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Old 23.02.2020, 22:32
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Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)



So the heat worked a couple days and then seems to have stopped. I triple checked everything with the heater, that it was not some automatic shutoff based on the day/night weekday/weekend scheduling functions it has, etc. Turned up the temperature setpoint very high, turned it to manual mode, etc, and no response from the radiators.

Additionally, there is a flashing icon on the display. Overall, the display was showing (names of the icons from the instruction sheet included with the heater):

1 - "Brenneranforderung" icon - This one I take to mean that the furnace is running, basically. It was blinking, which the instructions say nothing about, but I take to mean that maybe the fuel is empty or there is some other problem.

2 - "Kesselheizkreispumpe" icon - On, not blinking. Don't know for sure but since the icon looks like a radiator, I guess this is something about the flow of the heat through the radiators. My guess is that it being on is a sign of normal heating functionality.

3 - "Stellbellbefehl zum Schliessen des Mischers" - On, not blinking. A weird shape with a downward arrow. I can't really imagine what this could possibly mean.

I can post the image of the icons but from the gauge it looks to me like the oil level is in the critical low range and so that is surely the root cause.
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Old 23.02.2020, 22:42
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

Before you go further down this route: are you renting? If so, the person to contact is the property's caretaker or your landlord.

If you are in an apartment, the caretaker should deal with this.
If you are in a house, check your contract to see whether you have undertaken to be in charge of the oil. Even if so, then the caretaker (if there is one) or the landlord will be able to tell you from whom they have typically sourced the oil, or had the maintenance done.
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Old 23.02.2020, 22:57
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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Before you go further down this route: are you renting? If so, the person to contact is the property's caretaker or your landlord.

If you are in an apartment, the caretaker should deal with this.
If you are in a house, check your contract to see whether you have undertaken to be in charge of the oil. Even if so, then the caretaker (if there is one) or the landlord will be able to tell you from whom they have typically sourced the oil, or had the maintenance done.
Yes sorry, should have included that info. Renting, and it's a house. And yes I will contact the caretaker and/or the landlord tomorrow morning just to be sure.

Part of the reason I went down this route was that I initially just thought that I didn't understand how to control the heat. It took me a long time before I looked at the gauge and realized the tank could actually be empty. I assumed that they wouldn't have rented the house to me without mentioning the tank was very nearly empty, so I didn't even look.

I do know that the landlord manages the sourcing of the oil, because they sent me historical invoices, which I asked for so I could judge how much my heating costs would be.

That said I'm not sure exactly how it works; how long a tank lasts, etc. For example, it would be annoying to pay to fill up the tank, and then if I stopped renting the property (terminated my lease) when the tank was still say 90% full.... I would hope there should be some way to coordinate this, or maybe they would pro-rate it for me. I don't think there's anything in the contract about this, that I can see.
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Old 24.02.2020, 05:31
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

Did you prime the tank fuel gauge before reading?
There's a plunger on the underside of the gauge which you need to pull.
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Old 24.02.2020, 07:08
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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Did you prime the tank fuel gauge before reading?
There's a plunger on the underside of the gauge which you need to pull.
Ah right, I forgot to mention that critical info also. I did try pulling the plunger a few times and the readout on the meter basically didn't move. I pulled it as far as it would go, not super fast or anything. There was not much resistance to pulling so it almost seemed like it had no function. But maybe this is because the oil level is indeed below where the device can reach, and so is expected in this case.
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Old 24.02.2020, 08:43
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

maybe empty. you can check the tank direcly. there's typically a screw cap which you can open and a measuring stick inside (like checking oil in a car).
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Old 24.02.2020, 09:17
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

I guess they had told me this before, but the landlord wrote me and confirmed that the oil I am to order directly. It is an einzelfamilienhaus / single dwelling, so I guess that is normal. Only the maintenance / subscription for the burner is included in my rent.

The contract seems to confirm this. (Heizungs- und Warmwasserkosten gemäss Art. 5 VMWG-Verordnung) It's just confusing since I had asked the owner for historical heating prices, and the provided me with something. I think it is indeed the cost of the oil, and they were able to provide it to me because the Gemeinde keeps track, I guess. Even though it would have all been ordered direct by tenants. I don't know who reports this info to the Gemeinde if I'm understanding that correctly - maybe the guys who fill the tank?

Now I'm wondering how much it will cost to fill the tank, roughly how long one task lasts, and whether I could have it only partially filled in the event I expected to move out before using it all.
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Old 24.02.2020, 09:19
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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maybe empty. you can check the tank direcly. there's typically a screw cap which you can open and a measuring stick inside (like checking oil in a car).
Wish you could come and show me where the gauge / measuring stick is on mine :-)

Our 2000l tank is outside, it's made of a semi opaque plastic. sat inside a metal housing, only the top 5cm or so it visible so unless the tank is totally full, no joy.. It's pretty inaccessible too being almost totally boxed in.

