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

image of a homeowner feeling chilly due to running out of heating fuel at home

Millions of homeowners in the country utilize heating oil or propane to keep their homes warm during the freezing weather. One of the biggest issues of the winter season is likely checking their heating oil or propane tank. Heating oil or propane is a crucial element of a home. Unfortunately, many homeowners still forget to maintain this essential system.

Oil and propane tanks tend to get lost during the winter’s hustle and bustles, such as dealing with snow, family vacations, and skiing trips. This season also has the coldest days, so a full propane or oil tank is crucial. However, even the most responsible homeowners can run out of fuel during the winter months when it is needed the most.

An empty fuel tank can be because of various causes, such as a leak in the tank system or the fuel gets stolen. Other reasons include failing to check the home fuel tank levels all through the year or lacking the budget needed for a heating fuel delivery.

Regardless of the cause, running out of heating oil or propane can be stressful and significantly affect your family’s well-being and daily activities. Preventing this from happening doesn’t need to be a nightmare. When you understand the risks of running out of fuel and doing simple steps to avoid it from happening will help ensure that you have a full tank throughout the year.

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Reasons To Avoid Running out of Heating Oil or Propane


heating oil tankHaving no preventative measures in place might not seem like a big deal, especially if you’ve never had an empty tank before. However, you might sometimes forget to schedule a fuel delivery on time, which can be a more harmful problem than it seems.

Several dire reasons make buying propane or oil on time a necessity. Aside from the obvious of being stuck in a cold home with no hot water, here are some possibilities that can happen if there are no preventative measures in place to ensure your propane or oil tank stays full.

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Additional Heating Fuel Expenses

The most common time homeowners run out of propane or heating oil is at the middle or end of winter. This time is also when the propane and heating oil prices are at their highest. Running out of fuel between October and March means you’ll have to pay the highest costs of the propane and heating oil season. This can add up to a significant amount of dollars.

You will pay extra for the oil while also spending more on an emergency heating fuel delivery. Keep in mind that small fill-ups will cost you notably less in total than getting an emergency delivery service.

Heating Oil Tank Sludge Buildup

The bottom of heating oil tanks typically has debris and sludge. These don’t usually cause heating oil system damage unless the tank runs empty.

Sludge is sucked into the supply line with the oil when you have a low oil supply. It can cause a clog on the line. If it doesn’t, the sludge is pulled to a filter and blocks it partially or fully. Clogged fuel lines or filters can reduce your system’s efficiency. It can also result in a complete system shutdown that needs to be checked by an HVAC expert.

Manual Heating Oil System Reset

A propane or heating oil system reset after running out of fuel can be done with a simple press of a button. However, it needs a pilot light reset if it goes off. According to the law, a professional needs to reset the pilot light. They will conduct oil line bleeding and clogged filter replacements, which means you have to spend hundreds more compared to getting a regular heating fuel delivery.

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Ways to Prevent Running out of Oil

image of a heating oil delivery

Running out of heating oil or propane comes with many risks, so do not wait any longer to ensure your home is protected. Take the necessary preventative actions so that your heating needs are met, and there’s propane or oil in your home storage tank at all times.

The industry’s general rule is that the oil tank should be one-quarter full at all times. You don’t need to repeatedly walk back and forth to your tank to monitor its levels manually. The following services and technologies help you prevent an empty oil tank without the extra time and stress of constantly checking the tank.

Automatic Oil Delivery

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You never have to worry about running out of oil again with automatic oil delivery services. The best part of this is you don’t have to make any effort. You don’t need to constantly check your tank and calculate when to book your next refill. An automatic delivery program means your oil provider will take care of everything.

The oil company tracks your oil consumption through a non-invasive technology when you sign up for automatic fuel delivery. This measures your home’s approximate propane or heating oil use. It combines some simple info regarding your home and family with the calculated HDD or heating degree days. The HDD refers to the measurement of the required amount of energy to heat your home per the temperature outside.

