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

COVID19 and Heating Oil – What to Know, and What to Do

heating oil delivery

It’s March 25, 2020, and we’re three days into the State of Connecticut’s order for non-essential businesses to send everyone home. Schools have been closed for almost two weeks now, and isolationism has become the new norm. Thank you all for doing your part to help flatten the curve and get through this pandemic.

We wanted to take a moment and highlight what steps Heating Oil and HVAC companies are taking right now, and what you can do as a homeowner to help. Rest assured, you will still be able to heat your homes during these difficult times. But with cases increasing rapidly, companies are making changes to curb the spread. What can you do? Make sure you order your heating oil online to reduce the burden on office staff. Pay with a credit card to eliminate interaction with the drivers. And reschedule any non-essential HVAC work for a later date.

Heating Oil – An Essential Business

Essential businesses have been defined in a variety of ways, and include must-have services, such as utilities and mail. Heating Oil and Propane delivery are included as essential, as we all need to heat our homes. In addition, with everyone home during the day, heating oil consumption has gone up in many homes.

While it is OK for the trucks to still make deliveries, many companies have started to implement changes to their operations, including:

  • Many have elected to forego ‘topping off’ tanks at this time, focusing instead on making sure no one runs out.
  • Driver head count has been reduced, with anyone who has been exposed to the virus or feeling even slightly ill being asked to self-quarantine for several weeks.
  • Some dealers are no longer leaving delivery tickets, or are leaving the ticket in a plastic bag by the mailbox instead of at the door.
  • Office staff are either sent home, or working at a very limited capacity.
  • Many dealers are NOT taking cash or checks (credit card orders only) to limit interactions with the homeowner.
Heating Oil Truck Making A Delivery.
Heating Oil Delivery Drivers Are Taking Extra Precautions During the COVID19 Pandemic.

HVAC Service – Also Essential

If you are having trouble with your heating system, rest assured that technicians are standing by. These are the steps HVAC companies are taking at this time:

  • Most, if not all, non-emergency service work is being postponed for the time being.
  • Technicians are wearing gloves and sanitizing all surfaces they come in contact with at a residence when performing service work.
  • Employees are practicing social-distancing, maintaining 6′ of separation from others.
  • Technicians are interviewing homeowners before entering the home, to confirm no one in the house is sick.

Smart Oil Gauge Keeps Property Managers Home

While we are not an ‘essential business’, we made sure to build up enough inventory over the past several weeks to get through this. I am personally shipping products out of my house while the whole team works remotely. Not surprisingly, we have seen an increased demand from property managers lately. They are using the Smart Oil Gauge to eliminate in-person visits to check on oil levels at various buildings.

What You Can Do As A Homeowner

Helping to curtail the spread of this virus is imperative at this time. Here are a few steps you can take as a homeowner:

  • Avoid scheduling any non-essential service work at your home at this time.
  • ONLY order heating oil online. This means using a site like FuelSnap and paying with a credit card. Buying heating oil online reduces the strain on office staff who otherwise would have to answer the phone and process the orders manually.
  • ONLY pay with credit card for your service work or Heating Oil. Handling checks and cash only puts the drivers and office staff at risk. Ordering oil online ahead of time eliminates cash and checks from the equation.
  • If you must have a technician in your home, sanitize all doorknobs and surfaces BEFORE and AFTER the technician performs the service.
  • Give plenty of space – 6′ minimum – to anyone who enters your home.
  • DO NOT go outside to greet the delivery driver as you may be accustomed to doing.

Stay Home, Stay Safe

Thank you again to everyone making sacrifices as we get through this unprecedented time. We will continue to provide support for anyone who needs it – don’t hesitate to reach out anytime.

