Just like your home’s furnace or HVAC system, the oil tank you use to store heating fuel can have a long life. At some point, though, the tank might be in need of replacement, either due to damage or old age. If the time to replace your home’s oil tank has arrived, you might find yourself thinking carefully about oil tank sizes. How big is an oil tank? And, more importantly, how can you decide on the size that is going to best meet the needs of your home?

Knowing what sizes are available and your home’s typical fuel use will help you choose a new or replacement oil tank that is just right. 

What to Consider When Choosing the Correct Oil Tank Size

If you are going to replace an old oil tank, you are not locked into choosing one that is the same size as the current tank on your property. It might be the case that a larger or smaller tank will better meet your needs, compared to what you have currently installed. If you are switching to oil heat and are installing a tank on your property for the first time, you are also likely to have questions about size.

Several factors influence the size of the tank that will work best for your home and family. Here are a few things to consider when choosing an oil tank:

  • The size of your home: Your home’s square footage plays a big role when it comes to the amount of oil you use. A larger home will often need more heating fuel during the colder months of the year compared to a smaller home, so it can make more sense to get a bigger tank for a home with more than three bedrooms. If your house has just one or two bedrooms and a smaller footprint overall, you are likely to find that a smaller tank will suffice. 
  • The amount of space available for an oil tank: Another thing to consider when you are looking at how to install an oil tank is where you will put the tank and the amount of room available. If space is tight, you might only be able to fit a 150 or 275-gallon tank on your property, instead of a 550-gallon tank.
  • Your typical oil use: If you currently use heating oil, it can help to reflect on your past usage to get a sense of the tank size that will work best. If you usually only use 150 or so gallons each year, it will take several years for you to get through the oil in a 550-gallon tank. While heating oil has a long shelf-life, it will eventually go bad, meaning you might not get to use all of the fuel in a larger tank if your heating needs are limited. It is often better to go small and refill your tank more frequently than to go big and have the oil go to waste.
  • The size of your household: The number of people living in your home can also determine the size of oil tank that will work best. Usually, the more people in a house, the more fuel the home uses, as more rooms will need heat. 
  • Your household’s habits: Also, think about the habits of the people who live in your home. If everyone in the house is energy-conscious and on-board with turning down the heat at night or when people are not home, then you are likely to use less oil — and to need a smaller tank — compared to a less energy-conscious home. Another thing to consider is whether or not you use heating oil for both space heating and hot water.
  • The likelihood of extreme weather events: One last thing to keep in mind when choosing a tank size is the likelihood of extreme winter storms in your area. During and immediately after a snowstorm, it can be challenging for fuel delivery trucks to make their way to your home. If you have a smaller tank, there is a chance that you will run out of fuel after a storm. A larger tank can provide you with peace of mind that you will have plenty of heating oil to weather any storms that come your way.

Understanding the Differences Between Oil Tanks

Oil tanks do not only come in different sizes. They also come in a variety of shapes and types. Along with finding the answer to how big a 250-gallon oil tank is or how much a 500-gallon oil tank is, it helps to understand how the shape and type of tank affect things.

Common Tank Sizes

Some oil tank sizes are more commonly available than others. For example, 275-gallon tanks might be the most widely used. But there are plenty of other options out there. Some common tank measurements are:

  • 75 gallons
  • 150 gallons
  • 280 gallons
  • 330 gallons
  • 550 gallons
  • 1,000 gallons

Although knowing the volume of an oil tank is helpful when it comes to scheduling fuel oil deliveries and figuring out how much oil you use to heat your home, it is less helpful when it comes to determining whether you have room for the tank on your property. For that reason, many homeowners also like to know the dimensions of the tank they are considering. A 75-gallon tank might measure 30 inches by 24 inches, for example, and a 150-gallon tank might measure 50 inches by 48 inches. 

The positioning of the tank also matters. A vertical oval tank will need more height than a horizontal oval tank, but it will fit into a narrower area. 

The Two Tank Types

Size is not the only thing to consider when choosing a new oil tank for your home. Another factor to think about is the construction of the tank. Oil tanks typically either have a single-walled construction or a double-walled construction. 