The oil company calculates HDD using the square footage of your home, the past data about your heating needs, and the size of your fuel tank. This allows them to determine accurately when your tank is at one-quarter full. When this happens, they will contact you directly to book a heating fuel delivery.

Pros of Automatic Heating Oil Delivery

  • Most heating oil companies have automatic oil delivery as their most popular delivery method. This method is a highly effective way to prevent empty fuel tanks.
  • Out of any preventative methods, automatic deliveries save you the most money. Most suppliers give rewards to clients through discounted oil prices when you sign up for the service, which can significantly add up.
  • You won’t have to purchase oil you don’t need or want because the system is based on your heating history and makes deliveries per your home’s unique needs.
  • You don’t need to fret about invasive tank monitoring software as this method uses non-intrusive calculation methods.
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Cons of Automatic Fuel Oil Delivery

  • The system doesn’t register unexpected increases in heat. For instance, relatives might be staying with you over the holidays, and they will use a lot of hot water. It could also be that you went on a trip, so you used less heat than average. You have to let your oil provider know about these manually so they can adjust your delivery schedule.
  • To get the most accurate results, you probably need to agree to commit with one oil company for a set period. Therefore, you can’t shop around for various prices throughout the year.

Fuel Oil Tank Monitoring Apps & Smart Meters

smart oil tank meter

Smart technology is present in nearly all industries. All parts of a home have technologically advanced options, from thermostats and smart security systems to cookware and garbage bins. This technology made waves in the heating industry as well because it introduced smart oil tank meters.

Smart software allows you to instantly monitor the oil level, fuel oil consumption, and heating costs of your home from the comfort of your living room or from a thousand miles away. This tracking method uses a sensor that’s attached to your oil tank to send data to your smartphone or computer.

Pros of Smart Oil Tank Meters

  • Many systems have built-in alarms, so you are notified in case of oil theft.
  • Most smart systems alert you immediately when you have low oil levels, so you have time to call your supplier.

Cons of Smart Oil Tank Meters

  • Smart meters are on the costlier side out of the available oil tracking options, as they usually cost around $100 or more.
  • There have been reports on smart monitoring software errors, which have caught the attention of some media outlets. These rare cases were described to have electricity monitoring systems that are up to 50% inaccurate. Most homeowners still find smart oil monitoring software accurate, but these rare inaccuracies should be accounted for and checked.
  • Most smart meters only notify the homeowner and not the supplier when there are low oil levels. You have to call your oil supplier right away so that you don’t run out of oil.

Never conduct a DIY when installing a smart meter, as this task requires a professional. Tower Energy can install these meters during your annual heating system tune-up appointment. Call us today if you haven’t booked your oil heating system maintenance.

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Local Oil Tank Monitors

home heating oil fuel tank gauge in basement

If you don’t have a smartphone or any device you can use to connect to a smart meter but still want to check tank levels from your home, an ideal option is a local tank monitoring software.

Like smart meters, local tank monitors have a transmitter that can be easily attached to your oil tank. The sensor will send a local read-out to a monitor that’s usually plugged into one of the electrical sockets in your home.

Pros of Local Oil Tank Monitors

Most monitors can be rapidly installed by putting the sensor in the tank and plugging the monitor into an outlet. You can still reap the benefit from the tank read-out system even without a smartphone.

The system sends an alert to the monitor when there is a low oil supply. Therefore, you don’t have to guess when to call your oil supplier.

Local tank monitors have higher accuracy than conventional mechanical float gauges. It also replaces the need for dipsticks and gauges altogether.

Cons of Local Oil Tank Monitors

  • A few monitors can be placed anywhere in your home, but many need to be installed within a certain distance from the tank. Hence, you have less freedom than automatic deliveries or smart meters. Some mobile monitors can be powered with a battery and taken throughout your home, but most local tank monitors need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Hence, they lack mobility.
  • Tank transmitters and monitoring systems have almost the same cost as smart monitoring software. You have to shell out around $100 to get a local tank monitor.
  • You still need to schedule a refill with your oil supplier because the system typically alerts only the homeowner when the tank is low.
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Oil Tank Alert Systems

If you are looking for a system that alerts you to a low oil supply without all the bells and whistles that local or smart monitoring systems have, an oil tank alert system might be what you want.
You don’t need to spend more for extra settings and data when using an alert system. You only have to place a gauge onto your tank. This will send alerts to a receiver when there are low oil levels. In turn, the receiver will flash or beep when the set oil amount is reached, indicating that you need to call your oil supplier.

