How Long Will 5 Gallons of Heating Oil Last?

staying warm with hot chocolate

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

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

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

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

Heating Oil for Hot Water Heaters

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

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

Heating Oil For Heating Your House

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

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

How The Temperature Outside Affects Home Fuel Oil Usage

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

The average house will use 4-6 gallons of heating oil on a typical winter day with an average temperature around 30° F.

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

A typical 2500 square foot home in the northeast will use around 880 gallons of heating oil per year. Houses with great insulation will use less fuel oil, while poorly insulated houses with drafty windows can expect to use more heating oil.

Heating Fuel Oil for Heat and Hot Water

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

Proper Insulation Can Help Conserve Home Heating Oil

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

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

Drafty Windows Can Increase Heating Oil Consumption

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

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

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

Program Your Thermostat to Conserve Heating Oil

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

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

Keep Your Burner/Furnace/Boiler in Top Condition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy heating,

Steve

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

Kerosene vs. heating oil

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

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

Heating Oil Vs. Kerosene: Key Differences

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

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

Cost of Home Heating Oil vs. Kerosene Heating

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

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

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

FuelSnap: Helping Residents Find the Best New England Oil Prices

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

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

What To Do If You Run Out Of Heating Oil

out of heating oil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2 – Order Heating Oil Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 4 – Restart Your Oil Burner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy heating,

Steve

How To Choose a New Home Heating Oil Tank

275 gallon home heating oil tank

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

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

How a Fuel Oil Tank Works

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

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

Granby Steel Tanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roth Double-Wall Oil Tanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

Granby Standard Oil Tanks

Roth-USA

Happy heating,

Steve

How to Read a Heating Oil Tank Gauge

Empty Home Heating Oil Gauge

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

How to Read a Float Gauge in a Heating Oil Tank

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Accurate is a Heating Oil Float Gauge?

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

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

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

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

How Much Heating Oil Should I Order and When?

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

Amount to Order = Tank Capacity – Current Level

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

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

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

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

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

What if I Want to Order 200 Gallons?

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

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

How Much Heating Oil Will I Use in a Day?

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

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

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

Use the Float Gauge to Approximate Your Heating Oil Tank Level

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

Happy heating,

Steve

What Negative Oil Prices Mean for Heating Oil

oil storage tanks

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

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

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

No Demand For Oil, and Nowhere to Store It

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

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

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

Why Would Anyone Sell at a Negative Price?

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

What This Means for Heating Oil Prices

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

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

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

Happy Spring everyone,

Steve

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

Service Contract Gear Icon

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