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  • Writer's pictureSquare One Inspections

Out of Heating Oil

Adding fuel to your tank and restarting your furnace

Running out of oil is common and can be fixed quickly. This is what you need to do.

First, did you really run out of oil or do you have another issue?

  • Carbon monoxide detector near your furnace: Do you have one? If not, get one and install right now. If the furnace exhaust is blocked by snow, leaves, critters, or anything else, the furnace will shut down and you could be living in a toxic environment when the furnace is running. Install the detector BEFORE working on the furnace!

  • Check the fuel gauge: While often incorrect, they are usually good for an estimate, at least. If you filled your tank in the last week or two, you are likely not out of fuel. Call your service company for service (should be cleaned and inspected annually, anyway).

If you are certainly out of fuel...

1. Call your oil delivery company and place an order for fuel to be delivered as we are only talking about a temporary solution. Ask them about emergency delivery fees. You don’t need to book emergency delivery but you need to understand the costs. It may be just as expensive to do it yourself (without the hassle). Fuel costs when not buying bulk can triple.

Don't be afraid to call around. In Maine, and likely elsewhere, ALL oil is the same and comes from the same source. Why pay more for the same product? More importantly right now, who can deliver the product the fastest. We use to find the best price.

2. What to buy and where to buy it:

IF YOUR SYSTEM BURNS KEROSENE, YOU MUST USE KEROSENE. #2 Heating Oil or Diesel Fuel will NOT WORK on a kerosene system and could cause damage. Don’t do it. Kerosene can be purchased in bulk at some gas stations (call around and bring your own cans). Wal-mart sells 2.5 gallon kerosene fuel in stores. Cost is much higher per gallon, so do the math. It may make sense to pay the oil company emergency delivery fee. The current kerosene price is $3 per gallon. Buying Wal-mart fuel is closer to $9 per gallon. The additional cost on 20 gallons is $120. What is the oil company fee?

If your system burns #2 Heating Oil, you can use diesel fuel from any gas station or kerosene. Diesel is more common at gas stations and is about $3 per gallon as well, slightly higher than heating oil. Kerosene is a more refined heating oil and can be used in place of #2 Heating Oil.


3. How much fuel do you need? Based on your last delivery, you can figure your daily usage and calculate your needs. If you were near empty when you bought 100 gallons 20 days ago, you used 5 gallons per day, for example. If the temperature is expected to be different than what you experienced over the past 20 days, change accordingly.

If the oil company can't get to you for three days, you need AT LEAST 15 gallons in the above example. Always add more and use the furnace minimally until then (lower the temperature, short showers, no laundry, etc.).

4. Adding oil:

  • Your oil supply tank will be next to a vent. Both are pipes coming out of your home, relatively close to one another, and near the interior tank.

  • Unscrew the cap to the supply nozzle (left in the below picture) and set aside. This cap should only be hand tightened. No tools are required to remove the cap.

  • Use a funnel to control the flow of the oil you are adding. Don’t wear nice clothes.

  • Put the cap back on and hand-tighten.

5. Once you have added oil to the tank, you’ll need to work with your furnace to get the added fuel flowing. When you pour the fuel in, it gets frothy and won’t burn cleanly until it settles or until the froth is pushed out of the line through "bleeding."

6. Follow this video for bleeding your line:

The process is pretty straight forward, but you need to pay close attention to the type of fuel you use and the type of fuel you are buying. Expensive problems can be created if you are not careful.

Good Luck!

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