thermostat. Since I have forced hot air, I lower the temperature while I’m not home during the day. Reheating the house does not take very long, and only causes a short spike in oil consumption.

For homes with boilers and radiators, it takes much longer to reheat the home. What our data from Smart Oil Gauges shows is that it is best to leave the temperature the same all day, or only lower it slightly in homes with boilers.

The best part about having the Smart Oil Gauge though, was analyzing the savings from my new furnace. By exporting the data from a one-month period with the old furnace, and overlaying average temperature in my town, I was able to calculate the K-factor for my old system. The K-factor determines how long your heating oil lasts you. The higher the K-factor, the longer a gallon of heating oil lasts. To understand the math below, there is one more variable to be aware of: degree days. The degree days figure is used to determine how much heat is required to warm a house on a given day. Using 65° F as a baseline, degree days can be calculated by subtracting the average temperature on a given day from 65.

For example, if the average temperature is 30 one day, then that day is considered to have had 35 degree days (65 – 30 = 35). In Connecticut, we see approximately 5,930 degree days over the course of a year.

Calculating the Savings From My New Furnace

With the exported data from my Smart Oil Gauge, I determined that my K-Factor from the old furnace was approximately 3.37. With 5,930 degree days per year, that put my annual usage at around 1,760 gallons in a typical winter. This is about right, looking at my Smart Oil Gauge consumption.

With my new furnace, the K-Factor was increased to 4.59. This means that in the same winter, my house will now use only 1290 gallons. This is a savings of 470 gallons of heating oil per year – which adds up fast!!

My New Furnace Saves Me 470 Gallons of Heating Oil Per Year

Smart Oil Gauge records heating oil usage by the hour. In this case, we used the exported data from the winter of 2017/2018 with the old furnace, and compared it to the data from the new furnace in 2018/2019. The new K-Factor leads to an annual savings of over 470 gallons of heating oil in Connecticut!

Summary: Conserving Heating Oil in an Older Home

The first question you should ask yourself is where you can get the biggest savings without spending much money. Obviously, a new furnace would be nice to have, but this can cost thousands of dollars and may not be necessary right away. As such, start with containing the heat by eliminating drafts. Seal your windows with thin plastic film. Then, go around and install door sweeps under the exterior doors. If you have any French doors, or sliding glass doors that you do not use in the winter, consider wrapping those in plastic as well.

Finally, get a handle on your oil usage by installing a Smart Oil Gauge. This will show you exactly when you’re using your heating oil. You can optimize the settings on your programmable thermostat and begin saving oil immediately. When you’re ready to add insulation to your house, or install a new furnace or boiler, look for any local subsidies that may be available in your state.

Once you’ve taken care of the areas where your heat is escaping, be sure to visit FuelSnap’s heating oil price comparison tool. FuelSnap finds local home heating oil dealers and allows you to compare prices (saving you money!). New England oil prices fluctuate but with FuelSnap you’ll always find the best rate.

Happy heating,

Steve

How Long Will 5 Gallons of Heating Oil Last?

staying warm with hot chocolate

If you live in the northeast, you are probably aware that heating oil is one of the most common sources for fuel to heat our homes. Heating oil is used not only for heat, but also for hot water in many homes. Unlike natural gas or electricity, heating oil must be delivered occasionally to a tank at the house.

One of the nice things about home heating oil is that if you run out, you can always go and grab 5 or 10 gallons of diesel from your local gas station to keep the heat on until you can get a delivery. If you’ve never been in this position, just simply pour some diesel fuel into the fill pipe outside the house, restart the burner, and you should be good to go! The question many people ask though, is “how long will 5 gallons of heating oil last?”

The answer depends on a variety of factors, but on a typical winter day, in an average-sized house, you can expect 5 gallons to last up to a day. On an extremely cold day, your house may go through 10 or more gallons, so it’s important to make sure you don’t run out of home heating oil. To determine how long 5 gallons of heating oil will last in your house, take the following considerations into account:

  • Is your home heating oil used for heat, hot water, or both?
  • How big is your house?
  • How well-insulated is your house?
  • How drafty are your windows?
  • What temperature do you keep the inside of your house?
  • What is the outside temperature?
  • Is your burner/furnace/boiler in good condition?

Heating Oil for Hot Water Heaters

Hot water heaters generally run on heating oil, propane, natural gas, or electricity. If yours runs on heating oil, then you’ll want to make sure to check your heating oil tank periodically throughout the summer to prevent a runout. Fortunately, hot water heaters do not use nearly as much heating oil as your furnace or boiler will when heating the entire house.

Expect an average daily usage of 0.5 to 1.0 gallons of heating oil to keep the water hot. If you have a larger house, or an instant hot water recirculating pump that constantly moves the hot water throughout the house, expect your consumption to be on the higher end of the range.

Heating Oil For Heating Your House

When heating your house with heating oil, you can obviously expect to use more heating fuel oil in the coldest months of the year. This is because the cold outside air is constantly removing the heat from your house through the windows, walls, and roof. As this heat transfer occurs, the furnace or boiler has to work overtime to keep the inside of the house warm.

Daily heating fuel oil consumption can range from 1-2 gallons on a warm winter day in a smaller house, to 10-20 gallons on a really cold day in a large house! Below is an approximate look at how many gallons of heating fuel oil will be used to heat a house of a given size depending on the outside temperature.

