How to Locate, Inspect, Test and Repair your Home Heating Oil Tank

Lorraine Watkins

Part 7 of 8 in The Old House Web Home Hazards Series

Dangers Associated with Old Oil Tanks

The most obvious cause for concern is when oil tanks leak. Besides an unsightly mess or treacherous slippery spot, you must consider the danger of ground, air and water pollution, as well as fire hazard. In most states, home oil tanks are exempt from state regulation--until they leak. Then the dangers are of the legal and financial sort: you are required to report and repair the damage.

Another potential danger with an old oil tank is its physical location. If it is located in a garage, it should have a protective barrier around it to prevent accidental damage from vehicles that share the space. And if it is above ground and exposed to the elements, it is more likely to become corroded due to temperature fluctuations that cause condensation inside the tank.

Even if you have an new oil tank, or if your home has been converted to propane or gas, an old oil tank on your property is still your responsibility. So, it is important to know how to locate, inspect, test, repair or properly abandon home heating oil tanks.

How to Locate your Oil Tank

If you are using your oil tank to heat your home, you most likely know where it is located. You will at least know where the intake line is. In the event you do not know where it is, or whether there is an underground, unused tank on your property, the quickest way to find out is to query your local oil delivery company. Their records are a great source of information about the location and capacity of your oil tank and the date of the last delivery.

Inspect, Test and Fix your Oil Tank

If your oil tank is buried, you will not be able to visually inspect it, but you can get an idea about it's condition in several ways. The average life of an oil tank is 20 years, so its age alone can give you a clue. You can test for water in the tank. Water can indicate interior or exterior corrosion, a missing cap for the intake line or poor placement of the vent. It is possible to remove water with an oil additive. And it is certainly possible to protect the intake and vent.

You can test for both leakage of oil into the soil and for corrosive properties of the soil. If your tank is leaking, it must be repaired, replaced or abandoned. Whether you do-it-yourself or get professional help, acting sooner rather than later is likely to save you money.

About the Author

Lorraine Watkins is a business writer and a regular contributor to business and education websites. She is a graduate of California State University, East Bay with an MA in English.

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