When the weather gets milder and your central heating system is used only infrequently, it’s easy to forget about your heating oil tank. However, it’s important to remember your oil tank and its contents and to ensure they are kept safe – all year round.
Back in 2014, oil heating trade association FPS (Federation of Petroleum Suppliers), together with OFTEC, a trade association that represents the interests of oil heating manufacturers, suppliers and training providers, and the Environment Agency, launched the Tank Safe Campaign to stress the importance of checking your oil in your tank and the tank itself on a regular basis . An estimated one-third of heating oil tanks need to be replaced as they are thought to be in use beyond their life expectancy of twenty years, increasing the likelihood of leaks.
Oil tank leaks are not only costly to you, the homeowner, but also to the environment, and it is far better to maintain your tank and make sure it stays in a safe condition than it is to deal with the outcome of a damaged tank.
The Environment Agency strongly recommends all heating oil customers take out an insurance policy to cover their oil tank, as most home insurance doesn’t cover heating oil tanks – and faults can be expensive. You want a policy that covers you for the loss of any oil, the cost of any environmental clean-up, and the cost of cleaning your and any neighbouring property.
The good news is that a well-maintained oil tank should last you a long time. As a guide, here are five top tips for keeping your oil tank safe:
1. Easy Access
Make sure your tank can be accessed easily, including the oil supply pipes. This will ensure that it can be properly checked and any necessary work carried out.
2. Suit the Site
The oil tank should work with the setting, and its material and location will depend on how it is housed. Factors including weather exposure and under- or above ground location, will dictate whether it’s single or double skinned, plastic or metal, or whether a secondary containment is needed to prevent oil lost from the tank escaping into the environment. Remember underground tanks are more expensive to install and cannot easily be inspected so leaks can go undetected for some time.
3. Find the Shutoff Valve
In case of an emergency, it’s a good idea to know where the shutoff valve on your tank is so you can stop the supply when needed.
4. Annual Inspection
When you have an annual boiler service, ask for a tank inspection too – OFTEC recommends this is done once a year. This should be carried out by a qualified technician who should check both the oil tank, filters and the oil supply pipes.
5. Weekly Check
In addition to everything else, you should check your tank every week to check the level of oil in your tank and for any signs of damage or corrosion. Look out for any changes in the nearby environment too, such as dark patches of soil or an unusual smell as a change could mean there’s a leak. If you spot anything, call for a professional technician to investigate so that any necessary repair work can be done before the problem gets serious and to ensure your tank continues to be safe.