The fuel guy showed up with what he called a 'bazooka.' Since our whistle doesn't work, since there's no gauge (just a measuring stick), and since the tank is below ground, it's been tough to figure out how much oil we have left. They gave me a card last time. At 17 inches, I should have had about 170 gallons left on my 550 gallon tank.
Well, it took 478 gallons using the bazooka to judge when it was full. It's a long pipe that rises about 4 feet above ground. There's a hole at the end, kind of like on a flute, only the air comes in from that hole on the side as the oil slides down the tube and then it pushes the air through a small pipe to the top, where it whistles. That's what our bypass valve should do, but doesn't. Air does escape through it (so he kept it closed this time), but it doesn't whistle. When the whistle stops, the tank is full. This pipe hangs on the edge of the tank below, so there's no chance of overflow. He said it still won't be full to the 550 gallons, you can never get all the way full.
So apparently, where I thought I had an 80 gallon cushion ordering 300 gallons with no ability to determine the top of the tank easily, I actually had 180 gallons. Oops.
Why oops? Because you're not supposed to drop an oil tank below 1/4 full. You risk sludge getting into the fuel line. So I must have had only 70 gallons or so left. Good thing I didn't wait any longer, right?
Last night, the burner turned off before we went to bed. And Weatherdude had been home the last time it went out and he was pretty savvy about restarting it and troubleshooting it. Conclusion? Clogged oil filter and we don't have a spare on hand (we will, though, because he thinks he could change it himself). He was able to get it restarted and it ran intermittently through the night, but has pretty much kicked off at this point. And it's a balmy 25F outdoors (wish that were Celsius!) and 60F inside. But we're the first call of the day.
I insisted on getting oil before Weatherdude left town for 10 days. And now we know why. I wouldn't have known where the reset switch was or where the filter indicator was or anything about the burner. I would have been cold and making an emergency call instead of one this morning during working hours.
It's a good burner. Everyone says so. But frankly? The 40 year old horror at Walkabout Farm never, ever, ever kicked off. And I hardly ever had it serviced in 11 years. And everyone threw it looks of horror when we were selling. "It's so old!" "It has to be replaced!" Granted, it only pushed heat into the back bedrooms and was used lightly. This burner heats the hot water AND the two stages of the house, so it runs year round, at least for hot water. But still. Thank you, old-horror-of-a-furnace, for being reliable for 11 years. (In VA, the tank was above ground and it had a working gauge that I never let go below 1/4.)
Not on a farm any longer, but life continues to be...interesting.