If you own a home heating oil tank, then you've probably came across a few small spillages over the years. These are fine, as they can easily be cleaned up with a few rags without posing any serious threats. However, if your heating oil tank experiences a significant leak -- more than around one gallon in volume -- then you have to take action quickly in order to avoid endangering your family.
Telltale Signs of a Heating Oil Leak
Firstly, you have to understand the warning signs that indicate an oil leak may have occurred. The most telltale signs are:
- An overpowering smell of solvent.
- Signs of oil inside or outside your home (or around your cupboards).
- Black stains around the heating oil tank.
- Dead plants around the tank if the tank is situated outside.
If any of the above signs are present, you'll have to contact an experienced professional who can address the leak for you in a safe and secure manner. It isn't recommended that you try to tackle the problem yourself, as heating oil is a very hazardous substance for the unfamiliar.
Preventing a Leak
You may be under the impression that oil leaks occur sometimes and as such, they are outwith your control. However, this isn't the case - there are a number of steps you can take in order to prevent a leak from damaging your property in the first place.
First and foremost, you should check the condition of your heating oil tank regularly. It's easy to forget about this, so be sure to inspect the area once every few months. Keep an eye out for the emergence of any cracks, as these can quickly develop into holes in the surface that result in leaks. Additionally, if your tank is metallic, make sure to paint it regularly to avoid corrosion.
It's also important to keep an eye on your oil consumption. Typically, this won't vary much between months (apart from winter) - if your oil levels suggest otherwise, then check for leaks immediately. Furthermore, keeping an eye on your oil consumption will stop you from filling up a leaking tank, losing excess oil into the ground and having to foot the bill for cleaning.
Once you've become familiar with your consumption, consider highlighting "fill points" on the tank that give you a visual gauge of how much you're consuming. Additionally, this will stop you from ordering more oil than you can fit in the tank.
If you haven't done so already, you should make sure to get your tank "bunded". A bund is simply a trough that sits underneath the oil tank, collecting any oil that may leak through. These are usually fairly large basins, as they must be able to accommodate the volume of the tank plus any rainwater that is captured.
Finally, schedule your entire heating system for regular maintenance checks by a qualified professional. The measures above aren't difficult to incorporate, however a fully-qualified technician will be able to identify the underlying cause of any problems and mitigate against them.
What to Do in the Event of a Leak
OK, so you haven't had a chance to incorporate the above preventive measures and now a leak has occurred - what should you do? Unfortunately, there isn't a step-by-step plan, however the following tips should help:
- Switch off the supply at the tank and arrange to have the tank emptied.
- Prevent the oil from infiltrating drains and pipes by blocking its flow. Mounds of earth or sand are great for this purpose.
- Don't allow toxic fumes to build up if the spillage is indoors as this may impact your family's health. Instead, open all windows and doors to keep your area well ventilated.
- Call your insurance company and/or landlord and make them aware of the problem.
- Call a professional engineer or technician to assess the extent of the problem and the best course of action available.
As with anything that may endanger your health, do not delay action or assume the problem will vanish. Rather, take quick, decisive action in addressing the issue in order to keep you and your family safe. Find out here how to take quick action.