Do you heat with oil? If so, is it an above-ground or buried steel oil tank?

Do you heat with oil? If so, is it an above-ground or buried steel oil tank?

How are you heating your home?

As a homeowner, you need to know how your home is being heated.  Many homes, mostly older, are heated with oil (distilled fuel oil) (www.iea.gov, Heating Oil Explained, 2.09.2021).  From the moment these large steel tanks are placed into the ground, the clock starts clicking on their life span and will eventually need to be removed or replaced. 

If your steel heating oil tank is located in the basement of your home, you still have a problem. Even though your basement allows for easy access to perform inspections and regular maintenance to the tank, fuel oil tanks do leak without warning. You could have over 100 gallons of fuel oil leak into your basement. Many of your stored heirlooms could be destroyed, and the cleanup may be expensive since the fuel oil is considered hazardous waste. All steel tanks will ultimately need to be replaced.

As of 2019, roughly 5.5 million homes in the United States use heating oil as the primary method of heating their homes (www.iea.gov).  Although the process and technology for heating homes with fuel oil have evolved considerably and emissions from this heating method have improved significantly, there will never be a situation where the possibility of a fuel oil leak will be 0%. 

Many banks will not offer mortgages if a fuel oil tank is buried underground.  It is essential to know if your property has a fuel oil tank buried somewhere in the yard.  The irony of the best-case scenario is, if you have a viable tank buried in your yard and it’s not leaking, that will be the best time to get it removed as the cost can be contained to mere labor.

The question isn’t if, It’s when

Most in-ground tanks are made of 12 – 14 gauge steel, with 12 gauge being thicker (www.iea.gov, et al.) It’s merely a matter of time that the tank will need to be pulled out and/or replaced.  Using oil tanks is a risky business because if a leak is detected, the costs for pulling out that tank and remediating (Fixing the oil leak issue) can start to rise astronomically!  A simple job of removing an old oil tank may run anywhere from $1,200 – $1,500 dollars if the tank is stable and not leaking any oil into the ground. Suppose a leak is detected. Depending on how long the tank was leaking, the cost will skyrocket out of control, perhaps into the millions of dollars (http://www.njtvnews.org/, multi-level collaboration, 12.10, 2015.)

Consider an alternate heating source.

Homeowners today have many options to choose from when heating and cooling their homes.  Depending on where you live, you may have various options, from furnaces that use natural gas for heating your home to geothermal heat pumps, which use the surrounding environment to heat and cool their homes.  Geothermal heating and cooling may have higher upfront costs; however, it is inevitably more economical over the long term. As a matter of fact, the instantly recognizable and popular Johnson & Johnson Baby oil manufacturing company located in Racine, Wisconsin, uses geothermal heat pumps to heat and cool their offices and plants.