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New to oil heat, where do I check level?

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Droid8Apple
Droid8Apple Member Posts: 7
Hello, as a quick backstory: My father recently passed away and I inherited his house. With winter fast approaching, I'd like to make sure I have enough fuel. I wanted to check how much fuel is left, but I'm not sure which pipe to use. I also don't want to open it without asking, because better safe than sorry. Likewise, I don't know if there's any pressure, or certain temperatures I should or shouldn't open it to check, or anything like that. Sorry, probably sounds pathetic to people who are used to it, but I've had natural gas everywhere I've lived.

The tank is underground, and there's no visible gauge that I'm aware of, as I do remember my dad using a stick. The owner before my father kept everything, but all I could find was furnace related stuff as well as a depth chart for how many inches = how much fuel left so I'm guessing it never had a guage to begin with.

I'll stop blabbering, sorry. If anyone could help me out I'd greatly appreciate it.

Comments

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    Given the age I'd be very concerned that it may be leaking. I believe the one with the g is the fill and the one that says new haven is the vent but pictures from the side would make it easier. You just lower the stick until it hits the bottom then measure where the oil is on the stick. Probably best not to open it in the rain.
    Droid8Apple
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
    edited October 2023
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    It would help if you knew the size of the tank, then you could easily measure it.
    I assume your father didn't have automatic delivery or someone tracking usage by Degree Days.
    Hopefully the records you have indicate a tank size.
    Then yes, you'd 'stick the tank' measuring inches, and comparing it to a chart.
    If you don't have any info, you can figure it by measuring the level right before, and right after a delivery, and comparing those numbers to the charts to kind of hone in on which tank you have.

    Now underground tanks are an issue. For one, they are supposed to be registered with the state, and leak checked annually. Some states are crazy adamant about that and other states are 'don't ask don't tell' with fire marshalls being clueless.
    And eventually they will leak/fail, and the cleanup could be financially devastating.
    Best to find out from your homeowners' insurance company their stance.
    Best to pull it out before you have to (or properly abandon in place).

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    Droid8Apple
  • Droid8Apple
    Droid8Apple Member Posts: 7
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    mattmia2 said:

    Given the age I'd be very concerned that it may be leaking. I believe the one with the g is the fill and the one that says new haven is the vent but pictures from the side would make it easier. You just lower the stick until it hits the bottom then measure where the oil is on the stick. Probably best not to open it in the rain.

    Thanks for the reply, I'll run outside and grab another picture or two.
  • Droid8Apple
    Droid8Apple Member Posts: 7
    edited October 2023
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    It would help if you knew the size of the tank, then you could easily measure it.
    I assume your father didn't have automatic delivery or someone tracking usage by Degree Days.
    Hopefully the records you have indicate a tank size.
    Then yes, you'd 'stick the tank' measuring inches, and comparing it to a chart.
    If you don't have any info, you can figure it by measuring the level right before, and right after a delivery, and comparing those numbers to the charts to kind of hone in on which tank you have.

    Now underground tanks are an issue. For one, they are supposed to be registered with the state, and leak checked annually. Some states are crazy adamant about that and other states are 'don't ask don't tell' with fire marshalls being clueless.
    And eventually they will leak/fail, and the cleanup could be financially devastating.
    Best to find out from your homeowners' insurance company their stance.
    Best to pull it out before you have to (or properly abandon in place).

    Thanks for all of that info, and scaring the crap out of me, lol. I plan on modernizing it, but the quote to do a heat pump and new AC unit and all the fixin's was _ _,_ _ _ so it'll take a little. Hopefully this will just last the winter, then.

    The tank is 1000 gallons, and 48", according to one of the records I have. He didn't have autofilling, no, but I would be inclined to believe he did maintenance it and would have known if there was a leak.
  • Droid8Apple
    Droid8Apple Member Posts: 7
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    mattmia2 said:

    Given the age I'd be very concerned that it may be leaking. I believe the one with the g is the fill and the one that says new haven is the vent but pictures from the side would make it easier. You just lower the stick until it hits the bottom then measure where the oil is on the stick. Probably best not to open it in the rain.



  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,883
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    Check your fathers records for the oil company he used. With that you can get records of oil deliveries. 
  • Droid8Apple
    Droid8Apple Member Posts: 7
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    pecmsg said:

    Check your fathers records for the oil company he used. With that you can get records of oil deliveries. 

    Thanks, yeah I have all the records about who, how much he got, etc. I was just looking at how to check the remaining oil, which of those pipes it would be. Thanks.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,438
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    OK the tall one is the fill, and that's the one you want to stick. Just take the top off -- since it is the fill, it should come off fairly easilty -- and stick the stick down until it hits bottom (but don't pound on it!). Lift it up and read the oil level on the stick. Your depth chart will give you the amount of oil left in the tank.

    Yes, all the above mumbling about potential leaks is quite correct, and they can be a problem. However, sheer panic is a poor response to that. A much better response is to measure the oil level -- and come back some time later when you haven't been running the boiler and measure it again. Should be about the same.

    At some point you will want to abandon the tank, unfortunately -- as 1000 gallons of oil is nice to have; I'd venture it might even take you through a winter. The problem comes when you need to find a place to put the new tank...

    On modernizing. Before you leap gaily off that cliff, find out how much heat you really do need for the house, and what sort of heat source might work. Your quote for a heat pump (and, by the way, please edit your post to remove the actual dollar value) sounds very very low, unless the house is well insulated and is either low temperature hot water heat or hot air (forced air).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 2,806
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    It would be the large pipe...

