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.