In Southern Maryland, temperatures drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or colder on about 80 days out of the year. On those chilly days, you want to come home to a house that is warm and cozy. Your home’s furnace has an essential job of providing heat to your home and keeping you and your family members safe and warm.
While an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, there might be times when your home heating oil runs low or runs out. Your area could be experiencing an extended cold snap that requires you to turn up the heat more than usual, for example.
If you do run out of heating fuel, stay calm. To help your system get back on its feet and to get your home toasty and warm once again, contact your local heating oil provider right away to refill the tank and restart your system. SMO Energy offers heating fuel delivery to homes across Southern Maryland. If you find yourself out of fuel at any time, knowing what to do when you run out of heating fuel and what you can do to keep your tank full in the future will help you enjoy a cozy and comfortable home, all winter long.
What to Do If You Run out of Heating Fuel
Fill Your Tank With Back-Up FuelTo keep you warm while you wait for your fuel delivery, you can refill your tank with five to 10 gallons of kerosene or off-road diesel. These fuels can be purchased at most gas stations or some hardware stores. As the weather starts to get colder, we recommend keeping a canister of one of these fuels on hand. Temperature drops and winter storms can approach quickly and cause you to burn through your heating fuel faster than expected. Note that you need a special canister to purchase fuel. Kerosene should be poured into BLUE cans, while off-road diesel goes into YELLOW cans. A hardware store or gas station can refuse to sell you the fuel if you do not have the right canisters. The color-coded canisters are safety precautions for the fire department and emergency response teams in the event of an emergency.
Get Ready for Fuel DeliveryWhile you wait for your heating fuel provider to make the delivery and refill your tank, there are a few things you can do to prepare your home and to make filling your tank easier for the driver. Make sure your driveway and the path to your fill is clear for drivers to make your delivery. If it has recently snowed, shovel or plow away the snow to create a clear path to the tank. You want to clear away any ice that might be on your driveway for safety reasons and to make accessing the tank easier as well. Also, make sure that your fill is cleared and visible. If you are an SMO Energy client and do not think your driveway will be clear in time for your delivery, call us to let us know and we will adjust the time of your delivery accordingly. Our drivers, technicians and client care representatives are working hard to make sure we can serve you to the best of our ability. Our drivers will continue making deliveries as long as driving conditions permit. If the road conditions become unsafe, our drivers will need to stop deliveries and will resume as soon as the road conditions improve. We will do everything we can to make sure everyone stays warm.
Frequently Asked Questions About Running out of Fuel
You may have questions about what you can do to prevent running out of fuel and what you can expect from your fuel tank. Get the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about running out of fuel here:
1. Why Did I Run out of Heating Oil?
There are a few reasons why you might have run out of heating fuel. If the weather has been colder than usual and you have not been keeping a close eye on the levels of fuel in the tank, it is possible that you used more fuel than you expected. In some cases, a leak in the fuel tank can be to blame for the tank running dry.If you suspect your tank is leaking, check for any signs of a leak and contact your heating fuel company right away. Changes in your household may also cause you to use more fuel than usual, such as overnight guests or a new baby. Although it is rare, there are also instances of people stealing heating fuel from others.
2. Is It Bad to Run out of Heating Fuel?
If you run out of heating fuel, you might be concerned that an empty tank will cause substantial damage to your heating system. The good news is that most modern-day systems have safety features built-in that keep the furnace from firing when there is no source of fuel. If your system does not automatically stop firing when it runs out of fuel, be sure to turn the system off to avoid damage to the heating equipment.
It is also worth noting that if you do run out of heating fuel, the HVAC service technician will most likely need to bleed the fuel line after refilling the tank and before restarting the furnace. Bleeding the line means removing any air that might have worked its way in when the tank was empty.
Another issue with running out of heating fuel is that you end up without heat in your home while you wait for a refill. Having a non-functioning furnace might not be a cause for concern in the spring or fall, but in the middle of winter, you will want to minimize the number of days you have to live with an empty heating fuel tank.
3. How CanIMeasure the Oil Level in My Tank?
When you drive your car, you keep an eye on the fuel tank so that you know when it’s time to head to the gas station and fill up. If you suspect your heating system is out of heating fuel, one of the first things you should do is read the gauge on the oil tank to see how much remains (if any).
If there is no gauge on the tank, you can “stick” your tank to see how much fuel is inside. When you stick your tank, you insert a clean, six-foot stick into the tank, until the end of the stick taps the bottom of the tank. You then slowly pull the stick out and measure how much of it is coated with a residue of oil. You can use that information to figure out how many gallons of oil remain in the tank with our Heating Oil Tank Chart.
If the gauge or the chart indicates that the tank is low or empty, your next step is to call SMO Energy to arrange for delivery of heating fuel. We provide service to homes throughout Southern Maryland and offer many delivery options, including automatic and scheduled delivery. We are also flexible with payment options and have budget plans available.
