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Heating oil storage tank level gauges:
We discuss: How to find the oil tank gauge? How to find out how much oil is in the oil tank. Heating oil tank gauge installation, reading, testing, repair guide: how much oil is in the heating oil tank? How accurate is the oil tank gauge? This article series escribes how to find, read, and test the oil gauge on a home heating oil tank.
We also discuss: What are the different types of oil tank gauges and indicators of oil level?Types of oil tank gauges to measure how much oil is in the oil tank; Special gauges for buried oil tanks - underground tanks - tell how much oil is in the tank without having to use a dipstick; Heating oil tank gauge accuracy, inspection, installation, defects, repair guide.
If your oil fired heating boiler, warm air furnace, or water heater has stopped working, one of the first things to check is whether or not you've run out of fuel. If your oil tank is above ground indoors or outside it should have a fuel level gauge installed similar to the one shown in our photo.
How to Find, Read, and Test an Oil Tank Fuel Level Gauge
Oil tank gauges are pretty simple to find, recognize, and read. If your heating oil tank is above ground outdoors or indoors, look on top of the tank for a device similar to the one in the photos shown on this page.
If the heating oil tank has been enclosed for cosmetic or other reasons, it may be necessary to make an access door that can be opened to give a view of the oil tank gauge.
If the heating oil tank is inaccessible above ground or buried, remote oil level gauges are available. Installing a remote-reading oil tank gauge permits reading of the oil tank level from an readout device inside the building.
Shown at above left is a typical hinged-type oil storage tank float gauge. Other oil tank gauges may use a rigid vertical rod and moving float or an electronic oil level sensor method.
A float assembly inside the oil tank moves up and down along with the level of oil inside of the oil tank. As the float assembly moves up or down it pushes a metal rod upwards (oil level in the tank is going up) or lets the metal rod fall down (oil level in the tank is dropping).
On top of the metal rod is an indicator, such as the red plastic disk in our photo below. The red plastic disk forms a line inside the oil tank gauge, showing the level of oil in the tank.
In the photo of an oil tank gauge at above left the red disk is sitting above 3/4 - showing that the heating oil level in this oil tank is more than 3/4 full. The gauge is only close to accurate when the oil tank (round or oval in shape) is empty, half-full, and completely full levels.
Oil tank gauges are more accurate on rectangular-shaped oil tanks and still more accurate oil tank measurement systems are available.
See OIL TANK GAUGE ACCURACY for details.
At above right the oil tank gauge installed on this Stewart Island, New Zealand oil storage tank reads oil tank level in cm - which works nicely to give an idera of how much oil remains if the tank's height is close to the gauge's operating range. The tank where this particular gauge is installed is shown below.
How do we know that the oil tank gauge is working?
Well it's easier than you might think. On most oil tank gauges, the plastic tube that covers the actual moving gauge parts is just screwed into the cast iron base that holds the gauge assembly. Once in a while when we've wondered if our oil tank was really empty, or when an owner has reported that the oil gauge seems to "stick" we've done this simple test.
Unscrew the plastic cover by hand. Don't grab it with Vise Grips™ or you'll probably break the plastic. The gauge cover turns counter-clockwise to remove it.
If you did break the oil tank gauge cover it's not a catastrophe - the heating system will still work, but you should replace it before your next oil delivery because a broken or missing oil tank gauge cover could lead to a costly oil spill during an oil delivery.
Now that the cover over the oil tank gauge has been removed and set aside (where it won't roll under the oil tank and get lost), and presuming your tank gauge is not already sitting at the bottom of its range of travel (empty), just press the top of the gauge indicator rod downwards slowly and gently.
You will feel a little resistance because you're pushing a rod and float down into the heating oil inside tank. When you have pushed the indicator partly or all the way down, release it.
You should see the tank gauge rise back to about where it was before. This tells you that the hinged mechanism and float are still in place and that they are moving without obstruction.
If the gauge is broken, lost, or damaged, the entire assembly can be replaced by your heating oil technician. Remember that a heating oil tank gauge is not lab-grade equipment. It is not precise to the quart, probably not even to the gallon.
We have made a video of the procedure for testing an oil tank gauge and will post it here soon.
