Why You Should Buy A Home That Uses 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.

275 gallon oil tank
An oil-heated home will have a heating oil tank like the one shown here. There is usually one single tank, but occasionally two tanks that are connected. If your home has an underground oil tank, you may consider removing it and installing an above-ground tank like the one shown here.

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.

heating oil delivery truck
Heating oil must be periodically delivered to your home. You can elect to sign up for automatic delivery and pay a premium, or buy oil only as needed. Order through a site like FuelSnap to get the best deals on heating oil.

Benefits of Home Heating Oil

There are many benefits to home heating oil, including:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 – not the homeowners – own 95% of the propane tanks in the Northeast!
  4. 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.

Happy heating,

Steve

FuelSnap Mobile App Featured on News12 CT

steve williams of fuelsnap

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!

Smart Oil Gauge allows you to check your heating oil tank from your phone, then reorder through FuelSnap right form an app on your phone. Read the article from News12 CT below for more information.
https://connecticut.news12.com/ridgefield-man-creates-app-to-simplify-process-of-buying-home-heating-oil

About FuelSnap

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.

Contact Information

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.

How Much Does It Cost to Heat With Oil?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Insulation and Windows: A well-insulated house with good windows can save up to 50% on heating costs. Check out these 10 tips for more ways to save on heating oil.
  4. 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.
  5. Outside Temperature: Sorry, but short of moving to the South, there’s not much we can help you with here!
it costs between 1200 and 2000 per year to heat the average home in the northeast with heating oil
An average-sized home in New England will use between 570 and 1200 gallons of heating oil per year. The average home will cost $1,200 to $2,000 per year to heat for will-call customers, and $1,500 to $2,500 per year for automatic delivery customers.

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.

annual  heating costs for oil-heated homes in the northeast
The total annual heating costs for oil-heated homes are broken down here. These were based on an average 2018-2019 will-call price of $2.29 per gallon and automatic delivery price of $2.79 per gallon. Heating oil usage rates were based on an average heating season in Connecticut.

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.

Happy heating,

Steve

When is the Best Month to Buy Home Heating Oil?

fall leaves

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:

  1. Crude oil supply and demand.
  2. Local heating oil supply and demand.
  3. 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!

As COVID-19 ground global travel to a halt in April, 2020, crude oil futures prices went negative. There was suddenly more oil supply than demand and producers needed to offload their supply. This directly impacted heating oil prices at the time, which we broke down in this blog post here.

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.

heating oil historical prices
Heating oil prices fluctuate with the market price for crude oil. As can be seen over the past 30 years, heating oil prices tend not to fluctuate with the seasons. In other words, cold weather generally does not lead to increased heating oil prices. Source: MacroTrends.net.

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.

Happy heating,

Steve

p.s. About that link to the Smart Oil Gauge in the article…As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Automatic Delivery vs. Will-Call: Home Heating Oil Pros and Cons

275 gallon heating oil tank

If you’re new to home heating oil, the first decision you’ll have to make is: should I sign up for automatic home heating oil delivery? Automatic delivery means you sign an agreement with a single heating oil company for the year. This agreement says you will buy all your heating oil for the whole season from them, and they will automatically deliver it to you. This sounds like a great idea on the surface, but there is a major cost to this which we will touch on below.

The alternative to automatic home heating oil delivery is being a ‘will-call’ customer: someone who only orders heating oil as needed. There are pros and cons to each, and we’ll break them down in this post.

Automatic delivery means all your heating oil will come from one heating oil supplier. You will pay a premium for this but will not have to worry about ordering oil. You can save money by being a ‘will-call’ customer and only ordering heating oil as needed, but you have to make sure you know when to order heating oil.

Heating Oil Basics

Unlike natural gas or electricity, you must have heating oil periodically delivered to your home. Before you order heating oil for the first time, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with these terms:

  • Automatic Delivery: An agreement, usually for one year, that a heating oil company will delivery all the necessary heating oil to you on their own schedule. The dealer uses a system called ‘Degree Days’ to estimate when you’ll need oil next. The system uses outside temperature and delivery history to estimate your tank level. Expect to pay a premium price for heating oil to receive automatic delivery.
  • Will-Call: The alternative to automatic delivery, wherein you simply order heating oil as needed. By being a will-call customer, you can take advantage of significantly lower prices for heating oil. The downside is you must monitor your own oil tank. When you’re low, just check heating oil prices and order heating oil online with a credit card.
  • Service Contract: A maintenance plan that provides 24/7 support if a heating system fails during the winter. This is sometimes included ‘free’ with automatic delivery, but be wary of this. You are likely paying an extra dollar per gallon of heating oil to pay for this ‘free’ service contract. This adds up to $800 – $1000 per year on an average home in the Northeast! There are many reputable service companies that will service your system in the event of an emergency. Further, you should learn to inspect your own oil tank as well.
  • Budget Payment Plan: A payment agreement with the heating oil company that spreads out your total heating oil spend over 9, 10, or even 12 months. This helps eliminate very large bills during peak heating season by spreading the bills out over many months. This is the most profitable type of customer for the oil heating company, as they can charge extremely high heating oil prices without the homeowner noticing.
  • Fixed-Price Agreement: An agreement when signing up for automatic home heating oil delivery that you will pay a fixed-price for heating oil that season. This helps protect against major price increases that may occur. It comes at a cost, however: usually 20 cents per gallon for your estimated usage. Also, you may pay above-market prices if the prices fall during the season, as happened in 2020.
  • Price-Cap: A price-cap plan is an agreement that your heating oil price fluctuates with the market price but will not exceed a certain price. Many homeowners fall for the price-cap agreement, as they believe there is no downside to it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! This is because when the market price for oil lowers, the oil company is under no obligation to lower their price accordingly They may lower it only slightly, for instance. So while you may be protected if the price for oil skyrockets, you’ll be left paying extra if the price drops. This played out in early 2020 when oil prices fell by over 50% and folks on automatic delivery did not even see their price budge at all.

How to Choose Between Automatic Oil Delivery and Will-Call

Historically, those were the two options: pay a premium for automatic delivery or run down to the oil tank periodically as a ‘will-call’ customer. Automatic delivery was obviously much more convenient than running down to the basement, so fuel oil dealers could charge a huge premium for this service. Even today, fuel oil dealers are charging an average of 40-50 cents per gallon for automatic home heating oil delivery, with some charging more than a dollar extra per gallon! Be careful to not get lured in by a ‘first fill’ price of $1.49 to sign up for automatic delivery. The price ALWAYS goes up after that.

To avoid over-paying for heating oil, will-call is the next option. To be a will-call customer, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with checking your heating oil tank gauge. For a detailed explanation read how to check your heating oil tank gauge. Remember, running out of heating oil can be very costly, so don’t forget to check that oil tank!

To be a will-call customer, you must remember to periodically check the gauge on your heating oil tank. This type of float gauge will give an approximate indication of how much oil is in your heating oil tank.

Fortunately, these are no longer your only two options. There is now a third option, which brings the cost-savings of being a will-call customer together with the peace of mind of automatic delivery: a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge is a WiFi heating oil tank gauge. It tells you on your phone how much heating oil is in the tank. It will alert you when your tank is low and it’s time to order oil. You can even order heating oil right from the app.

The Smart Oil Gauge provides the peace of mind of automatic home heating oil delivery and enables homeowners to realize the tremendous savings of being a will-call customer. It screws into the top of the heating oil tank and uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the tank level. The level is reported to an app where it also displays daily usage and gives a countdown to the next fill. The Smart Oil Gauge will even send text and e-mail alerts when it’s time to order oil

What is the Best Option for Heating Oil Delivery?

So what’s best? We rate the three options below.

While automatic delivery is more convenient than will-call, it is much more expensive. The average homeowner pays 40-50 cents per gallon more to be on automatic delivery. This equates to $300-500 more per year for the average home in the Northeast. Since the homeowner is locked in with a single heating oil dealer, flexibility is low. And there is still a risk of running out of heating oil when on automatic delivery, so you won’t get the same peace of mind that you will get with a Smart Oil Gauge.

3rd Place: Automatic Home Heating Oil Delivery

We recommend automatic delivery for folks who just don’t want to think about heating oil. Sign up at the beginning of the season, and then get a bill every month for your deliveries. This is an expensive option, but if money is no object then we recommend it. You may also prefer a budget payment plan which spreads out your payments over the course of the season. This is usually only possible with automatic delivery. But remember, you pay much more over the course of the season for this benefit.

There is still a risk of runout with automatic delivery. So, ask your heating oil company to install an oil tank monitor, or buy your own to make sure you don’t run out.