4. How Long Will 10 Gallons of Heating Oil Last?
How long 10 gallons of heating oil will last you depends on several factors. One factor is beyond your control: the temperature outside. You are likely to use more oil to heat your home if it is colder outdoors. When temperatures are hovering around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 gallons of heating oil might last nearly a week. When temperatures fall to just below freezing, you might go through 10 gallons of fuel in just a couple of days.
The energy efficiency of your heating equipment also affects how long 10 gallons will last. Older, less energy-efficient furnaces or boilers will burn through fuel more quickly than newer, more efficient models.
Finally, your personal preferences also affect how long 10 gallons of heating oil will last. If you need your home to be a balmy 72 degrees Fahrenheit, you will burn through oil more quickly than a household that keeps the thermostat set to 68 degrees or lower. Lowering your thermostat by up to 10 degrees can help you save up to 10% per year on your energy costs and can reduce your fuel use.
5. How Long Does a Tank of Heating Oil Last?
Just as several factors influence how long 10 gallons of fuel will last, several factors affect how long a tank of heating oil will last. One of those factors is the size of your heating oil tank. The larger your tank, the more fuel it can hold, and the longer that fuel should last.
Other factors that influence how long a tank of heating oil will last include:
- Your temperature preferences
- Outside temperatures
- The size of your home
- Your home’s insulation, or lack thereof
- The age or condition of your heating system
- Changes in your household, such as long-term guests or a new baby
6. How Many Gallons of Heating Oil Do You Burn in a Day?
Knowing how many gallons of heating oil your system uses in a day can help you set up a schedule for deliveries. As with figuring out how long a tank of heating oil will last, figuring out how many gallons of fuel your home will use in a day depends on a variety of factors. The size of your house, how warm or cold it is outside, the settings on your thermostat and the age and condition of your heating equipment will all influence the number of gallons of fuel you use every day. The design of your home also affects the amount of fuel you use. For example, if your home is drafty, you are likely to use more fuel than someone who lives in a well-insulated house.
If you are curious to know how much heating fuel you use daily, you can look back on your previous usage. Look at the amount of fuel you had delivered over the past year, then divide that number by 365 to get a sense of about how many gallons you used each day.
Keep in mind that you do not have to manually track the amount of oil you burn in a day. If you sign up for automatic delivery from SMO Energy, we will monitor the level of fuel in your tank and deliver more before you run out.
7. Should You Add Diesel Fuel to an Empty Heating Oil Tank?
If you run out of heating oil, off-road diesel or kerosene can be a suitable substitute while you wait for a fuel oil delivery. It can be worthwhile to keep about 10 gallons of off-road diesel or kerosene on-hand as well, such as in a garage or shed, just in case you need to use it as a back-up source of heating fuel. If you do not have either of these fuels at home, gas stations will be happy to sell them to you, provided you bring in the appropriate canister or purchase an approved canister. Off-road diesel needs to be stored in a yellow canister. Kerosene needs to be stored in a blue canister.
How to Keep From Running out of Fuel
After you run out of heating fuel the first time, the odds are likely that you will not want to repeat the experience. Even though emergency service and same-day or next-day delivery* is available when your fuel runs out, it can still be a nail-biting experience. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep your tank from running low or running empty in the future:
- Set it and forget it: Signing up for automatic heating oil delivery can mean you never have to worry about running low on fuel again. With automatic delivery, SMO Energy monitors the level of your fuel tank for you. When the level drops below a certain amount, a delivery driver will come to your home to refill your tank. To make automatic delivery more wallet-friendly, we offer budget plans and payment plans that divide the price of your fuel into equal monthly installments.
- Schedule monthly calendar reminders: If you prefer to do things yourself or want to take a more hands-on approach when monitoring your fuel usage, you can. Program a reminder into your calendar to check the level of fuel in your tank once a month. Taking a hands-on approach can help you get a better understanding of how much fuel you use in the winter and might encourage you to find ways to cut back. If you think it’s time for a refill, you can call your fuel provider and schedule your next delivery. If cold weather is in the forecast, you may want to schedule a delivery sooner than usual.
- Install a fuel tank monitor: Tank monitors keep track of the level of fuel in an oil or propane tank and will let you knowhow much fuel is in your tank at any given time.A wide range of tank monitors is available, including ones that connect to an app on your smartphone and send out a notification when fuel is low.
SMO Energy Offers Emergency Heating Fuel Delivery Across Southern Maryland
SMO Energy takes home comfort seriously. We aim to be a total home comfort provider to residences throughout Southern Maryland and in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties. Should you find yourself in an emergency and without heating fuel, we offer same-day/next day delivery. Call us at 1-888-222-3720 when you need heating fuel ASAP.
If you are interested in setting up automatic fuel delivery or want to learn more about how to save money on fuel, we are happy to help. Contact us today, and one of our representatives will reach out to you soon.
*No delivery fee applies to all deliveries 100 gallons or more, same-day delivery is applicable to a $50 fee. **Same day and next day delivery service is subject to change based on weather conditions. Unsafe road conditions create an unnecessary risk to SMO drivers and the environment.