Homeowners who don’t have access to natural gas lines often have to choose between propane and heating oil for keeping their homes warm during the winter. Heating oil remains a competitive option in many markets. However, many homeowners have concerns about oil storage tanks leaking or corroding and allowing fuel contamination.
The reality is that storage tanks have come a long way in the past couple of decades. With proper maintenance and monitoring, most problems can be avoided.
Three Factors to Consider: Size, Installation Location and Construction Design
When selecting a storage tank for heating oil, there are three things to consider in the decision: size, installation site and construction design.
Home oil storage tanks can range from 160 gallons all the way up to 1,000 gallons. It’s important to choose a tank capable of holding at least enough fuel to get through a month. This will make sure that you have fuel to heat your home during a major cold snap without worrying about a fuel delivery truck getting through ice and snow.
Homeowners can choose to install the storage tank in one of three different locations. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages:
- Above ground inside – Many property owners choose to have a storage tank placed somewhere in the home. It can go into a basement, garage or utility room. This makes it easy to check the tank’s contents and to verify there are no leaks at any time, even on the coldest days of the year.
- Above ground outside – When space inside is not available, many property owners opt to locate the storage tank above ground outside. They usually go to the back or side of the property, out of sight. The cost of one of these tanks is a bit more because they are built to withstand the elements. One option homeowners use is to enclose the tank to reduce the weathering the tank undergoes and to keep the tank out of sight.
- Below ground – Another option available is to bury a storage tank below ground. This keeps it completely out of sight. These tanks are often bigger than those used above ground. The biggest drawbacks to an underground installation is the potential of undetected leaking and not being able to find an abandoned tank.
Tank design plays a role in how durable and reliable a tank will be in a few years:
- Steel – Due to their lower costs, steel oil storage tanks are still the most popular choice. They are available for both above ground and below ground installation. All tanks must meet strict UL construction standards. The biggest concerns with steel tanks is the chance the tank will leak and the ferrous sludge that can accumulate in the bottom.
- Fiberglass – Tanks made from fiberglass don’t have the issues that steel tanks have with leaks, plus do not accumulate ferrous sludge. These tanks used to be only for underground installation, but are now available for above ground installation as well. They are slightly higher in cost than steel tanks, but many consider the price difference worth it for the reduced risk of leaks.
- Combination – For homeowners who want modern construction and the best protection against leaks, the polyethylene double-wall tank is the answer. The fuel sits inside a polyethylene tank enclosed in a tough outer shell made from galvanized steel. The polyethylene inner tank does not rust and corrode. The steel skin is tough and durable. This combined tank meets the highest UL standards.
The Bottom Line on Oil Storage Tanks
Proper maintenance and monitoring will help your new storage tank last a few decades. This includes ordering enough fuel to keep the tank filled during the summer to prevent condensation inside, which promotes rust. It means making routine inspections of the tank to verify there are no rust or corrosion issues. It means putting anti-leak detectors in key spots.
Take the time to choose a storage tank that will supply your home with heating fuel for years to come. If you have any questions about oil storage tanks or other home comfort issues, please contact us at Griffith Energy Services, Inc. We proudly serve the Mid-Atlantic region.
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Written by Kevin Spain