How to Extend the Life of your Aboveground Heating Oil Tank

By June 13, 2018
Maintaining Aboveground Heating Oil Tanks | ATS Environmental

So you own a home or business or you’re purchasing one that has an aboveground heating oil tank and that’s great, because you can see if there’s a problem with the tank simply by eyeballing it, right? Well, that’s part of it, but what about what’s going on inside the tank, piping and lines? We’re going to break down for you some simple ways you can extend the life of your aboveground tank and how to know when it’s time to part with your tank and install a new one.

Let’s first talk about installing interior aboveground oil tanks and how to maintain them, since they can be such a financial burden if they spring a leak.

1. Where should I put my aboveground heating oil tank?

Many experts feel as though the basement of a home is the place of choice for an aboveground oil tank. The reasoning behind this is that it’s an area not as susceptible to the elements of the outdoors or temperature fluctuations. Outdoor temperature fluctuations is one of the main causes of water in a tank due to condensation.

Also, a basement doesn’t get a lot of activity so the tank wouldn’t be as susceptible to damage as it would be outdoors or even in a garage. Putting a tank in a garage or outdoors leaves it vulnerable to exterior damage from activity or consistent temperature fluctuations. And installing oil tanks in your garage will more than likely be a little more expensive as in most cases, you are required to install anti-impact vertical piping or fixed pylon.

But remember, no matter where you put your aboveground tank, you should be able to periodically visually inspect all sides, including the belly and top of tank, for rust, leaks or weeping.

2. What if I have to install the aboveground oil tank on the exterior of home or structure, due to lack of space?

If you do install an aboveground tank on the exterior of a home or business, here are just a couple things you should keep in mind however you should speak to your governing environmental agency about local regulations:

A) Aboveground oil tanks cannot block any windows or entrances / exits of a structure.
B) The general requirement is that a tank which exceeds 125 gallons should not be placed within a certain vicinity of an on-site propane tank.
C) The tank should be placed away from the structure, by at least 10’, as foliage and other debris can build up near the tank or the underbelly of the tank and cause unnecessary corrosion on the sides and underneath.
D) 
To avoid damage or pitting from ice, dripping water from rain or melting snow, a tank should not be placed directly below the soffits of the home.
E) The aboveground tank should be elevated on legs and placed on a concrete platform, not above grass or anywhere weeds or foliage can grow. The belly of the tank must be off the ground.  

This is a good start in deciding where on your property you can install an exterior aboveground oil tank.

3. What type of aboveground tank should I install?

Most experts in the tank industry strongly recommend installing a double walled tank, such as Roth or Granby, as these tanks generally come with an extensive warranty. They also help ward off corrosion issues as it’s almost like a tank contained with a tank, so it acts as a secondary, or back up, containment, in the event of a spill or leak in the interior tank.

If you choose to install a single walled tank, you should also purchase a secondary containment tub that can hold the total amount of product in the oil tank.

Now, how do you take care of your aboveground oil tank? Let’s talk about that next.

4. How do I take care of my aboveground heating oil tank?

Not properly monitoring or maintaining an aboveground heating oil tank, especially on the interior of the home, can financially devastate a homeowner, sometimes costing well over $100,000 in remediation fees and structural repair.

The following are a couple pointers for maintaining your tank in between inspections:

A) If the tank is located on the exterior of the property, visually check the tank for signs of corrosion. Rust on the tank indicates that the tank is starting to corrode.
B) Monitor underneath the tank for signs of contamination, including odor and staining.
C) Some people recommend painting a tank with a non-corrosive primer / paint combination. We strongly recommend speaking with the manufacturer of the tank as to what they would recommend as far as painting.  Also, if a tank has gotten to be such an eyesore that you want to paint it, it may be time to replace it.
D) Make sure all openings, including vent and fill pipes, are properly capped to avoid water intrusion into the tank.

5. Should I have a professional test the tank?

It’s recommended to have a professional perform an inspection of the tank every 2 years. The professional should, at the very least:

A) Fully visually inspect the tank for signs of corrosion, damage or leaking.
B) Check the fuel lines and piping for signs of leaking or damage.
C) Check for water in the tank.
D) Check for contamination in the soil surrounding the tank using a Photoionization Detector.
E) Take corrosion readings of the exterior of the tank. You can also perform an Ultrasonic Thickness Test (UTT) on an aboveground tank, but we’ll talk about that in a later post!
F) One of the most important components that should be inspected in basement tanks is the “vent pipe” whistle.  This whistle alerts the oil delivery person to stop putting oil into the tank and prevents overfill/spillage. The principle of operation is that as oil is being forced into the tank through the filler tube, the air in the tank is forced out through the “vent pipe” causing a sound from the whistle. A non-functional whistle is one of the leading causes of oil being released into the house.

Contact an environmental testing provider to discuss aboveground oil tank inspections and get set up on a bi-yearly schedule to monitor your tank.  

We also recommend speaking with an oil tank insurance provider about insuring the aboveground tank. Tank insurance can typically cover spills up to $100,000.

Now that you have general knowledge about installing and maintaining an aboveground oil tank, speak with an installation professional about options for your specific property. Your installation professional should be well versed in your local and state regulatory requirements for installations.

Still have questions about maintaining your aboveground heating oil tank?

Speak with one of our specialists!

About the Author

Georgia Parks
Georgia Parks

With almost 20 years in the environmental industry, Georgia Parks has a vast knowledge of the inspection pitfalls that realtors, homeowners and homebuyers can face in the real estate market.

Growing up in the beautiful farmlands of Sussex County, NJ, Georgia learned to appreciate the beauty in our world, never realizing that one day her path would lead her to help others understand the importance of preserving the integrity of the environment. Initially her other passion, law, drove her to a degree in criminal justice, however, after taking a job in the environmental industry, she quickly discovered that she had a flair for helping people understand the sometimes complex process of environmental testing and how it could affect them when buying or selling a home.

After mentoring under some industry gurus and gaining extensive wisdom working in several roles within the industry, she is now Director of Operations for 5 divisions within ATS Environmental, including both residential and commercial. She holds hold her staff to the same impeccable standards when it comes to assisting clients wade through the inspection processes.

When she can stand being away from the office for a day or two, she enjoys living a quiet lake life in a mountaintop community in Northern NJ with her best guy of 23 years and their 2 furry kids, a husky named Ed and a retriever mix, Gabby. Another passion for Georgia is animal rescue. She frequently volunteers with animal rescue organizations to transport animals from high-kill shelters in northern and southern United States to loving homes and rescues. She also enjoys politics and watching sci-fi or horror movies.


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