A Homeowner’s Guide to Heating: Five Ways to Tell if You Need Home Heating Oil

If you’re not sure if your home has heating oil, there are a few simple ways to tell:

Whether it’s maintaining the plumbing, painting the walls, or winterizing the outside, keeping your home hospitable to your family is a full-time commitment. Just when you feel like everything is running smoothly, something malfunctions and makes that goal seem impossible.

When it comes to appliances like your furnace, managing repairs, maintenance, and oil deliveries can feel especially daunting. If your home’s heating systems run on fuel oil (as opposed to natural gas or electricity), there are some simple ways to make sure you keep up with your system’s demands and ensure your oil tank remains full all winter.

How to Determine if Your Home Uses Oil

If you’re not sure if your home has heating oil, there are a few simple ways to tell:

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  • There is a small fill pipe standing in your yard. It may not be very noticeable, but if your home’s heating system has an underground tank, there may be a 12-inch piece of covered pipe sticking out of the ground. The cover will often be stamped with the word “oil.”
  • There are pipes in your basement, crawl space, and on the side of your home. If you have heating oil, you’ll see a pipe on the side of your house called a vent pipe that provides ventilation for the heating system. There will also be supply lines in the basement or crawl space.
  • Your home is in the Northeast region of the United States and was built between 1930 and 1980. While not every home constructed during this time period has home heating oil, most do.

Five Signs You Need to Order Heating Oil

The biggest concern with home heating oil is making sure that you keep your fuel oil tank full. This essential component of your heating system is typically located in the basement but may also be buried in your yard. If this is the case, you’ll need a dipstick to read your oil levels through the fill pipe.

Meanwhile, if your tank is in the basement, it will have an oil gauge that you can read to determine how much oil is left. But how do you know when to order fuel oil? Here are five telltale signs:

  • Your oil tank is 25 percent full (or less). By keeping your tank ¼ full at all times, you can avoid running out of oil unexpectedly.
  • Your heater suddenly turns off. When your heating system runs out of oil, it won’t be able to produce any more heat.
  • The reset button on your furnace or boiler trips and shuts the system off. Most furnaces and boilers have a reset button that turns the system off when the flame created by the heater goes out. This function is crucial for preventing damage to the system.
  • Your heater makes loud banging or roaring sounds when you start it. Empty oil tanks often pull air into the fuel line, causing excessive noise.
  • You’re preparing your heating system for the winter. It’s always a good idea to fill your oil tank before colder weather arrives, preferably during the early fall.

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Buying Heating Oil

Once you’ve determined that it’s time to buy heating oil, it’s beneficial to understand standard oil rates and how to compare heating oil prices. Unfortunately, buying heating oil is not an exact science. Prices often fluctuate based on how many gallons you buy at a time. In general, you should avoid companies that:

  • Don’t take secure online credit card payments.
  • Have bad reviews or reputations, even if they appear cheaper.
  • Don’t have flexible options for delivery times and delivery quantities.

These are all red flags for heating oil suppliers and signs to look for someone else.

Home Heating Oil Tips and Tricks

Ordering oil is only the beginning – you’ll also want to keep your costs low and your system working as efficiently as possible. The best ways to do this are to schedule professional oil tank inspections, replace old oil tanks and other equipment, and consider signing up for automatic deliveries or tank monitoring services.

By managing the specifics of your system strategically, you can keep your home safe, warm, and cozy all winter long.