Stay safe,

Steve

Heating Oil vs. Propane – What your Propane Provider Won’t Tell You

Propane Tank

If you live in the Northeast, you probably don’t have many options when it comes to heating your home. If you’ve got natural gas, you’re definitely one of the lucky ones. Natural gas tends to be an extremely cost-effective way to heat your home. Unfortunately, it’s just not available everywhere. And unless there are subsidies involved, conversion to gas can be costly.

Electric heat and heat pumps tend to work for small condos, apartments, and places with mild winters. But for the rest of us, we have two choices: heating oil and propane.

Propane can be used for many things, including gas fireplaces, generators, and pool heaters. As such, it’s actually not uncommon to have both in a house. I use propane for my hot water, oven, and stove, but oil for heat. Since the heating expenses are the biggest piece of most homes’ overall usage, we will focus on choosing between propane and heating oil to heat your home.

Propane can be used for cooking, gas fireplaces, and generators. Heating with propane tends to be more expensive than heating with home heating oil though.
Propane is great for fireplaces, stove tops, and generators.

When to Switch Between Propane and Heating Oil

If your home is in need of a new furnace or boiler, that is often the time this subject comes up. The system itself – be it a furnace or a boiler – tends to be the most expensive component involved in the changeover. As such, it becomes a good time to consider the changeover to a new fuel. The factors to consider though are as follows:

  • The tank: You must consider where to put the tank, and who will own it.
  • Efficiency and BTUs: While propane is touted as ‘more efficient’, oil actually produces more heat per gallon.
  • Freedom to Choose a Supplier: Make sure you are able to choose between different suppliers. This will give you flexibility and the ability to negotiate prices.

The Tank(s)

Believe it or not, this can be the deciding factor for a lot of folks. A good oil tank in a basement can last 30+ years. If yours has plenty of life in it, you may not even consider switching to propane.

On the flip side, if you have propane tanks that are provided by your propane supplier, the cost of buying your own heating oil tank may be a turn off.

There’s also the visual aesthetic: propane tanks are hard to hide. Unlike a heating oil tank, which you can hide in a basement, propane tanks must be outside. This means they are either in view, or must be buried in the ground.

275 gallon steel oil tank in a basement. The tank is out of sight for the homeowner, and the homeowner is able to order heating oil from any dealer in their area.
Heating oil tanks can be installed out-of-sight in a basement, crawl space, or garage. The homeowner always owns the tank, which allows them to order oil from any heating oil provider in their area.

Who Owns The Tank is Critical

The most over-looked factor, however, is WHO OWNS THE TANK. When a company tries to get you to switch to propane, they will always want to provide their own tanks. They will tell you that this saves you money, since you don’t need to buy tanks. In the near term, that may be true. But this also locks you into buying ONLY from them. This eliminates any control you have over pricing, delivery timing, etc. In fact, even if you are fed up with the prices you are paying, it is illegal in many states to have one supplier’s tanks filled by another supplier! The only way to switch propane suppliers if you are paying too much is to have the tanks removed, and have another company install their own. Or pay to have your own tank(s) installed, which is what you wanted to avoid in the first place.

If you’ve got heating oil, you will always own the tank. Whether it is in the basement, garage, or outside of the house, you can use any supplier you want to have the tank filled. This gives you maximize flexibility and keeps you out of an expensive predicament.

Takeaway: If you go with propane, make sure you own the tank to avoid being tied to one company.

Efficiency and BTUs

Folks often look at the price per gallon to determine if propane is less expensive than heating oil. This overlooks two major factors that must also be considered: efficiency, and BTUs. BTUs (British Thermal Units) represent how much heat is generated by a gallon of fuel. Heating oil can generate 138,500 BTUs per gallon. Propane can generate up to 91,500. There is one more factor though, and that is the efficiency of the burner. Modern propane furnaces are often 95% – and sometimes more – efficient. This means that 95% of every gallon of propane is converted to heat. Oil burners, on the other hand, are only 80-90% efficient. We’ll use 85% efficiency for our calculation below:

  • Propane: 91,500 * 0.95 = 86,925 effective BTUs per gallon
  • Heating Oil: 138,500 * 0.85 = 117,725 effective BTUs per gallon

To do an apples-to-apples comparison, we should look at how many gallons of propane are required to produce as much heat as a gallon of heating oil. Since heating oil generates 117,725 BTUs compared to 86,925 for propane, you will need 1.35 gallons of propane for every gallon of heating oil to generate the same amount of heat (117,725 / 86,925 = 1.35). To do an easy price comparison, take the price per gallon of propane and multiply it by 1.35 to see how it compares to the price per gallon of heating oil.

