The Best Ways To Prevent Running Out Of Heating Fuel This Winter

feeling chilly due to empty heating oil tank

If yours is one of the many homes in the nation that use heating oil as your winter heating fuel, one of your biggest worries of the season is making sure that you haven’t run out. Having enough heating oil is important for everyone in your household. Unfortunately, there are a number of consumers who forget to schedule a heating fuel delivery in time before running out.

Especially during winter, oil tanks can be easily overlooked as homeowners take ski trips, deal with snow, and have many other things to deal with. Sadly, this season also marks the harshest part of winter and the time when having a tank that is full of heating oil is absolutely essential. As such, even responsible homeowners sometimes run out of heating oil right when they desperately need it.

There are several reasons why a heating oil tank might run empty. Among these are:

  • Not monitoring your levels of fuel oil throughout the season
  • Having insufficient funds for a heating oil delivery
  • Tank leaks
  • Fuel theft

Regardless of why it happens, running out of heating oil is frustrating – it’s also an experience that will affect both your ability to function from day to day and your health. However, prevention doesn’t need to be a major challenge. You can make sure that your heating oil tank is always full by simply learning more about the risks of letting it run dry and taking a few steps to keep this from happening.

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Why It’s Best to Keep Your Heating Oil Tank From Running Empty

image of a heating oil tank

It might seem like lacking preventative measures in this area isn’t a big deal, especially if you have never had the unpleasant experience of running out of heating oil for your home before. However, even people who are incredibly careful sometimes forget to submit their heating oil delivery requests in a timely fashion – which is a very harmful problem.

In fact, there are a few key reasons for making sure that you purchase your heating fuel on time. Aside from the very obvious inconvenience of having to live inside of a cold home and having to make do without any hot water, the following are some of the consequences that you’re likely to face if you let your heating oil tank run empty.

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1. Additional Spending On Home Heating Oil

Consumers usually have their heating oil tanks run dry right in the middle of the cold season. Sadly, this is also the time of year when heating oil prices are at their highest. If your tank runs empty any time between October and March, you’re going to have to pay the highest rates, and this can mean spending hundreds extra overall.

Moreover, not only are you going to pay more for heating oil, but you’ll also have to shell out some extra cash for emergency delivery service rather than paying the standard delivery fee. Minor fill-ups that are performed throughout the year are going to cost a lot less all around than you’ll have to pay for emergency oil delivery service.

Related Article: How Much Heating Oil Will I Use A Day?

2. Sludge Will Build Up in Your Home’s Heating Oil Tank

image of a heating oil tank gauge

Sludge and other debris are often found at the bottom of fuel tanks. However, these accumulations won’t damage your oil boiler or furnace unless you let your tank become completely dry.

When heating oil levels start to fall, sludge gets drawn into the system’s supply line along with any residual oil. If this doesn’t result in a line clog, it will move on to the filter, which will become either partially or fully blocked. Blocked fuel filters and fuel lines lower the efficiency of home heating systems, and they can also cause complete, system-wide shutdowns that require professional repairs.

3. The Heating System Will Have to Be Manually Reset

There are times when resetting a heating oil system is as simple as pushing a single button. However, if the pilot goes out, it will need to be reset.

By law, pilot light resets must be performed by licensed professionals. They’ll have to bleed the fuel line and change out all blocked filters – which will likely cost you several hundred more than a basic refill would.

Related Article: What Happens When The Furnace Runs Out Of Oil?

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Strategies to Avoid Running Out of Heating Oil

Given the multiple risks that running out of heating oil entails, what’s the point in waiting to make sure that your home is protected? Take control over your home heating needs by using preventative measures that will help you keep your fuel tank full throughout the entire year.

The rule of thumb in the heating industry suggests keeping oil tanks at least one-quarter of the way filled all of the time. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that you have to keep visiting and revisiting your tank to manually check it. With these technologies and services that follow, you can use preventative measures without the extra stress and time that manual monitoring requires:

Automatic Fuel Oil Delivery

Oil Delivery Truck

With automatic heating oil delivery, you won’t have to worry about your tank running dry ever again.

The best part? There’s absolutely nothing to do on your end. You don’t have to constantly check your tank or calculate the best time to set up an oil delivery appointment. With an automatic delivery program, you can simply sit back and let your service provider take care of everything for you.

