Does your home have a buried heating oil tank? If so, you may consider having it removed at some point. Underground oil tanks could become an environmental hazard if they start to leak. In this post we’ll talk about signs that it’s time to remove and replace your inground heating oil tank.
How to Identify an Underground Heating Oil Tank
If you are new to heating oil, you’ll first want to understand the basics. Oil-heated homes will have a tank somewhere on the property to store heating oil. You will have to order heating oil and fill this tank periodically to maintain your fuel supply.
Tanks are most often above-ground – located in a basement, garage, crawl space, or just outside the house – but occasionally underground. Underground heating oil tanks gained popularity in the 60s, 70s, and 80s as they kept the giant heating oil tank out of sight. However, after many decades in the ground, some started to leak. The resulting environmental hazard led to the removal of these tanks starting in the 90s.
Very few houses built since the 1980s have underground heating oil tanks.Look for one or two pipes sticking out of the ground to identify a buried oil tank.
Reasons to Remove an Underground Heating Oil Tank
There are a variety of reasons that a heating oil tank should be removed. The most important reason is to prevent a leak. A leak can result in contaminated soil which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remediate.
The Tank is Over 30 Years Old: If your home has a buried heating oil tank and was built prior to 1990, then your tank is likely over 30 years old. After 30 years, the inner walls of the tank can start to corrode. After a while, the walls are too thin and oil can begin to leak out. While you can have the soil around the tank tested, it is not an easy process. If your tank is over 30 years old, consider having the tank removed or abandoned and replaced with an above ground tank. For assistance choosing a new heating oil tank, check out this post here.
The Tank Is Leaking: Inspecting an underground oil tank is nearly impossible. Catch a leak by keeping close tabs on the amount of heating oil you are using. By tracking your usage, you can tell if you are suddenly going through more heating oil than expected. Track your heating oil usage by taking regular measurements of your tank level using a stick. Refer to a heating oil tank chart to record the level in the tank. Do this weekly to see how quickly the level is declining. Use this guide here for how much oil you should be expecting to burn if there is no leak. Another sign of a leak is your burner shutting down due to water in the oil lines. If the tank is taking in water, then it is likely the oil is also escaping the tank. This could result in an environmental catastrophe.
You Plan on Selling Your Home Soon: Underground heating oil tanks can be a deal-breaker for a new homeowner. In fact, some banks will not mortgage a property with a buried oil tank due to the potential liability. Removing an oil tank and remediating soil are time-consuming and costly. Remove your tank ahead of the sale to eliminate this potential issue.
Replace Your Heating Oil Tank Before It Leaks
Remove your buried heating oil tank once it gets to the 30 year old mark. After three decades in the soil, it is hard to know the condition of the tank. Hire a reputable tank removal company to remove your buried oil tank. They will not only properly dispose of the old tank, but also test the soil around the tank. This will ensure the ground is not contaminated with oil
Install a new above ground heating oil tank – preferably inside the house. Indoor oil tanks are not subject to the elements and will last much longer than outdoor tanks. Then, all you have to worry about is ordering heating oil online and staying warm.
If you’re new to home heating oil, the first decision you’ll have to make is: should I sign up for automatic home heating oil delivery? Automatic delivery means you sign an agreement with a single heating oil company for the year. This agreement says you will buy all your heating oil for the whole season from them, and they will automatically deliver it to you. This sounds like a great idea on the surface, but there is a major cost to this which we will touch on below.
The alternative to automatic home heating oil delivery is being a ‘will-call’ customer: someone who only orders heating oil as needed. There are pros and cons to each, and we’ll break them down in this post.
Heating Oil Basics
Unlike natural gas or electricity, you must have heating oil periodically delivered to your home. Before you order heating oil for the first time, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with these terms:
Automatic Delivery: An agreement, usually for one year, that a heating oil company will delivery all the necessary heating oil to you on their own schedule. The dealer uses a system called ‘Degree Days’ to estimate when you’ll need oil next. The system uses outside temperature and delivery history to estimate your tank level. Expect to pay a premium price for heating oil to receive automatic delivery.
Will-Call: The alternative to automatic delivery, wherein you simply order heating oil as needed. By being a will-call customer, you can take advantage of significantly lower prices for heating oil. The downside is you must monitor your own oil tank. When you’re low, just check heating oil prices and order heating oil online with a credit card.
Service Contract: A maintenance plan that provides 24/7 support if a heating system fails during the winter. This is sometimes included ‘free’ with automatic delivery, but be wary of this. You are likely paying an extra dollar per gallon of heating oil to pay for this ‘free’ service contract. This adds up to $800 – $1000 per year on an average home in the Northeast! There are many reputable service companies that will service your system in the event of an emergency. Further, you should learn to inspect your own oil tank as well.