2nd Place: Will-Call

Will-call will save you hundreds of dollars per year, and thousands over the long-term. That said, those savings can be wiped away if you run out of oil when you’re away from home. Frozen pipes can lead to a catastrophe that costs tens of thousands to repair.

If your oil tank is in a convenient location, however, will-call may be the way to go. You’ll have total flexibility when it comes to choosing a supplier. And you can shop around for the best price for heating oil whenever you are low. Just don’t forget to check the tank!

1st Place: Will-Call with a Smart Oil Gauge

If you want to save money on heating oil, go with will-call, and invest in a Smart Oil Gauge. For around $150 a Smart Oil Gauge will give you even more peace of mind than automatic delivery. It will tell you how much oil is in the tank, and alert you when it’s time to order heating oil.

Within the app, you can even check heating oil prices near me and order heating oil online in seconds. Pay with a credit card and take advantage of will-call pricing right through the app.

What about a Service Contract?

Some dealers will insist that you MUST be on automatic delivery for them to provide a service contract. If that’s your dealer, we recommend finding a new one! There are plenty of dealers who offer service contracts and do not require automatic delivery. DollarWise Oil is one of these companies that offers various maintenance options. Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service Inc. is another one – they offer maintenance plans and do not even sell heating oil! So next time a heating oil dealer tells you that you have to buy all your heating oil from them if you want a service contract, find another company!

Save Money And Only Order Heating Oil As Needed

With today’s technology, you can now take advantage of the lowest pricing possible by only ordering heating oil as needed. Get the peace of mind of automatic delivery by installing a Smart Oil Gauge to keep an eye on the tank level. Configure your alerts so you know when the tank is low. And when it’s time to order heating oil, come back to FuelSnap and get the best heating oil prices possible.

Happy heating,

Steve

When to Order Fuel Oil

when to order fuel oil

Ordering home heating oil can be a daunting task. Choosing a home heating oil dealer and deciding how much oil to order are two important questions to consider. But another important question that comes up is when to order fuel oil. In this blog post we’ll talk about the right time to order heating oil online.

Home Heating Oil Basics

If your home is heated with fuel oil, there are a few things to be aware of. First, your home will have an oil tank to store the heating oil. This tank will be in the basement, garage, outside the house, or even in the ground. Check out this blog post here to learn how a heating oil tank works.

To maintain a consistent supply of home heating oil, you will have to order oil. A truck will come and deliver a specific number of gallons to your tank. Alternatively, you can order a ‘fill’ and the truck will fill the oil tank to its capacity.

When to Order Heating Oil

When deciding when to order home heating oil, there are a couple of factors to consider. First, you do not want to run out of heating oil. Second, you want to get the best price for heating oil.

Avoid Running Out of Heating Oil

If you are out of heating oil right now, check out this blog post here for what to do. Fortunately, you can add diesel from the local gas station to get you through the night.

To avoid running out of heating oil, we recommend reordering heating oil when your oil tank is at a quarter full. This is true whether it is the summer or winter. Heating oil prices tend to not fluctuate too widely throughout the season. Most home heating oil dealers work on a target ‘cents per gallon’ margin which does not often change throughout the year.

“Reorder at a quarter” is a great rule to live by.

The reason to not let your tank get down past 1/4 full is occasionally it can take a few days before your heating oil is delivered. A quarter tank is usually enough to hold you over. Since a typical heating oil tank holds 275 gallons of oil, a quarter of a tank is approximately 70 gallons. A typical house burns approximately 3-5 gallons per day in the winter, so this gives you a cushion to prevent a runout.

Reorder heating oil when your tank gets to 1/4 full to avoid a runout and make sure you get the best deal on heating oil. Order oil online through FuelSnap to compare prices and choose the best delivery date.

Order Heating Oil Online To Get The Best Price

Ordering heating oil online when your tank is at 1/4 full has another benefit as well. This leaves enough space in the tank for a 150 gallon delivery. Most oil dealers require a minimum delivery size of 100 gallons. Some even give a price break for 150 gallons. If your dealer gives a price break for 200 gallons, you will have to let your tank get down to 1/8 full. Check our tank charts here to see how low your oil tank must get for a 200 gallon delivery.

When you order heating oil online through FuelSnap you can not only compare prices, but also delivery dates. If you can wait a few days for your home heating oil delivery, you may get a better price for heating oil. Searching for heating oil near me will bring up multiple sites. Check FuelSnap to easily compare several dealers and order heating oil online.