When i moved in July the regie told me there was 1000l in the tank. I added 1000l in October.. Then just to be more sure, another 1000l in January.

We don't use much heating, even in winter but I feel like it's a money pit. Although maybe my tank is nearly full
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Old 24.02.2020, 09:36
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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Wish you could come and show me where the gauge / measuring stick is on mine :-)

Our 2000l tank is outside, it's made of a semi opaque plastic. sat inside a metal housing, only the top 5cm or so it visible so unless the tank is totally full, no joy.. It's pretty inaccessible too being almost totally boxed in.

When i moved in July the regie told me there was 1000l in the tank. I added 1000l in October.. Then just to be more sure, another 1000l in January.

We don't use much heating, even in winter but I feel like it's a money pit. Although maybe my tank is nearly full
I'm not at the house so can't double check. But when I looked at the tank all I remember is a really heavy duty metal housing, with a huge bolted-circular access plate on the side. On top of course there is some pipe going in to get the oil out. And then there was some bunch of wires and random stuff going into it, which attached to out to the meter in my picture. Maybe it's a similar setup to yours. I'll have to double check though-- it's the one thing I didn't take a picture of before I left.

Do you not have even a little meter going into the tank like I pictured? Or can't the people filling your tank tell you how full it is when they are there? Can I ask how much you paid for 1000l?
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Old 24.02.2020, 09:40
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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I'm not at the house so can't double check. But when I looked at the tank all I remember is a really heavy duty metal housing, with a huge bolted-circular access plate on the side. On top of course there is some pipe going in to get the oil out. And then there was some bunch of wires and random stuff going into it, which attached to out to the meter in my picture. Maybe it's a similar setup to yours. I'll have to double check though-- it's the one thing I didn't take a picture of before I left.

Do you not have even a little meter going into the tank like I pictured? Or can't the people filling your tank tell you how full it is when they are there? Can I ask how much you paid for 1000l?
I'll check mine again, didn't actually look for an access panel through the metal housing .. The filling hole is on the end of a long S shaped pipe so not possible to look through it.. and the other caps on top seem to just be vents of some sort, but again i can't get my head up there to look down..

Cost wise, it's ballpark 1chf per litre. Give or take a couple of cents depending on quantity purchased and from whom. Min purchase is usually 800l
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Old 24.02.2020, 09:41
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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I'm not at the house so can't double check. But when I looked at the tank all I remember is a really heavy duty metal housing, with a huge bolted-circular access plate on the side. On top of course there is some pipe going in to get the oil out. And then there was some bunch of wires and random stuff going into it, which attached to out to the meter in my picture. Maybe it's a similar setup to yours. I'll have to double check though-- it's the one thing I didn't take a picture of before I left.

Do you not have even a little meter going into the tank like I pictured? Or can't the people filling your tank tell you how full it is when they are there? Can I ask how much you paid for 1000l?
you can get an indication of prices here. obviously, being oil, it is dependent on the volatile oil market: https://www.migrol.ch/de/energie-w%C...n/heiz%C3%B6l/

maybe you can get a coronavirus special now...

EDIT: I just checked and my supplier price is down 7% since I filled in January. Currently 81chf per 100L.
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Old 24.02.2020, 10:31
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

I suggest you order some oil very quickly as you cannot leave your house unheated in the winter.

You do not have to fill the tank completely if you are thinking of moving. But the price of the oil can vary depending on how much you order.

Clearly when you took the house over you did not ask about the oil tank status. My clients with oil heating in their rental homes never moved in with an empty tank! As you appear to be responsible for filling the tank and paying for the oil directly, perhaps the landlord expected you to take care of that. From the previous invoices you were given you can see what oil was used.

If the landlord fills the tank and pays for the oil these costs are included in the nebenkosten. Many landlords prefer this as they can decide what oil to put in.

In your case as you pay directly and when you move out you should be given credit for the balance of the oil in the tank.
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Old 24.02.2020, 11:22
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

Here's a small word of advice: I recently changed the heating from an oil-burning stove to Wärmepumpe. As we had a whole room dedicated to holding a 10'000 liter tank, we had it taken appart. I made sure to use up to the last drop of oil first.

When the guys came to dismantle the tank, they popped a surprise on me: there are still around 1000l of oil left, because the hose pump didn't reach the bottom of the tank. So if you have a physical gauge, take a look at it at least once, to make sure that the analog gauge that you shot is more or less accurate.
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Old 25.02.2020, 18:10
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

Turns out my tank does have a dipstick. Or "Messstab" in German. And it was quite empty. Bought 800l from Migrol; they were able to get it to me really quickly at normal price so that was quite nice.

