Is Your Oil Tank Gauge Working Properly?

What to Know about Reading Your Tank Levels

oil tank wisconsin It never hurts to review the basics of reading your heating oil tank gauge, so here are five important points you should know.

  1. On top of the tank is a clear glass or plastic cube that is marked with numbers that resemble the gas gauge of your car: F, ¾, ½, ¼. A red marker or float commonly indicates the amount of fuel left in your tank. If the float is at the bottom of the gauge or not visible at all, your tank is empty or nearly empty.
  2. To make sure the gauge is working, carefully remove the outer case and gently press the float down. If it bobs back up to the original position, the gauge is working. If the gauge is not working, contact your heating oil service provider to get it checked.
  3. To estimate how many gallons you have in your tank based on the reading you see on the gauge, remember this. The most common size of heating oil tank is 275 gallons, but the size of the tank doesn’t indicate how much fuel it really can hold.
  4. When full, a 275-gallon tank holds approximately 225 gallons; the rest of the space is left to allow for air or debris at the bottom of your tank. So, if your gauge reads “½” in a 275-gallon tank, you have about 110 gallons left, not 135 or so as you might first expect. You may have a different tank size, which is often indicated on the side of your tank, but older models may not include that information. But you will typically see that information on your heating oil delivery ticket.
  5. You should call for more fuel when the tank gauge reaches the “¼” mark.

If you want to avoid checking your oil tank gauge, ask your heating oil supplier if they can provide automatic delivery service, which frees you from the task of always checking the fuel level in your oil storage tank. Many heating oil companies have the resources to monitor your fuel usage remotely and deliver accordingly.

Whistling Sounds During Deliveries

If your oil tank is in your basement and you’re home when a driver makes his delivery, you’ll probably hear a whistling noise as your tank starts to fill up. But don’t worry. This is perfectly normal.

Besides the tank itself, your heating oil storage system includes important components like the fill pipe, vent pipe and vent alarm whistle.

After the driver arrives, he connects the hose from his oil truck to the fill pipe and starts pumping the oil. As oil flows into the tank, air is pushed back out. As the air goes through the vent alarm–located between your tank and vent pipe–it makes a whistling sound. When the whistling stops, the tank is just about full.

Since your basement tank is out of sight from the driver, the vent alarm whistle prevents overfilling and the possibility of a spill. Safety codes do not allow your heating oil company to deliver your fuel if the vent alarm whistle is not working.

Four Facts about Oil Piping

  1. The vent pipe also relieves the vacuum created when the oil burner pulls fuel from the tank.
  2. The vent pipe should be at least 1.25 inches in diameter. A diameter that’s too narrow allows excessive pressure to build up inside the tank during filling, which can cause a tank rupture.
  3. PVC piping does not meet NFPA safety codes and must be replaced because this material is more likely to crack when tanks are being filled.
  4. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to properly maintain fuel tanks and all associated piping.

Reach out to your Wisconsin heating oil company if you have questions or concerns about your vent pipe, fill pipe or vent alarm whistle. Right now, you may qualify for rebates when you upgrade your oil tank. If the tank doesn’t need to be replaced, rebates are also available for upgrading your fill pipe and vent alarm whistle.