A single-wall tank is usually made of either painted or powder-coated steel. Since powder-coating is a bit more durable than paint, powder-coated tanks often have a longer warranty. One of the advantages of installing a single-wall fuel tank is that it is usually less expensive. 

A drawback of a single-wall tank is that if the tank develops a crack or hole, oil can easily leak out, getting into the ground or onto the floor of your basement. Maintaining the tank and inspecting it after each refill will help you detect any issues or leaks before they cause notable problems.

Double-walled oil tanks are also usually made from steel. Unlike their single-wall cousins, double-wall tanks feature an inner liner, usually made of polyethylene. The polyethylene layer resists corrosion, has no seams and is usually designed to be leak-proof. 

If there should be an issue with the inner layer of a double-wall oil tank, the second layer, the steel walls, provide an extra level of protection. The steel outer walls reduce the risk of leaks and damage to property. A warranty usually comes standard with a double-wall tank.

Using Tank Size to Determine Oil Needs

Before you upgrade to a new, possibly bigger (or smaller) oil tank, you might want to use up the heating fuel that remains in your current tank. Knowing how much oil remains in the tank and how long it will take to use it up will help you schedule the tank replacement and installation.

 The exception is if the tank is on its last legs and might soon develop a leak or another problem that affects its functioning. In that situation, you want to replace the tank as soon as possible.

How to Check the Oil Level in a Tank

You have two options if you want to check the oil level in the tank. The simplest option is to look at the fuel gauge. Oil tanks often use one of two types of fuel gauges. The first type features a small, tube. A piece of plastic, called a float, moves up and down in the tube, depending on the amount of fuel in the tank. If the float is near the bottom of the tube, the tank is nearly empty.

The other type of fuel gauge looks like the gas gauge you see in automobiles. When the needle on the gauge points to the right, the tank is full. When the needle points all the way left, the tank is empty or close to it.

It might be the case that your oil tank either does not have a fuel gauge or that the fuel gauge is not very accurate. You might feel that the gauge does not give you a good enough idea of how much fuel remains. 

Another way to measure the amount of remaining oil is to stick your tank. You will need something long, such a six-foot metal pole or a two-meter measuring stick, to stick the tank. Slowly slide the stick into the fill pipe. Keep pushing the stick into the tank, until you feel it tap the bottom. 

It is essential that you keep the stick as straight as possible as you go so that you get an accurate read. Once the stick has tapped the bottom of the tank, pull it back up. Use a ruler to measure the length of the wet mark on the stick. Using a measurement chart, find the size of your tank, then the depth of the wet mark to get an idea of the number of gallons remaining.

How Much Oil Do You Use?

The next thing to consider is how much oil your household uses and how long it will take you to go through the remaining oil in your tank. You can look at your past energy use and fuel refills to get an idea of how much oil you typically use in a day or month. You can also use degree days to calculate how much fuel you use daily.

Ideally, the new tank will arrive before the oil level in your current tank reaches one-quarter remaining. You don’t want the tank to be completely empty, as that can damage your heating system. Once the new tank is installed, SMO Energy will fill it up with fresh heating oil, so that your family can continue to be warm and comfortable in your home.

Oil Tank Removal and Installation

Replacing your home’s old oil tank with a new one is a two-part process. First, you need to remove the old tank. Then, the new one needs to be installed in its place.

Tank removal and installation are two jobs that are best left to trained and certified technicians. When you hire professionals for the removal and installation, you can rest assured that all precautions will be taken to reduce the risk of spills. You can also feel confident that the new tank will be installed securely and correctly.

Hiring a professional company is particularly critical if your oil tank is located underground or is very large. It can be difficult to dig up an underground tank and larger tanks can be cumbersome and heavy, even if they are empty. 

SMO Energy will remove and safely dispose of your old tank (and any remaining oil in it). We will also work with you every step of the way when it comes to replacing the tank with a new model.

SMO Energy Can Help You Choose the Right-Size Replacement Oil Tank

If you are considering a new oil tank but are not sure where to start, SMO Energy can help. Call us today to set up a free, in-home energy consultation. One of our technicians will visit your home, talk to you about your home energy needs and examine your existing oil tank. From there, we will recommend tank options that match your household’s needs and goals. Get in touch today to schedule your appointment.