Takeaway: You need 1.35 gallons of propane for every gallon of heating oil.

Your Freedom to Choose a Supplier

Another overlooked factor is the freedom you have to shop between suppliers. With heating oil, there are numerous suppliers to choose from. You can sign up for automatic delivery, and pay a premium if you’d like. Or you can use a site like FuelSnap and comparison shop between several dealers in your town. You can buy oil as needed, and even use a different supplier each time if you’d like.

With propane, it is VERY difficult to price compare. Nearly 95% of propane tanks in the Northeast are owned by the provider. As such, there are so few homeowners shopping for prices, that providers make it nearly impossible to price compare. Don’t believe me? Call five different suppliers and see for yourself. They want to know your total annual usage, whether you own your own tank, whether you want to be on auto-fill or will-call, and whether you want to pay them for a tank monitor. There simply isn’t a ‘price per gallon’ that most dealers will publish or quote. And once you sign up for automatic delivery, you have no say in the price. They keep delivering propane at whatever price they decide, and you keep paying.

The heating oil market is much more competitive, and prices are therefore much more transparent. You can also get a Smart Oil Gauge, and check your oil level from an app on your phone. When you’re low, you can order oil and have it delivered the same day. You don’t need to pick up a phone and call anyone. It’s your tank, and there are plenty of providers.

Takeaway: Propane is very difficult to price-compare. Heating oil prices are much more competitive and transparent.

The Bottom Line: Heating Oil is the Best Value

As of this writing, heating oil prices in CT range from $1.59 to $2.19 a gallon on FuelSnap. Propane tends to be hovering in the $2-$3 range, with some homeowners reporting $4 or higher in some parts of the state. Since you need 1.35 gallons of propane to generate the same amount of heat as one gallon of heating oil, the math tends to be pretty easy here. Obviously this changes over time, but we will have to see a major uptick in oil prices for propane to become competitive.

With all this in mind, be careful when your HVAC provider is selling you on the benefits of switching to propane. In most cases, the main reason is that it is more profitable for THEM. They will provide the tanks, and you will no longer be able to shop around. There is very little competition, and prices are very hard to compare.

On the contrary, there are hundreds of heating oil dealers competing for your business on a daily basis. You can price compare using a site like FuelSnap, and order on your terms. Oil creates more heat per gallon, and can often be delivered as soon as the same or next day.

Finally, you can always have both! You will save money by heating your home with heating oil. Use propane for just the ancillary needs such as the generator and fireplace. And in the end, you will get the best of both worlds.

Happy heating,

Steve

Heating Oil Prices Down As Crude Oil Drops 30%

Home Heating Oil Price Chart

It’s Monday, March 9, 2020, and the week is off to a crazy start. We thought we’d share a few things that are pertinent to heating oil:

  • Crude Oil dropped 30% last night making now a great time to order heating oil
  • What Happened? OPEC and its allies failed to strike a deal.
  • Coronavirus and its impact on our business

Crude Oil Down 30% Last Night

Crude oil prices dropped 30% last night, sending broader markets crashing this morning. The S&P 500 dropped 7% within minutes of the opening bell, prompting what’s known as a ‘circuit breaker‘ to trigger. A ‘circuit breaker’ acts to pause trading temporarily, giving traders time to cool off and understand what is going on. With crude down so significantly, Heating Oil futures dropped nearly 15% as well. If you have room in your tank to fill up on heating oil, now might be a great time to check prices and order heating oil.

