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19th Jul 2019

How to remove an oil tank from a house

If your heating oil tank is old or damaged, you might be wondering how to go about removing it from your home. Or perhaps you want to shift your tank from one position to another on your property. Whether you’re replacing this vessel or simply relocating it, it’s important that you plan this process carefully. There are a number of safety issues and rules and regulations that you’ll need to take into account, so it’s best to get the experts in to help.

Keep reading for information and advice on this topic, including signs that your current tank may need to be replaced, what to consider when relocating one of these containers and how to dispose of old tanks. We also offer tips on how to choose and install a new oil storage solution.

Is it time to remove and replace your oil tank?

With certain appliances or pieces of equipment in your home, you might wait until they break before you replace them. With oil tanks, it’s different. You don’t want to leave it until this vessel fails and you have a potentially major leak to deal with before you take action. A leaky tank could pollute the surrounding land and it may even contaminate private or public water sources. There’s also a small risk that it could lead to fire and explosions, and there are the clean-up costs to think about.

All of this means it pays to keep a close eye on the condition of your oil tank and to remove and replace it when you spot problems. For example, if you see a crack or a hole in the casing, you’ll probably need to get a new oil tank. Look out for dents, bulges and scratches too, as well as signs of leaks – especially around valves, pipes and seams. It’s also important to keep tabs on any discolouration. Plastic tanks can bleach in the sun, meaning their colour starts to fade. When this happens, the plastic becomes more brittle and prone to breaking. The discolouration of metal tanks can also be a cause for concern. If these containers start to rust, areas of weakness can develop.

As well as checking your oil tank over on a regular basis yourself, it’s important to make sure that it gets inspected by an OFTEC registered heating engineer each year when your heating system is serviced. The expert will be able to alert you to any warning signs and advise you when it’s time to get a replacement.

According to OFTEC, oil tanks have an expected working life of around 20 years, and if used beyond this time, the risk of failure rises. However, factors such as poor installation or a lack of maintenance can shorten their lifespan, so it’s important to be vigilant no matter how old this part of your heating system is.

Can I move my domestic oil tank?

Perhaps you’re planning a property extension and you need to move your heating oil tank in order to make room for it, or maybe you’re replacing an old tank and want to install your new one in a different location that’s safer or more convenient. Shifting an oil tank can seem like a daunting task. After all, these containers are large, heavy bits of kit. The good news is, it’s relatively simple to do this if you bring the experts in.

When you’re deciding where to relocate your tank to, you’ll need to follow rules designed to limit the risks of oil spills. So, even if you have a clear idea of where you’d like your tank to be situated, it’s important to get an OFTEC registered technician to carry out an assessment of the site and to give it the all clear.

For example, in order to comply with fire separation distances, these vessels should be a minimum of 1.8 metres away from non-fire rated buildings or structures, such as garden sheds, and the same distance from openings including windows and doors in fire-rated buildings. They should also be at least 760mm away from non-fire rated boundaries like wooden fences. If these requirements can’t be met, a protective barrier with a fire rating of at least 30 minutes should be used. In some cases, tanks can be located within buildings like outhouses or garages, but in these scenarios, the tanks have to be contained within a chamber with a fire rating of 60 minutes.

3D drawing of a house with an oil tank situated outside

There are rules in place governing how close the tanks can be to water sources too, and they need to have a suitable base to rest on. This base should be constructed of concrete, stonework or paving stones. It must be capable of supporting the weight of the container and large enough so that it extends 300mm beyond the edge of the tank on all sides.

It also pays to consider security when choosing a site for your tank. Most of these vessels are stored above ground outdoors. To minimise the risk of fuel theft in these scenarios, it’s best to choose a spot as far from the road as possible – but also remember that the tank must be accessible for when you need it to be refilled. Finding a suitable location will reduce the chances of your tank being spotted by opportunistic thieves. If possible, your tank should also be visible from inside your home. The possibility of being spotted when trying to steal fuel serves as an effective deterrent against this sort of criminal activity.

Once you’ve chosen a suitable site with an appropriate base, you’ll need to arrange the move itself. It’s best to plan to do this when you’ve used up the oil in the tank, leaving it nearly empty. However, bear in mind that running your tank down until it’s completely empty can cause problems for your boiler, so it’s best not to do this.

An expert can then come in to complete the relocation. They will firstly drain any oil left in your tank. Clean oil can be kept in a holding vessel and then fed back into your tank once it’s in its new position, while any contaminated oil will be safety disposed of at a licensed site. Once the fuel has been removed, the tank will be cleaned and disconnected. It will then be repositioned and installed in its new location, before being connected to your fuel line. In order for this last step to happen, your existing fuel line will either need to be extended or replaced, depending on the new location of the tank. Installing the new fuel line can be the most disruptive part of the process, so it’s important that you plan for it carefully.

How to dispose of old heating oil tanks

If you’re getting rid of your old tank, the specialist technician doing the job will either take it away whole or, if it is too big to do this, cut it up and remove it in sections. They should then take the materials to a recycling centre. Whether tanks are plastic or metal, they can be recycled as long as they are empty and have been cleaned – so it’s worth making sure that your contractor will recycle your tank before you agree to use their services.

How to choose and install a new oil tank

If you’re getting a new tank to replace your old one, it’s important to choose wisely. Getting a high-quality container will help ensure you get many years of trouble-free use from it. For added peace of mind, you may want to go for a tank that is bunded. Sometimes called a catchpit, a bund is a popular safety feature that acts as a secondary containment system. It is designed to stop any fuel that may leak from the tank from escaping into the environment.

For added convenience, you could choose a tank that comes with a pre-installed fuel monitor that allows you to keep track of your oil usage more easily. This feature can also help you to detect any fuel leaks more quickly.

Whichever tank you decide to go for, it’s really important to get it installed correctly. To do this, make sure you use an OFTEC registered tank installation engineer. They will ensure that the tank is placed in a suitable location and is connected properly and securely. Getting this right now could save you unnecessary hassle and expense further down the line.

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