How The Temperature Outside Affects Home Fuel Oil Usage

In Connecticut, where the average temperature in December is around 30° F, a typical 2500 square foot home will use approximately 4-6 gallons of heating fuel oil per day. Looking at the table below, if the lows are around 20 and the highs are around 40, then 5 gallons may last you up to a day while you are waiting for a home heating oil delivery. If you are trying to conserve heating oil, make sure to turn the thermostat down a few degrees until the truck comes. This will reduce your consumption while you are waiting for your oil tank to be filled.

A home typically burns 4 to 6 gallons of home heating oil per day in the winter months in New England.
The average house will use 4-6 gallons of heating oil on a typical winter day with an average temperature around 30° F.

With this in mind, you may be wondering “how much heating oil will I use in a year?” Based on a typical 12 months in Connecticut, we’ve put together the following estimates for heating oil usage in CT. If your home is very well-insulated, or you have an auxiliary heat source (such as a wood burning stove), you may be at or below the low end of these estimates. That said, if you have a poorly insulated house, or you keep the inside of the house particularly warm all winter, you may be off the chart to the right. The average size home in CT can expect to burn approximately 880 gallons of heating oil per year.

The average house in CT uses 600 to 1200 gallons of home heating oil per year. Heating oil in CT is a very popular fuel source.
A typical 2500 square foot home in the northeast will use around 880 gallons of heating oil per year. Houses with great insulation will use less fuel oil, while poorly insulated houses with drafty windows can expect to use more heating oil.

Heating Fuel Oil for Heat and Hot Water

If you use heating fuel oil for both heating and hot water, you will want to increase those estimates in the table above by 0.5 to 1.0 gallon per day. The more people in the house having hot showers, the more heating oil you can expect to use to heat the water.

Proper Insulation Can Help Conserve Home Heating Oil

It goes without saying, but a better-insulated home will do a better job of keeping the warm air in, and the cold air out of your house. If you have an older house with no insulation, you should consider performing an energy audit to see where you can most improve your home’s ability to retain heat. Blown-in insulation is a great option that can help keep the heat in.

Blown-in insulation can help reduce heating oil consumption by helping the warm air stay inside your house during the cold winter months.

Drafty Windows Can Increase Heating Oil Consumption

Another major factor for heat loss is the quality and type of windows in your home. Older, single-pane windows will result in much more heat loss than newer double-pane windows. With double-pane windows, the air trapped between the two windowpanes will act as insulation and do a much better job of keeping the warm air in.

Since replacement windows can be rather costly, an interim method for conserving heating oil is to locate drafty windows and seal them the best you can. There are thin plastic sheets that can be adhered to the window frame using double-stick tape. Applying a hairdryer to the sheet once it has been cut to size and installed will cause any wrinkles in the sheet to disappear, making the sheet nearly invisible. The result is that there is no longer any air flowing through the window, and there is now a nice air pocket to act as insulation between the cold outside air and the warm inside air.

Sealing drafty windows with a thin film as shown above can help keep cold air out, and warm air in. This can help conserve heating fuel oil throughout the course of a winter, and also make your home much more comfortable. The plastic shown above has been attached with double-sided tape around the perimeter, then shrunk into place using a hair dryer.

Program Your Thermostat to Conserve Heating Oil

In the winter months, keeping the thermostat at a comfortable setting leads to endless debates among family members. If your parents never told you to put on an extra layer as a kid, then you were one of the lucky ones! Keeping the thermostat between 65 and 70 is usually sufficient for most homes to be comfortable. If the heat is not very consistent throughout your home, you may find yourself adjusting the thermostat up or down accordingly until the family room is a comfortable temperature.

You may be wondering, “should I turn the heat down when I leave the house during the day?” This can have a considerable impact on your heating fuel oil consumption, so it is important to think about. The answer though, is that it depends on how your house is heated. If your house has a boiler, with radiators throughout the house, then it can take quite a while to raise the temperature a few degrees. As a result, you may actually burn more oil re-heating the house at the end of the day if you opt to do this. That said, if your house has forced hot air (air ducts are placed throughout the house to allow warm air from the furnace to circulate throughout the house), then your house will heat very quickly. As a result, it’s often okay to turn the heat down 5-10 degrees each morning when you leave. This allows the furnace to burn less fuel throughout the day while nobody is home. You can program your thermostat to turn the temperature back up about an hour before you arrive, and the home will usually be up to temperature by the time you arrive. If you have a Smart Oil Gauge, you will be able to monitor your hourly usage throughout the day to determine the best approach for your house leaving you with more heating fuel oil in your oil tank.

Keep Your Burner/Furnace/Boiler in Top Condition

Regardless of how good a job you do insulating your walls and sealing up drafty windows, an old inefficient furnace will still be an old inefficient furnace at the end of the day. Make sure you have your system tuned up at least every two years, and best case, every year. This will insure it is in good condition and working as efficiently as possible. While oil burners can often last as long as 30 years or more, it is important to check for cracks in the heat exchanger to make sure you do not end up with exhaust gases entering the house. As these systems age, their efficiency can go down too, and you end up using more heating oil than in years past. A new system can pay dividends in reducing the amount of oil needed to heat your home.  

Summary: How Long Will 5 Gallons of Heating Oil Last?