Today marked one of the biggest one-day drops in oil prices. Courtesy https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/08/oil-plummets-30percent-as-opec-deal-failure-sparks-price-war-fears.html

What Happened to Oil Today?

The reason for the major drop in oil was that OPEC and its allies, including Russia, failed to reach a deal to limit upcoming oil production. In response, Saudi Arabia dropped the price at which it sells crude oil. This drop was the biggest in nearly 20 years. This puts tremendous pressure on higher-cost oil producers (those outside of Saudi Arabia). As a result, markets are down dramatically, with the S&P 500 down over 7% as of this writing. More from CNBC here.

Coronavirus And Our Business

I also thought I’d share how Coronavirus is affecting our manufacturing business. As a US-based manufacturer, we source as many components as possible domestically. We have fantastic suppliers throughout the country who we count on for production. That said, we also have a short list of items that we have been unable to source outside China.

One such component is the 1.5″ adapter for the Smart Oil Gauge. After the Chinese New Year celebration, our supplier was closed for a month. This government-mandated shutdown helped curtail the spread of Coronavirus in the region. At the same time, we ended up with lots of new customer awaiting their adapters. Fortunately, the factory has reopened, and all of our back orders have shipped. Thank you to everyone for your patience!

Meanwhile, the first CT resident to test positive for the Coronavirus lives in Wilton. (Wilton is about 10 miles from our office in Danbury.) This individual is being treated at Danbury Hospital (about 5 miles from our office). Needless to say, we’re being extra careful, and washing hands as often as possible. Fingers crossed that CT and other states stay out in front of this!

Stay healthy, enjoy this warm spell (70 here today!), and definitely fill that heating oil tank if you can!

Happy heating,

Steve Williams

The Truth About Heating Oil Service Contracts

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It’s February, 2020, which means it’s been a few months since we launched FuelSnap. As you can imagine, we tell everyone we know about FuelSnap. The feedback has been incredible, and we especially love telling folks on automatic delivery about FuelSnap. They are super excited about saving money on heating oil, but often ask: “what about my service contract?”

Heating Oil Service Contracts are commonplace for homeowners on automatic delivery. They give the homeowner peace of mind, and a number to call if the heat shuts off in the middle of the night. There are several myths about service contracts though, and we break them down here.

Myth #1: Only with Automatic Delivery

Many oil companies require you to sign up for automatic delivery to get a service contract. They scare you by saying things like: “We can’t risk you getting waste oil delivered by some unscrupulous company. Therefore, you have to buy all your heating oil through us.” The reality is, there are hundreds – thousands, actually – of reputable heating oil companies to buy from. Just read the reviews before hand, and NEVER order from an anonymous dealer online.

Further, there are actually plenty of companies that DO offer service contracts without forcing you onto automatic delivery. One such company is DollarWise Oil, who as of this writing offers contracts starting at $199. You get 24/7 support, and DO NOT have to buy all your heating oil through them. In addition, the service contract includes an annual tuneup / system cleaning. This is in their best interest, after all, since they would be best off if they never had to visit your house in the middle of the night. Read the fine print though, and expect to pay some of the parts and labor on an emergency call.

DollarWise Oil offers service contracts without Automatic Delivery.

Another such company is Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service, down on Long Island. They are a highly-rated service company that offers service contracts. They will be the first to tell you to buy your heating oil from whomever you’d like. Get a service contract with Ryan Anthony’s and you can even pay a small monthly fee throughout the year. This way you’re covered no matter what time of year something breaks down. Then, go ahead and shop around each time you’re low on oil. The savings on oil vs. automatic delivery will more than pay for the service contract.

Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service offers service contracts with low monthly payments for year-round coverage of your HVAC system.

