275 gallon oil tank - how long should it be between fill-ups?

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How many gallons of heating oil should I be going through a month? I filled up my tank on November 7th and my gauge stopped working so I'm not sure when to request a refill. Knocking on the sides of the tank makes it seem like it's well below half - maybe even a quarter full. Should I have used that much in two months? I'm in CT and it's been a very mild winter (70 degrees on Saturday). My oil burner is an effecient 7 year old McClain and I live in a fairly insulated 1300 sq ft Cape Cod. My oil heats my house and hot water (hot water is one of those mini tanks that connects to the oil burner that automatically heats water on demand), my stove is electric. Anyone is a similar situation care to share with me their fillup averages?
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Joe wrote:

Your supplier may schedule fillups on the basis of degree-days and your past history. You could ask him.
You could also remove the gauge with a wrench and "stick" the tank through the opening.
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Joe wrote:

Just buy a new tank gauge, they aren't expensive perhaps $30. They are also easy to replace if they are separate, if it's the combined gauge and breather Y fitting, just get the standalone gauge and install in on one of the other tank top openings (usually four) and ignore the old gauge.
Unless you jump to the lowest price at the moment each fill up, just have the oil company put you on scheduled delivery and you won't have to worry. The first few times they'll come extra early to insure you don't run out, and based on the degree days and the gallons in each delivery the software they use will calculate a proper fill interval for you and adjust it as needed based on the weather. It works very well.
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Pete C. wrote:

What have you averaged previously?

Or use a clean broomstick handle or similar as a dipstick... :)
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I tried to replace the tank gauge. I think this tank is about 50 years old and the gauge started to fall apart when I tried to twist it. It also looks like there is some kind of grey sealant that has welded itself to the threads over the years. There are no other available holes on the top of the tank. There is one where the oil comes in and another where it goes out. The tank was inspected when I bought the house and was declared in good shape. As far as buying oil is concerned I was offered a plan in the fall but the prices were too high back then - about $2.70 per gallon so I have been buying the oil from a wholesaler for $1.99 but he doesn't do schedules and you have to call him to fill up. I'm just wondering if every two months is about standard. The last thing I want to do is run out and have my pipes freeze.
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Joe wrote: I'm just wondering if every two months is about

Depends on how well your home maintains the heat...insulation, etc. My past home in Upstate, NY which was a cape about 50 years old, I was filling up every month in the winter which got to be pretty expensive. With The home I have now, a ranch around 25 years old, I am filling up about 4 times/year.....which is quite a difference. The home now maintains the heat VERY well.
Does your cape have insulation on the attic floor? If planning on stsying there for a long while, might want to think sealing your home nice and tight. Probably pay for itself with that amount of fuel.
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Joe wrote:

<SNIP>
I would not mess with any tank fittings, including the gage port,if it won't come out easily.
This may sound a bit extreme, but I would wire a clock (old time one with hands that go 'round :-) directly to the burner motor. This will let you keep a total of the burner running time and, knowing the nozzle size, the total consumption in gallons.
You may not have to pull the burner out to find the nozzle size. See if there is an old nozzle laying about or repair slip which gives it.
Jim
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My 27 year old Carrier has the proper nozzle size listed on a spec plate just inside the cover. Almost every guy who serviced the furnace used the listed size (but one guy didn't. I wish I'd paid more attention>.)

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Joe wrote:

You simply can't go by a number of days between fill ups since your consumption is not a constant.
The software the oil companies use takes heating degree days into account along with your past usage to determine a gallons to degree day ratio for your account. By tracking the degree days since your last fill up and knowing the size of your tank the software schedules the next delivery. I'm not aware of any similar tracking software for home use.
Have the tank gauge replaced when you have your burner's next annual service. It shouldn't add much to the cost of the service call if you tell them in advance so they have the part with them.
As for checking the level now, if there are no other ports on the top of the tank you can use you won't be able to get an accurate reading easily.
You may be able to use one of the stick on level gauges intended for LP tanks to get a decent reading. They only cover a short range so you'd want to stick it to a fairly low point on the tank, perhaps 1/4 of the way up the end. These gauges are basically liquid crystal thermometers.
The way they work is you pour a little hot water on the gauge which causes it to change color. In a few seconds it starts to change back as it cools. Since the tank surface that is in contact with liquid inside will cool more rapidly you will see that area change back first indicating the approximate liquid level.
The LP gauges work reasonably well on steel LP tanks so they should work ok on a steel oil tank. They are also cheap so it's worth a shot since your other option is to tap the tank and try to find the liquid level.
For backup against having your pipes freeze, you can get two 5 gal cans of diesel fuel to keep as a reserve. Diesel fuel and home heating fuel are basically the same other than red dye in the untaxed heating fuel. Heating fuel is also known as "off road diesel" and frequently used for construction equipment that is only operated off road and not subject to transportation fuel taxes. 10 gal would be enough to keep you going until a next day oil delivery.
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Even 5 gallons will do you for most likely 24 hours, but for it to be any good to you you'll need to know how to 'prime' the line to the burner to get the furnace started again assuming you ran completely out. It will also depend on your heating/insulation/outside temperature as stated previously. Take note as well that storing diesel for an extended period is not really recommended, it has a shorter shelf life then gasoline AFAIK, so if you go with that plan rotate your can(s) every couple of weeks. Personally I'd just call the repair guy and have the furnace cleaned and the gauge changed, especially if you have now somehow broken a seal on the tank threads.
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jackson wrote:

