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Many people enjoy the comfort and convenience of oil heat in their homes, but few people think about the possible problems of storing heating fuel on their property.

Did You Know

• Although the number appears to be declining, each year there are hundreds of spills from home heating oil tanks.

• Oil from a leaking tank can contaminate the soil and become a threat to drinking water supplies. As well, odours can often enter dwellings through the sewer system or through foundation walls and floors.

• The cost to clean up a spill can range from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Plus, there is the added disruption and inconvenience of the cleanup.

Oil Spills

Spills occur for a variety of reasons including corrosion, overfilling, improper tank location, and improper installation and/or maintenance. If not properly installed and maintained, the domestic heating oil tank found at most homes have the potential to affect human health and the environment, and become a financial liability.

Remember that you, the homeowner, are responsible for reporting and cleaning up an oil spill. Once an accident occurs, you must act immediately to stop the spread of oil and start the cleanup.

Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage for home heating oil tank spills will vary depending on the insurance company. Coverage will range anywhere from “no coverage” to “full coverage.” Sometimes, coverage may apply only to neighbouring properties but not for the owners’ property. It is recommended that you contact your insurance company and discuss your policy before a spill occurs.


Most tanks used for domestic heating oil are steel or composite material containers that hold about 275 gallons and weigh more than 1 ton when full. Their tall, narrow shape lets them easily pass through standard doorways, but it also makes them fairly unstable unless they have proper, secure supports to keep them from tipping over.


• Your oil tank should be installed and labelled to show that itmeets national construction standards.

• Consider an innovative tank. Manufacturers use a number of technologies to produce tanks that have a longer life. These include double-walled tanks, fibreglass tanks, composite plastic/metal tanks, lined tanks, stainless steel tanks, and heavier-walled, 12 guage steel tanks. They may come in different shapes to enhance stability. They may feature a different oil outlet type to prevent water accumulation in the tank. They may include an anti-siphon device or a fuel safety valve to prevent oil from spilling if the supply line is broken. It is recommended that you investigate these options when purchasing a new or replacement tank. The initial cost may be higher, but tank service life is usually longer.

• Check if your insurance company will recognize the longerservice life of these tanks. Some progressive firms even offer a premium reduction for safety features such as secondary containment (i.e. double-walled).

• Your tank should be installed by a trained installer. Domestic heating oil tanks are to be installed in accordance with local building codes.

• All domestic heating oil tank systems should be inspected regularly by a heating service professional.

Leaking basement tank

Indoor Tanks

• Locate your indoor oil tank at least 5 ft from any fuelfiredappliance or have a simple fire wall installed.

• Place your oil tank in an area where it is unlikely to be adversely affected by normal household activities.

• Ensure that your oil tank can be visually inspected from all sides. For single-walled tanks and double-walled tanks without leakdetecting devices.

• If the tank is installed in a garage, provide adequate protection from vehicular traffic.

• If feasible, have a release barrier (e.g., drip tray) installed under any singlewalled tank or oil supply line fittings (e.g., oil filter) in order to contain any leaks.

• If feasible, have existing floor drains, sumps, or other openings located near the tank sealed to prevent any spills from escaping.

Outdoor Tanks


• Ensure that your outdoor oil tank is properly supported, with the legs centred, to prevent it from shifting, settling, or falling over. The support legs of an above-ground tank should be installed on a concrete pad.

• Locate your oil tank on a foundation or bedding that drains away from the house.

• Install your oil tank down grade from any drinking water well.

• Ensure that your oil tank does not block building entrances or windows, including basement windows.

• Ensure that your oil tank is not placed in contact with the building. Leaves and other organic matter can accumulate between the tank and the building, causing external corrosion.

• Ensure that your oil tank is not in contact with plants or grass. Their moisture can lead to accelerated corrosion of the tank.

• Provide your oil tank with adequate protection in areas exposed to vehicles.

Oil Supply Lines

Indoor Tanks

• Protect the oil supply line for an indoor tank from physical damage by routing it around the perimeter of the basement wall.

Outdoor Tanks

• Protect the oil supply line from the weight of snow, ice, or other objects that could cause the line to pinch or break and leak oil.

• Use an oil supply line made with at least a 3/8 in outside diameter copper tubing.


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