Myth #2: My Company Offers a “Free” Service Contract

We hate to break it to you here, but nothing in life is free. When a company promises a ‘free’ service contract when you sign up for automatic delivery, it comes with a cost. Heating Oil is typically marked up an additional $0.40 – $0.80 per gallon for automatic delivery vs. on demand. In CT, we’ve even seen it as high as an extra $1.20 per gallon for automatic delivery! So let’s run the numbers on that ‘free’ service contract:

  • You’ve got an average-sized home that uses 800 gallons per year.
  • You end up paying, conservatively, $0.60 per gallon extra for automatic delivery.
  • That ‘free’ service contract costs you 800 x $0.60 = $480!

For $480, you should be receiving – at the very least – an annual tune-up.

Myth #3: I Can Only Get 24/7 Support With a Service Contract

The best thing you can do for your HVAC system is get a tune up every year. Check Google when you get a chance…there are thousands of qualified, local service companies out there. Find one that you can trust, and have them out to service your system on a regular basis. Once you’ve established a relationship with this company, you know that they will take your call if you need emergency service.

You may be wondering, though: isn’t emergency service expensive? It most certainly is! But again, if you run the numbers, spending $500 for an emergency service call once every five years might not be a bad deal. If you compare that to the extra $480 a year for a ‘free’ service contract, you are actually better off not having the plan. Now, if you have an older system that breaks down twice a year…you may reconsider buying a service contract. But then again, it may be time to upgrade to a new system anyway!

The bottom line to ensuring that your family stays warm all winter is that you want to keep your system well-maintained. This can come in the form of regular annual maintenance, and a service plan from a trusted company. Make sure you do not fall for the ‘automatic delivery’ trap though; find a company that allows you to shop around for oil. This will save you hundreds of dollars a year, automatically. You can use the savings to buy a Smart Oil Gauge, then really take control of your heating oil :-).

Happy Heating,

Steve

How Much Heating Oil Is In My Tank?

Home Heating Oil Gauge

When it comes to ordering heating oil, it is important to know how many gallons you can reasonably expect to fit in your tank. This allows you to maximize the delivery size, and take advantage of any price per gallon discount that you heating oil dealer provides for a larger delivery size. For a breakdown of everything you should take into account when shopping for heating oil, see our blog post here.

Before ordering heating oil, you’ll want to make sure that your heating oil tank has room for at least 100 gallons to be delivered. 100 gallons is most often the minimum delivery amount most dealers require. If you order 100 gallons and your tank will not take the full amount, you may be stuck paying a significantly higher price per gallon on your order. To determine whether your tank can take at least 100 gallons, you’ll need to know a few things about your home heating oil tank:

  • What style heating oil tank you have
  • Your heating oil tank’s max capacity
  • Your current level

The amount you can have delivered is equal to your tank’s max capacity, minus the current level.

Max Delivery Amount = Max Tank Capacity – Current Level

What Style Heating Oil Tank Do I Have?

There are a variety of heating oil tank styles these days, ranging from in-ground tanks, to a long list of above ground tanks. We’ll highlight the most common tank styles here, and give you a few tips for figuring out which style and size tank you have.

Steel Tanks

Traditional Granby Steel Heating Oil Tank

These are by far the most common style heating oil tank, especially in the Northeast US. They are most often 275 gallon tanks, but can also be 330 gallon.

Tip: A 275 gallon tank measures 5’ long; a 330 measures 6’. They are otherwise identical.

For a full list of steel tanks, refer to Granby’s website here.

Roth DWT (Double-Wall Tanks)

Roth Double-Wall Heating Oil Tanks

If you have a newer home, live near the water (i.e. the ocean), or have had your tank replaced in recent years, you may have a double-walled tank like the one shown above. These tanks feature an internal plastic tank enclosed in an outer metal shell. The most common variant of the Roth tank is the 1000L (275 gallons), which has a capacity of approximately 250 gallons.

