How to Fill a Home Heating Oil Tank

how to fill a heating oil tank

With fall just around the corner it’s time to start thinking about heating oil again. If you just moved into a house with oil heat, there’s a lot you should know. In this post we’ll break down oil heat basics, including how to fill a home heating oil tank.

Heating Oil is a ‘Delivered Fuel’

Unlike natural gas – which is plumbed through the ground to your house – or electricity – which comes straight into the house as well – heating oil is delivered by a truck. Heating oil trucks usually hold around 2500 gallons and deliver an average of 150-200 gallons at each stop.

Heating oil is delivered via trucks like this one shown here. A hose comes out of the truck and pumps the oil into the oil tank.

Types of Heating Oil Tanks

Whatever type of oil tank you have, always remember to clear a path to your oil tank fill pipe after a snowstorm. This will ensure the driver can make the delivery without any issues.

Remember to clear a path to your oil fill pipe after it snows.

Indoor Oil Tanks

Heating oil tanks are most often located inside of a basement or garage. If this is the case, then the driver will see a fill pipe and a vent pipe extending outside of the house from the tank.

Indoor heating oil tanks will feature a fill pipe and vent pipe outside.

Buried Oil Tanks

Occasionally, a heating oil tank will be buried in the ground. In this case, the driver pumps the oil into a fill pipe sticking out of the ground.

A buried oil tank will often feature fill and vent pipes protruding from the ground as shown here.

Outdoor Oil Tanks

Outdoor oil tanks are the easiest for drivers to deliver to, as the whole tank is visible from outside.

This owner obviously got creative with this outdoor oil tank. You can see the fill and vent pipes at the top.

How to Fill an Oil Tank

The first step to filling an oil tank is placing an order for heating oil online. You can do this by entering your zip code on a site like FuelSnap. Refer to these tank charts to determine how much heating oil to order.

Once you order oil, the truck will come to deliver it. The driver will attach the hose to the fill pipe and begin pumping.

As the oil enters the tank, it will force the air in the tank out of the vent pipe, blowing a whistle. The driver listens to the whistle to know that the tank is not full and he can keep pumping.

The driver stops pumping oil when he pumps the amount ordered, or he hears the whistle stop. The whistle hangs down in the tank and stops whistling when it touches the oil.

When the oil level rises toward the top it eventually touches the whistle, alerting the driver that the tank is just about full. Use a visual gauge shown here, or install a Smart Oil Gauge to get a digital reading of the tank level on your phone.

Paying For Your Heating Oil

If you ordered a ‘Fill’, the oil company will usually authorize a charge on your credit card for a full tank of oil. For a typical 275 gallon tank, this would be about 250 gallons. Once the delivery is made, a refund will typically be provided for any gallons that the dealer could not fit in the tank.

If you are on automatic delivery, expect a credit card charge around the time the delivery is made, or an invoice in the mailbox when you get home.

Happy heating,


How Long Will 5 Gallons Of Oil Last Me?

how long will 5 gallons of oil last

Waking up in the summer with no hot water, or in the winter with no heat often means one thing: you’re out of heating oil. The good news with heating oil is you can always grab 5 gallons of diesel oil to hold you over until your next delivery. Click here for a step-by-step guide for what to do if you’re out of oil.

Since diesel and heating oil are virtually the same, you’ll want to know how long those 5 gallons of heating oil will last you. We’ll break this down here!

Head to the gas station and grab 5 gallons of diesel if you are out of heating oil. Technically, you’re supposed to use a yellow can for heating oil. The blue can is reserved for kerosene; red for gasoline.

Heating Oil Usage in The Winter Months

Expect to use significantly more heating oil in the winter months than summer. Your usage in the winter will depend on a few factors. The first factor is the climate: how cold it is, on average. The second factor is how high you keep the thermostat: the higher the temperature, the more oil you will use.

Next, you’ll need to consider the size of your home. Finally, your home’s efficiency plays a major role in your heating oil usage.

Using the figures below, you can estimate that a home may use 3-7 gallons of heating oil on a typical winter day.

Your heating oil usage depends primarily on the size of your house and the outdoor temperature.

Heating Oil Usage During the Summer Months

If your hot water heater runs on heating oil, then you can expect to use oil year round. Your usage in the summer will depend on how much hot water your household uses.

One factor that contributes to your heating oil usage in the summer months is the age and efficiency of your hot water heater: the newer the better. Additionally, the more teenagers taking long hot showers, the more heating oil you will be using.

In the summer months, expect to use between 0.5 and 1.0 gallon of heating oil per day.

The more hot showers, the more heating oil you will use during the summer.

