By Chris Buchanan • October 8, 2018

What do I do if I Have an Oil Tank Leak?

Homeowners think about many potential risks. There's the risk of fire, wind, water, vandalism, and many other types of damage. But what about problems with your heating oil tank?
Depending on where you live and what kind of heating oil tank your home uses, this can be a major issue. The problem becomes especially pronounced if the heating oil tank is located near (or inside) your home, and if it doesn't get maintained as frequently as it should. In addition to causing major issues for your home, a leaking heating oil tank can also cause some dramatic pollution problems for the spaces around your home.
Because of this, it's essential to understand what to do if you suffer a heating oil tank leak, and know how to address the issue when it takes place. Here's what you need to know:

Understanding Heating Oil Tank Leaks


Heating oil tanks are durable, but they're not indestructible. Today, about 6 million homes throughout the United States use heating oil to power their homes, although many are moving from heating oil toward natural gas. Today, most heating oil tank sizes are between 275-1,000 gallons, with the most common sizes being 275 gallons, 290 gallons, 500 gallons, and 1,000 gallons.
These oil tanks can be placed inside or outside the home and may sit above ground or be buried beneath the ground, with fuel lines running toward the furnace. A leak in an above-ground storage tank is obvious in many ways. Because the tank is exposed and highly visible, a leak manifests first as a smell. Heating oil has a very pungent smell and is very obvious when it's exposed to the air.
Above-ground heating oil tanks may also manifest with visual leaks. If you see a leak in your oil tank, it's essential to inspect the rest of the tank for additional damage or weak points.
If you have an outdoor, buried oil tank, leaks can be harder to detect. In addition to the fact that steel reacts chemically with the soil surrounding it, exposure to the elements over years and years can cause small holes to develop. In some cases, outdoor heating oil tanks can leak for years without anyone noticing, especially if the leak is small or not caused by an obvious impact or damaged segment. While you may notice your fuel bill rising a bit, the issue doesn't commonly become intensely noticeable until the oil tank develops a large leak.

What to do if an Oil Tank is Leaking

If your indoor or outdoor oil tank is leaking, you need to take immediate action. How you do that, though, depends on whether your tank is an indoor or outdoor tank. Here are a few things to know:

Dealing With an Indoor Oil Tank Leak

Again, indoor oil tank leaks are pretty easy to spot. First, you'll smell an oil leak and see it on the floor beneath the tank. The crack or puncture may be easy to see, and you may see oil dripping or seeping out of the tank. You may also detect a leak if the neighbor's well or water supply comes up pungent or contaminated. Some homeowners also notice an oil tank leak when they begin construction and find that the soil they unearth has a pungent smell.
If you find that your indoor oil tank is leaking, the first thing to do is to notify your local fire department. Since heating oil is combustible, contacting local authorities to deal with it is essential. You'll also want to ventilate the area, especially int he case of an indoor heating oil tank leak. Once you've taken these steps, contact an oil cleanup expert and call your insurance company. Your homeowner's policy may contain a provision to protect you from possible oil spills in your home.

Dealing With Outdoor Oil Tank Leaks

Outdoor leaks are actually significantly more dangerous than indoor leaks. Because the leaks can be much larger and pose a threat to the environment surrounding the tank, they can cost as much as $15,000 to fix, depending on various factors. One of these factors is how quickly you detect the leak. If your oil tank is buried, one of the best ways to detect a leak is to take a soil sample.
An environmental expert will be able to help you do this. It's the most reliable way to determine if your oil tank is leaking, and is an excellent way to stop and resolve the leak as quickly as possible. If you find that the tank is leaking, you'll need to contact a contractor who works with heating oil tanks and can remove yours.
You'll also want to notify the authorities and have them come help you determine the severity of the oil leak. You should also contact your insurance company and file a claim to recuperate any damages you incurred during the oil leak.

Heating Oil Leaks: Serious Situations for Your Home

If you find that you have a heating oil leak in your underground or above-ground tank, dealing with it appropriately is essential. These tips can help you do that effectively, and ensure that you're keeping your family and household safe.