Can I Really Use Diesel Fuel in My Home Heating Oil Tank?

image of a homeowner in front of space heater depicting running out of home heating oil

If you live in the southern Connecticut region, cold winters are just part of the place we call home. Still, even highly seasoned homeowners from the area can experience some short-term drawbacks. The one we all hope to avoid the most is running out of fuel in our heating oil tanks. Fortunately, the standard turnaround time for heating oil delivery is three business days, with some local oil companies offering same-day emergency deliveries. Still, this is reliant on several factors, like the weather and road conditions. There may be times you need to use heating oil alternatives for heat.

Having a home without heat, along with the unpredictable weather, means that you can’t wait when you are concerned about your loved one’s safety and well-being. Therefore, you may find diesel fuel to be the alternative you need to keep your home warm. However, diesel isn’t a simple fill-and-go process. This article includes a comprehensive guide on what you should know before putting diesel in your heating oil tank.

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Can I Put Diesel Fuel in My Home Heating Oil Tank?

Keep reading to know what to do if you find that you run out of fuel in the middle of winter.

Inspect Your Home Heating Oil Tank

image of an above ground heating oil tank

One of the largest setbacks of using diesel in your home heating system, such as your boiler or furnace, is that it is taxed differently from heating oil, making it more expensive. Therefore, be sure to check that you actually require an alternative. Do this by checking your oil tank before putting diesel in it.

Examining your floating oil tank gauge is the most common method to determine your system’s oil level. This component floats on oil, so you know if your tank is full or empty. You can make sure that your float is accurate by removing the plastic cover surrounding the float and forcing it down with your hand. If your tank has oil, the gauge will return to its initial place at the right oil level. If it doesn’t, your tank has run out of oil.

You can also manually check your tank’s oil level using a yardstick. Put it down the tank’s fill tube. All tanks have varying critical levels. It is when you need to refill the tank, and this level depends on the tank size. Ask the tank manufacturer to verify your tank’s critical level. Nonetheless, you should order oil delivery when your tank is about 1/3 to 1/4 full.

If you are out of oil, you may want to go ahead and use diesel as a temporary substitute. Let the sediment settle at the tank’s base and reset the burner to start it. Some cases require bleeding the lines first, so that the air that is caught in the system is released. This may be needed to help in restarting the system. However, this is a messy and very involved process. We recommend having professional assistance if you choose to take this step.

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Dangers of Running Low on Oil

System shutdown is the biggest risk when your system runs at low oil levels. Unfortunately, most homeowners do not realize that this can happen quickly. Most tanks will trigger the system to shut down at critical levels before heating oil completely runs out.

Shutdown can happen for many reasons, including sediment accumulation at the tank’s base. If your tank is old and hasn’t been properly cared for, sediment buildup can become more prevalent.
Moreover, the feed lines in many tanks run from the top downwards. If you have short pipes that do not reach the base, you may run out of fuel before the tank entirely runs out of oil.

Diesel as a Heating Fuel Alternative: Safety & Uses

image of a paper cut family depicting heating fuel oil safety

Once you have verified that your tank is below critical levels or empty, you can begin using diesel as a heating oil alternative. Diesel is an excellent fuel option for heating. However, it should only be a temporary solution as heating oil is still the better choice.

Diesel has a higher price than heating oil. Moreover, it burns hotter than conventional heating fuel. This isn’t a problem when used for short periods, like a few days at a time. However, it can result in lasting damage to your heating unit if used for longer than that, as the system wasn’t built to endure higher temperatures. The tank’s longevity should be preserved if you utilize 5-10 gallons of diesel per day for several days.

How much diesel you will consume depends on how long the heating fuel delivery takes to arrive at your home. You shouldn’t need more than 10 gallons daily at most.
Put the diesel in correctly colored containers. Diesel uses yellow gas cans. Label it appropriately. This may be a temporary solution, but diesel fuel can be safely stored for six months at a time before it degrades and isn’t safe to use anymore. Additives can help extend the lifespan of diesel, but they have limitations and required treatments. Therefore, it isn’t advised to store diesel for prolonged periods.

If you will not use your diesel for anything else after using it in your heating oil tank, contact your local municipality so it can be properly disposed of through hazardous waste collection or recycling centers.

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How to Use Diesel Fuel in Your Home Heating Oil Tank

image of a diesel gas pump used as a home heating oil alternative

Bring a labeled yellow gas can and purchase diesel at the nearest gas station. After that, you can fill up your tank by following these steps:

  • Turn off your system: Make sure that the system is completely switched off. Use the tank’s thermostat control to turn it off.
  • Add the fuel: Add 10 gallons or as much as needed of diesel in your tank. You can mix the diesel with the leftover fuel. This is better because this means the tank didn’t run fully empty. Otherwise, you may need to conduct line bleeding to ensure that the oil pump, nozzle, and filter do not have sludge. If you do not know how to do this, try to prevent your tank from running dry completely, so you save time the next time by avoiding this extra step.
  • Wait for the settling: Let the tank sit for 10 minutes after putting diesel in it. This way, the sediments and other impurities can settle at the bottom.
  • Turn the system back on: Restart your heater so it can heat your home as it normally would until your heating oil delivery arrives.
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Get Emergency Fuel Delivery With Wilcox Energy

Call Wilcox Energy when you have low oil levels in your tank and do not have any alternatives on hand. Our company offers southern Connecticut emergency oil services, so homeowners have heating oil when they need it most. Call us for emergency oil services if you require a quick solution. Wilcox Energy can usually service your home in 24 hours or less with our emergency oil services, so you do not have to depend on diesel for home heating longer than needed.

Prevent your tank from running empty and get a discounted rate on fuel by signing up for automatic oil delivery services. This way, you can keep your tank full and have low maintenance needs.

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Call Wilcox Energy For Reliable Heating Oil Deliveries & HVAC Services


For top-notch service and competitive prices on heating oil deliveries and HVAC services, contact Wilcox Energy as soon as possible.

We offer a broad range of fuel delivery plans and financing options, which allow you to customize your oil deliveries to meet your specific needs. We also deliver Bioheat® heating oil, a blend of ultra-low sulfur heating oil and biodiesel. This liquid renewable fuel makes your home more eco-friendly and your heating system more efficient. It comes to you without any added cost. In addition, we perform heating system repairs and maintenance for the purpose of enhancing the overall efficiency and functionality of all your home heating equipment. Contact Wilcox Energy for all of your residential heating needs. Click the link to view our service area.

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For more information about our heating oil deliveries or HVAC services, be sure to contact Wilcox Energy. You can click here to contact us or call us at (860) 399-6218. Call now!

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