How to Read an Oil Tank Gauge

When your home is powered by heating oil, it can be easy to forget about checking your oil levels if you schedule periodic heating oil delivery. After all, before you run out, there’ll be more fuel oil arriving soon, right? Well, yes…most of the time. Should you use more than you typically do before your automatic delivery refill arrives, you could be in deep trouble. While there’s no doubt that home heating oil delivery service can be extremely convenient, you should always learn to check your heating oil tank’s gauges yourself.

Checking your heating oil gauges may seem confusing at first, especially if you’ve never read something like this before. However, the process is simple once you get the hang of it. Let this quick guide lead the way, and you’ll be able to read an oil tank gauge in no time!

What You’ll Need

You’ll need the following to read the gauge (and recalibrate if necessary):

  • Information about your oil tank size (standard tank sizes usually run between 220 and 1,000 gallons. 275 gallons is the most common size.)
  • A pencil and paper
  • A calculator
  • Disposable gloves (optional)

How to Read Float Gauges

The majority of heating oil tanks use “float gauges.” These operate via a hinged arm that moves down as your oil is used up and disappears from the tank. This hinged arm is connected to a small round disc, which you can see inside of the float gauge. As the arm floats on top of the tank and moves downwards, the disc moves upwards, reflecting the level of fuel remaining.

To properly read your float gauge, examine the vial for tick marks indicating measurements. Most tanks are labeled ¼, ½, ¾, and Full. As a general rule, it’s time to order more heating oil when you see the disc around the ¼ mark. Don’t wait any longer because float gauges become more inaccurate the lower your oil level is. You don’t want to look up one cold day and notice that your tank is empty!

A Quick Note on Faulty Float Gauges

Sometimes, float gauges will become stuck because they are covered in oily residue or because they are on the older side. If you think your measurement might be inaccurate, don your disposable gloves, carefully remove the outer case of the gauge, and gently press the disc down. It should move downwards and then slowly drift back up again into its original position. If it does not move, you’ve got a stuck float gauge on your hands. In most cases, you’ll find that your gauge is working; it just needs to be wiped off a little. However, if you notice that your gauge doesn’t seem to be operating correctly or fails to respond to cleaning, call Professional Tank & Environmental ASAP, and we’ll come to help you out.

Calculating Your Oil Level

In order to discover how much oil is actually in the tank, write down the measurement you see (such as ¼, ¾, half, or full). Then, multiply this measurement by the number of gallons in your tank. For instance, if you have a 330-gallon tank that is ¾ full, you should multiply 330 by .75 (¾). That gives us 247.5, which means there are about 247.5 gallons of heating oil left in the tank.

Don’t put that calculator away just yet. You have one final calculation to do, which is the amount of heating oil you need to order. This calculation is even simpler than the last one. All you need is the current number of gallons in the tank and the tank capacity. Let’s use our example of a 330-gallon tank from before, and let’s say you still have around 247.5 gallons in your tank. Take the tank capacity (330 gallons) and subtract the current level (247.5 gallons). This will give you the amount you need to order, in this case, 82.5 gallons. Call your heating oil company and let them know, and your home will be warm and cozy again before you know it!

Need Tank Service? Contact Us Today!

Oil heat is one of the simpler heating systems in homes around the nation, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore routine maintenance. That’s why being able to read your own oil tank gauge is so important — and why we’re glad that you’ve learned how!

Professional Tank & Environmental can help with any and all of your oil heating tank needs. We can install a pristine new oil tank for you, perform emergency repairs, or remove oil tanks from your property — and so much more! Have more questions about your gauge? Wondering about the signs of an underground oil tank or want tips on disguising an aboveground tank? We’re here for any and all questions about oil tanks, so feel free to reach out to us anytime. We’ll speak with you soon!