So, you’re a first time homeowner and you’re doing all the things new homeowners have to do, right?
Trashcans – CHECK
Lawnmower – CHECK
Furnace filters – CHECK
Fill the oil tank… Wait, What? What oil tank?
You knew there was an old heating oil tank, right? RIGHT?
You would be surprised about the number of clients that call us who either were not aware they had an oil tank, didn’t know they had a buried oil tank that was no longer in use, or were not aware the tank had to be replaced even though they just moved into the house. But yep, happens all the time. First let’s go over a couple quick things before we get to the new homeowner’s guide to oil tanks. There are 2 types of home heating oil tanks:
- Underground – buried below the ground so tank not visible
- Aboveground – fully visible in the basement, outside or in garage
(Also, for the purpose of this article I’m going to assume you live in the great state of Maryland, as outside of Maryland this info may be different)
What kind of oil tank do I have?
Do you only see one or two pipes sticking out of the ground but you don’t know what they’re for? One of these pipes has a funny looking cap on it that looks like a mushroom? Yep, that’s a buried oil tank!
Or maybe you see the oil tank on the outside of the house? Maybe it’s in the garage? It’s a big metal thing about 5 ft long, maybe gray, red, black, green or white color? The end of it is shaped like an oval? And there is a small copper line coming off the bottom of it? Yep, that’s an aboveground tank! Or perhaps, is it in the basement and you see two pipes on the outside of the house sticking out through the basement wall? Is the tank visible in the basement? Or maybe it’s in a crawlspace, closet, or behind a wall? If you see two pipes sticking out of the wall on the outside and one of them has that mushroom looking cap on it, it is most likely you have (OR HAD!) an oil tank in the basement.
Next question – Are you still using this tank?
Hmm, how do I know if my oil tank is still being used?
Well – What type of heat do you have? Electric? Natural gas? Propane? Oil? If you do not know, then this will be in the home inspector’s report from when you bought the house Or, it will be in the listing information from when it was for sale.
Let’s say you figured out you have oil heat. Ok ppphew, now we got that. You also figured out the tank was buried… OH. Strike 1.
Wait, what just happened? Well, the problem is that if you just bought the house and you have an underground tank, it probably needs removed.
Why does my oil tank need to be removed?
Well, unless the seller provided proof that the tank was installed less than 20 years ago, the tank is past its useful life and needs to be removed. The lifespan of a tank is 20 years, and in Maryland if it is still buried, in our experience it is 30, 40 or 50+ years old.
Why am I the one responsible for the oil tank?
Well, you shouldn’t, but unfortunately you are stuck with it now. It’s not a matter of if the tank will leak, but when! Or. is it already leaking and how badly? But your realtor, if they had had prior experience with oil tanks, would have made the seller remove this and install a new aboveground before settlement. Or, the home inspector should have caught this, or your home insurance company, or mortgage company might have said something about having it removed prior to settlement. But if it gets by all of these people and they never told you to require the seller to remove the tank and you never asked about it, then, you, as the new owner, unfortunately, are stuck with paying to remove the tank and possible remediation of any contaminated soil. Then, you have to have a new tank installed.
We know you have questions. Now would be a good time to call us 410-439-1085 and we can help you through the whole process and explain everything to you, including the MD state fund to get your money back!
Now, let’s go back to the question about what type of tank you have. So, let’s say you determined you have an aboveground tank and it is located in the basement. You can see the tank is free standing in the unfinished part of the basement and it is a red color or a faded red color…
OHH STRIKE 2!!!
Yep, without even looking at the tank we can tell you this tank is over 20 years old and needs to be replaced (just based on this color of tank and we know they haven’t made this tank in over 20 years we know its too old to keep).
I don’t need to replace my oil tank. This guy is crazy. It looks just fine.
Well, you might be right…….… but our 28 years of experience tells us probably not. You see, aboveground tanks degrade from the inside out. Due to sludge and condensation settling and corroding the bottom of the tank. You cannot judge the condition of an aboveground tank by the exterior appearance. It will look just fine up until the moment it starts to leak. Once the tank starts to drip oil, what happens if you don’t go in the basement very much or are on vacation? You may not notice it until you start to smell it from the upstairs and by then it’s too late. The damage is done. And it is very hard to get rid of oil smell.
But what if the oil tank is a different color, or say, a previous owner painted it?
Then things are trickier. First you can call the oil company who you get oil from and ask them if they have records of how old the tank is. If they do not know, you can text us pictures of the tank and we may be able to tell based on that. Yes I said text pictures, you don’t have to take off work to meet us. Our pricing is standardized, and we work with a rapid-quote system. So you can text us pictures and we can get you a proposal right away. Instead of waiting days or weeks to coordinate schedules.
My oil tank is only partially buried.
One more thing before we wrap up. If the tank is outside the information above still applies. But, if the tank is in a small dirt crawlspace or perhaps even partially buried in the dirt in the crawlspace, then we can almost guarantee the tank is over 20 years old and the tank should be replaced.
None of this describes my situation.
So, what if your tank location doesn’t match any of these criteria? We have seen it all, so call GreenTRAX and we will help you. We have seen tanks
- buried under houses
- buried under garages
- installed under decks
- hidden behind finished drywall
- with block walls built around them
- hidden in vaults outside
- under concrete porches
- even in special rooms built for them when the house was initially built
So, if you have an oil tank, we have seen and done it all.
So, a few bullet points to remember:
- If you have a buried oil tank no longer in use it HAS to be removed or legally abandoned in place.
- If you have a buried oil tank still in use, it is probably older than 20 years and still needs removed and replaced.
- Heating oil is a great warm air heat source.
- When a new tank is installed you can expect 20 – 30 years or more of lifespan depending on which type of tank & warranty you get.
- You will NEVER be able to tell if the underground tank is leaking.
- You won’t know if the aboveground tank needs replaced until it’s too late, so ask GreenTRAX.
- There is not a whole lot of maintenance that needs to be done with an oil tank; most of it is related to the furnace or boiler service and the oil filter.
- If you have problems with the furnace sucking water or sludge from the tank, or the tank itself develops a bad/rusted through fill or vent pipe, or non-functioning whistle this is the tank telling you “I’m OLD. I need to be replaced” don’t throw good money after bad doing a Band-Aid fix.
- If you have a situation we did not cover here today or still have other questions, CALL US, we are here to help you. We can explain everything to you and will take care of the whole.
GreenTRAX, Inc. 410-439-1085