What To Do If You Are Out of Heating Oil?

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,