While everything above should serve as a good guideline for how long 5 gallons of heating oil will last, the best way to determine how long it will last in your house is to actually measure it! The best way to measure your heating oil usage is with a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the level in the oil tank all throughout the day. With this type of data, you no longer have to ask, “How much heating oil is in my tank”, and you can look at a whole year’s worth of data to determine your burn rate throughout the year. In the image below, taken from the Smart Oil Gauge app, you can see the ‘Gallons Per Day’ for a house in CT. You’ll see that in the summer months, this house does not use any oil (heating oil is used for heat only in this house).

You’ll also see that the peak usage was around 12 gallons per day in late January, 2020. If you recall, the beginning of January, 2020 was one of the warmest on records, and we can see this in the usage data below! The Smart Oil Gauge also gives a summary of total gallons used (1,391), and an average annual usage of 3.8 gallons per day.

The Smart Oil Gauge offers the best way to determine how quickly your home will go through 5 gallons of heating oil. By reporting gallons used by hour, day, month, or year, you can get a good understanding of what to expect depending on the time of the year. As seen above, this particular house maxed out at around 12 gallons per day in the colder months, and doesn’t use any heating oil in the summer months.

A Smart Oil Gauge can be one of the best investments to make to determine how long 5 or 10 gallons of heating oil will last. You can also utilize the data from the Smart Oil Gauge to see how improvements to your windows, insulation, or furnace/boiler impact your overall oil usage.

Happy heating,

Steve

What’s the Difference Between Home Heating Oil and Kerosene?

Kerosene vs. heating oil

Today, many of the materials we use to power our everyday lives are petroleum-based fossil fuels. We rely on these products to keep our cars, boats, and trucks moving, to power our water heaters and stoves, and to heat our homes. These fossil fuels all come from the same source: crude oil.

Below, we’re discussing the differences between two common fuels that derive from crude oil – home heating oil and kerosene. Let’s take a look!

Heating Oil Vs. Kerosene: Key Differences

Heating oil is a type of diesel fuel that many choose to heat their homes, primarily due to its safety attributes. Specifically, this fuel source doesn’t get hot enough to catch fire because its “flashpoint,” the temperature at which ignition occurs, is 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it won’t burn in liquid form, allowing you to use it to heat your home with no risk of fires or explosions.

Kerosene, on the other hand, is a light fuel that is made by distilling crude oil. It is primarily used to power jets and other aircraft but does have some uses in the home, including cooking, heating, and lighting certain lamps. It can also be used as an industry-grade chemical lubricant or a petroleum solvent. Kerosene burns much hotter than home heating oil, which means it can only be used in a furnace that is equipped to handle high temperatures. Additionally, kerosene should only be used with outdoor oil tanks, as it can produce carbon monoxide.

Cost of Home Heating Oil vs. Kerosene Heating

Local oil prices fluctuate significantly from season to season. This is because crude oil, which accounts for a large portion of home heating fuel prices, is a globally traded commodity. Therefore, the market drives the cost higher or lower. However, there are a variety of other factors that affect heating oil prices for consumers. For example, cold winters can lead to higher oil prices in CT, just as mild winters often mean lower heating bills.

Competition can also drive costs – the more local oil companies in your area, the lower prices will be, as companies will attempt to win over customers with competitive rates. Finally, political factors can also influence the cost of heating oil. If local laws and regulations encourage alternative fuel use, the cost of home heating oil in that area will likely be higher. All of these variables figure into New England oil prices at any given time and can make it challenging to find the right company for discount oil in CT. On average, homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $2 to $4 per gallon.

Like home heating oil, the cost of kerosene varies based on a variety of factors, including the cost of crude oil. Kerosene tends to be slightly more expensive than heating oil, and can also be harder to find, as not all fuel providers offer kerosene.

FuelSnap: Helping Residents Find the Best New England Oil Prices

When you need to purchase heating oil, sifting through all of the local oil companies in your area can be a daunting task. This is especially true when you are looking for the best rates to fit your budget. At FuelSnap, we simplify the process and take on the heavy lifting for you. Our easy-to-use platform compiles all of the current prices from all of the home heating oil companies in your area, so you can select one that fits your needs. You can even read customer reviews and order heating oil online, all in one convenient place.

At FuelSnap, our goal is to help customers get the best possible oil prices in New England. So, if you’re searching for a fuel supplier to keep your family warm and safe throughout the winter, we are your go-to resource. For more information about the FuelSnap platform, reach out to us at (203) 456-1015 or via our online contact form. We’re happy to answer your questions and help you get started finding affordable heating oil suppliers in your area!

What To Do If You Run Out Of Heating Oil

out of heating oil

If you’ve found yourself in the middle of the summer with no hot water, or worse, in the middle of winter with no heat, you may have run out of home heating oil. Don’t panic – there are a few steps to take, and you will have heat or hot water again before you know it.

Below is our step-by-step guide for what to do if you run out of home heating oil:

Step 1: Check to see that you are actually out of home heating oil.
Step 2: Order oil! Order heating oil online right away. Call to confirm that the oil is on its way.
Step 3: Add 5 or 10 gallons of diesel fuel to your tank to hold you over until heating oil is delivered.
Step 4: Restart your fuel oil burner by hitting the reset button.

Step 1 – Confirm That You Are Actually Out of Heating Oil

Because there are a number of components that can fail in a home’s heating system, running out of heating fuel is not always the culprit when there’s no heat or hot water. If you suspect you are out of home heating oil, the first thing you should do is go down to the fuel oil tank and confirm there’s no oil in it.

