Smart Touch Energy Blog

How to Clean Your Oil Tank Vent Whistle

Posted by Smart Touch Energy on Nov 16, 2021 8:00:00 AM

How to Clean Your Oil Tank Vent Whistle

If you are one of many homeowners who use an oil tank to heat their home, you know that there are several crucial steps to maintaining it properly. From servicing your oil furnace and tank regularly to keeping up with new oil deliveries, proper maintenance is essential for your home's proper heating safety and efficiency.

If your heating oil is making noise, that is completely normal! If you hear a whistling sound, then your tank's whistle is functioning correctly and doing its job. There is more to worry about if your tank fails to whistle. Cleaning your oil tank's vent whistle is critical to the condition of your furnace.

What Is an Oil Whistle?

An oil tank whistle or oil tank vent alarm is a small type of overfill device for aboveground tanks. The alarm is located beneath the vent pipe above your tank and produces a continuous, high-pitched whistling sound loud enough for the delivery driver outside of your house to hear. When you pump oil into the tank, it displaces the air and forces it up out of the vent pipe. As the air escapes, it causes the whistle to vibrate.

Since the whistle hangs below the tank, the oil will eventually rise and cover it. Once the oil has reached the whistle, it will cease to vibrate, signaling that the tank is full. The sound of the whistle stops when the oil reaches 1-2 inches below the top of the tank. This space left in the top of the tank allows for some expansion of the oil as it warms up and acts as an extra safeguard against vapors and foams.

What Does an Oil Whistle Do?

When you are refilling your oil tank and hear a whistling sound, it indicates that your tank is in good working order. This whistling means that your tank is not yet full of oil and indicates to the person filling the tank to keep pouring. Once the whistling stops, that means the tank is now at its total capacity. An oil whistle effectively minimizes any spills and avoids the risk of overfilling the tank by ensuring there is just enough fuel.

New homeowners need to check the condition of their whistle if they have a pre-installed home heating oil tank. Under regular operation, your tank's vent will relieve the vacuum your oil burner creates when pulling oil from the tank. If your oil tank vent alarm becomes clogged, you might have to clean it, as oil tank whistle problems can have severe repercussions on the overall state of the tank.

Why Is a Working Oil Whistle Important?

Having a working oil whistle can prevent potential disruptions to your property and your lifestyle. A functioning oil tank vent alarm will significantly reduce your risk of accidental overpumping and subsequent oil spillage. Thus, cleaning your oil tank and its whistle is vital for several reasons.

1. Prevents Environmental Contamination

If your oil tank overflows or leaks, the oil from the spill can sink into the ground and contaminate the surrounding area. When oil seeps into the ground, it can have a much broader impact on animal habitats. An oil tank vent whistle is essential to safeguarding the environment around your home from potential oil spills. Filling an oil tank without the guidance of the whistle may lead to spills and accidental pollution.

2. Saves You Money and Time

To avoid dealing with the expense and inconvenience of a malfunctioning whistle, you should always ensure your tank's whistle is clean. The cost of cleanup for oil spills can range from several hundred to thousands of dollars. Ensuring your tank whistle is functioning properly will save you from considerable extraneous expenses and help you prolong the life of your oil supply.

Depending on the amount of spilled oil, a working oil whistle can also save you the extensive amount of time it would take to clean up any heating oil contamination. A clean oil tank vent whistle will also help you extend the life of your oil furnace.

Saves You Money and Time

3. Increases Safety

Leaks from your oil tank can cause significant problems for you and your home. A functioning whistle makes for far safer tank refilling and will prevent flammable liquid from spilling into your home, which could cause fires. If your vent alarm fails to sound, you may run out of oil when you need it most. Cleaning your oil tank vent whistle will help you keep your home warm enough to avoid a severely frigid winter.

4. Helps Oil Delivery Services

Regular maintenance is also critical to achieving the proper safety and efficiency standard for your home's oil furnace. If you lack a functioning vent whistle in good condition, some oil delivery companies may refuse to fill your tank. Heating oil deliverers must adhere to strict safety codes and will not supply you with oil unless you have a way to ensure your tank does not overfill.

Steps to Clean Your Oil Tank Vent Whistle

When your vent pipe stops whistling, it indicates to your fuel deliverer that the tank is full. This sound is necessary for the refilling process to continue! However, sometimes this can mean that your pipe has become clogged with dirt, insects, cobwebs and other debris. You will need to unplug this blockage within your tank's whistle to let the air pass through with ease.

You can remedy a dirty whistle with these simple steps: 

  • Apply a solvent to combat debris: Pouring a solvent to soften and partially break down any debris will clear your whistle of any blockages.
  • Pour half a gallon of paint thinner or mineral spirits down the vent line: Paint thinner should wash away any softened deposits and result in a clean whistle. 
  • Use compressed air to remove dirt and materials: If insects or other debris are still stuck in the whistle, you can use compressed air to remove whatever is clogging the tube.

For an extreme blockage, you will need to contact a service technician. Professionals will be able to check the vent and make sure you have replaced it properly, without compromising the overall quality of your oil tank. Depending on the age and location of your oil tank, it may be best to repair or even replace your oil tank, vent and whistle system altogether.

Contact Smart Touch Energy for Efficient Heating Oil Solutions

With trusted and affordable heating oil delivery solutions across the Northeast, Smart Touch Energy can help you get the most out of every fueling. Smart Touch Energy offers the ultimate convenience of managing your heating oil deliveries online with our everyday low prices and reliable automatic and emergency delivery services.

Smart Touch Energy works with the most reputable dealers to provide customized service for a wide variety of home heating needs. Contact us today to take advantage of our quick and easy online ordering process for your next oil delivery!

Contact Smart Touch Energy for Efficient Heating Oil Solutions


Topics: heating oil, oil, oil tanks


Recent Posts

Subscribe to Email Updates