Heating Oil Tank Capacity

Once you’ve identified which style home heating oil tank you have, the next step is to determine the overall capacity of the tank.

Tip: A 275 gallon oil tank DOES NOT hold 275 gallons – it actually holds between 240 and 250 gallons when full. A table of common tank capacities is shown at the bottom of this post.

The reason a tank does not hold the full amount has to do with two things: the vent alarm “whistle”, and the air space required at the top of the tank.

The Vent Alarm is a roughly 6” device that hangs down in the tank, positioned right under the vent pipe. As oil enters the tank, air is forced out of the tank through the vent pipe, causing the vent alarm to audibly whistle. The driver can hear this whistling sound from outside the house where the oil is pumped in. As the oil in the tank rises, it eventually touches this vent alarm whistle, causing it to stop making noise. At this point, the driver knows to stop pumping oil into the tank, as it is full. The whistle is designed to stop making noise when there’s approximately 6” of air remaining in the top of the tank. This way, it gives the driver a few seconds to shut the pump off without over filling the tank. It also allows the oil to expand as it warms up once it’s inside the house.

Heating Oil Vent Alarm “Whistle”

Your Current Level

Now that you know your heating oil tank’s max capacity, you’ll need to figure out your current level. The easiest way to tell is to use a Smart Oil Gauge, which not only tells you to the nearest tenth of a gallon what’s in your heating oil tank, but will also show you how much oil you can have delivered at any given time. If you don’t have a Smart Oil Gauge, then you’ll need to refer to the float gauge on your tank. This will give you a ballpark reading of ¼, ½, ¾, etc. At the bottom of this post are approximate levels based on your tank style, and what the float gauge is reading. With this, you can see the maximum amount of oil you can fit in the tank. If you don’t have a float gauge or a Smart Oil Gauge, you will need to use a measuring stick and an oil tank chart – a time consuming and messy process!

A Float Gauge at 1/4 Full

If your float gauge does not work, you should definitely consider installing a Smart Oil Gauge. Since it does not have any moving parts, it will not be subject to sludge buildup over time that typically causes the float gauges to fail. It will tell you from an app on your phone exactly how much oil is in the tank, helping you plan for your next delivery.

A Smart Oil Gauge Tells You Current Level and Days to Next Fill

With all this in mind, we’ve put together the guide below to determine how much oil can be delivered based on the current level in your particular tank.

Happy Heating,

Steve

How to Buy Heating Oil Online

Empty Home Heating Oil Gauge

Looking to get the best deal on your heating oil? There are a few considerations that you want to make sure you keep in mind – we’ll talk about them here.

How to Buy Heating Oil Online

It’s that time of year again when the temperature has dropped, the leaves have fallen, and the heat is on. You go down to the basement and check the old heating oil tank and realize it’s time to order oil. You know there are lots of local heating oil dealers out there – you see the trucks every day. But you’re thinking to yourself, what’s the best way to compare all the home heating oil companies in my area and make sure I’m getting a great price for oil? The most important considerations when shopping for heating oil online are: 

  • Heating Oil Dealer Reputation
  • Available Delivery Dates
  • Methods of Payment
  • Prices Per Gallon

Heating Oil Company Reputation

When ordering heating oil, it is important not to leave the delivery to some anonymous dealer you found online. Instead, find a heating oil source that allows you to not only see dealers’ names, but also read reviews. You’ll want to see the experiences others have had dealing with that heating oil company. Make sure the dealer shows up when promised, delivers the amount ordered, and the driver is respectful of your property. If you got a good price, but the driver ran over your garden, then maybe it was not the best deal after all.

Available Delivery Dates

The next consideration is when you need oil. A general rule of thumb is to “reorder at a quarter”. This means you should order heating oil when your tank is around ¼ full. This gives you at least a few days to have oil delivered without worrying about running out. It also allows you to check heating oil prices for several days out to ensure you’re getting the best price on a particular day. If it’s a Saturday morning and you’re out of oil, you’ll obviously not want to wait until next week so you’ll need to find a dealer that delivers over the weekend.