Most fuel oil tanks are equipped with a float-style gauge. This type of gauge gives a general indication of how full the fuel oil tank is. Look at the red disk inside the plastic vial to determine the level. If the disc is above the 1/8 mark, you may still have oil in the tank. To check, unscrew the plastic vial by hand. Press the red disc down gently with your finger. If there is still oil in the tank, you will see the disc slowly rise back up. This indicates that the float is rising up on the oil inside the tank. If this is the case, you may have another issue with your system. If you find that you have oil in the tank, then skip to step 4. Learn how to read a heating oil tank gauge if you run into any issues.

If you think you are out of heating oil, go down to the float gauge on the fuel oil tank. Remove the plastic vial and press down on the level indicator disc to see if the float is actually floating in oil. If it does not move freely, then the gauge is stuck or the heating oil tank is likely empty.
To see if there’s heating oil in your tank, you’ll want to make sure the float gauge is not stuck. Go down to the fuel oil tank, and unscrew this plastic cover by hand. The yellow or red disc that indicates the level is attached to the floating arm inside the tank. Gently press this disc down and see if it slowly comes back up when you let go. This will indicate that the float is floating on heating oil inside the tank and the tank is not empty.

Step 2 – Order Heating Oil Online

Once you’ve determined that there is actually no oil in the tank, it’s time to order home heating oil. We recommend ordering heating oil online for this purpose. Local oil companies on FuelSnap have predetermined delivery routes so you can see exactly who will be in your town on which days. Searching for heating oil dealers near me will likely yield dozens of options. Check FuelSnap to avoid emergency service fees or outrageous same day premiums that many local full-service heating oil companies will charge if you inform them that you are out of home heating oil.

Once you’ve ordered your oil through a site like FuelSnap, you will receive an order confirmation email with the ‘deliver by’ date. Feel free to call right away to confirm when the truck will be coming or call FuelSnap ahead of time and they will confirm for you.

Step 3 – Add 5 or 10 Gallons of Diesel to Your Fuel Oil Tank

One of the great benefits of having heating oil is that when you run out, you can always go to the gas station and add some diesel fuel to the oil tank. Since diesel fuel and heating oil are nearly identical (except primarily for some dye that is added to the heating oil), your system will burn diesel fuel just as well as it burns heating oil.

Ideally, we would recommend buying a yellow can from the gas station to fill with diesel fuel. This way you do not accidentally use the same can for regular gas in the future. If they do not have the yellow cans available, then any gas can will suffice. 5 gallons will usually get you through the night (depending on the size of your house and how cold it is), but you will probably sleep better with 10 gallons in the tank.  

Running out of heating oil. You can always go to the gas station and add diesel to your tank to get through the night.
Running out of home heating oil is never a great experience. Fortunately, you can easily go to the gas station and buy 5 or 10 gallons of diesel, so you have heat until your heating oil is delivered.

When adding the diesel fuel to your heating oil tank, you do not need to go into the basement. Instead, open the fill cap on the outside of the house where the oil truck hooks up. This cap will have a hex on top of it and should not be too difficult to remove. Just pour the diesel into the fill pipe and it will make its way into the oil tank.

Step 4 – Restart Your Oil Burner

Check that your red oil burner emergency on/off switches are in the on position, and that the thermostat is set to the desired temperature. This means that the system should be telling the burner to turn on. Since the system was starved of fuel oil, you will need to press the reset button. This tells the burner to try to start burning fuel again. The reset button can be found on the oil burner and is usually a big red button. Sometimes they are harder to spot, like on this late-model Becket burner shown below. Once you press the reset button, you will hear the system start up. After about 15 seconds, it will either stay on (a good sign) or shut back down. If it shuts back down, it may mean you have to bleed some air out the lines. Press the reset button once more and see if that does the trick. Do not press the reset button more than 2 or 3 times. If the system does not start at this point, you may have other issues and need to contact an HVAC technician.

If you have run out of home heating oil, you will need to reset your burner once you've added heating oil or diesel fuel to the tank. This is the reset button on a late-model Beckett oil burner. Most systems have an easier-to-spot red reset button.
If you ran out of heating oil, you may need to add 5 or 10 gallons of diesel fuel to the oil tank to get you through the night. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to hit the reset button on your fuel oil burner. Usually the reset button is a big red button that is easy to spot. On this late-model Beckett oil burner, however, it is more difficult to see.

Conclusion – What To Do If You Run Out of Heating Oil

At the end of the day, running out of heating oil is not a pleasant experience. In the best-case scenario, you can simply have heating oil delivered the same day through a site like FuelSnap. Pressing the reset button on the burner may get you up and running again in no time.

If you are less fortunate though, your heating system may have sucked in some sludge from the bottom of the oil tank, clogging the oil filter or the fuel oil lines. In this case, you may need an expensive emergency service call to get your heating system up and running again.

To prevent all this, the best investment you can make is in a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge will alert you before your tank gets too low. You’ll be able to track gallons used per day, and days to 1/4 or 1/8 tank. And even if you forget to check the app periodically, it will send you text and email alerts when the oil tank is low. You can choose from local oil companies and reputable dealers on a site like FuelSnap, and order heating oil online before you ever even come close to running out of fuel oil.

Happy heating,

Steve

How To Choose a New Home Heating Oil Tank

275 gallon home heating oil tank

Spring is here, which means it’s a great time to think about HVAC maintenance. This includes servicing your heating and A/C systems, and taking on bigger projects as well. Whether you’re in need of a new furnace or boiler, or even a home heating oil tank, the off-season is a great time to take care of these tasks.