Budget Payment Plan: A payment agreement with the heating oil company that spreads out your total heating oil spend over 9, 10, or even 12 months. This helps eliminate very large bills during peak heating season by spreading the bills out over many months. This is the most profitable type of customer for the oil heating company, as they can charge extremely high heating oil prices without the homeowner noticing.
Fixed-Price Agreement: An agreement when signing up for automatic home heating oil delivery that you will pay a fixed-price for heating oil that season. This helps protect against major price increases that may occur. It comes at a cost, however: usually 20 cents per gallon for your estimated usage. Also, you may pay above-market prices if the prices fall during the season, as happened in 2020.
Price-Cap: A price-cap plan is an agreement that your heating oil price fluctuates with the market price but will not exceed a certain price. Many homeowners fall for the price-cap agreement, as they believe there is no downside to it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! This is because when the market price for oil lowers, the oil company is under no obligation to lower their price accordingly They may lower it only slightly, for instance. So while you may be protected if the price for oil skyrockets, you’ll be left paying extra if the price drops. This played out in early 2020 when oil prices fell by over 50% and folks on automatic delivery did not even see their price budge at all.
How to Choose Between Automatic Oil Delivery and Will-Call
Historically, those were the two options: pay a premium for automatic delivery or run down to the oil tank periodically as a ‘will-call’ customer. Automatic delivery was obviously much more convenient than running down to the basement, so fuel oil dealers could charge a huge premium for this service. Even today, fuel oil dealers are charging an average of 40-50 cents per gallon for automatic home heating oil delivery, with some charging more than a dollar extra per gallon! Be careful to not get lured in by a ‘first fill’ price of $1.49 to sign up for automatic delivery. The price ALWAYS goes up after that.
To avoid over-paying for heating oil, will-call is the next option. To be a will-call customer, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with checking your heating oil tank gauge. For a detailed explanation read how to check your heating oil tank gauge. Remember, running out of heating oil can be very costly, so don’t forget to check that oil tank!
Fortunately, these are no longer your only two options. There is now a third option, which brings the cost-savings of being a will-call customer together with the peace of mind of automatic delivery: a Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge is a WiFi heating oil tank gauge. It tells you on your phone how much heating oil is in the tank. It will alert you when your tank is low and it’s time to order oil. You can even order heating oil right from the app.
What is the Best Option for Heating Oil Delivery?
So what’s best? We rate the three options below.
3rd Place: Automatic Home Heating Oil Delivery
We recommend automatic delivery for folks who just don’t want to think about heating oil. Sign up at the beginning of the season, and then get a bill every month for your deliveries. This is an expensive option, but if money is no object then we recommend it. You may also prefer a budget payment plan which spreads out your payments over the course of the season. This is usually only possible with automatic delivery. But remember, you pay much more over the course of the season for this benefit.
There is still a risk of runout with automatic delivery. So, ask your heating oil company to install an oil tank monitor, or buy your own to make sure you don’t run out.
2nd Place: Will-Call
Will-call will save you hundreds of dollars per year, and thousands over the long-term. That said, those savings can be wiped away if you run out of oil when you’re away from home. Frozen pipes can lead to a catastrophe that costs tens of thousands to repair.
If your oil tank is in a convenient location, however, will-call may be the way to go. You’ll have total flexibility when it comes to choosing a supplier. And you can shop around for the best price for heating oil whenever you are low. Just don’t forget to check the tank!
1st Place: Will-Call with a Smart Oil Gauge
If you want to save money on heating oil, go with will-call, and invest in a Smart Oil Gauge. For around $150 a Smart Oil Gauge will give you even more peace of mind than automatic delivery. It will tell you how much oil is in the tank, and alert you when it’s time to order heating oil.
Within the app, you can even check heating oil prices near me and order heating oil online in seconds. Pay with a credit card and take advantage of will-call pricing right through the app.
What about a Service Contract?
Some dealers will insist that you MUST be on automatic delivery for them to provide a service contract. If that’s your dealer, we recommend finding a new one! There are plenty of dealers who offer service contracts and do not require automatic delivery. DollarWise Oil is one of these companies that offers various maintenance options. Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service Inc. is another one – they offer maintenance plans and do not even sell heating oil! So next time a heating oil dealer tells you that you have to buy all your heating oil from them if you want a service contract, find another company!