What else goes wrong with heating oil tank gauges?
Oil leaks around the oil tank gauge:if the oil tank gauge cover is damaged heating oil may be forced out of the oil tank during the oil tank fill-up operation. A loose oil tank level gauge or indicator gauge may be due to a loose oil tank gauge cover ("sight glass" or properly "gauge vial").
Other causes of leaks around the gauge include a cracked or damaged gauge vial or gauge cover base that doesn't seal properly against the gauge vial gasket, or on older oil tanks, a damaged or missing gauge vial gasket.
Oil tank leaks at pipe fittings: leaks at oil pipe fittings can occur around the oil tank gauge and can be mistaken for a leak at the gauge itself. In the oil tank gauge leak repair article cited just above we illustrate how to separate leaks at the gauge or gauge vial itself from leaks at nearby oil tank piping and fittings.
In the photo at above left the amount of seepage was just an ounce or so during fill up - the rag stopped oil from running down the sides of the oil tank and stinking up the garage where the tank was located. Once a year the owner replaces the dirty rag with a clean one.
Paint-on sealants or epoxy applied to a surface which has been thoroughly cleaned of oil residue might also work in this location if the leak is really a minor seep.
During oil tank fill-up oil may also seep out of pipe fittings at the top of the oil tank. If oil tank leaks at these locations are severe the pipes need to be removed and the connection re-made with a top quality pipe sealing compound that is oil resistant.
Our Heating Oil Tank Leaks video [link to YouTube video] posted at You Tube explains when, where, why, and how to stop an oil tank at this location.
Other places to look for oil tank leaks are shown in our oil tank sketch below.
If the oil tank leak at the top of an oil tank is minor seepage, you may want to avoid the trouble of disassembling and reassembling all of the pipe fittings. On the seeping oil tank fittings in our photograph, we left a rag tied around the leaky pipe. The leak was at the pipe fittings not the oil tank gauge.
Oil tank gauges may stop working: if the moving float arm parts become bent or simply disconnected inside the oil tank the gauge may jam or may not accurately represent the oil level in the tank.
If you cannot fish out the damaged parts for repair using a bent wire hook, your oil heating technician will probably leave the old gauge parts in the bottom of your oil tank and install a new gauge, hoping the new gauge float won't foul and jam up in the old parts on the tank bottom.
Lost or broken oil tank gauge vial: the plastic cover or gauge vial that provides the oil tank level markings against which the oil tank gauge float indicator is read can be broken or lost.
The soda bottle cover installed over this outdoor above-ground oil storage tank was an impressive expedient repair but it's not reliable. The worry is that water from rain or melting snow may leak into the oil tank at the gauge cover mounting point and that oil may leak out at this point during oil tank fill-up.
The soda-bottle tank gauge cover is neat, though, right?
Our home-repaired oil tank gauge photo [left] shows a homeowner attempt at replacing a missing oil tank gauge vial. We worry that the plastic bottle stuck into the oil tank top around the float gauge indicator is fragile, leaky, and risks water contamination in the oil tank.
Typically the oil tank gauge vial is a screw-in part obtainable from your oil heat service dealer or from online oil tank gauge parts suppliers. - thanks to reader GC for this comment.
Here is a gauge on an outdoor oil tank. The red button resting at the bottom of the plastic tube to left of the galvanized tank vent pipe shows that this oil tank is probably empty.
This is a poorly installed oil tank, exposed to roof runoff, freezing temperatures, improperly closed vent opening, and more.
Watch out: Check to assure that the oil tank gauge is present, and that its protective cover is tight. Loose or broken oil tank gauges can cause spills during tank fill operations.
How to Find Out How Much Oil is in a Buried Oil Tank or an Above Ground Oil Storage Tank that is Missing its Gauge?
Your oil company can provide a stick, a folding rule, or even a string and weight that can be placed into an oil tank to locate the bottom of the tank and to determine the level of oil in the tank.
The depth of the oil in the tank is measured by marking the top of the tank on the stick or oil tank gauge, then placing the stick into the oil tank and withdrawing it.
