Keeping your tank full this winter

How to avoid running out of heating oil 

We all want to stay cosy and warm over the winter months. Whilst most homes in the UK’s larger towns and cities are connected to the national grid and use gas central heating, homes in more rural locations depend on alternative types of fuel, such as kerosene, also known as 28 second burning oil, to keep their homes warm and hot water flowing. If you are one of the many off-grid homes in the UK, the last thing you want is to run out of heating oil, especially during the colder autumn and winter months.  

In this blog, we will cover what happens if you run out of heating oil and the best practices to ensure you avoid running out in the first place. 

heating oil tank

What happens if you run out of heating oil? 

Oil-fired boilers are very similar to gas boilers, the main difference is that unlike a boiler connected to the mains gas supplier, an oil-fired boiler can easily run out of fuel. If this happens you are not only left without heating or hot water but potential problems restarting your oil-fired heating system. Oil boilers are fitted with a simple mechanism that automatically switches the burner off when there is no fuel to combust, so whilst letting your tank run dry won’t cause safety issues - it can be a headache getting things going again. 

Heating oil naturally degrades over time, causing carbon deposits to build up in the bottom of your tank. Most domestic oil tank fuel pipes do not touch the bottom of your tank, they sit slightly higher and should not “suck up the dirt or sludge” if you run out of oil. However, once your tank has been filled, this sludge can be disturbed and may get stirred up and mixed with the new fuel. Because of this, we recommend not rushing to turn your boiler on, as tempting as it might be to get the heating back on, waiting for the fuel to settle before restarting your boiler can help avoid damaging your system. 

If you experience issues when trying to reset your boiler after running out, we recommend talking with an OFTEC registered engineer.

Placing an emergency heating oil delivery 

Most suppliers offer a range of delivery window options, everything from 10 working days down to next day delivery, of course, this depends on the season and how busy the fuel suppliers are so it's always best to plan and order in plenty of time. Whilst we advise all customers to regularly check their kerosene levels and place an order before the tank drops below 30%, runouts do still happen. 

During the winter months and particularly in the lead up to Christmas, delivery windows will be on the longer side, if this is the case you may want to consider purchasing some 20-litre Kerosene Boxes to restart your heating system and get some warmth back into your home whilst you are waiting for your larger fuel delivery.

Monitor your heating oil levels regularly 

If you have accidentally run out of heating oil, it might be worth checking your heating oil monitoring routine. It is always recommended that through the colder weather in Autumn and Winter, you check your heating oil level weekly. By knowing how much heating oil is left in your tank you can plan orders and make a saving by using a more economically friendly delivery service.

How to check the level of heating oil in your storage tank? 

To get an accurate level of fuel, you will need to know the capacity of your tank. If you have a plastic tank the capacity is embossed on most tanks near the lid. You can also calculate how much fuel your metal tank holds by measuring the length, width, and height of your metal tank in feet and then multiply these three figures together. Then take the total and multiply by 6.25 to give the cubic capacity in gallons. To convert this figure to litres, multiply by 4.54.

  • Most fuel storage tanks are fitted with a clear plastic tube on the side. This tube is known as a sight gauge. The level of oil in the tank is visible through this clear plastic tube, however, over time the tube may become discoloured making it hard to accurately read the oil level. 
  • Installing an electronic oil monitoring gauge may make it easier to see the level of oil in your storage tank. Watchman and Watchman Alarm devices can be purchased directly from us. 
  • Using a dipstick is a manual method of measuring the oil content in your fuel tank, the dipstick is dipped into the tank and shows the level of oil in the tank, in the same way, you would use the engine oil dipstick on your car.

How can I guarantee that I will never run out of heating oil again? 

If you want to guarantee that you will not run off our heating oil, an Automated Top-Up service offers you complete peace of mind that you will never run out of heating oil. The monitor is fitted by a trained engineer and the app allows us and you to see exactly what is in the tank. Once your oil levels hit 30%, delivery is automatically scheduled, so you can enjoy hassle-free home heating and say goodbye to the worry of running out - it is like being on a mains supply!

If you have run out of fuel or would like to top up your tank get an instant Heating Oil Quotation via our website or by calling our friendly team on 01476 576200