Once you’ve signed up for an automatic fuel delivery plan, your oil supplier will constantly track your oil use by using a non-invasive tech that measures the estimated amount of heating oil consumed over a set period of time. Fuel delivery services use basic information about your property and your family along with heating degree days (HDDs) that they’ve calculated, which measure how much energy is necessary for heating your home up according to the temperature outside.

When HDDs are calculated in conjunction with the square footage of your home, your heating oil tank size, and your previous years’ heating data, delivery companies can accurately determine when your tank reaches the one-quarter full mark. Once this occurs, they’ll get in touch with you to set up a delivery time.

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The Benefits of Automatic Heating Oil Delivery

  • Automatic fuel delivery is one of the most popular choices in delivery services among heating oil companies throughout the nation, given just how successful it is in preventing empty tanks.
  • These deliveries save consumers the greatest amount of money among all other preventative strategies. A lot of companies reward their clients by offering them discounted prices on heating oil just for signing up, and these savings really add up.
  • This system is based on your historical usage data and means that your delivery services are tailored to the unique fuel requirements of your home so that you aren’t paying for fuel that you neither want nor need.
  • Calculation methods that are completely non-intrusive ensure that you don’t have to worry about tank monitoring techniques that are uncomfortable and invasive.

The Drawbacks of Automatic Delivery

image of a home heating oil delivery

  • Automatic fuel delivery doesn’t account for increases in heat that you don’t anticipate. For instance, if you have family members visit and they happen to take long hot showers, or if you go on vacation and don’t actually use a lot of heating fuel because you’re gone, you’ll need to manually contact your delivery service so that they can alter your delivery time accordingly.
  • For results that are consistently accurate, you also have to work with a single supplier for a set period of time, and this means that you cannot shop for competitive heating oil prices during the year.

Smart Meter and Tank Monitoring Apps

Smart technology has found its way into just about every industry there is. From smart thermostats and smart home security systems to smart cookware and waste bins, nearly every aspect of the home has some form of advanced tech mixed in. This has certainly been the case in the heating oil sector with the advent and widespread use of smart oil tank meters.

Smart software allows you to monitor the oil levels in your home, your oil consumption, and your overall heating costs in real-time and from up to 1,000 miles away. These apps send the data directly to your computer or mobile phone via a sensor that’s installed directly on your fuel tanks.

The Benefits of Smart Meters

smart oil tank meter

These systems have alarms built right into them that can let you know about possible fuel theft. Most smart systems send out alerts when oil levels are fairly low so that homeowners have adequate time to notify their fuel oil suppliers.

The Drawbacks of Smart Meters

  • Smart meters are easily one of the most costly options for tracking fuel oil levels around. Smart tank motoring systems can cost at least $100. Moreover, reports of smart monitoring software errors have also been made in which inaccuracy levels were as high as 50 percent. Even though most people who use this technology find that it’s pretty accurate and consistently so, these rare incidents should be taken into account and watched for. A lot of smart meters only notify consumers – not their heating oil supply companies – when fuel oil levels get low. Thus, you still have to contact your heating oil delivery service as soon as you can so that you don’t completely run out of fuel.
  • The installation of a smart meter isn’t something that you can do by yourself – you’ll have to hire a professional. The good news is that Miller Oil Company is able to install these meters during your annual HVAC maintenance service. If you haven’t set up an appointment to have your home heating system professionally maintained, get in touch with us now.
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Local Tank Monitoring Technology

To check fuel levels from the comfort and convenience of your home, and without using a smartphone, laptop, or another device that’s connected to a smart meter, you can use local tank monitoring tools.

Much like smart meters, this software features a transmitter that’s installed directly on your oil tank. It has a sensor that transmits a local readout to an outside monitor which is in your home and plugged into one of your outlets.

Benefits of Local Tank Monitoring

image of a heating oil delivery at a home


  • Most local monitors can be quickly and easily installed by placing their sensors in the heating oil tank and then plugging their monitors in. People who don’t use smartphones can still enjoy real-time readouts of their fuel levels.
  • These systems send alerts to their monitors when oil levels drop, so there is no guesswork about when to contact your delivery service. Local tank monitoring is far more accurate than mechanical float gauges and makes it altogether unnecessary to use dipsticks or float gauges at all.
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The Drawbacks of Local Tank Monitors

  • Although some monitors can be positioned throughout the home, some have to be within a specified distance of the tank such that homeowners have a bit less freedom than they do if using automatic delivery or smart meters. Moreover, although some mobile monitors use battery power and can be taken from place to place, most are stationary as they must be plugged directly into outlets.
  • Tank monitoring systems and the related transmitters can cost $100 or more. They cost about the same as smart monitoring software.
  • Although these systems typically send out alerts when fuel oil levels are low, it is still up to you to contact your supplier and request a delivery.