That would be my typical expectation, and a little extra to insure proper flow from the large tank.

Yes, but that is rather easy, especially if it's a gravity feed setup.

Of course.

Very, very, very wrong. Diesel stores much better than gasoline. At least a year "as is", 2 years or longer if you put diesel Sta-Bil in it.

Certainly replacing the gauge is a good idea.
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Joe wrote:

If by "falling apart" you're stating that the gauge no longer tightly seals the opening it's screwed into, then your tank is in violation of fire codes and you really ought to do something about it ASAP.
Not that fuel oil vapors are anywhere near as dangerous as gasoline, but if the tank is inside and that cheapo dealer you're buying from happens to overfill the tank, some of the excess fuel oil will end up coming out of the broken gauge instead of it all going outside through the vent pipe.
Do yourself and anyone else living there with you a favor and get that gauge replaced by someone who can do the job right. You've already announced to the world on this newsgroup what you did to that gauge, if the place burned down your insurer might just learn about what you did, because old newsgroup posts never really die. Stranger things have happened.
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia
(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
  Click to see the full signature.
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Jeff Wisnia wrote:

One of the risks assumed by the insurer is that of loss caused by non criminal actions of the homeowner. Trying to remove a failed oil level gauge and giving up is not a criminal action except perhaps in the socialist republics of California and Massachusetts, so you're still covered. Whether you get renewed is another matter...
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Pete C. wrote:

I defer to your superior knowledge of the intricacies of the insurance business Pete. But....
My being a "Native Son of the Golden State (California) who has also lived in Massachusetts for the past 54 years gives me reason to believe that you've got it backwards. <G>
I'd 'spect that the looney left in those two states firmly believes that no one should bear any responsibility for their own actions, even if they've been told that they might have created a hazardous situation by someone (me) who was for 13 years the CE of a company which manufactured 275 gallon tank gauges and lots of other fuel oil delivery hardware.
Liberals will always believe that you can pick up a turd by its clean end.
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia
(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
  Click to see the full signature.
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Jeff Wisnia wrote:

The loony left are also the only ones who think you're a criminal if you have any technical knowledge and repair / maintain anything yourself. If they know how to use tools they might make weapons and overthrow us...
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/snip
That's my new tag/sig line! Classic!
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jackson wrote:

I gotta come clean and tell the truth. I swiped that from a tag/sig line used by a guy named Gunner, a frequent poster to rec.crafts.metalworking.
To quote him fully:
***************
Political Correctness
A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical liberal minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.
***************
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia
(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
  Click to see the full signature.
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don't worry the seal is still intact, what I meant was the edges of the "nut" started to strip a little so I stopped not wanted to further damage the gauge. If the house burned to the ground tomorrow I get the feeling that the only thing remaining intact would be that gauge connected to that tank.
Jeff Wisnia wrote:

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Joe, I'm in Putnam CT. I filled up a month ago and I've used about a third of the tank so far. I"ll be filling up again in February. My total use is about 800 gallons a year.
I too was offered $2.70 something by Saveway and I declined, fortunately. I bought from Dollarwise and paid 2.039. Dollarwise has a network of local dealers for cheap prices.
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Joe wrote:

Hey Joe . Check with your oil supplier or a tank dealer. See if you can get a gallon per inch chart that matches your tank. Then use some sort of rod to measure the inches of oil, and with a chart, convert inches to gallons :-) Works well !!
Whiteoak
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