If you’re counted among the millions of homeowners throughout the United States who use either heating oil or propane to keep your home warm during the winter season, one of the biggest annoyances is probably checking to make sure that you have plenty of heating fuel and scheduling a heating fuel delivery from a heating oil dealer with enough time.
During the cold winter season, oil tanks have a tendency to get lost in the fray as homeowners shovel snow, plan skiing tips and take adventurous family outings. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when the outside weather is its coldest and when having a full heating oil tank is absolutely vital. As such, even some of the most responsible people wind up running out of fuel during the cold season and right when they need this resource the most.
There are several possible reasons why a fuel tank might run empty. Among these are:
- Failure to track fuel oil levels
- Having insufficient funds for fuel delivery services
- A fuel tank leak
- Fuel theft
Regardless of why it happens, running out of fuel oil or propane is an incredibly frustrating experience and one that can have a considerable impact on both your day-to-day functioning and your health. However, preventing this issue doesn’t have to be a veritable nightmare. You can make sure that your heating oil or propane tank is always full throughout the year by learning the risks of running out and by taking several simple measures to avoid having your tank grow empty.
Reasons to Avoid Running Out of Heating Fuel
- Reasons to Avoid Running Out of Heating Fuel
- You’ll Wind up Spending a Lot More Money
- Build-ups of Sludge
- The Oil Heating System Will Have to Be Manually Reset
- How to Avoid Running Out of Heating Oil
- Schedule Automatic Fuel Delivery Services
- Smart Meters & Tank Monitoring Apps
- Local Tank Monitoring Software
- Oil Tank Alert Systems
- Checking Your Tank Level Manually
- What to Do If Your Tank Runs Out of Oil
- Contact The Better Home Heat Council For Your Home Heating Requirements
Not having the right preventative measures in place might not seem like a huge issue, especially if you’ve never had the experience of being out of oil in the past. However, even the most prudent of homeowners can forget to place orders for fuel delivery – which is a problem that can be far more harmful than it first appears.
In fact, there are several reasons that make buying fuel oil for your home absolutely essential. In addition to the obvious drawbacks of having a frosty home and absolutely no hot water, the following are a few risks that you can contend with if you aren’t being proactive about keeping your tank full and using the right preventative measures.
You’ll Wind up Spending a Lot More Money
The most common time to run out of heating oil is right near the very end of winter or just past mid-winter. Sadly, this also happens to be the time when heating oil prices are at their highest. If you run out of heating oil anytime between the months of October and March, you’re going to pay the absolute highest rates for the entire cold season – and this can mean paying lots of extra dollars.
Moreover, not only are you going to pay more for the actual fuel, but you will also have to pay extra money for emergency delivery services when compared to the price of a standard fill-up. Minor fill-ups that are scheduled throughout the year are going to cost you far less than a single emergency service.
Build-ups of Sludge
Sludge and other debris are often found at the very bottoms of oil tanks. However, they aren’t likely to ruin your heating oil equipment – unless you happen to let your heating oil tank run dry.
When the levels of oil are excessively low, sludge gets drawn up into the tank’s supply line along with the limited amount of oil that remains. If the supply line doesn’t get clogged, the sludge will move on to the filter and either partially clog it or clog it all together. Blocked filters and fuel lines can reduce the efficiency of your heating system or cause the entire system to shut down, and thus, they should always be addressed by a seasoned professional.
Related Article: Oil Tank Condensation: What You Need To Know
The Oil Heating System Will Have to Be Manually Reset
At times, resetting a heating oil system, such as your furnace or boiler, after your fuel has run out is as easy as pressing a single button. However, if the pilot light happens to turn off, you will have to do a pilot light reset.
By law, pilot light resets must always be performed by licensed professionals. During this process, they’ll bleed the oil line and change out blocked filters, which will wind up costing you hundreds of dollars more than the cost of a normal refill.
How to Avoid Running Out of Heating Oil
Given the many risks that come with running out of heating oil, why delay in making sure that you and your household are protected? Stay on top of your home heating needs by taking the necessary preventative measures to keep your heating tank filled throughout the year.
The rule of thumb in the industry is to keep heating oil tanks at least one-quarter full all of the time. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to manually check your tank levels. With the latest technologies and services, you can take preventative measures that don’t take a lot of time or cause a lot of stress.
Schedule Automatic Fuel Delivery Services
With automatic fuel delivery services, there’s absolutely no fear of running out of oil.
And do you know what’s best? There’s no work to do on your end. You don’t have to manually check your tank or try to calculate when a refill should be scheduled. With an automatic fuel delivery service, you can relax and let your oil company handle everything for you.