Check Your Heating Oil Tank Gauge And Reorder Oil At A Quarter Full

Make sure you learn how to check your float gauge and avoid running out of heating oil. Order heating oil online when your gauge reads one quarter full. And if you want to make sure you do not run out again, consider getting a Smart Oil Gauge for your tank. The Smart Oil Gauge gives you a readout of your oil level on your smart phone. It will send you text and email alerts when the tank is low as well.

Happy heating,

Steve

How Accurate Is An Oil Tank Gauge?

heating oil tank gauge

Heating oil tanks have remained virtually unchanged for decades. And unfortunately, so have the gauges inside them! The most basic type of oil tank gauge, which most heating oil tanks have, is called a float gauge. Float gauges notoriously go bad over time, and in this post we will talk about the accuracy of a heating oil tank gauge.

How a Float Gauge Works

A float gauge is a very simple mechanism that is mounted in the top of a heating oil tank. It features a plastic sight at the top, with a disc inside to indicate the level. This disc is attached to an articulating arm with a hinge in the middle. At the other end of the arm is the float itself. While the floats were originally made of cork, they are now usually a plastic material that lasts longer.

As the level of oil lowers, the float lowers with it, and the disc is lowered accordingly.

Most oil tanks feature a float gauge like the one shown above. The float only provides an approximate oil level.

How To Read a Float Gauge

The disc in the plastic sight on a float gauge indicates an approximate level. The key word here is approximate. A float gauge is not a precision instrument.

When reading a float gauge, you will need to know what size oil tank you have. Most oil tanks are 275 or 330 gallons and look like the one pictured below.

Tip: A 275 gallon fuel oil tank measures five feet long, while a 330 tank measures 6 feet long.

Once you know your tank size, you’ll have to determine what your float gauge is reading. The levels are primarily fractions of a tank: 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, or Full. Refer to our heating oil tank charts to determine how many gallons are in the tank.

To be safe, always reorder home heating oil at a quarter (of a tank) when using a float gauge!

The disc shown above indicates roughly how much fuel oil is in the oil tank. Once you know the approximate level, check our oil tank chart to determine the number of gallons.

How Accurate is the Float Gauge?

Unfortunately, a float type gauge is not a very accurate device. There are two main reasons for this.

Float Gauges Go Bad Over Time

After many years sitting in heating oil, the float can actually build up sludge over time. This float below was removed after it was no longer working properly.

Furthermore, the float gauge can occasionally end up getting stuck. If the gauge rotates at all in its fitting, the float arm will get stuck against the side of the oil tank, causing the level to not change.

This is what the float on a heating oil float gauge looks like after years in an oil tank. For this reason, float gauges cannot be counted on to provide an accurate oil level.

Float Gauges Do Not Account For the Actual Tank Geometry

Since float gauges simply work by having the arm go up and down, they do not take into account the curvature of the oil tank. In the middle of the fuel oil tank, the walls are straight up and down. As such, there is significantly more oil than in the bottom section of the oil tank where the walls curve in (see below). When an oil tank gauge reads 1/4 or below, the level will suddenly start lowering more quickly without warning.

An oil tank float gauge does not account for the rounded bottom of a tank. There is much less oil in the bottom 8″ of the tank than elsewhere in the tank. So how can we properly track our oil tanks’ heating oil level if the float gauges go bad over time and do not account for the oil tank geometry?

A More Accurate Heating Oil Tank Gauge

Fortunately for heating oil users, there is a more reliable oil tank gauge available now. The Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the oil level in the tank. It also knows the exact geometry of the oil tank – including the rounded edges! As such, it outputs a specific number of gallons remaining instead of just an approximate level.

Smart Oil Gauge uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the level of oil in the tank. Because it does not come in contact with the oil itself, it does not get sludge built up and lose accuracy the way a traditional float gauge does.

Smart Oil Gauge Tracks Gallons Per Day

Because the Smart Oil Gauge records readings all throughout the day, you can get a handle on exactly how much home heating oil you are using. Some of the useful statistics it will provide are:

  • Current oil usage (gallons per hour and gallons per day)
  • Days until you will be at 1/4 tank
  • Days to 1/8 tank
  • Total gallons used (per day, week, month, or year)
  • How much home heating oil can be delivered to your oil tank
Smart Oil Gauge outputs a specific number of gallons in the oil tank. It also tracks consumption so you can see exactly when you need to order home heating oil next.