In this post we will walk you through how to choose a new home heating oil tank. Home heating oil tanks typically last between 10 and 30 years, with some lasting decades longer if properly maintained. Today we will cover the two most common tank types: Granby steel tanks and Roth Double-Wall Tanks.

How a Fuel Oil Tank Works

First, you should understand the various components of a heating oil tank. The fill pipe is what the delivery hose hooks up to in order to pump oil into the fuel oil tank. The vent pipe allows air to escape from the fuel oil tank as the oil is being added. There is a whistle / vent alarm in the vent pipe that hangs down in the tank. As the air passes by the whistle and out the vent pipe, it makes a whistling sound that the driver can hear. This sound continues until the oil level rises and touches the bottom of the whistle. At this point, the sound is muffled, and the driver knows to stop pumping oil into the fuel oil tank.

The tank also features a gauge to indicate how much heating oil is in the tank. The fuel oil tank gauge is very important so we will discuss this further below. Finally, the oil feed lines leave either the top or the bottom of the tank and feed the burner.

Granby Steel Tanks

By far the most common fuel oil tank choice, Granby steel tanks come in a variety of sizes but are most often 275 or 330 gallons.

They feature four openings along the top, as well as an opening on the bottom for the oil feed lines. This is important because having an extra opening on the top will allow you to have both a float gauge AND a Smart Oil Gauge. This will allow you to view the oil level from in front of the tank, as well as remotely from your phone.

The Smart Oil Gauge will not only tell you the precise level of oil in your fuel oil tank on your phone, but it will also tell you your consumption rates. You can see gallons burned per hour, day, week, month, and year. This allows you to conserve home heating oil by optimizing thermostat settings.

275 gallon vertical Granby steel oil tank is by far the most common home heating oil tank. It features four legs on the bottom, four openings along the top, and one opening on the bottom. The four openings on the top accommodate the fill line, vent line, float gauge, and a Smart Oil Gauge. The second most common Granby fuel oil tank size is the 330 gallon variant. Whereas the 275 measures 5′ long, the 330 measures 6′ long.

Granby steel tanks come in sizes ranging from 138 gallons to 330 gallons, and in a vertical or horizontal orientation for crawl spaces or other tight spaces. If your home already has a Granby steel tank, it will be easiest to replace it with the same tank. This is because the holes in the foundation for the fill pipe and vent pipe will already line up with the new tank. There will already be adequate space for the tank, and a changeover should be relatively easy. For more information be sure to review FuelSnap’s home heating oil tank chart guide.

With Granby tanks, you can also easily add a second tank if you have room for it. The technician will install a few extra components to connect the fuel oil tanks, then you will have twice the storage capacity. This will allow you to easily buy home heating oil as needed through a site like FuelSnap, and save hundreds of dollars per year over automatic delivery.

Roth Double-Wall Oil Tanks

For a more modern fuel oil tank, Roth offers a great alternative. The Roth Double-Wall tanks feature an internal plastic tank, surrounded by an external metal tank. The benefit of the plastic tank is that it does not corrode, whereas other fuel oil tanks will. And in the event the plastic tank fails for some reason, the metal tank is designed to contain the spill.

Roth fuel oil tanks offer a smaller footprint than Granby tanks, and are very easy to maneuver into a basement (they are much lighter). That said, many installers do not have experience with Roth tanks, and will steer you toward a Granby solution.

A Roth double-wall heating oil tank features an internal plastic tank, surrounded by a metal outer tank. The tanks feature a compact footprint, but are generally taller than the Granby fuel oil tanks. Roth double-wall fuel oil tanks come in five sizes, including 110, 165, 275 regular, 275 low-height, and 400 gallon.

Roth fuel oil tanks feature four openings on the top: one for the fill, one for the vent, one for the oil feed lines, and one for the gauge. This is important to consider, because with a Roth tank you can only have one type of tank gauge. You can have a float style gauge OR a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge fits into an adapter made specifically for the Roth tanks. However, because of an internal support baffle, the Smart Oil Gauge will not work on a Roth 1500L (400 gallon) tank.

The Smart Oil Gauge utilizes a special adapter for Roth DWT heating oil tanks. The adapter sits where the traditional float gauge sits, and the Smart Oil Gauge threads directly into the adapter. The black cap nut secures the assembly in place, and gives the homeowner the ability to remotely view the tank level.
Whichever home heating oil tank you choose, it is important to consider installing a Smart Oil Gauge. This will not only allow you to monitor your home heating oil tank remotely, but it will also send you low-level alerts letting you know when it is time to order heating oil online. The Smart Oil Gauge will also tell you how many gallons you are consuming by the hour, day, week, month or year so you can optimize thermostat settings to conserve home heating oil.

How to Choose Between Granby Steel Tanks and Roth Double-Wall Tanks

To help you decide, we’ve broken down a few of the key considerations below. Expect to pay a little more for a Roth double-wall tank. For a 30-year warranty, however, it may be money well spent. For a solid, well-built fuel oil tank that every tank installer will be familiar with, go with Granby. Consider adding a second tank if your budget can support it. This will allow you to order more home heating oil at any given time. With this, you can take advantage of price discounts for orders of 200 gallons or more.

Roth fuel oil tanks offer a smaller footprint, and a much longer warranty. Granby tanks tend to be less expensive and come in a wider range of sizes. More HVAC technicians tend to be familiar with Granby tanks too.