When signing up for automatic fuel delivery, your oil company will track how much oil you use with a non-invasive and cutting-edge technology that accounts for your estimated heating oil use. They use basic details about your household and home along with estimated heating degree days or HDDs, which are essentially a measurement of the amount of energy that’s necessary for heating your home according to the temperature outside.
Heating fuel providers calculate HDDs by accounting for the square footage of homes, fuel tank sizes, and previous data on homes’ heating needs so that they can accurately determine when individual heating oil tanks are likely to be about one-quarter full. When this time arrives, you’ll receive a call from your provider to set up a delivery service.
The Benefits of Automatic Fuel Oil Delivery Services
- Automatic fuel delivery is the most popular service option for heating oil providers, and it’s very successful in preventing empty heating oil tanks.
- Automatic delivery saves consumers the most money when compared to all other preventative methods. Many companies additionally reward their customers with discounted prices on heating oil when they sign up for this service, and these savings add up.
- This system is largely based on your home’s heating history, and it schedules deliveries according to the unique needs of your home – so you don’t have to worry about receiving oil that you don’t actually need or want.
- Calculation methods that are entirely non-intrusive ensure that you’re never being subjected to the unpleasantries of invasive tank-monitoring solutions.
The Drawbacks of Automatic Heating Oil Delivery
- Automatic heating oil delivery services don’t account for any unexpected increases in heat. For instance, if you have family members who visit for the holidays and they use lots of hot water while taking showers – or if you take a long winter vacation and don’t use the amount of heating oil that you normally do, you will have to call your oil company and ask that your delivery schedule be adjusted.
- To ensure accurate results, you should make a commitment with a single oil supplier for a set period of time – and you won’t have the ability to shop for lower prices throughout the duration of this equipment.
Smart Meters & Tank Monitoring Apps
Smart technology can be found in just about every industry. From smart thermostats and security systems to smart cookware and garbage bins, there isn’t a single part of the home that’s missing high-tech options. This technology can also be found in the home heating oil industry, where homeowners are now able to have smart oil tank meters installed.
With these devices, you can instantly monitor the oil levels in your home, your oil consumption, and the amount that it costs to heat your home from inside of your actual living environment or from thousands of miles away. Smart software uses a tracking method that sends data to your computer, phone, or another personal device via a sensor that’s installed on your heating oil tank.
The Benefits of Smart Meters
Many systems have alarms built into them that notify homeowners of heating oil theft. Most smart systems are able to alert homeowners are soon as oil levels drop to a fairly low level so that they can schedule delivery services in time.
The Drawbacks of Smart Meters
Smart meters happen to be among the most expensive options for tracking heating fuel out there. A smart tank monitoring system often costs about $100 or higher. Media outlets have also shared reports of smart monitoring software errors that have indicated a 50 percent accuracy rate among these systems. Although many people who rely on these systems find them to be accurate, the potential for inaccuracy should be known and regularly investigated. Smart meters typically notify consumers only – rather than suppliers – when oil levels get low. You still need to contact your oil company as soon as you can to avoid running out of fuel altogether.
Smart meter installation is not a DIY project and should be handled by professionals. The good news is that the oil suppliers connected with the Better Home Heat Council can install smart meters during your annual heater maintenance. If you haven’t had your oil-fired heating systems tuned up, contact us now.
Local Tank Monitoring Software
If you want to check the oil level in your tank without having to leave the comforts of your home but don’t have a mobile phone or another device that you can connect to a smart meter, you can use local tank monitoring software instead.
Much like smart meters, tank monitors have a transmitter that gets attached to your oil tank. It creates and sends a local readout to a monitor that you can plug directly into a wall outlet in your house.
The Benefits of Local Tank Monitors
- These monitors can be quickly and easily installed by simply placing a sensor inside a heating oil tank and then plugging the monitor in. People who don’t use smartphones can enjoy the ease and convenience of tank read outs.
- These systems transmit alerts to monitors when oil levels drop, so there is no guesswork when it comes to determining when you should contact your oil supplier. Local tank monitors have a higher level of accuracy than tank float gauges, and they can even eliminate the need for things like dipsticks and gauges entirely.
The Drawbacks of Local Tank Monitors
- Although some monitors can be installed inside homes, some have to be installed fairly close to heating oil tanks, which gives people less freedom than either automatic delivery services or smart meters. Moreover, although some mobile monitors run on battery power and can be moved to different areas of the home, the vast majority of tank monitors require electrical outlets, and they aren’t mobile at all.
