If your household heating system is oil-powered, you might find yourself asking the following questions as autumn rolls around:
This article answers these and other questions about heating oil.
Heating oil will generally last between 18 and 24 months inside a residential oil tank. As long as the tank is clean and free of impurities, the oil should flow fine and heat your living quarters efficiently. To maintain system health, you should always use high-quality oil with proper additives. If you have a partially full tank left when you turn off the heat for the spring and summer months, that oil should still be in good condition once you turn the heat back on in the fall.
People use heating oil in their homes at a sliding scale determined mostly by the outside temperature. If the weather outside is averaging 50 degrees, you will probably use 2 gallons of oil per day. If the weather is down to 15 degrees, you are liable to use as much as 8 gallons of heating oil per day while temperatures stay at that level. Fortunately, temperatures at both ends of the scale balance one another out. You can, therefore, expect to consume around 5 gallons per day during the coldest months of winter, which average in the lower 30s in the Northeast U.S.
Various factors and lifestyle choices can impact the heat consumption in your household. If you live in a small house with tight insulation, your living quarters will probably only require moderate levels of heat. Different factors would apply to a larger house with weaker insulation. If you have recently added insulation in your walls or replaced your windows or roofing, your home will likely be warmer due to the reduced possibility of drafts or cold walls. You could also reduce your reliance on heat by using thicker quilts and wearing more layers of clothing during the winter months.
It is crucial to check your tank regularly during the winter months to prevent the oil level from dropping to a dangerous level. If the supply drops below the two-fifths mark, you should schedule a refill with your trusted oil supplier. Preferably, you should arrange these appointments for the weekday with some leeway of time before the fuel runs out completely. If you suddenly find that your fuel has run out and you have to make an emergency call on a weekend or holiday, you will likely have to pay a higher price for the service.
During the fall and winter months, a host of internal and external factors determine your household fuel consumption, namely the following:
The amount of heating oil that your household consumes will largely depend on the size of your house. If you live in a two-bedroom, one-story house, you will use roughly half the amount of heating oil as the nearby house that has five bedrooms and two stories. While both homes would be subjected to the same ambient temperatures at the same time, your house would simply have less square footage in need of heating.
While interior space is one of the most critical factors in determining your heat consumption, the design of your house and its structural qualities can also play a role. Are your walls thick and insulated or do empty cavities sit between the plasterboards and exterior walls? Is your ceiling insulated and reinforced or are there drafts amid the shingles and eaves?
Another factor that could impact the quality of insulation in your living quarters is the presence of wind drafts along your living room and bedroom windows. If your dining room has a wall-size window or screen door leading out to the back porch, the thinness of all that glass could make your house colder in the wintertime.
The quality of your furnace could impact the efficiency of your heating system. Ideally, your furnace should be clean and fully-functioning. If not, it might struggle to perform its intended functions, and this could lead to higher levels of oil consumption.
The temperatures in your area during a given week will have a significant impact on the amount of heating oil that your house will consume during the timeframe in question. For example, if the average nightly temperature in your area is 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the first three weeks of October, your house might consume 3.7 gallons of heating oil per day. If the temperature then drops to 15 degrees each night during the subsequent three-month period, you will likely consume about 7.8 gallons per day.
The amount of heating oil consumed in your house will inevitably depend on the number of daily hours that the home is occupied. If the house is empty from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday, there would not be much reason for the heating system to run at high temperatures during those hours, if at all. If your family also leaves the house for trips and recreational activities during the weekend, that too could be subtracted from the number of hours that you would likely consume heating oil.
In a home where everyone either works or attends school, the only hours where heating would come into question would be the evening, overnight and early morning hours. Granted, heat consumption between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. could also be reduced if everyone in your house wears warmer pajamas and uses thicker quilts.
Conservation of heating oil could be one of the perks of a winter trip out-of-state to visit relatives. The money that you would save on heating oil during that one- or two-week trip could repay some of the transportation costs.
While you could fill your oil tank at any time, certain days and times are better than others in terms of service availability and savings:
One of the best times of the year to fill your heating oil tank is during the last few weeks of summer, before the coming onslaught of oil orders. During the summer months, most homeowners do not even think about their oil tanks. As such, business is typically down among heating oil suppliers during this time of year. When business is low, suppliers are likelier to sell oil at lower prices to boost sales and ramp up business. Therefore, you can usually save money when you purchase oil just before the cold season.
