Do you check your oil tank frequently enough? This blog provides you with useful guidance on when and how to check your oil tank, and what to look for when you do!
How frequently should you check your oil tank levels?
In the winter when temperatures are dropping and more oil is used, it is recommended that you check your tank at least every couple of weeks. In the summer, you generally use less oil, so your tank doesn’t need to be checked as frequently.
What to check?
When checking your oil tank levels, you also need to check your oil for any signs of damage or force around the openings. Your oil tank can become weathered and damaged over time, so you should be aware of anything different such as rust spots, leaks, and damp patches under the base. When checking do make sure you have replaced the cap properly also.
How to check your oil tank levels accurately
The best way to check is to get a gauge – and there are several types available, depending on your needs:
- Simple sight gauges – these use a clear tube which runs up the side of the tank allowing you to easily see what’s left.
- Float gauges – the float level moves as the amount of oil in the tank increases or decreases.
- Electronic gauge – they calculate tank dimensions in the unit as well as the air pressure and depth, providing a more accurate reading than other gauges. Some electronic gauges can be linked to your phone, so you get an alert when the oil falls below a certain level. This can be very helpful in fuel theft – if the oil levels fall drastically in a short period you’ll also get an alert.
What to do if there’s a spill or a leak
If you suspect an oil leak at your home, you should act quickly and contact your insurance company. Don’t put off taking action or assume the problem will go away. The quicker the leak can be dealt with, the less oil that will be lost and further damage can be minimised.
Your insurance company might appoint a specialist contractor. If your insurance doesn’t have enough cover, you should find a local contractor. You can contact the UK Spill Contractors’ Accreditation Scheme or also use the International Spill Accreditation Association (ISAA) to find a local contractor.
Once you have appointed a contractor:
- if there’s a strong smell of oil in your home, ventilate the area by opening windows and doors and contact the Environmental Health Department in the local council for advice
- keep children and pets away from any spills
- avoid getting oil on your skin and clothing
- wash your hands and don’t smoke, eat or drink when or after you are in contact with the oil
- switch off your oil supply at the tank
- try to find out where the leak is coming from
- immediately try to stop it at the source – put a bucket under dripping oil to catch it (don’t use containers that will be used to store food for humans or animals)
- prevent spilled oil from spreading and, in particular, prevent it from getting into drains and waterways – you can use absorbing material such as earth, sand, cat litter or commercial products
- if there’s an ongoing leak from the tank, try to stem the flow – you may be able to use sealant to temporarily repair a metal tank; for plastic tanks, try rubbing a bar of soft soap into the split
- try to work out how much oil has been lost; check the level on the tank and think about how much you use and when you last had a deliver
- never use detergents or a hose to wash the spill away
- store anything with oil on it, or soaked into it, in containers that don’t leak until it can be correctly and legally disposed of
- if the oil has or could enter drains or the water environment (groundwater, ponds, burns, rivers, loughs, estuaries or coastal waters)
- you must contact the Environment Agency immediately on their water pollution hotline
- if it’s likely to affect a public water supply you must contact Environment Agency on their Waterline number
- if it’s likely to affect private water supplies you must contact your local council (ask for the Environmental Health Department)
- if your water supply or pipework may have been affected, don’t drink the water
- arrange for any remaining fuel in the tank to be removed by a fuel supplier -don’t do this yourself or store oil in a building, shed or vehicle
- check with your insurer whether they or you should arrange for an engineer to repair or replace your tank or pipewor
Minor spills or major spills
To work out whether the spill is a minor or major one, you should check if:
- there is a strong smell of oil indoors
- the oil has spread from your land, under your house or down a drain
- there are any ponds, loughs or drains, or private water supplies in the area
Clearing up minor spills
You can clear up confirmed minor spills yourself though you may prefer to use a contractor. You should:
- check the soil, working out from the source of the spill to find where the oil now is
- if the oil is limited to a few buckets of soil, dig up the oily and stained soil, remove the oil and dispose of the soil correctly
- if the oil has spread to more than a few buckets of soil, follow the advice for a major spill instead
make a note of anything you’ve done to clear up the spill and take photos
Clearing up major spills
You shouldn’t clear up major spills yourself. You should get a specialist contractor to do all the necessary investigations and do any clearing up and disposal.
Have you checked your oil tank yet and is it damaged? Or are you looking at purchasing an oil tank?
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