Track Your Monthly Usage, And Reorder Heating Oil Online Quickly

With the Smart Oil Gauge, you can track exactly how much heating oil you are using. The app ties directly to FuelSnap so you are able to shop for heating oil online as soon as you are low. This information will allow you to schedule your home heating oil delivery around your own needs.

With a Smart Oil Gauge installed, you can watch how quickly you are consuming heating oil, and order heating oil online in seconds with FuelSnap.

An Accurate Heating Oil Gauge

While a float gauge is not very accurate, a Smart Oil Gauge is. The one limitation to the Smart Oil Gauge is that it cannot give a precise reading in the top 8″ of the oil tank. This is because the oil is too close to the sensor when the oil tank is topped off.

Below that top 8″ mark, however, and the Smart Oil Gauge is extremely reliable. And if you would still like a visual oil tank gauge, you can often leave the float gauge installed as well. The Smart Oil Gauge would go in an extra opening on the tank. Knowing how to read a heating oil tank gauge is undoubtedly important, but with Smart Oil Gauge you can view your oil tank level on your phone!

I use my Smart Oil Gauge to make sure I only order oil when I need it. I can watch prices periodically, and then order heating oil online through FuelSnap using my saved credit card when I’m ready. It really doesn’t get any more convenient than that, and I never have to worry about how much heating oil is in my oil tank.

Happy heating,

Steve

Is Home Heating Oil Safe?

flammable sign

While heating oil is one of the most popular sources for fuel in the northeast, it is also one of the safest. And did you know that heating oil is not even flammable at room temperature? In this post we’ll walk through how heating oil works, and what makes it one of the safest ways to heat your home.

How Home Heating Oil Works

Heating oil, sometimes referred to as fuel oil, is stored in an oil tank at home that is connected your heating system. This fuel oil tank is typically in the basement or garage, but occasionally can be found outside the home or underground. A heating oil truck must come on occasion and refill the heating oil tank to make sure the system always has heating oil when called for.

The heating oil is drawn from the tank by a pump in the burner – or occasionally by gravity – to the burner itself. Once there, the ignitions process takes place as follows:

  1. Heating oil is drawn from the tank through an oil filter to filter out any particulates or contaminants.
  2. The burner preheats the oil and activates a fan that mixes in air to help ignite the fuel.
  3. The heating oil then passes through a nozzle where it is atomized (turned into a fine mist), heated further, and ignited to create a flame.
  4. A sensor inside the system confirms that ignition has occurred, and the system continues to burn heating oil until a thermostat inside the unit tells it to stop.

Is Heating Oil Safe?

Since heating oil must be atomized and heated to 140° F before it can be ignited, it is considered extremely safe. In fact, if you were to drop a match into a bucket of heating oil, the match would simply go out (don’t try this at home though – as heating oil stinks!). This is because heating oil is not flammable in liquid form.

Check Your Heating Oil Tank for Safe Operation

The main thing to watch out for if your home is heated with oil is that it is properly stored in a secure heating oil tank. If your tank is underground and over 30 years old, we recommend removing it from the ground and installing a tank (or tanks) inside your home. This will prevent an environmental hazard that could result of an underground heating oil tank begins to leak.

If your house has an above-ground heating oil tank, then we recommend following our step-by-step guide for inspecting your heating oil tank here.

Happy heating,

Steve

How to Inspect a Home Heating Oil Tank and What to Look For

As a good practice, we recommend inspecting your home heating oil tank at least once per year. In fact, many home heating oil companies will require an in-person oil tank inspection prior to your first home heating oil delivery. While the inspection only takes a few minutes, there are some important things to look for while inspecting your home’s oil tank. We’ll break them down below!

How to Inspect Above-Ground Heating Oil Tanks

While there are still many homes with in-ground heating oil tanks, there is really no way to inspect those oil tanks since they are out of sight. If your oil tank is above-ground though, it is important to check its condition periodically. Heating oil tanks – also known as fuel oil tanks – are typically steel and oval-shaped. Below is a common Granby 275 gallon steel oil tank. This is by far the most commonly installed heating oil tank in the Northeast US. Below are the six things to look for when inspecting a tank such as this.

A home heating oil tank such as this should be inspected at least once a year. It is important to check for leaks and replace an oil tank before it shows significant signs of aging. This will help to prevent an oil leak inside the house. Find your model heating oil tank here.