Pros of Oil Tank Alert Systems

  • An ideal monitoring option for homeowners not familiar with smart technology is alert systems. Its receiver doesn’t have a screen or a complicated interface, as it will only alert you when you have low oil levels without unnecessary additional info.
  • Alert systems are simple devices, so they are a relatively inexpensive option than other tank monitoring software. This means you can buy it for a cheap price.
  • Many receivers are powered by batteries, so you can put them anywhere around your home.

Cons of Oil Tank Alert Systems

  • Alert systems tell you when you have low oil levels, but you don’t receive other crucial data about your oil consumption. When you know your daily and seasonal usage, you can determine precisely where it is wasting money and what you can do to reduce your heating bills. However, alert systems don’t track this information.
  • Like other types of tank monitoring, these systems won’t notify your oil company when the oil level is low. You still have to call to keep your tank filled.

Manually Checking Your Oil Tank Levels

image of a boiler room

Although you might lack the budget for an automatic oil delivery service or a monitoring system, you have to check your oil level so that you don’t run out. Experts do not recommend that you self-monitor your oil levels, but you can still use it as a last resort. Assess the gauge and contact your oil supplier when you have low oil levels.

You can use a dipstick to find out the level of oil in your tank. Call your oil supplier to schedule a refill before it’s at one-quarter full. Ensuring that the oil level doesn’t go beyond this mark means you won’t run out of fuel or cause tank damages.

Pros of Manual Oil Tank Monitoring

  • Initially, manual monitoring is the most cost-efficient alternative. However, if you don’t check your oil levels, you run the risk of running out and end up paying more.

Cons of Manual Oil Tank Monitoring

  • The most responsible homeowners can still forget about their propane or heating oil, especially amid the busy holiday season. Most prevention methods notify you of low oil levels, but manual monitoring means you must check your oil levels yourself frequently. Failing to do so can lead to needing an emergency fill-up and expensive repairs.
  • Manual monitoring is the most inconvenient method, especially if you have an outdoor tank. After all, you wouldn’t want to stand outside to check your oil tank during the coldest days of the year.
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To-Do Tips If You Run out of Oil

Preventative measures won’t help you refill your empty tank if it’s already out of oil. You need to take these steps to avoid this problem in the future. However, you must take immediate action as well to restore your home heating.

Here are some guidelines you can follow on what to do if you run out of heating oil:

  • Call for an emergency oil delivery service: Upon your order of an emergency fuel delivery service, you will receive the needed fill-up in less than 24 hours.
  • Heat your home with a substitute: You can use kerosene or diesel fuel if you run out of heating oil. This will hold you over until emergency services can fill your tank. Use a gasoline-safe container and fill it with around 5 to 10 gallons at a gas station. You can also utilize space heaters or a fireplace for home heating until you get more fuel.
  • Insulate your home: Excess heat should stay inside your home while you wait for a tank refill. You can do this by closing all windows and doors. Insulate with weather stripping when possible, so there is less heat loss.
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Call Tower Energy For Reliable Heating Oil Deliveries & HVAC Services

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Tower Energy is a local heating oil supplier that offers fast, friendly, and affordable fuel deliveries. We offer different delivery plans, including will call and automatic oil deliveries. We also provide our customers with many financing options so, essentially, you can customize your oil deliveries to meet your particular needs.

We also offer a full line of HVAC services. Some of those services include heating and cooling repairs, tune-ups, replacements, and more. We back all of our work with a guarantee to ensure your complete satisfaction. Our services aim to improve comfort, efficiency, indoor air quality, and much more. We offer free, in-home estimates. Give Tower Energy a call today to find out more.

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