If you live in a home with a fuel oil system, you know the importance of having enough oil to keep the house warm — especially during the winter months. Even if you have an automatic delivery service set up, regularly checking your home's heating oil tank ensures you avoid running low on oil.
This article covers all you need to know about reading your heating oil tank gauge.
How to Read an Oil Gauge at Home
Before checking your heating oil level, it's important to know the basics of the process. Many oil tanks use a float-style gauge to check the levels, so knowing how to read the gauge will ensure you get a relatively accurate measurement. The more familiar you are reading your oil tank gauge, the easier it will be to understand the levels to know if you have enough oil before the next refill.
Locate Your Oil Tank
Checking your heating oil levels begins with locating your oil tank. Home oil tanks are often found aboveground, in a basement, on an exterior side of the house, or underground, buried on the property. They are quite large, so you can find them with a quick pass around your home. The standard home oil tank is 275 gallons but truly holds between 225 and 250 gallons of heating oil, while the rest of the space is for air.
Read the Oil Tank Float Gauge
Once you find your oil tank, you can check the oil levels by reading the gauge. Most oil tanks come with a gauge installed so you don't have to worry about finding a way to measure the oil level. Oil gauges are clear, cylindrical vials with a float inside. They are typically located on the top of the tank to make reading the gauge easy. Most gauges have standard markings to indicate the levels:
The float in the vial will be positioned around one of the markings to show the level of fuel in the tank.
Many people are confused about how to read an oil tank float gauge, whether to use the top or bottom as the indicator. Reading the top of the float may provide a more precise measurement. If you are unsure about checking the top of the float, using where the markings hit the middle of the float is another popular way to check the levels.
Calculate the Gallons in Your Tank
While reading the gauge indicates the fuel level present in your tank, it doesn't tell you how many gallons you have left. You can estimate how many gallons you have left in the tank with a simple calculation. Knowing the size of your tank and how many gallons it holds at total capacity helps you figure out the number of remaining gallons. For instance, if you have a typical 275-gallon tank, the average fuel capacity is 240 gallons. If the float gauge indicates you have 1/4 of a tank of fuel, divide 240 by 0.25 to calculate that you have around 60 gallons left.
Estimating the gallons you have in your tank will help you determine when it's time to refill. Though having a quarter of a tank left can last you for a few weeks, avoiding falling under the level ensures you continue having oil to heat your home.
How to Know if Your Oil Tank Gauge Is Bad
Sometimes, when you check your oil level, you may be unsure the gauge is working correctly. If you suspect your oil tank gauge has gone bad, there is a simple way you can check if your gauge doesn't work. You can carefully take off the outer case and gently push down the float. If the float moves back up to its original position, it's still working properly. If the float stays down or doesn't move to its original position, the gauge is broken and needs service.
How to Check Your Oil Level Without a Gauge
If you have a broken oil tank gauge or have always lacked one, you can still check your oil tank level. You can use a stick, like a meter stick or metal rod, to check the oil level manually. The next time your tank is full, dip the stick into the tank and mark off the top of the oil level. When you check the oil level later, you can put the stick in again and see if the new oil level falls below the mark.
How Long Does Heating Oil Last?
Heating oil use differs in every household. When you have a full tank, the amount of oil should last between 18 and 24 months. Though oil can last a while, your daily usage depends on many factors, including the weather, home size, insulation, and oil tank size. Many homes primarily use heating oil for space heating. Bigger homes may need to use more oil to keep the entire house warm.
The cold temperatures during the winter in the Northeast also contribute to an increase in heating oil usage. In the U.S., approximately 5.5 billion households used heating oil as their primary heat source during the 2019-2020 winter, with 81% of those households registered in the Northeast region. While it is straightforward that heating oil usage increases during the winter, the amount can still fluctuate because of the changing temperatures outside.
Schedule Automatic Heating Oil Delivery With Smart Touch Energy
If you want reliable heating oil service, you can depend on Smart Touch Energy. We offer quality oil delivery, inspections, maintenance, repairs, tests, and more services to help keep your heating system in its best condition. If you would like help understanding how to read your oil tank gauge or need it repaired, reach out to us. We can also refill your heating oil tank so your home stays warm.
You can conveniently order heating oil online and from the comfort of your home, then have it delivered quickly from a local company. We ensure you experience a smooth process from ordering online to receiving the oil. When you work with Smart Touch Energy, you have several options for receiving heating oil. We offer automatic delivery service, one-time delivery, emergence delivery, and prime and restart service. Any time you need an oil refill, you can depend on us for a first-class service experience.