If you’re living in your first oil-heated home, you may be wondering about heating oil usage and the process of measuring your tank level, avoiding run-outs, and more. Here are answers to the most common questions we hear.
On top of the tank is a clear glass or plastic cube that is marked with numbers that resemble the gas gauge of your car: F, ¾, ½, ¼. A red marker or float commonly indicates the amount of fuel left in your tank – if the float is at the bottom of the gauge or not visible at all, your tank is empty or nearly empty.
To make sure the gauge is working, carefully remove the outer case and gently press the float down. If it bobs back up to the original position, the gauge is working. If the gauge is not working, contact your heating oil supplier and let them know. The last thing you want to do is to start guessing how much oil is left in your tank during a cold snap.
The most common size of a heating oil tank is 275 gallons, but the size of the tank doesn’t indicate how much fuel it actually holds.
When full, a 275-gallon tank holds approximately 235-255 gallons depending on how deep the vent pipe goes in to the top of the tank; the rest of the space is left to allow for air or debris at the bottom of your tank.
So, if your gauge reads “½” in a 275-gallon tank, you have about 117 gallons left, not 135 or so as you might first expect. Other typical tank sizes may include 230 and 240 gallons (the size is often indicated on the side of your tank; older models may not include that information).
Read more about heating oil tanks.
To make winter deliveries easier and stress-free for you, ask your heating oil company if they offer automatic delivery. This allows them to be accurate about your fuel needs so they can make a heating oil delivery and you can continue to feel warm and safe using home heating oil.
But if you still prefer to call for heating oil, you need to give your supplier extra time when conditions are harsh in order to avoid running out of fuel. It’s best to call for more fuel when your oil tank falls to the one-quarter mark.
Absolutely. First, heating oil cannot burn in its liquid state. Before combustion can even occur, heating oil must first be vaporized into a finer mist by your oil burner at temperatures above 140°.
Second, the fuel you have stored in your heating oil tank right now is very safe because it can’t explode. In fact, if you were to drop a lit match into a bucket of heating oil, the flame would go out, just as if you dropped the match into water.
Third, a heating oil system poses a very low risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If an oil burner ever malfunctions, you’ll most likely see smoke and the safety devices will shut the furnace or boiler off.
Fourth, the advent of Bioheat® fuel has made home heating oil even safer. That’s because Bioheat fuel has a higher flash point, also known as ignition temperature. It’s just one more thing that homeowners who use Bioheat fuel can feel good about.