The oil level seen on the stick is compared with the distance from bottom of the stick (bottom of the oil tank) to top of the oil tank (which we marked on the stick).
In the old days people kept an oil tank stick that was already marked and calibrated to tell them how much oil was in their tank.
Today if we use a folding measuring rule or a generic "stick" to "stick the oil tank" to check oil level, we need to know the volume and shape of the tank as well as the depth of oil on the stick in order to calculate the number of gallons in the oil tank accurately.
In the photo our client is discovering a surprise buried oil tank at a farm we were inspecting.
Remote Readout Oil Storage Tank Fuel Level Gauges
Some buried oil tank systems use an oil tank gauge that measures oil in the tank and gives a reading at a remote location such as indoors near the heating boiler - which is pretty convenient in nasty weather.
Our photo above shows an antique gauge used with a buried oil tank. Modern remote oil tank gauges include sensors which provide an LED, an analog or digital dial, or another form of electronic indication of the level of oil in the buried or remote oil tank. Remote oil tank readout gauges can communicate by wire, by wi-fi, and over the internet.
But roughly, the oil tank stick procedure can tell us if the tank is half full, 3/4 full, or nearly empty.
Remote Readout Oil Tank Fuel Level Gauges
Several companies make sensors and remote-readouot gauges that permit reporting of the fuel level in an inaccessible or buried oil storage tank.
Technologies include (antique) fuel level gauges like the one we show above, operated by an actual oil level liquid tube, hard-wired fuel levek sensors and oil tank gauges, and oil tank level sensors that combine with a wireless technology to report oil tank level.
Illustration: the iLevel remote readout oil storage tank fuel level gauge that retrofits to an existing oil storage tank gauge.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Most of the remote reading oil tank gauges described below as well as other oil tank sensor products are available from Syba Systems, the first contact link given below. Some of these remote reading oil tank gauges are also sold on Amazon as well as at your local heating equipment parts supplier.
Other product brands besides those in our list include Sentry Tank Monitors, Afriso Unitel pneumatic oil tank gauges, Levelometer, Jarhead Tank Gauges, Petro-Meter oil tank gauges for industrial applications, and others.
The Fuel Minder™ Store, Syba Systems, Syba Systems LLC
12 Weathervane Rd
Bristol, CT 06010 USA
Send E-mail to: email@example.com
or firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://fuelminder.biz/fuel_minder_store_products.html
Fuel Minder II™ and Fuel Minder III™, hard-wired oil tank fuel level gauges that report fuel level on an analog fuel level dial that you locate in your building at a convenient location. The sending unit mounts onto the oil tank and connects to a digital or analog gauge mounted in the building. About $240. to $330. U.S.
Beckett Rocket™ wireless ultrasonic oil storage tank remote sensor unit communicates to a readout that plugs into any 120VAC electrical wall receptacle. About $130. Includes an audible alarm when the fuel level is low in the oil tank.
Beckett OEM 7000 Wireless Fuel LEvel Monitor, about $145 at Amazon.com
iLevel Wi-Fi Oil Tank Level Monitor, a Wi-Fi remote sensor oil tank fuel level monitor that retrofits to "almost any" existing oil tank fuel level gauge and connects to any web-enabled device. (This is our favorite solution for existing above-ground oil storage tanks located where reading the gauge is difficult). About $130.
Krueger LED At A Glance, hardwired remote LED readout oil tank fuel level gauge - about $190
PSI-Level Wi-Fi Oil Tank Fuel Level Monitor, pneumatic oil level monitor that communicates to a wireless transmitter to connect to any web-enabled device. About $150.
Smart Oil Gauge™, ultrasonic oil storage tank fuel level gauge that communicates via wi-fi to a smartphone. About $170. also sold on Amazon.
Syba Systems Wireless Internet Fuel/Fluid Tank Level Monitor Systems for monitoring an oil storage tank via internet, includes sensor, transmitter, and internet connected deviced. About $140.
TEK-603 Eco Oil Monitor, a wireless oil tank fuel level gauge that communicates between the tank sensor and a readout unit wirelessly. $90. and up.
