Keeping My Power Bills Down

How to Avoid Emergency Fuel-Delivery Fees from Running Out of Fuel This Winter

Running out of heating fuel in the middle of the winter can be stressful, especially if you are on a budget and an emergency service call will cause a hardship for you and your family. There are ways to get your furnace up and running to keep your home warm until your fuel-service supplier opens for business and can get the fuel trucks out to you. If you run out of fuel, stay calm and follow these steps to hold you over for a day or two.

  1. Check the fuel gauge or fuel level before you assume your furnace has quit working because you are out of fuel. Sludge and residue in the bottom of the tank may have clogged your fuel lines, or moisture may have condensed and frozen inside the fuel filter if your tank is low on fuel. It's also possible that a fuel line has frozen if you are experiencing freezing weather. After confirming you are out of fuel, you will need to purchase fuel to last for a day or two.
  2. Find or purchase a clean, unused container approved for holding flammable liquids that holds at least 5 gallons. A gas can will work, but don't use one that you normally use for gasoline. Even trace amounts of gasoline in your furnace can cause a risk of fire or damage your burner. Likewise, make sure the inside of the container is dry. Water droplets or moisture in the container can cause problems with your furnace.
  3. Locate the nearest source of diesel. Many gas stations sell diesel at the pumps. You can purchase either regular or off-road diesel. You will need at least 5 gallons of diesel to bring the level of fuel in your fuel tank above the fuel line, but 10 gallons is even better.
  4. Pour the diesel fuel into your fuel tank.
  5. Wait at least 10 minutes before trying to start your furnace. Pouring the fuel into an empty tank will often stir up normal residue and sludge on the bottom of the tank. If you try to start your furnace without letting it settle, the sludge may work its way through your fuel line and clog your fuel filter or do damage to the burner on your furnace. Letting the sludge and residue settle will avoid further problems.
  6. Bleed the fuel line if necessary. Check your owner's manual for directions for bleeding the line. This purges the air from the fuel line and allows the fuel to flow freely to your burner.
  7. Allow your furnace to run normally. Five gallons of fuel will typically get you through the night during cold weather. Experts estimate that the average furnace burns about 3 gallons of fuel a day during cold weather, but this depends on the size of your furnace, its efficiency, and the size of your house. Ten gallons will likely get you through the weekend unless the weather is severe.

Avoid Running Out of Fuel

If you experience running out of fuel during the winter, it will not hurt your furnace to run diesel fuel for a day or two, but repeatedly running out of fuel does pose a risk of getting more residue and sludge in the fuel line and may make your line more susceptible to freezing. Take the following steps to avoid further issues with running out of fuel.

  1. Check that your fuel gauge is operating properly. Monitor the fuel level regularly to prevent running out of fuel. While the furnace will continue to run until the fuel is depleted, running the furnace dry is not recommended. This may cause issues with sludge and residue, and the furnace may require bleeding to get started again. If your gauge shows your fuel level is low, call your fuel-delivery service for a delivery. Keep in mind that depending on how busy the service company is, your location, and the time of year, you may need to wait several days for a regular delivery.
  2. Sign up for automatic delivery. When you sign up for automatic delivery, your fuel company will keep track of when you need fuel and deliver it when you need it. This eliminates the risk of running out of fuel because you forgot to check the gauge or to call for a fuel delivery.
  3. Sign up for a budget plan. If you find yourself holding off on calling for a fuel delivery until you get your weekly paycheck (and running out of fuel because of it), signing up for a budget plan may be the answer for you. Many fuel companies offer plans that average your yearly fuel consumption and bill you with monthly installments. With these plans, you pay the same amount every month and never have to worry that the bill will skyrocket during a sudden cold spell.

If you run out of fuel after business hours, there is no need to panic. Knowing how to take care of the problem and how to avoid it in the future will keep your family warm this winter. Contact a company such as Enright and Sons for more ideas.