Fortunately, with sites like FuelSnap, you can see exactly when each particular dealer delivers heating oil to your town. Keep in mind though: a same-day delivery may result in a slightly higher price per gallon, so schedule a delivery for the next day, or a couple days out to get the best price if you don’t need heating oil right away. You might also consider a Smart Oil Gauge for your tank, which not only tells you how much oil you have, but also how many days it will be before you’re at a quarter or an eighth of a tank.  

Methods of Payment

Before you pick your home heating oil company, it’s also important to ensure they take payment via credit card. Credit card payments give you a layer of security that cash and checks do not. Besides, who wants to leave an envelope of cash or a blank check at the house when you’re not home? Make sure you order from a heating oil company online that captures the payment up front.

DO NOT give your credit card number over the phone to the dealer, as this allows them to charge whatever they want to your card, regardless of what was delivered (trust me, I know from experience!). When you buy heating oil online, you know exactly what you’re ordering, and the maximum that your card will be charged for. If your oil tank ends up taking fewer gallons than you ordered, then you’ll receive a refund for the difference. The most important thing is that your card will not be charged MORE after the delivery. 

Home Heating Oil Price Per Gallon

Now that you’ve read the reviews on your dealer, chosen when you want to have your oil delivered, and found a dealer that takes credit cards securely online, you’re ready to choose the delivery amount. With many dealers – although not all – the price per gallon varies with the amount of heating oil ordered. For instance, while oil may be $2.35 per gallon if you order 100 gallons, it may be $2.30 if you order 150, and even $2.25 if you order 200. For many folks, it makes sense to order 200 gallons to get the best rate. Keep in mind, however, that if your tank cannot hold the full 200 gallons, you may end up paying the higher price per gallon on your order.

If you want to know how much your heating oil tank holds, refer to this guide here: how much heating oil is in my tank, and how much can I have delivered. A typical rule of thumb is that a 275 gallon oil tanks holds about 250 gallons when full (there is an air space at the top of the tank). You can use a tank chart to see how many gallons are in your tank already.  

Placing the Order

Now that you know what to consider when shopping for heating oil, it’s time to get started. Fortunately, with sites like FuelSnap, you can choose from reputable local heating oil dealers and read reviews before ordering. You see exactly when you can have your oil delivered, and pay securely ahead of time with a credit card. This eliminates any surprises, and allows you to choose the best price per gallon. You’ve got all the information needed right at your fingertips, so go ahead and order with confidence! 

Happy heating, 

Steve 

Using FuelSnap to Order Heating Oil with the Smart Oil Gauge

FuelSnap Founder Steve Using FuelSnap Application

With single digit temps around the corner, now’s a great time to order Heating Oil if your tank is low. When it comes to ordering oil for your tank, there are lots of companies to choose from, and many ways to go about it.

In today’s video we’ll walk you through the process of checking prices and selecting a dealer right through your Smart Oil Gauge app using the built-in FuelSnap feature.

Some of the key points we touch on are:

0:15 – When is the right time to order oil (“Reorder at a quarter” is a good rule of thumb).

1:05 – How to check Heating Oil prices where you live, and toggle through different delivery days to make sure you’re getting the best price.

1:40 – How to adjust the # of gallons ordered to see how the price is changed.

2:20 – How to read reviews for your Heating Oil dealers.

2:30 – Checking out – setting the number of gallons.

2:45 – Setting your Tank Address information (the more information here, the better!).

3:19 – Entering credit card information (*Note: Make sure the Billing Address is correct for the card you have entered).

3:42 – How to view the Order Summary.

3:50 – Submitting the order.

Give it a try in your app, and if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to email us at info@fuelsnap.com or give us a call anytime at 203-456-1015.

Happy Heating,

Steve Williams