Alert Systems for Oil Tanks

image of a homeowner cupping ear and listening to oil tank alarm

Are you looking for an alert system that lets you know when your tank is getting low without all of the thrills of a local or smart monitoring system? If so, a tank alert system is a right choice for you.

Alert systems eliminate the need to pay for special settings or extra data. You simply install the gauge onto your heating oil tank, and this will send a low-oil alert to the receiver. The receiver will beep and flash when oil levels fall below a specified amount so that you know to put a delivery request in.

The Benefits of Having an Alert System for Your Oil Tank

  • Alert systems are ideal for anyone who isn’t technology adept. The receiver is a basic, low-thrill device that doesn’t have a complex user interface – and it alerts you of low fuel levels without providing any unnecessary info. Given just how simple these systems are, they’re also inexpensive in comparison to other tank monitoring equipment. You can get one of these units for a relatively nominal cost.
  • Most receivers are battery-operated and can be placed anywhere in the home.
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The Drawbacks of Fuel Tank Alert Systems

Although an alert system will let you know when your fuel is low, it won’t provide any other insights. Knowing what your daily and seasonal trends are can help you identify areas of waste and find strategies to reduce your heating costs.

As with all other tank monitoring options, these systems will alert you but not your fuel supplier. It is still up to you to make a last-minute call to request tank refill service.

Checking Your Tank Levels Manually

stick used to measure heating oil levels in heating oil tank when oil tank gauge is brokenEven if you don’t have the budget to buy a tank monitoring system or pay for auto fuel delivery service, you should still check your oil to avoid running out. Although monitoring your own fuel levels manually is not advised, it is something that you can do if you have to be assessing the float gauge and then contact your supplier as needed.

Use a dipstick to see how high or low the oil levels are. Before your tank reaches the one-quarter full market, request a delivery service. Never let your oil dip below this level so that you don’t run out completely and your tank doesn’t get damaged.

The Benefits of Manually Monitoring Your Home Heating Oil

Manual monitoring is cheap. However, you could wind up paying far more if you forget to take care of this important bit of business.

The Drawbacks of Monitoring Oil Manually

Even homeowners who happen to be very responsible can forget about their heating oil tanks, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

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What to Do If You’re All Out of Heating Fuel

If your heating oil tank is already empty, prevention isn’t going to do you much good. Although you can use preventative measures to keep the problem from recurring, you need to do something right away to make sure that your household has a reliable source of heat.

The tips that follow will give you an idea of what to do if your tank is completely empty:

  • Schedule Emergency Fuel Delivery Service: You can get the fill-up you need within just 24 hours or less with an emergency fuel delivery service.
  • Use a Substitute Fuel to Heat Your Home: If you don’t have any heating oil, you can use diesel or kerosene to keep your living environment warm until an emergency delivery service is available. Simply fill a gasoline-safe container with up to 10 gallons of diesel at a local gas station. You can also use your fireplace or space heaters as a way to stay warm until your tank is refilled instead.
  • Insulate Your Living Environment: Keep residual heat trapped inside of your home while waiting on your fuel delivery service. Close all doors and windows and use weatherstripping as necessary to prevent heat loss.
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Call Miller Oil Company For All Of Your Home Comfort Requirements

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Miller Oil Company provides the best cooling and heating services in Hartford County, Connecticut. We employ top HVAC technicians who are certified and offer superior HVAC installations, repairs, tune-ups, and replacements. Every one of our knowledgeable technicians has the experience to correctly service your HVAC.

By working with Miller Oil Company, you will receive the best service costs for cooling and heating in the region. With our repair and maintenance services, you will find that your comfort and energy efficiency are improved, and your home cooling and heating costs are reduced. If you require a replacement HVAC unit, we can suggest the most appropriate model for your house that is within your budget. We include a satisfaction guarantee for all of our work. Click the link to view our service area.

We also offer superior heating oil deliveries. You can choose from one of our oil delivery plans or financing options. This way, you can customize your oil deliveries to meet your needs. We use high-quality oil, and all of our deliveries are fast and reliable. Give Miller Oil Company a call today to learn more.

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