Save Money And Only Order Heating Oil As Needed
With today’s technology, you can now take advantage of the lowest pricing possible by only ordering heating oil as needed. Get the peace of mind of automatic delivery by installing a Smart Oil Gauge to keep an eye on the tank level. Configure your alerts so you know when the tank is low. And when it’s time to order heating oil, come back to FuelSnap and get the best heating oil prices possible.
As a good practice, we recommend inspecting your home heating oil tank at least once per year. In fact, many home heating oil companies will require an in-person oil tank inspection prior to your first home heating oil delivery. While the inspection only takes a few minutes, there are some important things to look for while inspecting your home’s oil tank. We’ll break them down below!
How to Inspect Above-Ground Heating Oil Tanks
While there are still many homes with in-ground heating oil tanks, there is really no way to inspect those oil tanks since they are out of sight. If your oil tank is above-ground though, it is important to check its condition periodically. Heating oil tanks – also known as fuel oil tanks – are typically steel and oval-shaped. Below is a common Granby 275 gallon steel oil tank. This is by far the most commonly installed heating oil tank in the Northeast US. Below are the six things to look for when inspecting a tank such as this.
Step 1 – Inspect the Oil Tank for a Solid Base & Footing
Ensuring the floor that the oil tank is sitting on is solid is a crucial step. Even in a basement, the ground can settle over time which could create issues with your oil tank. All four legs of the oil tank should be inspected to ensure they are rust-free and providing good support. A home heating oil tank with 250 gallons of oil weighs over 2000 pounds! This is as much as a small car, so it is critical that those oil tank feet are on stable ground.
Inspecting the base and footing is even more important on an outdoor oil tank. The oil tank should be sitting on a single, uniform concrete slab. It is not acceptable to have each leg of the tank on a separate cinder block, for instance, as one could shift and cause the whole tank to lean. This can cause the fitting to bend at the bottom of the tank, causing a catastrophic spill.
Step 2 – Check your Oil Tank for Rust Free Seams
The perimeter and sides of a steel oil tank are welded together. Because of the potential for imperfections in the welded area, these seams should be inspected for rust. Once they begin to rust, oil can start slowly leaking out of your tank. Look for any signs of leakage on or around the seams of the oil tank.
Step 3 – Look for Leaks at the Bottom of the Oil Tank
Similar to the seams, the bottom of the home heating oil tank tends to be susceptible to corrosion from the inside out. This is because certain blends of home heating oil are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb water. Water can lead to corrosion inside the fuel oil tank and eventually that corrosion leads to small holes along the bottom of the tank. Check to make sure the bottom of the fuel oil tank shows no signs of leaks. Also pay close attention to the fitting where the oil comes out at the tank. This fitting is where the oil line meets the tank, so it is important that it is secured and free from leaks.
Step 4 – Look for Leaks at the Oil Line and by Following the Line to the Burner
The oil line itself can be prone to leaks, believe it or not. This is why modern oil lines are actually copper that is coated in plastic for one extra layer of protection. Check the oil line for leaks, and be sure to follow the line all the way to the your oil burner (furnace or boiler).
Step 5 – Check for Leaks at the Oil Filter
The oil filter is what the heating oil passes through on its way to the fuel oil tank. This is often found close to the oil tank, but is occasionally found alongside the burner as well. Since these are changed periodically, it is important to check them on an annual basis to make sure they are clean.
Step 6 – Scan for Leaks at the Top of the Fuel Oil Tank
While leaks at the top may seem less important than leaks at the bottom, it is still important to make note of them. Look to see if any oil has dripped from around the fittings at the top of the fuel oil tank. If you see oil there, it could mean that the oil tank has been overfilled before. Overfilling a tank can have major consequences, as the oil can spill out of those fittings and into the basement. In addition, oil can even make its way all the way out of the vent pipe and end up in the soil outside. If the fuel oil tank shows evidence of having been over-filled, then you may need a new vent alarm/whistle.
The vent alarm makes a sound as the oil tank is being filled. The driver listens for this sound when filling your home heating oil tank. Once the oil rises to about 7″ from the top of the tank, it touches the whistle, muffling the sound. The driver hears the whistle stop and shuts off the pump. If the whistle is not functioning, most dealers will not fill your home heating oil tank, as it could result in the tank being overfilled.
Remember to Inspect Your Heating Oil Tank Annually
Inspecting your oil tank at least once a year will give you peace of mind and help prevent an oil leak. If you find that your tank is showing signs of aging and needs to be replaced, then we recommend checking out our guide here on choosing a new oil tank. An oil tank can last up to 30 years, but a leak inside or outside your home can be devastating. Follow this guide once a year and you should be able to sleep well at night!
p.s. A great way to avoid over filling your fuel oil tank is by always knowing how much oil is in your tank. With Smart Oil Gauge, you can check your phone anytime and anywhere to find out how much oil you have. This way you can tell your heating oil company exactly how much you need.
