How to Read a Heating Oil Tank Gauge

how to read an oil tank gauge

If you’re new to home heating oil, you may be wondering how to read an oil tank gauge. Or for that matter, how much oil does a heating oil tank even hold? In this post we’ll break down the different types of oil tank gauges and how to read them.

Types of Heating Oil Tanks

Home heating oil, like propane, is a ‘delivered fuel’. This means it must be delivered to your house on a truck, rather than supplied directly to your house like natural gas or electricity. As a result, you must store heating oil in a holding tank at the house.

Heating oil tanks can be found indoors in a garage or basement (most common), outdoors just outside the house (less common), or even buried under the ground (least common). Indoors is the best place for a heating oil tank because it is safe from the elements. Just imagine what rain, sun and snow can do to a steel tank over time. An indoors location will shield the tank, and make any leaks or issues easy to spot.

Buried Tanks

Buried oil tanks are less common today than they once were. The problem with buried tanks is they can leak over time without anyone knowing. This can make for a very expensive removal and remediation process. Once a buried tank reaches 30 years of age, it is recommended to have it removed and replaced with an above-ground tank, preferably indoors.

Buried oil tanks, like this one shown here, are less common today than they once were. This 2000 gallon tank here was leaking and required two truckloads of contaminated dirt to be removed.

Above-Ground Tanks

Above-ground tanks are much preferred to buried tanks. Detect leaks faster and be proactive with your tank maintenance with an above-ground tank.

Indoor tanks are much preferred over outdoor tanks. This 275 gallon indoor tank is safe from the outdoor elements.

Types of Tank Gauges

Above-ground heating oil tanks typically have a float gauge up top. A float gauge relies on an arm with a floating end to it (picture a cork) that moves up and down with the oil in the tank.

This is the most common type of float gauge that will be found on a home heating oil tank.
The disc inside this vial indicates the tank level. For a 275 gallon tank (most common), 1/4 tank means 68 gallons remaining. 1/2 tank means 138 gallons remaining, and 3/4 tank means 206 gallons remaining.

Smart Oil Gauge

A much more precise way to measure your heating oil tank is by using an ultrasonic sensor such as that found in a Smart Oil Gauge. With the exception of the top 8″ of the tank, the Smart Oil Gauge will provide readings within a few gallons in your tank.

To check your heating oil level with the Smart Oil Gauge, simply open the app. It will display the level, in gallons, as well as some usage statistics. You will see how much oil you are using and when you will need to order heating oil next.

Reading a Smart Oil Gauge is self-explanatory. Just open the app, and voila!

How Much Oil Can I Order?

Based on the size of your tank and how much oil is in it, you should know how much you can order for your tank. Follow this guide here to determine how much heating oil you can fit in your next delivery. For tanks beyond the standard 275 and 330 gallon tanks, use this tank chart here.

Use this chart as a guide to see how much heating oil you can order.

Refer to a Tank Chart For the Most Precise Reading

To be absolute sure your float gauge or Smart Oil Gauge is providing a perfect reading, grab a tape measure. Measure your tank to confirm its dimensions. Then, place a yard stick inside the tank to measure the height of the oil in the tank. Check the tank chart for you tank here and you’ll know how much oil is in the tank.

Happy heating,

Steve