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You've got a leak in your heating oil tank. Now what?

Is your heating oil tank leaking?

With over 66% of homes in Northern Ireland relying on oil fired central heating systems, there’s a good chance that you’ll discover a leak in your heating oil tank at some stage. With winter fast approaching, now is the best time to check your oil tank for leaks. 

How do I know if my home heating oil tank is leaking?

If you discover that your home heating oil tank is leaking, you must take action immediately otherwise you could end up with an expensive bill. 

How to check your heating oil tank for a leak.

Tracking down and identifying where the oil is leaking from can be awkward, so we advise that you make regular checks throughout the year. 

  • One of the easiest checks that you can make is simply to see if you can smell oil when you are near your oil tank. If so, you potentially have an oil spill to deal with.
  • Does your tank have a working gauge?
    Is the level lower than you would expect?
  • Does your tank have a valve? Is it open or closed?
    Make sure the valve is closed and secure.
  • Where is your oil tank located?
    For example, do you have plants that grow around or over your heating oil tank?
    If so, make sure that they aren’t interfering with the tank. 
  • Is the oil tank securely supported?
    Have a look and check for any signs of cracks on the base or the feet. The last thing you want to find is a crack on the bottom of your tank. 
  • Your tank will have a few pipes and valves that you can easily inspect. You will be checking to see if there are any signs of oil such as dampness or oil stains. These would most likely occur around the joints.
  • Check the ground underneath the tank (if it’s raised) or the ground around the tank for vegetation that has died. This is a strong indication of an oil spill.
  • If you can, ask the delivery driver if he noticed anything when he replenished your oil supply.
  • Most homes now have a plastic oil tank. However, these can suffer from whitening, cracking and splits which can allow oil to leak. If you still have a metal oil tank you may see signs of rust and flaky paint around the joints. 
  • If there are no visible signs of leaks in and around your tank, and your tank is situated away from your home, you may have a leak in an underground pipe. In this case we would advise that you call PCLA immediately as you will require specialist support.
A heating oil tank has leaked oil onto a garden. Call PCLA if you suspect an oil leak in your garden or property.

What should I do if I find a leak in my heating oil tank?

If you discover an oil leak you must try and stop the flow of oil as soon as possible. Oil is hazardous and can harm your health. Using the steps above you should have been able to identify the source of the oil leak. Your first course of action is to try and plug the leak.

How do I stop oil leaking from my tank?

If the leak is from the valve, a joint, or a pipe, try and wrap an old cloth around the seal or split to slow the oil leak. If there is a steady drip you could try to place a container to catch the oil. This will buy you some time.

If your tank has developed a crack, you may be able to apply strong tape such as Duct Tape, Gorilla or T-Rex. There are also specialist products available for burst pipes. Check out your local hardware store for the best solution. 

Who do I call if my oil tank is leaking?

While you’ll be tempted to call your plumber, you should actually call PCLA first. As independent insurance loss assessors we will advise you with the most appropriate course of action. The last thing you need is to do something that might invalidate your insurance claim. Oil leaks can be expensive to rectify and you may be able to make a claim if you have the right insurance cover. PCLA will offer you free advice over the phone and our initial survey is also free. 

How much does it cost to fix a leaking oil tank?

It’s impossible to provide a definitive answer. If you have a small leak that can be plugged the cost will be relatively low. If you have a crack or an aging oil tank the cost will be substantial. Depending on the size and type of your tank prices will range between £500 to £3000. However, the cost for fixing an oil spill goes beyond replacing a tank. You may have incurred damage to your garden or surrounding property. Oil leaks can be particularly damaging to your home. If you have suffered an oil leak, please call PCLA immediately to have the damage assessed by our qualified surveyors. 

Does homeowners insurance cover a leaking oil tank?

Home insurance policies can include cover for oil leaks. However, you will need to check if your policy includes cover. Understanding your insurance policy can be daunting, so please call PCLA to ask for help understanding your policy. We have over 20 years in the insurance industry and will be able to provide you with free advice. 

Testing for contamination following an oil leak.

When should you call the insurance company?

You should engage a Loss Assessor (like PCLA) before you contact your insurance company. Loss Assessor’s work for you. We will assess the damage to your property and put you in contact with certified professionals who have the ability to undertake lab analysis of soil samples to ascertain the full extent of oil contamination around your property.

It’s PCLA’s job to liaise with the insurance company on your behalf. Our team manages the claims process on your behalf, so you don’t have to. We will make sure your claim is submitted properly and as fast as possible. We will present your claim in the best way possible to ensure you receive your full entitlement under the terms of your policy. 

Remember, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to clean up an oil spill

All of us who have an oil tank at home are required by law to ensure that the oil is stored safely. We are also required to clean up any leaks or spills and deal with the consequences such as damage to neighbouring properties. Please make sure that your insurance policy provides adequate cover for any assessments and potential clean-up bills. 

If you are unsure about any of this, please call PCLA for free advice and support. 

Oil spills can damage your health

If you have an oil leak inside your house it will affect your health and you need to get it fixed as soon as possible. Possible symptoms include: sore throats; headaches; sleepiness or dizzy spells. 

Oil leaks and oil spills should be taken seriously. PCLA are FCA regulated insurance professionals who can manage your oil damage insurance claim for you. 

6 steps to prevent your oil tank from developing a leak

  1. Have your boiler and tank serviced by an OFTEC professional every year.
  2. Check the condition of your oil tank regularly throughout the year.
  3. Secure your tank against fuel theft.
  4. Monitor how much oil you typically use. If your usage suddenly increases, you may have a leak.
  5. Inspect your tank after an oil delivery. Look for signs of knocks or oil spills. 
  6. Check that you have adequate insurance cover in place.

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