Choosing a heating system for a new home requires understanding different ways homes are heated and how home heating works. From oil to propane, natural gas to electric, there are a variety of fuel types to choose from. And from radiant floor heat, to forced hot air that comes through vents in the floors, there are also many ways to heat the space inside the home. In this post, we’ll break down our favorites and reasoning for our choices…read on below!
How to Choose a Heating Fuel Type
Depending on where your new home is being built, your options for fuel type may be limited. If you are in the Midwest or Northwest US, natural gas may be your only choice. In the northeast however, you may be choosing between heating oil, propane, or natural gas. Electric heat is also an option, but we do not recommend it if you live in a cold climate, as it can be very expensive in the wintertime.
Natural Gas: If your neighborhood has natural gas, we recommend tapping into it for your home’s heating system. You can also use natural gas for fireplaces, backup generators, and pool heaters. The downside to natural gas is you are dependent on one supplier, and therefore cannot price compare and switch between suppliers. If the price goes up, you are stuck.
Heating Oil: Heating oil generates more heat per gallon than any other fuel type, and as of this writing is about as cost-effective as natural gas. The nice thing about heating oil is that you can choose from many heating oil suppliers and store a large quantity of heating oil in an oil tank in your basement. This allows you to stock up in the off-season and avoid fluctuating local oil prices in the winter.
Propane: Propane is the most expensive option when it comes to heating your home, so we recommend avoiding it. Propane not only puts out less heat per gallon than heating oil, but actually costs more per gallon. Further, when you use propane, the propane supplier will provide you with a tank. This prevents you from ordering propane from any other supplier – even if the price is lower! The only benefit to propane is it can also be used for cooking and gas fireplaces. That said, you can always use both heating oil and propane if you would like the best of both worlds and natural gas is not available.
Choosing a Heating System
There are two basic heating types: air-based systems and water-based systems.
Air-Based Systems (Forced Hot Air)
Air-based systems rely on a furnace to heat incoming air. Once the air is hot, a blower circulates this air through ducts throughout the house.
Benefits of air-based heating systems:
Duct work is relatively inexpensive to install during new construction.
Vents can be closed off in rooms that do not need to be heated.
The space can be heated very quickly.
The same ducts can be used for a central A/C cooling system.
Water-Based Systems (Boilers)
The second type of system, which was more common before central A/C was introduced, is a water-based system. This type of heating system features a boiler which heats water in the basement. This hot water is then pumped through radiators that are placed throughout the house. The radiators slowly heat the surrounding air and warm the house up.
Benefits of water-based systems
These systems retain heat better, as the water in the radiators stays warm.
They can be used with under-floor heating (also known as radiant floor heat) for extremely comfortable warm floors.
Hydronic Heating Systems (Hybrid Systems for Water and Air)
Our favorite type of home heating system for new construction is a hydronic system. This type of system uses a water heater to heat water for the house. This water can be used in two ways:
The hot water can be used in the floor to provide radiant heating. There is nothing like walking on warm floors on a cold winter day.
The hot water can be sent to a heat exchanger to heat air as well. In this case, forced hot air remains a back-up option to quickly heat the air in the home.
Benefits of a Hydronic System with Radiant Floor Heat:
The coziness of warm floors provided by radiant floor heat is second to none.
The floors help retain heat throughout the day.
The backup forced hot air can help heat the house quickly, or provide a backup heat source on a really cold day.
Summary: Forced Hot Air is a Must
If you’re considering building a new house, you should, at the very least, install a forced hot air system. This will allow you to very easily install a central A/C system as well. You can install the A/C system while building the house up front, or always add it later – just be sure to specify a furnace that has enough clearance to add coils for cold air.
If your budget will allow, then you should consider a hybrid system that incorporates hot water and hot air. This will provide the duct work for quickly heating the house but will also accommodate radiant floor heat. Radiant floor heat provides maximum coziness in the winter and tends to maintain the heat nicely throughout the day.
Since you’ll already have the duct work, this will allow you to have central A/C installed as well. Planning for this during construction will eliminate the need for any renovations down the road. As for a fuel type, we recommend natural gas if it’s available, and heating oil if it is not. Propane is unnecessarily expensive and will make it very difficult to switch providers or price shop if need be.
If you choose home heating oil as your primary fuel type, FuelSnap has the best New England oil prices around. Compare oil prices from various heating oil suppliers, find your perfect fit and enjoy the home heating oil delivery! Yes, it really is that simple.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :-).
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