In the heart of the cold season, it is crucial to check your heating oil supply and stock up if necessary in advance of the holidays. During the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, service will usually cost more and might not even be provided from any nearby suppliers. After all, most people are on holiday during this time, including many oil company staff.
While some suppliers do make deliveries during holidays, they will generally charge higher prices on such days. Even with that option, it can be dangerous to let your oil run low as the holidays approach because snow could hit your area and make it impossible for the delivery truck to reach your house.
When you order refills during the fall and winter months, try to time these deliveries on the weekdays during normal business hours. That way, you will pay regular prices on your heating oil. If your tank runs empty on a Saturday night, the company will charge you more to make the delivery outside of normal business hours.
Among homeowners, the peak months for heat consumption are October through February. Between the second half of April and the first few weeks of September, consumption of heating oil is low and often non-existent. Just as sales for heating oil are generally low in the months of July and August, sales are also down in April and May.
When demand for heating oil is low, oil suppliers are more willing to offer discounts. As such, you could save money by having your tank refilled at the outset of the warm season, just before you stop using your heating system for the time being. That way, you can have a full tank of heating oil waiting when the cold season hits. You won’t have to worry in advance about the oil supply in your tank as summer turns to fall.
The average size of a residential oil tank is 275 gallons. On days when the outside temperature averages 50 degrees Fahrenheit, a typical household will consume 2 gallons of heating oil. When you divide a full 275-gallon tank by two, the heating oil will last for approximately 137 days, or four months and two weeks. If the entire cold season crests in the 50-degree range, you could pretty much be set on one full tank of oil per year.
Of course, the temperature in any given area will typically fluctuate between the months of October and February. A temperature of 50 degrees would be relatively warm for those months. Consequently, you will have to factor in a likely range of colder temperatures and the increased amounts of heating oil that you will inevitably use during the coldest weeks of the year.
On days when temperatures average 40 degrees in a given area, homeowners typically consume 3.7 gallons of heating oil per day. If your 275-gallon tank is full at the start of a 40-degree weather spell, the oil will last for approximately 74 days, or 2.5 months. Granted, you would be lucky if the temperatures in your area drop no lower than 40 degrees during the winter months. In the Northeast U.S., 40 degrees would be relatively warm for December or January. Therefore, you cannot expect a full tank to last for 2.5 months.
On nights with lows at around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, a typical household will consume 7 gallons of heating oil per day. With a full 275-gallon tank of heating oil, you would burn through that oil within 39 days of a 20-degree weather spell. In the Northeast U.S., days with lows at or around 20 degrees are fairly common in December and January. Therefore, you could burn through a full tank of oil every 5.5 weeks during those months.
Thankfully, temperatures generally fluctuate between the 20s and 40s during the cold months. In Pennsylvania, winter temperatures typically hover between 32 and 34 degrees between Thanksgiving and late January. The average home uses 5.3 gallons of oil on 30-degree days and 4.5 gallons on 35-degree days. Therefore, the average home in the Philadelphia area will use about 4.9 gallons of heating oil per day during winter.
A 275-gallon supply of heating oil will last for approximately 56 days at the rate of 4.9 gallons per day. In Pennsylvania, this would be the most realistic measure to follow, as the outlier days that peak into the low 40s or dip to the 10s or 20s could balance each other out to the 32-to-34-degree range of oil consumption.
If your tank is smaller than the typical 275-gallon unit, you will need to take those differences into account when you mark the due dates for oil refills on your calendar. If you start the season with a half-full tank of oil, you will need to take that factor into account as you schedule your first refill.
During the months when your oil tank is continually in use, the oil should be in good condition as long as it flows through the system without impurities. After you turn your heating system off for the spring and summer months, the oil should remain healthy during the five- or six-month period when the tank is inactive. Once you turn the heater back on in late September, the pre-existing oil should work just fine along with any newer oil that you add to the tank. Overall, oil should last for 18 to 24 months.
Oil can go bad if impurities get into the system and corrupt the oil’s properties. For example, if trace elements of metal and rust get into the oil, it will corrupt the viscosity and make it more difficult for the oil to work its way through the heating system. If the problem is allowed to fester, the bad oil can hamper system efficiency and force moving metal parts to grind against one another, causing corrosion in the process. To prevent this from happening, it is wise to have your tank cleaned every few years.
As fall takes hold, you should fill your oil tank in advance of the cold spells and keep the supply at a healthy level. Shipley Energy is the leading supplier of heating oil to homes in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Order your heating oil online from Shipley Energy today or call us at 717-714-3271.