5 Oil Tank Maintenance Tips

Oil tank maintenance and oil tank care are of the utmost importance, especially during the colder months. Keeping a close eye on your tank is the best way to ensure you have problem-free home heating, and with the weather still proving to be as unpredictable as ever these past few years, it is definitely worth the effort. Carrying out regular maintenance of your heating oil tank could help to avoid costly repair bills, and ensures that your tank is working at its optimum level at all times. To help you in the long run, we’ve put together our top 5 oil tank maintenance tips and an oil tank care checklist to ensure your oil tank stays in the best condition possible.

Heating Oil Tank Maintenance Tips

Looking after your heating oil storage tank is essential in maintaining efficiency, reducing pollution and prolonging longevity. Heating oil tanks usually have a lifetime of 15 to 20 years if looked after well, with some tanks coming with a 10-year guarantee.

We have put together a short video that details some important safety checks that will help to conserve your tank. Rix Petroleum Director, Duncan Lambert, shares his top oil tank care tips to help get you ready for winter.

1. Know your heating oil tank

The most common heating oil tanks are a plastic tank, which is often green, or a steel coated tank. Variations come as single-skinned (1 layer fuel container) or double-skinned (twin walled tanks are usually steel) or an integrally-bunded tank.

An integrally-bunded tank is essentially a tank within a tank that protects from spillage, heating oil loss and damage. Knowing which type of heating oil tank you have will help you to care for it correctly, resulting in optimum performance.

It's also important to check for any damage to your oil tank. Large dents, cracks, discolouration, bulges or rust could all be signs of damage that requires attention. If you find that your boiler does need replacing, then your new tank should meet the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) standards.

2. Know where the fittings are

Be aware of the fill point, vent and most importantly the contents gauge so that you can check the heating oil levels. The gauge and spillage alert alarm if you have one, can sometimes be found in your home depending on which type you have. It would help if you also made yourself aware of the supply pipes; these may be either over or underground and should be kept easily accessible.

If you are unsure about any of the fittings on your oil tank, ask your heating oil delivery driver to go through it with you. At Rix, our drivers are always happy to help!

3. Consider your oil tanks position

Oil tanks can be installed outdoors, indoors or underground as long as the position is compliant with building regulations.

Installing your oil tank indoors helps to protect it from damage and theft. Plus, the higher temperature indoors boosts burning efficiency and reduces the risk of freezing. You can install your tank indoors if:

  • The tank capacity is 3,500 litres or less
  • The tank has a secondary container
  • The tank alone is within a one-hour fire-resistant chamber
  • The tank is located at the lowest possible level
  • There is ventilation to the outside

Installing an oil tank underground saves space, but it also makes it harder to maintain. You can install an oil tank underground if:

  • The tank is specifically constructed for underground use
  • You follow the recommendations in the Environment Agency's Pollution Prevention Guidance note PPG 27
  • Any necessary planning permission is obtained

4. Protect your oil tank against theft

Heating oil is valuable, which is why protecting your heating oil from theft is vital. Make sure your tank is locked and secure to help prevent any incidents from occurring. If your oil tank is outdoors, make sure that it's visible from inside your home but out of sight from passers-by on the road.

We also recommend installing flood lighting around the area your tank is located. If your oil tank isn't visible from your home, installing CCTV and light sensors around your tank are great for additional security.

5. Check your oil tank for water contamination

The wintry weather in the UK can play havoc with your heating oil tank. Although most people carry out a general inspection of their tank every few months, often the external condition is only considered. This means they could be missing one of the most damaging problems lurking within … water contamination.

Water can get into your home heating oil tank in several ways such as a filler cap not being closed correctly, corroded seals, damaged vents or even a split or hole in the tank itself. The problem is that rainwater contamination is all but impossible to detect from an inspection alone. Any water that has found its way into the tank will sink to the bottom meaning it can't be seen and removal is therefore difficult. Often, you'll recognise if your oil tank is contaminated when you start having problems with your boiler or Aga.