Step 1 – Inspect the Oil Tank for a Solid Base & Footing

Ensuring the floor that the oil tank is sitting on is solid is a crucial step. Even in a basement, the ground can settle over time which could create issues with your oil tank. All four legs of the oil tank should be inspected to ensure they are rust-free and providing good support. A home heating oil tank with 250 gallons of oil weighs over 2000 pounds! This is as much as a small car, so it is critical that those oil tank feet are on stable ground.

Inspecting the base and footing is even more important on an outdoor oil tank. The oil tank should be sitting on a single, uniform concrete slab. It is not acceptable to have each leg of the tank on a separate cinder block, for instance, as one could shift and cause the whole tank to lean. This can cause the fitting to bend at the bottom of the tank, causing a catastrophic spill.

Step 2 – Check your Oil Tank for Rust Free Seams

The perimeter and sides of a steel oil tank are welded together. Because of the potential for imperfections in the welded area, these seams should be inspected for rust. Once they begin to rust, oil can start slowly leaking out of your tank. Look for any signs of leakage on or around the seams of the oil tank.

Step 3 – Look for Leaks at the Bottom of the Oil Tank

Similar to the seams, the bottom of the home heating oil tank tends to be susceptible to corrosion from the inside out. This is because certain blends of home heating oil are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb water. Water can lead to corrosion inside the fuel oil tank and eventually that corrosion leads to small holes along the bottom of the tank. Check to make sure the bottom of the fuel oil tank shows no signs of leaks. Also pay close attention to the fitting where the oil comes out at the tank. This fitting is where the oil line meets the tank, so it is important that it is secured and free from leaks.

Step 4 – Look for Leaks at the Oil Line and by Following the Line to the Burner

The oil line itself can be prone to leaks, believe it or not. This is why modern oil lines are actually copper that is coated in plastic for one extra layer of protection. Check the oil line for leaks, and be sure to follow the line all the way to the your oil burner (furnace or boiler).

Step 5 – Check for Leaks at the Oil Filter

The oil filter is what the heating oil passes through on its way to the fuel oil tank. This is often found close to the oil tank, but is occasionally found alongside the burner as well. Since these are changed periodically, it is important to check them on an annual basis to make sure they are clean.

Step 6 – Scan for Leaks at the Top of the Fuel Oil Tank

While leaks at the top may seem less important than leaks at the bottom, it is still important to make note of them. Look to see if any oil has dripped from around the fittings at the top of the fuel oil tank. If you see oil there, it could mean that the oil tank has been overfilled before. Overfilling a tank can have major consequences, as the oil can spill out of those fittings and into the basement. In addition, oil can even make its way all the way out of the vent pipe and end up in the soil outside. If the fuel oil tank shows evidence of having been over-filled, then you may need a new vent alarm/whistle.

The vent alarm makes a sound as the oil tank is being filled. The driver listens for this sound when filling your home heating oil tank. Once the oil rises to about 7″ from the top of the tank, it touches the whistle, muffling the sound. The driver hears the whistle stop and shuts off the pump. If the whistle is not functioning, most dealers will not fill your home heating oil tank, as it could result in the tank being overfilled.

This vent alarm is installed where the vent pipe meets the oil tank. As oil enters the tank, air escapes through the vent pipe and passes by this whistle, making a sound that the driver hears. Once the oil level rises and touches the bottom of the whistle, it stops making noise, signaling the driver to stop pumping. If you see evidence of heating oil around the top fittings on a tank, it could mean that there’s a problem with the whistle that has led to the fuel oil tank being overfilled in the past.

Remember to Inspect Your Heating Oil Tank Annually

Inspecting your oil tank at least once a year will give you peace of mind and help prevent an oil leak. If you find that your tank is showing signs of aging and needs to be replaced, then we recommend checking out our guide here on choosing a new oil tank. An oil tank can last up to 30 years, but a leak inside or outside your home can be devastating. Follow this guide once a year and you should be able to sleep well at night!

Happy heating,

Steve

p.s. A great way to avoid over filling your fuel oil tank is by always knowing how much oil is in your tank. With a Smart Oil Gauge, you can check your phone anytime and anywhere to find out how much oil you have. This way you can tell your heating oil company exactly how much you need.

Gas or Oil Heat: Which is Better to Heat Your Home?

gas or oil heat natural gas meter

Choosing a home heating fuel type is a major decision if you live in the northeast. While smaller homes or condominiums may offer electric heat, most larger homes do not, as it becomes too expensive to heat large spaces. Instead, more cost-effective heating fuels exist, and we will break down which is best in this post below.

