By Chris Buchanan • October 10, 2018

Above-Ground vs. Underground and Outside vs. Inside Tanks

When it comes to your home's heating oil, you have a few different options for tanks. 
There's the choice between an above-ground tank and an underground tank, as well as the choice between an outside and an inside tank. Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons of each, and what you should know about each option.

Above-Ground vs. Underground Heating Oil Tanks

These two options are very popular in homes built before the mid-1960s. During that era of construction, virtually every home constructed stored heating oil in either an underground or above-ground tank.
In the event that an above-ground tank was used, it was typically stored in the crawlspace, basement, or against the back wall of a home. It was also very common for builders to install above-ground tanks to replace leaking underground tanks. Here's what you need to know about each of these options:

Above-Ground Storage Tanks

Above-ground storage tanks are very popular thanks to their accessibility and functionality.
They're associated with lower costs for maintenance and cleanup, and present less of a risk of underground leaks, which can range into the six figures for underground tanks. Because of this, they're very popular among commercial and farm businesses, which now utilize mostly aboveground storage tanks to contain their heating oil.
Despite their many benefits, though, above-ground storage tanks do have some potential drawbacks. These drawbacks include the fact that vehicles can run into them and owners must be sure to take precautions to protect the tanks.
Above-ground tanks are also vulnerable to environmental concerns, such as lightning, tornados, and high winds. In some spaces, they're also considered eyesores and may need to be shielded from view. That said, this increased visibility also makes it easier to identify leaks and resolve them before they become a major issue.

Below-Ground Storage Tanks

Below-ground storage tanks have been used in home and commercial settings for many years. When tanks are buried on a property, it allows the property owner to save space and keep the tank out of sight. This also has the benefit of keeping the tank away from potential vulnerabilities such as impacts and punctures.
Burying the tank also keeps it out of sight, which is important for people who believe that tanks are an eyesore. Residential underground tanks also have larger storage capacities than above-ground models, which capacities hovering around 1,000 gallons.
Below-ground tanks are commonly made of steel or fiberglass. Fiberglass tanks aren't vulnerable to rust and corrosion, which makes them an ideal long-term solution for companies and individual households.

Indoor Versus Outdoor Heating Tanks

The next consideration when it comes to heating oil tanks is whether to choose an indoor or an outdoor tank. Both have many positive attributes. Here's what you need to know about each:

Indoor Tanks

Indoor tanks aren't exposed to the many hazards inherent with outdoor tanks. Because they're protected from the elements, they enjoy improved performance and decreased maintenance. Additionally, indoor tanks aren't exposed to the potential for vandalism and accidental damage.
Finally, indoor oil tanks are safe from frozen oil lines, which can be a risk for outdoor oil tanks. Indoor oil tanks also don't emit smells, as long as they've been professionally installed and maintained, which is something most people don't realize.

Outdoor Oil Tanks

Outdoor oil tanks have one major benefit for consumers - they're outside.
While this is a benefit for anyone who doesn't want the look, smell, or presence of the tank inside, it does take up additional space outside and can make the oil tank more vulnerable to things like vandalism, damage, and impacts from the elements.
Outdoor oil tanks can suffer from frozen lines, cracks, and frost on very cold days, and may fall victim to vandalism and destruction from external forces. Typically installed near the house, outdoor oil tanks may settle into the ground over time, which can lead to them being unstable and uneven.
That said, installing the tank on solid footing and utilizing anti-gel additives during cold weather will help the tank continue functioning well throughout the year.

Which Oil Tank is Right for You?

As you see, there are many different choices for heating oil tanks. While some of them aren't right for your needs or households, there are some spaces where you'll have ample choice. If you live in an older home, an above-ground tank in the basement or crawl space may be the only option you have.
Outside of that, though, it's worthwhile to know that each heating oil tank offers benefits and drawbacks and that all of them will function well for years to come, so long as you maintain them correctly. By understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each type of heating oil tank, you can make decisions surrounding the type of tank you want to install, as well as equipping yourself with the knowledge that will allow you to care for your existing tank well into the future.
While not all heating oil tanks are created equal, this breakdown makes it easy to understand the perks of each.