- Tank transmitters and monitors cost almost as much as software for smart monitoring. Like a smart meter, you might spend as much as $100 to get a local tank monitor.
- Even though these systems often send out alerts when tank levels are low, you still have to contact your oil company yourself to schedule an emergency refill.
Oil Tank Alert Systems
Would you like a system that lets you know when your oil levels are low without the frills of a smart monitoring or local tank monitoring system? If so, a tank alert system is the best choice.
With this, you won’t have to pay a lot of extra cash for settings or data. You’ll simply install a gauge on your oil tank that transmits a signal to a special receiver whenever your oil levels drop. This receiver will emit a beeping noise and flash its lights when your oil levels drop below a pre-established amount so that you know when to contact your oil supplier.
The Benefits of Alert Systems
- Alert systems are great if you aren’t comfortable with advanced technology. The receiver is a simple device that doesn’t have a complex user interface or screen and can alert you when oil levels are low without providing a lot of unnecessary info. Given just how simple they are, these systems are low in cost too. You can buy a unit for a reasonable price.
- Most receivers in these systems are powered by a battery, and thus, you can place them just about anywhere in the home.
The Drawbacks of Alert Systems
- Alarm systems let homeowners know when their oil levels have dropped, but they do not provide any helpful data about ongoing usage. Knowing the trends in your daily or seasonal oil use can help you determine where you’re wasting money and how you can reduce your home heating bills – but alert systems neither track nor provide this data.
- Much like other options in tank monitoring, these systems do not send alerts to oil delivery companies. You still have to contact your supplier on your own to set up an emergency delivery service.
Checking Your Tank Level Manually
Even if you are disinterested in automatic oil delivery service or a tank monitoring device, you still have to check your oil levels from time to time so that you don’t accidentally run out. Even though self-monitoring is often discouraged by professionals, you can manually check your tank by evaluating the heating oil tank gauge and schedule an oil delivery service when you notice that the oil level is low.
Use a dipstick to determine how full your oil tank currently is. Before it drops below the one-quarter mark, call your delivery service. Make sure that you never have a tank that’s less than one-quarter full to avoid causing tank damage.
Benefits of Manually Monitoring Your Oil Levels
Manual monitoring is free and incredibly cost-effective. However, you could wind up spending more money over time if you ever accidentally forget to check your fuel oil levels.
Cons of Manually Monitoring Your Fuel
Even responsible homeowners can easily forget to monitor their heating oil, especially throughout the busy holiday season. Although all other preventative methods and tools will give you helpful alerts for low oil levels, manual monitoring means that you have to check for low levels by yourself and on a regular basis. Failure to do so could lead to costly boiler repairs and the extra costs of an emergency delivery.
This is by far the most inconvenient method for monitoring fuel, especially if you have an outdoor heating oil tank. When the weather is at its coldest, you don’t want to have to go outside in the wind, snow, or rain to check your tank.
What to Do If Your Tank Runs Out of Oil
If your tank has already run out of oil, these preventative methods aren’t going to help you fill it back up. Although you should take these steps to avoid similar issues going forward, you have to take steps to restore heat to your home right now.
Use the tips that follow to stay safe if you ever happen to run out of heating fuel altogether:
- Schedule emergency heating oil delivery service: Emergency delivery services will give you a refill within 24 hours or less.
- Use a substitute to heat your home: If your tank runs completely out of heating oil, you can use diesel or kerosene as a replacement until help arrives. Simply fill a container that’s gasoline safe with just five to 10 gallons of your replacement fuel at a local gas station. You also have the option of using a fireplace or space heaters to keep your home warm until your fuel delivery arrives.
- Insulate your environment: Keep excess heat trapped within the home while waiting for your fuel delivery. Securely close all doors and windows, and use weatherstripping for insulation to limit heat loss.
Contact The Better Home Heat Council For Your Home Heating Requirements
The Better Home Heat Council (BHHC) is a local association that aims to help homeowners with everything that has to do with fuel oil heat. We provide you with knowledge, especially on things regarding the economic and efficient use of heating oil. Also, we assist people in identifying and solving issues about energy efficiency in their homes or office. We accomplish this by pushing them towards an effective and affordable path to ensure that their living areas become more efficient and cost-effective.
The BHHC also supports fuel oil delivery service companies that offer services, products, and solutions to homeowners in the Lehigh Valley. If you are searching for a superior full-service home heating oil delivery company near you, click here. Rest assured that most of the fuel oil delivery service companies in our system also provide free energy consultations.
For questions and concerns concerning your HVAC system or oil delivery, click here to contact the Better Home Heat Council today.