What’s That Whistle!?

If your oil tank is located in your basement and you are home when a driver makes a delivery, you’ll probably hear a whistling noise as your tank starts to fill up. But don’t worry. This is perfectly normal.

Why Safety Codes Require It

"Safety codes require that all indoor oil tanks with outside fill pipes have a vent alarm to prevent an overfill. This alarm is mandatory on any oil tank where the tank is not visible during filling, such as in a basement.

Let’s back up a little. Besides the oil tank itself, your heating oil storage system includes components like the fill pipe, vent pipe, and vent alarm.

What Happens During a Delivery

After the driver arrives, he connects the hose from his oil truck to the fill pipe and starts releasing the oil. As oil flows into the tank, the air is pushed back out. As the air goes through the vent alarm–located between your tank and vent pipe–it makes a whistling sound. When the whistling stops, the tank is just about full.

Since your basement tank is out of sight from the driver, the vent alarm prevents overfilling and the possibility of a spill. Safety codes do not allow your heating oil company to deliver fuel to the indoor tank if the vent alarm is not working.

About Your Oil Piping

-The vent pipe also relieves the vacuum created when the oil burner pulls fuel from the tank.

-The vent pipe should be at least 1.25 inches in diameter. A diameter that’s too narrow allows excessive pressure to build up inside the tank during filling, which can cause a tank rupture.

-PVC piping does not meet NFPA safety codes and must be replaced because they are more likely to crack when tanks are being filled.

-It is the homeowner’s responsibility to properly maintain fuel tanks and all associated piping.

Help Your Driver Make Safe Deliveries

Ice and snow can turn an already tough job into a potentially hazardous one. Maneuvering with a heavy hose while navigating slippery surfaces can be challenging.

You can help the driver make safer deliveries by keeping the path to your oil tank clear of snow and ice and removing any nearby obstacles, such as fallen branches.

It is also important to shovel or plow your driveway and keep it free of ice. Safety codes prohibit your heating oil company from parking an oil truck on an incline unless it is perfectly dry.

Marking the edges of your driveway makes it easier for delivery drivers to navigate. Remember, just because you can get your car down your driveway doesn’t mean a 15-ton heating oil truck can make it too."



Copyright MEMA. “Heating Oil Whistle.” Maine Energy Marketers Association, 15 May 2023, maineenergymarketers.com/.