Heating Oil, Propane, and Natural Gas

The three main heating fuel types are heating oil, natural gas, and propane. Each has its pros and cons, and it’s important to choose one based on what you are hoping to get from your house. For instance, if you must have a gas stove at the house, you will want to have natural gas or propane available – even if it is for cooking only.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a popular choice in the northeast, but tends to only be available in cities and the densely populated surrounding towns. It is piped through underground lines beneath the street. You can often tell where there is natural gas available because the roads are constantly being cut open and patched to access and maintain the lines. You can also look at the homes along the street and see if they are fitted with meters like the one pictured below. These meters regulate and track the flow of natural gas into the home. The homeowner is then billed by the natural gas company just like they are billed for electricity usage. Outside of the cities and in the suburbs, you will find that houses are more spread out, roads have more hills and rocks, and natural gas is much less common. For this reason, houses in the suburbs are often equipped with storage tanks at the house for either heating oil or propane.

Look for a natural gas meter like this to determine if a home is connected to a natural gas supply line.

Propane

Propane is very similar to natural gas, but it is stored in holding tanks on the property instead of being plumbed in from a pipeline. The gas is pressurized in the tank and actually stored as a liquid – hence the common abbreviation L.P. for liquid propane. The tanks are most often stored above-ground, and are rather unsightly. For approximately 95% of the tanks in the northeast, the propane provider actually owns the tanks as well. This is problematic, as it prevents you as the homeowner from ordering propane from anyone else. This leads to a very high price per gallon for propane – sometimes as high as 2X the price per gallon of heating oil. If you are considering choosing propane for your home heating fuel needs, make sure you read this post here.

Propane is stored in outdoor tanks such as this one shown here. Occasionally they are buried beneath the ground. In most cases with above ground tanks, the propane tank itself is owned by the propane delivery company, making it extremely difficult to compare prices and shop around for propane.

Heating Oil

Heating oil is a favorite for home heating because it puts out a tremendous amount of heat – approximately 35% more effective BTUs per gallon than propane – at a much lower cost than propane. While heating oil and natural gas tend to be comparable lately in terms of cost, there were times when the price of heating oil rose and made natural gas a much more attractive option. Oil prices have declined significantly in recent years, however, and remain low today. Another benefit of heating oil is that it can be bought off-season and stored, allowing the homeowner to benefit from lower prices in the summer. There are also dozens of heating oil providers in nearly every town in the northeast, meaning there is always competition to choose from. This competition ensures that prices stay reasonable, and you will not be stuck with a monopolistic utility provider as you will with natural gas.

Heating oil is stored in fuel oil tanks like this one shown here, typically in a basement, garage, or just outside the home. Heating oil can be purchased off-season, or only as-needed, allowing the homeowner to get the best price available at any given time.

Choosing Between Heating Oil, Natural Gas, and Propane

If given the choice between all three options, it’s important to consider the trade-offs. In terms of cost, heating oil and natural gas are the clear winners. Propane is often twice as expensive when used to heat a house. Since natural gas is provided by a monopoly utility provider, you may prefer heating oil so you can choose from multiple suppliers. If you do not want to worry about your fuel supply, you can sign up for ‘automatic delivery’ of heating oil or propane, in which case the truck will come automatically on a schedule, and the experience will be much like that of having a natural gas line plumbed right into your house. The one limitation of heating oil, however, is that while you can use it to heat your home and hot water, you cannot use it for a gas stove, gas fireplace, or generator. For these, you will need a propane tank outside the house, or natural gas.

Conclusion: Heating Oil and Propane OR Natural Gas

If you find a house that has natural gas coming in from the outside, then you will be able to cost-effectively heat your home, and run auxiliary systems such as fireplaces, stoves, etc.

If natural gas is not available, however, we recommend heating oil to heat your home. Heating oil is significantly more cost-effective than propane, and affords you the ability to shop around from multiple suppliers to get the best price. Since propane suppliers almost always own the tank, there is very little you can do to negotiate a good price. With heating oil, however, you can use a site like FuelSnap to check heating oil prices from local, reputable heating oil dealers in your area and order heating oil online in seconds.

If natural gas is not available and you would like the best of both worlds, then we highly recommend heating oil and propane. Using heating oil to heat your home and hot water is the most cost-effective solution available. And having a single propane tank for stove-top cooking, gas fireplaces, and maybe even a standby generator is a great option as well.

Happy heating,

Steve