Total Heating Oil Used Per Year

The best way to determine how much heating oil you will use during the course of a year is to install a Smart Oil Gauge. This will tell you how much you use by hour, day, week, month or year. It will also alert you when you are low on heating oil.

To get a baseline, however, refer to the chart below for heating oil usage in a given year. These ranges are for a typical CT winter. For a less energy-efficient house, refer to the numbers in the ‘high’ column. For newer, more energy-efficient houses, refer to the ‘low’ column on the left.

A typical home in CT will use approximately 880 gallons of heating oil per year.

So, How Long Will 5 Gallons of Heating Oil Last?

In the summer months, expect 5 gallons of heating oil to last 5-10 days. On a cold winter day, however, 5 gallons of heating oil may not even last a full day. Order heating oil as soon as possible when you are low during the winter to prevent a runout.

Happy heating,


What To Do If You Are Out of Heating Oil?

heating oil fill pipe and vent pipe

We’ve all been there. It’s the middle of winter and suddenly it feels like the heat’s not on. Or it’s the middle of summer and someone complains about a cold shower.

Running out of heating oil happens to the best of us. If you run out of heating oil, don’t panic. Just follow this guide here and you should have heat or hot water in no time.

family at home when they are out of heating oil
If the heat cuts out, there’s a good chance you’re out of heating oil.

Step 1: Check To Make Sure You Are Actually Out of Heating Oil

There can be many reasons why your house is suddenly cold in the middle of winter. Somebody could have accidentally turned the thermostat down. Somebody could have left the back door open after letting the dog out. There could also be a problem with your oil burner (air in the lines, for instance).

To check if you are out of heating oil, you’ll have to go down to your oil tank. Look at the float gauge on top of the tank to determine the level. If it is reading empty, you can be pretty sure you are out of oil. If that gauge indicates the tank is full, it could be stuck. Unscrew the plastic cover from the gauge and gently lift the disc to free the float inside the tank. If it moves up and down freely, you should be able to trust the level.

If you cannot trust your float gauge, open up a spare opening on the tank and use a long stick to measure the oil level (in inches). Refer to a heating oil tank chart to see how many gallons are in the tank. If you’ve got less than 30 or 40 gallons in the tank, the burner may not be able to draw any more oil and will not run. This is because the oil lines do not always reach the very bottom of the tank.

If you are out of heating oil, proceed to step 2. If you are not out of heating oil, proceed to Step 5, then call your oil service technician if your system will not stay on.

The disc will indicate the level. Remove the plastic cover to ensure the float is not stuck.

Step 2: Order Heating Oil

If you are out of oil, order heating oil right away. You can order oil online on a site like FuelSnap, or call your local heating oil delivery company. As soon as you have oil on the way, proceed to Step 3.

If you are not out of heating oil, then you should try resetting your burner. Skip to step 5 if you have oil in the tank and have ruled out someone having turned the thermostat down.

Step 3: Get 5 Gallons of Diesel Fuel

Did you know that heating oil is almost identical to diesel? This is great news if you are out of oil, as you simply need to buy 5 or 10 gallons of diesel fuel to hold you over until you get an oil delivery.

Technically, you’re supposed to use a yellow can to indicate that it is for diesel. Diesel fuel is a suitable substitute for heating oil if you are out of oil.

Step 4: Pour The Diesel Into the Fill Pipe Outside of Your House

Even though your heating oil tank may be located inside the house, DO NOT bring the diesel can inside. Your house was designed with an exterior fill pipe for heating oil.

Locate the fill pipe and vent pipe on the outside of the house. The vent pipe will have a mushroom cap on it. This is where the air escapes from inside the tank as it’s being filled.

The fill pipe will have a hexagon shaped cap on it. Remove the cap and pour the diesel into the tank.

Pour the diesel fuel directly into the fill pipe outside your house.

Step 5: Reset Your Oil Burner

Once you’ve added 5 or 10 gallons of diesel to your heating oil tank, the next step is to reset your oil burner. The oil burner typically has a big red reset button on it.

Press this button once and you’ll hear the system start. After 15-30 seconds, the system should stay running if all is well. If that happens, you’re all set!

If the system does not restart, press the reset button again. In the event it does not start after the second press, you may need to bleed the oil lines. This is only for the mechanically-inclined homeowner…if this does not describe you we highly recommend calling a service technician!

Once you’ve added oil to your tank (or if you weren’t out of oil in the first place), press the reset button on your oil burner. Do not do this more than 2 times! Call a service technician if the system is not running after two presses.

Once you’ve added heating oil to your tank and restarted your burner, you should have enough oil to last a day or two until the truck arrives.

If you’d like to ensure you never run out of heating oil again, order a Smart Oil Gauge. It will alert you when the tank is low and you can reorder heating oil right through the app.

Happy heating,


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,