Problem now is that the heater did not come to life. Tried fiddling with some settings, cycling the power, to no avail. Informed the landlord, and they are now apparently in discussions between the owner of the property and the heating provider, as to what to do, and apparently they will "probably" replace the unit.

It's an Oertli oe-tronic REA-131B. If anyone knows any cheat codes for the front panel to magically bring it back to life...

Maybe they will put a different / better unit? If they switched away from oil then who would be on the hook for the oil I bought that is just sitting there...

I hope I will not be somehow considered neglegent or something for letting the oil run dry? Shouldn't a heater be resilient in such cases? It seems like it recognized the problem, considering that blinking icon. I would expect worst case that merely some technician would need to come and like, re-prime the pump or something.

They didn't tell me the tank was near empty, they didn't warn me about any danger of letting it run dry, so... probably not anywhere near being considered my liability.
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Old 25.02.2020, 18:20
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

Sorry but why ask here? Ask your landlord about a heating specialist you can get in touch with, or if he can come and show you himself. Or ask neighbours which heating engineer to ask locally?

Oil tanks do tend to gather gunk at the bottom, so if it runs too low, some of it could be sucked into the system. The tank has to be cleaned professionally (not a job for the fainthearted- ours has been done twice by this small guy from Cuba- it is a 10.000 L tank, and his colleague holds him by the feet so he can get inside) every 10 years (possibly depending on C/Kanton). You are more likely to cause more problems by messing around with it if you are not experienced.

Last edited by Odile; 25.02.2020 at 22:04.
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Old 25.02.2020, 18:22
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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I'll check mine again, didn't actually look for an access panel through the metal housing .. The filling hole is on the end of a long S shaped pipe so not possible to look through it.. and the other caps on top seem to just be vents of some sort, but again i can't get my head up there to look down..

Cost wise, it's ballpark 1chf per litre. Give or take a couple of cents depending on quantity purchased and from whom. Min purchase is usually 800l
The dipstick on mine is semi flexible so it can be pulled out even in the relatively limited vertical space. Something to consider if maybe you can access one of the caps on top. Mine looks like this:



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Old 25.02.2020, 22:14
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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Sorry but why ask here? Ask your landlord about a heating specialist you can get in touch with, or if he can come and show you himself. Or ask neighbours which heating engineer to ask locally?

Oil tanks do tend to gather gunk at the bottom, so if it runs too low, some of it could be sucked into the system. The tank has to be cleaned professionally (not a job for the fainthearted- ours has been done twice by this small guy from Cuba- it is a 10.000 L tank, and his colleague holds him by the feet so he can get inside) every 10 years (possibly depending on C/Kanton). You are more likely to cause more problems by messing around with it if you are not experienced.
Yeah, no I'm not going to mess with it myself. I was just really surprised to hear they were thinking of completely replacing the unit. So that scared me into thinking.. uh-oh was it a big no-no for my to let the oil run dry? Always worried there is some "convention" or "common knowledge" here that I'm unaware of. Or are they mistaken on their end and I should give them a hint in the right direction so we don't waste time fixing it etc. But they probably know what they are doing-- I will find out more soon. Maybe they were thinking of replacing it anyways, and are just taking this opportunity now to do so; who knows.

Also just curious about this type of heating system. Never encountered it in the US.

Your tank is 10.000 L? I was looking at this big circular access port on mine on the side and wondering if it was for a person. Mine is 8.750 L, and is way too big for someone to clean by keeping one end of their body near the hole. They would for sure have to just crawl all the way in and walk around inside.
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Old 25.02.2020, 22:27
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

Yep- what a job ... they suck oil left in the tank to a retaining tank in their lorry- then the guy is let in, head down and spends 1 hour or more inside tank. He said he was cool about it- and was getting paid very well, so happy. Not for me, for sure.

Hope you will be OK. However, I'd say anyone here with oil central heating knows that it is massively important to check regularly and never let tank run dry- and it would be assumed that you would know. Are you insured?

Bonne chance.
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Old 25.02.2020, 22:54
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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Yep- what a job ... they suck oil left in the tank to a retaining tank in their lorry- then the guy is let in, head down and spends 1 hour or more inside tank. He said he was cool about it- and was getting paid very well, so happy. Not for me, for sure.

Hope you will be OK. However, I'd say anyone here with oil central heating knows that it is massively important to check regularly and never let tank run dry- and it would be assumed that you would know. Are you insured?

Bonne chance.
Ah, merci. Yeah I have some run of the mill Helvetia plan. Maybe I will actually call them tomorrow to be sure.
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Old 25.02.2020, 23:12
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Re: Is my oil heating tank empty? (seems like 100% yes, but I'm new to this)

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...worst case that merely some technician would need to come and like, re-prime the pump or something.

...and change/clean the filter. Units are designed for the case of running out of oil but it might mean a bit of work before it works again.
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