To prevent water contamination, check your oil tank for bulging, which can indicate a weakness in the exterior walls and ensure all lids are secure. If your tank is bunded, make sure the bund is secure, in good condition and could withstand an oil spill. Make sure the bund is not full of water or oil and remove any leaves or other garden waste.

Oil Tank Care Checklist

It's recommended to have your heating oil tank and oil boiler inspected at least once per year by an OFTEC qualified heating engineer. You can also regularly perform visual inspections, and general upkeep by following this oil tank care checklist:

  • Remove debris from the external bund
  • Close any access points when out of use
  • Clean any oil spillages made during delivery
  • Check for oil stains on the supports or ground
  • Check for bulging, cracks, rust or discolouration on the tank
  • Check that all connections are secure
  • Treat and paint steel tanks as required
  • In case of an emergency, have an oil spill kit at home before an engineer arrives

As well as following the oil tank care checklist, here are some additional oil tank maintenance tips to help extend the life of your oil tank:

1. Leaks

Check for any external oil leaks around the seams of your tank, valves and pipes to prevent a costly and dangerous oil spill. Tanks are normally required to have protection around them, to minimise the impact of leakages on the environment. The level of protection can vary according to the area you live in, such as a bund (secondary containment).

You should also have an oil spill kit, containing items such as sorbent materials, leak-sealing putty and drain blockers on hand to try and stem a spill while you wait for the professionals to arrive.

2. Debris

Make sure that access to the tank is clear of any debris or clutter and that the oil tank is easy to reach. If your oil tank is in a fenced-off area, there should be enough space around the tank for someone to walk by. The recommended space is roughly about 2 feet from the oil tank to the fence.

3. Blockages

To prevent any blockages, ensure that the area around your tank is clear of plants and that access points, vents and gauges are sealed and closed to prevent any debris, rainwater or insects clogging the system.

Any external protection for your oil tank should also be clear of plants, rubbish, or water is possible. Water or sludge in your heating oil tank can damage your heating system and as a result, reduce the efficiency of your domestic heating oil.

4. Tank components

Checking the key components of your oil tank regularly, such as alarms and gauges, according to manufacturers' instructions, is crucial. In case of a leak or emergency, check where the isolation valve is on the tank in case the heating oil supply needs shutting off. If you suspect that you may have a problem with any part of your heating system, it may be best to seek professional advice from an OFTEC registered technician.

5. Additives in winter

How do I keep my oil tank from freezing in winter?

Heating oil can freeze in winter, especially if your oil tank is outside. This is because the paraffin in heating oil can freeze and clog your line, potentially preventing you from heating your home. To reduce the risk of this happening, make sure your tank and pipes are insulated.

You can also purchase additives that lower the freezing temperature of heating oil, or purchase pre-treated oil. Another option is to install an electric heat sheet that warms your tank when the temperature drops, although this is relatively costly.

Oil Tank Maintenance and Service

Rix recommends booking in with an OFTEC qualified heating engineer for an annual service on your heating oil tank and boiler. A service ensures any oil tank maintenance is up to date and that you have a healthy oil tank. Whether it's refilling, fixing or removing, always use a professional, registered and fully qualified heating oil engineer to carry out any work on your tank. It's also useful to keep a log of your oil tank details, so you are prepared should you need to make an order or speak to an engineer. This log should include dates of services, make, model, material, capacity and date of installation if known.

At Rix, we offer an array of heating services related to an oil-fired home heating system. All of our experienced engineers are fully qualified, and OFTEC registered so you can have peace of mind that your oil tank is in safe hands with Rix. Our quick response team of OFTEC engineers are also on hand in case of an emergency even after hours, to ensure you have a safe and efficient heating system. For excellent oil tank care, oil tank maintenance, heating oil or home heating oil tanks please don't hesitate to contact your local depot.