In summary, choosing between a Roth double-wall tank and a Granby depends a lot on your personal preferences. The path of least resistance tends to be replacing your existing tank with the same style tank. This will likely reduce labor costs and make the job easier for the HVAC technicians. For a smaller footprint or better warranty, consider investing in a Roth double-wall tank. In either case, make sure to discuss tank gauge options. The Granby will allow you to have a float-style heating oil tank gauge, as well as a Smart Oil Gauge. Ensuring you are able to keep an eye on your tank remotely is a must for 2020.

Resources:

Granby Standard Oil Tanks

Roth-USA

Happy heating,

Steve

How to Read a Heating Oil Tank Gauge

Empty Home Heating Oil Gauge

In an oil-heated home, nothing is more important than making sure you don’t run out of heating oil. Even if you pay a premium for Automatic Heating Oil Delivery, it’s important to occasionally check your home heating oil tank to make sure you do not run out. In this post, we’ll walk through the nuances of reading a typical float-style heating oil tank gauge and introduce some alternative ways of monitoring your fuel oil tank.

How to Read a Float Gauge in a Heating Oil Tank

Most fuel oil tanks come with a traditional float-style gauge. This fuel oil tank gauge features an arm with a float attached to its end, and a hinge. There is a plastic vial with a disk that indicates how full the heating oil tank is. As the float lowers, so does this disk. For a detailed breakdown of how an oil tank works, check out our blog post how an oil tank works here.

How a home heating oil tank works. The tank includes fill line, vent line, vent alarm / whistle, and gauge.
A typical heating oil tank features a float gauge with a hinged arm. As the float lowers, the visible disk on the top of the heating oil tank moves down accordingly.

To read the level of a float gauge, look for the tick marks on the plastic vial. These typically indicate Full, 3/4, 1/2, and 1/4. Because the home heating oil tank is rounded at the bottom, these gauges are not very accurate when the tank is low. As a good rule of thumb, always order heating oil online at around 1/4 full. This gives you a few days for the oil to arrive before running out.

Note: Some ‘experts’ say you should look at where the top of the disk lines up with a tick mark, rather than the bottom. These float gauges are nowhere near precise enough to make such a distinction, so just look for where the middle of the disk lines up with a tick mark to determine the level.

Multiply the level shown by your fuel oil tank size to approximate how much heating oil is in the tank. For a 275 gallon tank, 1/4 full is approximately 0.25 * 275 = 69 gallons. For a 330, 1/4 full is approximately 0.25 * 330 = 82.5.

A heating oil float gauge features a disk inside that shows how full the tank is. This should only be used as an approximation of how full the tank is.
Most home heating oil tanks feature a float gauge like this one here. The yellow disk can be used to approximate how full the fuel oil tank is. Because of the rounded bottom of a fuel oil tank, the gauge will go from 1/4 to empty quicker than it will go from 1/2 to 1/4. As such, it is very important to reorder oil when the gauge is reading 1/4 full to prevent a runout.

How Accurate is a Heating Oil Float Gauge?

Since these are not precision heating oil tank gauges, they should only be used as an approximation of how full a tank is. Because of the moving parts inside, these can also be prone to wear over time. If you suspect your heating oil float gauge is stuck, simply unscrew the plastic vial by hand. Use your finger to press the disk down. If the gauge is not stuck, the disk should easily move down, then slowly float back up and remain up, indicating the arm is moving freely.

One of the ways a heating oil float gauge can get stuck is by simply rotating inside the fuel oil tank. This can happen over time, and the result is the float is wedged against the side of the tank, unable to move.

Another problem that can arise is the float itself becoming less buoyant over time. As seen below, the float can develop sludge that prevents it from floating on top of the oil.

Home heating oil float gauges can break down over time. In this particular gauge, the float was covered with sludge after many years of use.
Heating oil float gauges are susceptible to many issues over time, including sludge build-up as shown here.

How Much Heating Oil Should I Order and When?

Once you know how much oil is in your tank, you’ll need to figure out how much to order. Use the guide below to determine how much oil your tank can take.

Amount to Order = Tank Capacity – Current Level

For a 275 gallon vertical heating oil tank, the max capacity is 250 gallons. The reason it is not 275 gallons is because there is always an air space left at the top of the tank after a fill. This allows the oil to expand in the fuel oil tank and prevents the tank from being over-filled.

If your 275 gallon vertical heating oil tank is 1/4 full, we know that 275 * 0.25 = ~69 gallons.

Amount to Order = 250 – 69 = 181 gallons or fewer. An order of 150 gallons, in this case, should easily fit in the fuel oil tank.

A 275 gallon home heating oil tank holds 240-250 gallons depending on its orientation. Use this table as a guide to know how much oil to order.
A 330 gallon home heating oil tank holds 288-305 gallons depending on its orientation. Use this table as a guide to know how much oil to order.

By using the above guides, you should be able to determine when to order heating oil for your home. Find the best and cheapest heating oil dealers near you with FuelSnap to avoid being overcharged by local oil companies!

What if I Want to Order 200 Gallons?