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    My intention was not to induce panic, but real world concern.
    You wouldn't know if the tank was leaking unless it was properly tested. And testing it could cause it to start leaking, lol.
    @Jamie Hall method is ok for a quick check but not always an accurate way. Oil could be leaking out and
    ground water leaking in.
    Using a water detecting paste would tell you if and how much any water is residing on the bottom of the tank. If it's more than a few inches, you may want to at least have your oil provider treat the tank and investigate further. Nothing worse than a no heat call, dead of winter and find you have 12-15 inches of water in the tank.
    Which is why I recommend addressing it when you can, not when you have to.

    You may find out you can get by with a smaller tank and hopefully inside. We had many customers who put tanks in back in the 40's and 50's 1000 gallons even some 2000 gallon tanks on twins and row homes, because oil was cheap, and you could hold enough for 2 winters.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,438
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    Oh quite, @STEVEusaPA . It is a real world concern -- and I lost count a few decades back of the number of leaking underground storage tanks I had investigated and cleaned up. Fortunately, cleaning up a fuel oil spill is nowhere near as expensive as a gasoline tank spill (gasoline migrates underground, fuel oil doesn't anywhere near as much).

    And it might be possible for exactly the right amount of ground water to leak in as fuel oil to leak out to hold the level constant, but honestly I've never seen that. In fact, the whole system of level recording used by gas stations and other facilities with underground tanks is based on recording the level and doing the accounting on inputs and withdrawals, and works remarkably well.

    The real problem with a large underground storage tank for a residence is that usually you can't get insurance against a possible spill -- nor can the oil company -- and often the oil company will flat out refuse to deliver to one, leaving you with no choice but to abandon and find a place for an interior tank -- and live with frequent fuel oil deliveries.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 2,806
    edited October 2023
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    It is something you don't want to know , but if you have a feeling , instal a standard 275 gallon in the cellar .. :wink:

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Droid8Apple
    Droid8Apple Member Posts: 7
    edited October 2023
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    OK the tall one is the fill, and that's the one you want to stick. Just take the top off -- since it is the fill, it should come off fairly easilty -- and stick the stick down until it hits bottom (but don't pound on it!). Lift it up and read the oil level on the stick. Your depth chart will give you the amount of oil left in the tank.

    Yes, all the above mumbling about potential leaks is quite correct, and they can be a problem. However, sheer panic is a poor response to that. A much better response is to measure the oil level -- and come back some time later when you haven't been running the boiler and measure it again. Should be about the same.

    At some point you will want to abandon the tank, unfortunately -- as 1000 gallons of oil is nice to have; I'd venture it might even take you through a winter. The problem comes when you need to find a place to put the new tank...

    On modernizing. Before you leap gaily off that cliff, find out how much heat you really do need for the house, and what sort of heat source might work. Your quote for a heat pump (and, by the way, please edit your post to remove the actual dollar value) sounds very very low, unless the house is well insulated and is either low temperature hot water heat or hot air (forced air).

    Awesome! Thanks for all the info. I'll try to eat that elephant one bite at a time.

    The house is forced air, as in central air, but the unit is old and no longer up to snuff, so the quote I was given was roughly __ for the central air unit, or __ for all of it since the fuse box is quite new and plentiful, and the ducts are already there and such. I'll remove it, is it not allowed? Sorry if so, never thought that'd be a rule.

    I wasn't honestly panicking, but it did have me slightly worried. But I sincerely doubt it, as my dad got around 250-400 gallons a year. He got 500 one time since 2013 (earliest records I've found so far). It's a Cape Cod, 3 bedroom with full sized basement built in the 60's or 70's I believe, If that helps for anything.

    This may also seem dumb and warrant a response followed by "..." like the other fella wrote (despite me openly saying I'm ignorant to something like this because as it turns out, most people don't study things they don't need to know until they need to know them) - but does the oil also do the hot water tank? There's definitely no natural gas out here, and I know it isn't electric, but was just curious if that uses a fair amount of the oil or just a little?

    OilfieldHippie
  • Droid8Apple
    Droid8Apple Member Posts: 7
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    Big Ed_4 said:

    It would be the large pipe...

    Thanks... Appreciate it...
  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 2,806
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    Change the AC and furnace together...

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,438
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    The oil probably does do the hot water, too -- but there are several ways to do that. One is to have a stand alone oil fired hot water heater. That will be more or less obvious, as the hot water tank -- if you have one (I'll get to that) will have its own burner. Since you say you have forced hot air, and therefore the heating device is what we would call a furnace, not a boiler, it may very well be that that is what you have. Both the second and third approaches use hot water from a boiler; one directly heats the water with what is called a tankless coil in the boiler. That's the older approach (and is stunningly inefficient, I might add) while the other circulates hot water from the boiler through an "indirect" tank, which looks pretty much like a water heater tank but has no burner or electrical connections.

    For thinking down the road, since you already have forced hot air and therefore all the ductwork, I'd be very much inclined to install a heat pump with the corresponding air handler, and get rid of the air conditioner entirely. If it doesn't get much below 0 in your area, some of the modern low temperature heat pujps should be able to handle the job. You don't say where you are; in most of the New England states, with stratospheric electric rates, don't expect to save much money (if any) over the oil, regardless of what they tell you --but you will have the heat pump and no oil. The water heater could then be electric or, if you are not excessive in your water use you could also consider a heat pump water heater as well.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,622
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    @Droid8Apple

    All you need is some kind of stick and a gauge chart for the tank. See chart attached

    You say it is 1000 gallons. Almost every 1000 gallon tank is 48" dia X 9' something just short of 10'

    You take the fill cap off and put the stick down the tank and measure the oil level and compare it to the chart.