How accurate are oil tank gauges & how to read the oil tank gauge accurately
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 "Fuel Oil Piping and Storage", 2006 Mechanical Code, Chapter 13,
International Code Council, 500 New Jersey Avenue, NW, 6th Floor, Washington, DC 20001, Tel: 888-ICC-SAFE (422-7233); Website: iccsafe.org/, Email: email@example.com, Customer Store (buy publications) 800-786-4452. Also see 2009 International Codes and 2012 International Codes.
 "The application of a continuous leak detection system to pipelines and associated equipment", Sandberg, C.
Raychem Corp., Menlo Park, CA, Holmes, J. ; McCoy, K. ; Koppitsch, H, Industry Applications, IEEE Transactions on, Sep/Oct 1989, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 906-909, ISSN : 0093-9994 INSPEC Accession Number: 3582593 Digital Object Identifier : 10.1109/28.41257, Abstract: An overview of classical leak detection systems is given and the engineering basis of a novel type of detector is examined. This system is a flexible hydrocarbon-sensing cable that can be installed along pipelines, in double-containment tanks and piping, or in trenches to detect and locate leaks of common industrial hydrocarbon solvents or fuels while ignoring the presence of water. The simple electrical circuit that locates and detects a leak anywhere along the length of the sensor is also described
 "A Case Study of a Large Scale Precision [oil or fuel] Tank Testing Program", Diane H. Heck, Tetra Tech Richardson, Newark, Delaware, web search 4/27/12, original source: http://info.ngwa.org/GWOL/pdf/870143411.PDF, copy on file as /heating/OIl Tanks UST/Tank_Test_Heck_870143411.pdf Abstract:
In September 1986, a precision tank testing program was started to bring a major Maryland utility into compliance with the State of Maryland Oil Spill Control Regulations regarding underground storage tanks. This program involved the testing of over 240 tanks ranging in size from 300 gallons to 1,500 gallons located throughout the entire state of Maryland.
Analyses of the testing results revealed that 40% of the systems tested leaked. Piping leaks caused 82% of the testing failures and tank leaks caused the remaining 18%. Tank systems located in urban areas experienced a 50% testing failure rate, while tank systems located in rural areas experienced only a 25% failure rate. Leaks in tank systems in urban areas appear to be the result of structural loading and corrosion, affects [effects] absent in rural areas. The age, capacity, and usage of the tanks did not have a role in causing leaks either in the piping or the tank.
Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Arlene Puentes, an ASHI home inspector in Kingston, NY, contributed the example photograph of an outdoor aboveground oil tank. Ms. Puentes can be contacted at email@example.com
Audels Oil Burner Guide, Installation, Servicing, Repairing, Frank D. Graham, 1940's edition (obsolete). Updated versions of this guide are available in various editions, 1947, 1950, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1965, 1967, and at prices from around $3.00 to nearly $70.00 - useful for simple, clear, but not current, explanation of how heating equipment works. The original retail price was $1.00.
Bottini Fuel service, 4/26/2011. Bottini Fuel is a residential and commercial heating oil distributor and oil heat service company in Wappingers Falls, NY and with offices in other New York locations. Bottini Fuel, 2785 W Main St,
Wappingers Falls NY, 12590-1576
(845) 297-5580 more contact information for Bottini Fuel
Dave Ferris - M&S Environmental Systems, Dutchess County, New York. Mr. Ferris was an
HVAC expert. Personal communication to DJF 1987. Remove the firematic or
fusible oil supply line valve on return oil-line side - in case of fire if this
one closes first the pump continues to run, blows its seal, and sprays oil all
over the fire. Proper installation is to have a fusible link valve only on the
supply side, and to install a check valve on the return line to prevent
back-siphonage from the tank.
Eric Galow, Galow Homes, Lagrangeville, NY. Mr. Galow can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone: 914-474-6613. Mr. Galow specializes in residential construction including both new homes and repairs, renovations, and additions.
"HUD Regulation for Manufactured Homes; Requirement that Heat-Tape not include a GFCI [ copy on file as /plumbing/GFCI_Heat_Tapes_HUD_CPSC_Letter1994.pdf ] - ", Meeting Log, US CPSC, HUD, Dennis McCoskrie, ESEE, 2/14/1994
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Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
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TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
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