Is your oil tank ready to face the winter?
19 February 2019
Checking your oil tank: is it important? It certainly is, especially if you want to:
Avoid huge financial losses,
Protect the environment,
And don’t want to go through the hassle of doing a dangerous clean-up!
The best time to check your oil tank is before winter arrives. That way, you can enjoy peace of mind in knowing that your tank is safe and will keep you and your family warm during the winter.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that your oil tank is intact:
Make sure your tank is secure
The first thing to do when checking your oil tank is to make sure it is tightly secured. When oil starts to run low, the tank becomes lighter and there is greater risk of it being displaced from its normal position. This can happen during a strong winter storm or flood. So, it’s best to ensure that the ground below the tank is securely in place; check the ground below and on all sides of the tank to make sure it is securely in place.
Conduct a weekly inspection
Do a thorough weekly inspection of your tank or get a professional technician to look over it to identify signs of any problems. If maintained properly, bunded oil tanks can last a long time giving you peace of mind during the winter months. Make sure the connections are tight and fittings are not dripping. If some of the fittings of the tank such as pipes and locks are beginning to rust or are getting worn out, it’s a good idea to get them replaced. A bunded oil tank has an average lifespan of about 10-12 years. If you have a tank that’s older than that, it’s better to get it replaced.
Watch out for possible leaks
A leaking oil tank is very dangerous as even a small leak can pollute a large area. It can severely damage the environment especially wildlife and plants. Also, cleaning up an oil leak can be a costly affair which can be easily avoided by just walking around the tank to spot any leaks. Black stains on the grass, unusual smells, and usage of more oil than normal could indicate a leak. If you do spot a leak, just switch off the oil supply and contact a technician immediately. A technician will be able to give you the right advice.
Check your tank for cracks
You might also want to look out for cracks in the tank. Changes in temperature or continuous exposure to sun could be one of the reasons for a crack. A crack can allow water to seep into the tank which can affect the quality of oil and corrode the pipes.
Temporary solutions for cracks:
1) If the crack is above the level of heating oil, then you can use Tarpaulin to cover the crack. But the tank would have to be replaced immediately.
2) If the crack is below the level of heating oil, then you should seek professional advice immediately.
Bulges and crimps could also indicate a problem with your tank so make sure you check the tank properly for any unusual bulges.
Site tanks at least 10 metres away from drains, streams and ponds.
Other signs of a problematic tank
Apart from cracks and bulges, there are a few more important signs that can tell you if there is a problem with the tank. If you see any white marks on the tank, it might be damaged or about to split. The valves and connections should be dry. If they are damp, it could mean that the oil is leaking. Rust spots and signs of corrosion could also mean your tank is unsafe.
Check your tank after heavy snowfall
The weight of snow on top of your tank can also cause damage. It’s a good idea to use a brush to carefully remove any snow on top of your tank. If your tank has a base, this will help reduce the weight and pressure on the tank and keep the base of the tank steady. Make sure you get the pipes lagged especially those that are exposed. Water condensation could build up inside the tank which could freeze and block the fuel lines connected to your boiler.
Check for debris after a heavy wind
It’s important to protect your oil tank from windy weather. The wind can blow heavy debris in its path. It’s a good idea to do a thorough check around your oil tank after a storm to remove any branches, stones or even garden furniture which could have fallen on it causing a dent or other damage. Do also look out for any large scratches, loose fittings or any damp patches which could be a sign that your tank is leaking.
Check for water in the bund after heavy rain
With a bunded oil tank, you don’t have to worry about any spillages as the bund will contain them. All you need to do is check the tank for water seepage. It is essential that you check the tank after heavy rain to make sure that there is no water inside. If there is water inside, the bund will not be able to hold all the oil in it in the event of a spill. Make sure you remove any rainwater that has seeped into it. Bunded oil tanks are an ideal option for winters as they are very durable.
Get your oil tank serviced once a year
Apart from all the above checks, it is a good idea to have an annual service of your tank by an authorised professional. A professional can detect any issues with your tank at an early stage. This will help you maintain your oil tank and avoid expensive repairs or replacements.
When in doubt, have your oil tank inspected by a professional. A leak from your oil tank can not only cause you an unwanted financial hassle, it can be a dangerous and time consuming clean up, as well as a threat to water sources and wildlife.
The Environment Agency has suggested that householders with domestic oil tanks should take the following action to ensure they are safe for use:
Inspect tanks, pipes and other equipment for leaks, damage and interference once a week. Any problems should be fixed as soon as possible by an Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) technician.
Arrange for the boiler and tank to be serviced at least once a year by an OFTEC technician. This should include any underground pipe work.
Monitor how much oil you use. If the volume of oil being used suddenly increases, there could be a leak.
Supervise oil deliveries. Never allow your tank to be overfilled and don’t order more oil than you can safely store.
Check your home insurance covers clean-up costs on both your property and neighbouring land. Always notify insurers immediately in the event of a spill or suspected spill.
If a tank starts leaking, you should try to stop the oil soaking into the ground or going down drains. Contact your insurance company to arrange for an OFTEC technician.
Secondary containment, such as a bund, will prevent oil from escaping into the environment if a leak occurs. This is a legal requirement for domestic tanks which store more than 3,500 litres.
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