Since many dealers offer a discounted price for 200 gallons, you may be tempted to wait until your tank is lower that 1/4 full to order. This can be risky with a float gauge, as they are notoriously inaccurate when the fuel oil tank is that low. Instead, we recommend two options if you would like to get your tank that low:

  1. A Smart Oil Gauge. This will report your oil level to within a couple of gallons. The Smart Oil Gauge knows the specific geometry of your heating oil tank as well. As such, it can account for the rounded edges and the reduced amount of oil in the bottom of the tank.
  2. A yard stick. Using a yard stick to measure the specific number of inches of oil in the tank will give you a good idea of how much oil is in the tank. This is obviously cumbersome, but much more reliable than the float gauge. Once you’ve measured the level, in inches, check it against a tank chart to determine the level.
Smart Oil Gauge - WiFi Heating oil gauge - will show exactly how much oil is in a tank, and give a countdown to a quarter tank.
Using a Smart Oil Gauge is the best way to determine how much heating oil is in your fuel oil tank. The Smart Oil Gauge works extremely well when the tank is low, and will give a countdown of days until the level will be at 1/4 or 1/8. Using the app’s ‘shop for oil’ feature, you will also see the maximum amount of heating oil you will be able to order at any given time. Choose from local oil companies, and order heating oil securely with a credit card when the fuel oil tank is low.

How Much Heating Oil Will I Use in a Day?

This is a great question to be asking yourself as you plan your next heating oil order. The first factor is whether you are using oil for heat only, or heat and hot water. If you are using heating oil for hot water, you will continue to consume oil year-round. Your usage may be reduced to 1-2 gallons per day in the summer months, and as high as 6 or more gallons per day in the winter months. This depends on the size of your house, how well-insulated it is, and other factors. The age of your heating system and keeping it well maintained are also contributing factors.

The only good way to know how much oil is used on any particular day is by installing a device like the Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the oil level every hour. It then graphs this data over time, giving you usage statistics.

Smart Oil Gauge is a heating oil tank gauge that will show you how many gallons per day you are going through.
The Smart Oil Gauge allows you to tell exactly how many gallons of home heating oil your home uses over an hour, day, week, month, or year. These statistics are extremely helpful when adjusting the thermostat throughout the year.

Use the Float Gauge to Approximate Your Heating Oil Tank Level

Now that you understand how to read a float gauge, don’t forget that it is only an approximation. For a precise tank level when the tank is low, consider a Smart Oil Gauge or using a yard stick. Both of these options will give you a much better indication of the tank level. When you’re ready to order heating oil, check out a site like FuelSnap to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible on heating oil.

Happy heating,

Steve

What Negative Oil Prices Mean for Heating Oil

oil storage tanks

Negative oil prices?! Yes, you read that right! But no, you will not be paid to fill your heating oil tank. Oil prices have tumbled dramatically in recent months, and just when we thought they could not get any lower – they have. Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on right now.

In the past two months, the COVID19 pandemic has virtually ground the US – and the global economy – to a screeching halt. Planes aren’t flying; kids aren’t going to school, and nearly all non-essential businesses have been ordered shut. In fact, travel has been so significantly reduced, that car accidents have dropped a whopping 50% in recent weeks. And crazier still, futures contracts for Crude Oil are so undesirable, the traders are literally paying for them to be taken off their hands.

May 2020 oil futures contracts have gone negative. This means traders are actually paying to get rid of their contracts for oil delivery in May.

No Demand For Oil, and Nowhere to Store It

How can oil prices be negative? The explanation comes down to futures contracts. What happens in the oil markets is traders buy futures contracts as an investment. An oil futures contract is an agreement made today to buy a quantity of oil at a predetermined date in the future for a predetermined price. A futures trader is hoping that by the time that date actually arrives, the value of that oil is greater than the agreed upon price. If that’s the case, the trader sells the contract to someone else, for a profit. In other cases, the oil price may have dropped, and the trader takes a loss.

In the case of the May futures contracts (oil that someone has agreed to take delivery of in May), there is so little demand for oil, that no one wants it! With planes not flying, and cars not driving, there’s just nobody using oil at the moment. As a result, all of the storage tanks and tankers that store oil between the refineries and the gas pumps are already full. There’s simply nowhere to store the oil!

There is so little demand for oil and gasoline at the moment due to the COVID19 pandemic, that most oil storage tanks are already full. As a result, traders are paying buyers to take their oil futures contracts so they don’t have to actually take delivery of oil in May.

Why Would Anyone Sell at a Negative Price?

If a trader purchases a contract to take delivery of oil in May, and fails to sell that contract, then that trader is obligated to actually receive the barrels of oil that were ordered. The problem is, a trader is sitting behind a desk somewhere, and has no way of actually taking those barrels and processing them. So the trader’s only option is to do everything possible to sell those contracts. In this case, this means actually paying someone to take possession of the contracts, and thus the oil.

What This Means for Heating Oil Prices

Fortunately, heating oil prices are at historically low levels at the moment. In Long Island, we’re seeing prices as low as $1.19 per gallon, with prices in the rest of the Northeast hovering around $1.49. Traditionally higher-priced areas such as the Albany, NY area and Maine are a bit closer to $2.00 per gallon still.

With this in mind, prices may fall slightly, but are not likely to go too much lower. The downstream players (e.g. heating oil companies) do not have the same urgency to offload incoming oil as the producers who are pumping the oil out of the ground. The crude oil still needs to be stored, refined, and transported to the terminals where heating oil trucks fill up. All of these steps are costly and ultimately get factored into the price before trucks start rolling. Since oil dealers often work on a fixed ‘cents per gallon’ markup, there’s only so much lower heating oil prices can go.

With that in mind, if you’ve got room in your tank, now would be a perfectly reasonable time to fill up.

