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What to do if your
Oil Tank is leaking
1What Is an Oil Tank Leak?
Heating oil industry experts estimate about 6 million homes in the United States rely on oil heating, although many are switching from oil to natural gas, which we will discuss below. Residential gas tanks normally come in several sizes: 275, 290, 500 or 1,000 gallons. These oil tanks either live inside the home, outside above ground next to the home or are buried outside in the front or back yards with fuel lines that lead into the furnace. A leak in an above ground storage tank, or AST, makes itself known in several key ways. First, there is the odor. Even a small cap full of fuel oil has an extremely pungent odor. If you notice a strong oil smell in your home or outside near the tank, you should immediately visually inspect your oil tank and look for signs of oil leakage on the floor or ground. Leaks in outdoor, buried oil tanks provide a greater challenge to detect. Outdoor fuel tanks are made from steel that will react chemically with surrounding soil over the years, causing small pinhole-sized openings to develop. An outdoor fuel tank can be leaking for years without anyone knowing about it. Homeowners seldom notice their fuel bill may be rising a tiny bit, or when regular fuel delivery doesn’t seem to last quite as long as it did in the past. Only when these things become significantly noticeable will homeowners become concerned about a problem and suspect an oil tank is leaking.
2How Do You Know If Your Oil Tank Is Leaking?
Your response to a leaking oil tank depends on the location of the tank. You'll need to handle an indoor leak using different methods than an outdoor leak. But once you've detected a leak, whether indoors or outdoors, you must deal with it immediately. Indoor oil tank leak: - It is relatively easy to detect an indoor oil tank leak. If you smell oil and you see it on the floor near or beneath the tank during a visual inspection, you know you have a leak. Outdoor oil tank leak: - If your neighbor’s well or water supply becomes contaminated, there is an oil tank leak affecting the water table. If your home is the closest to your neighbor’s house, and their tank is OK, there is a good chance yours is leaking. - If you begin construction on a swimming pool or an addition to your home, and the unearthed soil has a strong oil smell, there is a good chance you have an oil leak.-If you have a sump pump in your home, you should check the water in the pump regularly for signs of oil contamination. Since oil is less dense than water, it will always flow to the top. Any heating oil in the water sample means, in all likelihood, your oil tank is leaking.
3How to Fix a Leaking Oil Tank
Contact us today to help you with the process of repairing or decomissioning your leaky oil tank.
4Other Important Facts to Know About Oil Leaks
A senior environmental scientist once referred to leaking oil fuel tanks as “a suburban timebomb.” Why do fuel oil leaks provoke such harsh expectations? One reason for this outlook lies in the number of people who have used oil in the past, but are now converting their home heating systems to natural gas, solar or even wind. In almost all these cases, when people switch to an alternative for heating their homes, they leave old oil tanks in place, especially if they are buried underground. These buried tanks may remain intact for many years, but not forever. If the oil tank is not leaking now, you can feel assured it will one day. And if the homeowner who made the switch to an alternative heating source has neglected to remove any remaining oil from an underground tank, that oil will leak into the soil. And why do people leave oil fuel in an underground tank? The answer is almost always the cost of removal. When fuel oil is not powering a furnace, it turns into something more like a hazardous chemical, and needs a completely different method of handling. Abandoned underground oil tanks are truly a case of, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” The failure to remove leftover oil fuel from an abandoned underground oil tank often results in much higher costs for people who could have removed it when they switched to another heating source. A homeowner who converts from oil to another way to heat their home has two smart choices: Remove the tank at the time of the conversion. Empty it, clean it and remove it. Call someone to cut it up and haul it away. The company that is helping provide you with, or setting you up with, your new source to provide heat will often offer a package deal. If you do business with them, the cost to remove the tank may be part of the deal. Fill ‘er up. Don’t remove the tank. Remove the remaining fuel, clean up the tank and fill it with sand or cement. Another problem with buried oil fuel tanks might be called the “out of sight, out of mind” problem. Then there’s the “I’m too old for this nonsense” problem. The two are often linked. A newly built home will have a new oil furnace. But if your home is 20, 30, 40 years old or even older when you purchase it, that oil fuel tank buried out in the backyard could be ancient. That leads us to another of the main reasons oil tanks leak — people leave them in the ground long past their “best-by” date. As we noted above, the steel in new tanks over time will react with the surrounding soil and eventually corrode. Unlike an indoor tank, which you see every time you go downstairs to do the laundry, people don’t think about their outdoor tanks because they don’t see them. A good rule to follow is to replace your oil tank whenever you replace your roof, which is normally every 10 to 20 years, depending on your warranty. Yes, it’s an added expense. But paying for the costs of an oil tank leak can be much greater.