Using and maintaining your tank
In part one, we looked at all the things you should ask about and check before buying a home with oil-fired heating. Here we’ll look at how you should look after and maintain your tank.
Regular inspection and maintenance
Once the house and the tank are yours, you should check over your tank at least once a month to make sure it isn’t damaged or leaking. If you have a plastic tank, look for whitening and splits in the plastic.
If it’s metal you need to be looking for rust, blistering and oil damp patches, particularly around the seams and welds. Also look for visual clues of leakage like die back in the surrounding vegetation or a strong smell of oil. Your oil usage suddenly shooting up is another sign that all might not be well.
As well as your own checks, arrange an inspection from an OFTEC registered oil engineer once a year. Most OFTEC registered oil engineers will carry out this inspection at no extra charge as part of your boiler service. Make sure you retain any paperwork from these visits and promptly act on any advice if issues are identified.
Purchasing a spill kit and knowing how to use it is a sensible precaution in case an oil spill does occur.
Oil Delivery Companies
Unlike large, faceless organisations that supply gas and electricity, there are hundreds of fuel distributors nationwide and many of them are independent, family owned businesses that work within and support their local communities. Service and reputation can be more important than purely cost. Your vendor may have some recommendations, or alternatively, ask around in the local community.
The UK Independent Fuel Delivery Association (UKIFDA) is an association of fuel delivery professionals working to deliver the highest standards of quality, safety and customer service. You can find your nearest UKIFDA members on the Oilsave website – https://www.oilsave.org.uk/distributor-search/
Also, find out if you have an oil buying club or syndicate in your area. The Oil-Club Limited has over 6,000 clubs nationwide and you can access a map via this link – https://www.oil-club.co.uk/about
Protecting your tank
Unfortunately, oil tanks are often a target for thieves so it’s wise to take precautions to limit your vulnerability.
As well as the loss of the oil, theft can lead to damage to the tank and spillages with consequent repair and clean-up fees that can be many times higher than the cost of the fuel itself.
Precautions can range from installing CCTV, security lighting, lockable fill points (usually included as standard with new tanks), anti-theft tank alarms (rather than the standard ‘contents level’ ones) and choosing a tank with a top outlet system & anti siphon valve fitted. If practical, consider relocating your tank to hide it from sight, or shield the tank with trees and plants, but make sure they are positioned far enough away not to be a fire risk or to restrict access. Prickly boundary hedges and lockable gates are simple solutions, but often highly effective.
Insurance is your backstop against things going wrong. Insurance won’t stop leakage, damage or theft occurring, but it can protect you against the worst of the financial consequences if purchased correctly.
In an extract from – Looking after your oil in the South East, published by the Environment Agency*, this is what they say on the topic of oil tanks and insurance:
“Make sure that you have adequate insurance cover, and not just to replace the lost oil. Check with your insurer to see if environmental clean-up is covered if you suffer an accidental loss of oil. Your policy should have a high enough liability limit to cover you if neighbouring land and/or boreholes are affected. You should also make sure your policy covers the cost of cleaning up oil on your own property as you will be required to do this under the Water Resources Act 1991. One unfortunate householder in Hampshire had only third-party cover and recently had to pay around £100,000 for the clean-up of an oil leak on his own land. Note insurance companies may not pay if the leak has been occurring over time, so regular inspection of your tank and monitoring of usage is important.”
Depending on the cause, a household insurance policy should provide cover for loss of oil and damage to the buildings and contents of your home following an escape of domestic fuel oil; it should also provide cover for theft of oil subject to you being able to demonstrate that such an incident has taken place. However, many household policies restrict cover for pollution to that following a sudden, accidental & identifiable incident that takes place in its entirety at a specific moment in time that is within the period of insurance i.e. they do not cover gradual leakage, and may not extend to cover the costs of environmental clean-up of your own land or the water on or beneath it.
We’ve created a list of questions for you to ask your insurance company or broker, so that you can check for yourself what cover your household policy does provide in the event of an oil spill incident and this list is free to download here.