How To Check if the Oil Tank is Empty

While many homes use an electric or gas-powered thermostat for heating, some homes still use oil-based heaters. Heating a house using oil will require that you maintain adequate fuel levels. However, you might not always have the time to check oil levels if you are busy.

Still, it’s important to check your furnace’s oil tank to determine if fuel is already low and in need of replacement. This will help prevent any potential problems like breakdowns and the like.

Here are a few ways you can check your oil-fed furnace for oil.

  • Look at the gauge. Some furnaces have an oil gauge that looks something like a car’s fuel gauge. You will have a range from E (Empty) to F (Full). However, in most cases, when the needle points to E, you still have a few gallons of reserve fuel. If this is the case, you can call for new oil supply. Just be sure to turn down your thermostat, to conserve energy while you wait for refueling.
  • If your oil tank doesn’t have a gauge, you can check it manually through several means. You will need to open the cap from the top portion of the tank.
  • Find a long, straight object or stick about three to four feet in length. A wooden broomstick will do. A yardstick will also work. With the oil tank’s cap open, insert the stick into the hole until it reaches the bottom. Then, pull out the stick or broom handle. You can estimate the level of the oil from how much of the stick has oil.
  • You can also use some wire. Cut out a six-foot piece of metal wire. This can either be a cable or a covered wire. What’s important is that you can easily bend it. Insert the wire into the hole, and let it slip down the pipe. You will know that you’ve reached the bottom of the tank when you have reached some resistance. Wait a few seconds and pull back the cable. You can estimate the oil level through the length of wire covered with oil.

Keep in mind some safety measures when working with heating oil.  For one, you will need to use work gloves or a rag when working with oil. You can also wear overalls or work clothes, so your street clothes will not be soiled. Also, keep any flame away from oil, as it’s a flammable material. Therefore, you will need to avoid smoking while working on your oil tank.

If your oil tank doesn’t have a gauge, consider using a stick or rod specifically for the purpose of checking the oil levels inside. You can even mark the rod with several lines, indicating the number of liters or gallons remaining in your tank, if you can estimate it as such. Make it a point to regularly check oil levels on your oil-fed furnace to avoid any inconveniences with running out of fuel, especially when the cold winter months are approaching.


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