How to Know if Your Heating Oil is Low


When you drive your car, you likely glance down at the fuel gauge every so often to make sure you’re not running on empty. If your tank is low, you probably seek out the nearest gas station.

If you heat your home with fuel oil, it’s similarly important to keep an eye on your oil tank gauge. When it’s getting low, you won’t find the nearest filling station, but you probably will schedule a heating oil delivery.

To make sure you’re scheduling your oil tank refills at appropriate intervals, and to ensure you don’t unexpectedly run out of fuel, it’s important to know how to take a heating oil tank gauge reading.

How to Read an Oil Tank Gauge

If you have a functioning oil tank gauge, checking the level is as simple as reading a thermometer. In most gauge configurations, a floating bar extends into the oil tank. The top of the bar reaches into a plastic dome that’s a few inches tall and has a ruler of sorts indicating “0,” “¼,” “½,” “¾” and “F” for “full.” As the oil level drops, so does the top of the bar. The gauge should always be generally accurate, but it’s most precise when the tank is full, empty or half-full.

To make sure you have as accurate a reading as possible, check that the oil tank gauge is working. Remove the plastic dome. Do this manually; if you use clamps or a hand tool to unscrew it, you could break the plastic. Gently nudge the rod downward, then let go. If it’s working, it’ll spring back up to the same level as it was before you pressed it down (assuming your tank isn’t empty).

How to Check Oil Tank Level Without a Working Gauge

If you find your oil tank gauge is broken, or if you have a tank without a gauge, you’ll still need to keep track of your oil levels. You can do this yourself using a long rod, also called a dipstick.

Open the fill valve cap on the top of the tank. Insert the dipstick until it reaches the bottom of the tank. Using a pencil or pen, mark on the dipstick where the top of the fill valve is.

Remove the dipstick and hold it against the side of the tank. The wet mark shows how high the oil is. If your tank is partially underground, line the pencil mark up with the top of the fill valve to determine how high your oil levels are.

If you’re running low on fuel, schedule your next heating oil deliver promptly; letting levels get too low can cause sludge to build up, which can be damaging to your equipment or tank. Additionally, if the gauge is broken, you can arrange for an oil tank gauge replacement from SMO Energy’s service technicians.

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