Happy Spring everyone,

Steve

How to Order Home Heating Oil | Buy Heating Oil with FuelSnap in CT

Ordering oil online.

Ordering home heating oil was once a truly daunting task. The fact that there are hundreds of home heating oil delivery companies to choose from is great. But choosing between them can be challenging to say the least. Ever try to Google “best oil company”? There are dozens of websites to choose from, making the choice quite difficult. You also need to consider how much heating oil to order and how to buy oil. If this is you, check out our blog post here on how much is in your tank.

When it comes to filling up, there are a variety of ways to order heating oil:

  • Automatic home heating oil delivery: old-fashioned, and expensive
  • Ordering fuel oil via phone: old-fashioned, and time consuming
  • Ordering heating oil online: quick, transparent, and secure

Automatic Home Heating Oil Delivery

This is the old way of ensuring you always had heating oil throughout winter. Automatic delivery means you sign a contract with a local oil delivery company. You give them ALL your business for the year, and they take care of scheduling deliveries at their convenience. So, in exchange for ALL your business, what do you get in return? You get to pay extra! How much are automatic delivery oil prices? Oil prices are, on average, $0.40 to $0.80 per gallon higher for automatic delivery customers. This adds up to hundreds of dollars extra every year, since most homes use 800 to 1000 gallons per season.

Before the internet, local oil companies convinced homeowners that there was tremendous value in automatic delivery. You would not have to run down to the tank to check the level periodically. Today, however, times have changed. With devices like the Smart Oil Gauge, you no longer need to remember to check the gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge gives you an app on your phone to tell you the level, and even alerts you when your home oil tank is low. This way you know exactly when the time is right to order heating oil.

With a Smart Oil Gauge, you can cut the cord, and start saving hundreds of dollars a year by discontinuing automatic delivery. When it’s time to fill up, you can choose from any heating oil company you’d like. Find a reputable dealer with a great price, and fill up on your own terms.

Worried about your heating oil service contract? If your oil company says you have to be on automatic delivery to receive a service contract, that should be a red flag. Check out this blog post on the truth about service contracts. You do not need to be on automatic delivery to receive a service contract.

Ordering Via Phone

Many home heating oil companies are a bit slow to evolve to the changing times. One of my favorite, long-standing local oil companies has no website. You have to call their phone number, press 1 to hear today’s oil price, then listen to a recording to find out the price. Then, if you want to actually order oil, you have to hang up, call back, and dial a different extension to place the order. Oh, and you don’t even get to talk to a human at this point. You have to leave a message on the answering machine and HOPE that someone received it and has scheduled your delivery.

At other home heating oil companies, you can call to order, and you end up on the phone with someone in the office. If this is the case, you’ll have to discuss payment options. Many companies will take a credit card over the phone. This is certainly more convenient than paying with cash or check. It also allows the final amount to be adjusted based on the amount delivered. With cash or a check, you’ll need to know the correct amount and meet the driver to pay for the delivery. In some cases, you may be able to mail a check in after the fact. This too, takes considerably more time than paying by credit card. You’ll want to know your options up front though, before placing the order.

Ordering heating oil by phone is cumbersome and requires calling multiple local oil dealers to compare prices. Be prepared to provide a credit card over the phone, or meet the driver with a check or cash when the delivery is made.

Ordering Heating Oil Online

By far the most convenient way to buy heating oil is online. Many modern home heating oil companies in CT have their own website, where you can create an account, and securely order heating oil online with a credit card. This is much more convenient than ordering by phone, but still does not allow you to price compare. If you Google “Connecticut heating oil prices”, a myriad of different websites will pop up. From anonymous sites that will not tell you what oil company you are ordering from, to every unique heating oil dealer’s website on its own.

Navigating through home heating oil companies online is cumbersome to say the least. With sites like FuelSnap, however, searching is easy. Find the cheapest home heating oil, and buy heating oil in seconds. Choose from real companies, with real-life user reviews before ordering. Choose the number of gallons and your delivery date to know when oil’s coming. Pay securely with a credit card, and know there will be no surprises when the truck comes. With a Smart Oil Gauge installed, you can order only what your tank will hold. You no longer have to estimate how much to order.

Using a heating oil site like FuelSnap, you can compare multiple heating oil dealers. You’ll know you’re getting the best price for heating oil, and are ordering from a trustworthy dealer.

What is the Best Way to Order Heating Oil?

Considering the options, the first question to answer is should I sign up for automatic delivery? Ten or twenty years ago we would have said yes. But today, with technology like the Smart Oil Gauge, you will save hundreds of dollars per year by NOT signing up for automatic delivery. You should always buy oil as needed, as this will ensure you are getting the best home heating oil price available at that time.

When your tank is low, it’s time to order heating oil. If your preferred oil company has a website, that may be a good place to start. However, you should always spot check other sites, or go to a marketplace site like FuelSnap, to make sure you are getting a good deal. The dealer with a great price at the beginning of the season may end up being much more expensive toward the end of the season.

Whatever you do, you’ll want to pay securely with a credit card online. Giving credit cards over the phone means the final charge is at the dealer’s discretion. When your card is charged up front, the dealer can refund you money for oil that was unable to fit in your tank, but the dealer cannot charge you more. This means you know the maximum you will spend – before the delivery.

Before placing an order for heating oil online, be sure to read reviews. Buy from only a trusted, local oil company, and never trust your delivery to an anonymous company online.

Happy heating,

Steve