Thinking Tanks – domestic oil tank installation and regulations

Thinking Tanks – domestic oil tank installation and regulations

Whether, as a user of oil fired central heating, you’re thinking of getting a domestic heating oil tank for the first time or replacing an existing one, you need to know all the dos and don’ts of where it needs to be placed, how it needs to be installed and how to look after it for years of trouble-free service. In this blog we take a closer look at the rules and regulations for domestic central heating oil tank installation, as well as some handy information about keeping your tank in tip-top condition.

Let’s talk tanks:

These days there are lots of different types of fuel tanks to choose from. Available in all shapes and sizes, you’ll need the right one for your home and the amount of domestic heating oil you’ll be using. You don’t want a tank that’s too small for your average usage as it’ll constantly need refilling. On the other hand, one that’s too big will be costly to fill and, in the case of home heating oil, you don’t want your fuel sitting in a tank for too long as it lasts for between 18 to 24 months.

If you’re having a central heating oil tank installed, you can choose from plastic or steel to suit your individual requirements. We would always recommend you choose a tank that has been manufactured to OFTEC Standards. If you’re replacing your heating oil tank, your new tank may need to be bunded to comply with local and national tank regulations and to offer more environmental protection by helping to prevent spills which can cause pollution. A bunded heating oil tank is essentially a tank within a tank as it has a secondary containment either built into it or around it.

A bunded tank is required in domestic situations if:

  • You are storing over 2,500 litres
  • Your tank is near an open drain or loose fitting manhole, or located within 50 meters of a borehole, spring or well
  • Your tank is within 10 meters of controlled water such as a river, stream etc.
  • Your tank is located where any spillage could travel over hard ground to reach controlled water
  • Your tank vent is not visible from the fill point

One big decision when choosing a new heating oil tank is whether you want one that goes above-ground or below it if you want your tank out of sight. If you’re going for an underground option, which can be ideal for small gardens or sensitive landscapes, you need a tank that’s been specifically made to be partially or wholly buried. They’re specially designed to withstand the stresses and strains put on the tank when it’s empty. Underground heating oil tanks need to be encased in concrete and be at least two metres from parking areas or moving vehicles. All this can make them a more expensive option.

Where to put your tank?

It’s important to choose the right spot on your land for your heating oil tank installation. Not just for aesthetic reasons, but more importantly for safety ones.

First, you’re going to need access to your tank. Not just for you, but also your delivery driver. After all, they’re going to have to keep filling it up, so need to be able to get to it easily and safely. They’ll also regularly check it’s OK for you.

With this in mind, your tank needs to have plenty of room around it so the driver has somewhere to stand when delivering your heating oil or inspecting your central heating oil tank. The tank also can’t be too far away from where the driver is going to park his delivery truck. His wagon will have a hose about 45 metres (150ft) long, so it’ll only go so far and remember it might have to go around corners. Also, the driver can’t go climbing over obstacles or through hedges. They won’t clamber through an obstacle course to get to your tank.

If you’re having an above-ground tank it can only be placed in a building if it is fully enclosed by a 60-minute fire rated chamber. Tanks must also be well ventilated and not surrounded by a wall or solid face on any two sides. There are specific rules as to where to place a tank which are there for fire safety reasons. Not that tanks start fires – this is highly unlikely – but to protect them if a fire starts somewhere else.

The rules governing safe distances (knows as the separation distance) from an oil tank are as follows:

  • 8m from non-fire rated eaves of a building
  • 8m from a non-fire rated building or structure e.g. garden shed
  • 8m away from openings like doors or windows in a fire rated building or structure e.g. brick-built house/garage
  • 8m away from liquid fuel appliance flue terminals
  • 760mm away from a non-fire rated boundaries like a wooden boundary fence
  • 600mm away from screening such as a trellis or foliage that does not form part of the boundary

If any of the above distances can’t be met, then a fire protection barrier must be used that is at least 300mm from the tank (unless a greater distance is specified by the manufacturer).

If you’re replacing a tank, it’s worth checking that there have been no modifications to the property since the original one was installed. For example, is there now an extension, shed or fence near it? Have shrubs and trees grown around it? 

Oil tank installation done right:

When it is time for your heating oil tank installation, you need a qualified expert to do it. We would always recommend it is installed by an OFTEC registered oil heating engineer who would conduct a risk assessment and advise accordingly. They’ll ensure that all relevant rules and regulations are met and that your new domestic heating oil tank is properly fitted for years of trouble-free use.

One thing to keep in mind is that building regulations state that a kerosene heating oil tank must be placed on a stable level base extending at least 300mm from the widest point of the tank. This is to stop the spread of fire from your tank to nearby buildings or greenery.  This base needs to be adequate for the weight of the tank and its contents, and be made from 100mm thick concrete slabs or (at least) 50mm thick closely butted paving slabs. Both need to be on a sound foundation no matter what the weather.

On some occasions, such as when the fuel supplies a range cooker, an oil tank needs to be lifted off the ground. If this is the case, the tank needs to be safely supported following the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, if it’s a plastic tank, it’ll need to be supported across its base.

As well as giving thought to the oil tank installation, it’s also worth considering the removal of your old tank and any redundant pipework. Anything no longer needed should be properly decommissioned and disabled, as well as properly marked. It’s always best to get an old tank and pipework removed as soon as possible by an expert. And, if for some reason, it can’t be taken away, then your old tank and pipework needs to be capped just in case someone tries to use it by mistake.

Also, check with your insurance company that your new tank is covered as part of your policy. Always best to be on the safe side! Don’t forget to make sure that you’re covered for spills and leaks as well as theft. If you’re having a tank fitted for the first time, this could put your premiums up.

Looking after your tank:

So, you’ve got your new tank and it’s up and running. You can sit back and forget all about it, right? Well, not quite. You’ll need to check it from time to time as its your responsibility to maintain it.

One of the things to look out for is good old Mother Nature. You don’t want anything growing close or over your tank that can obstruct it, or worse still - spread fire to it. This means removing weeds and keeping grass nicely mowed around it. And if you decide to get rid of weeds with a weedkiller, don’t use one that is chlorate-based as this makes it easier for them to catch fire.

Also, make sure there is no rubbish near your tank. Again it can be a fire risk. So, make sure nothing gets left near it.

Never forget that your tank has flammable fuel in it, so don’t use anything electrical near it. And absolutely no bonfires or BBQs nearby! Oh, and no smoking next to it. These all seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget, especially when you’ve had your tank a few years and just take it for granted.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that your tank is secure. There are more cases of fuel theft each year. So, lock any gates leading to your tank, put a fence around it, making sure it doesn’t block ventilation, and always lock your tank valve cover. You can also keep an eye on your tank using our OilFox smart app. This warns you if your heating oil level suddenly drops due to a leak or theft.

Your tank will need a yearly inspection by someone competent who knows the problem signs. This is to check it’s in full working order and there’s nothing to worry about such as cracks or splits, rust, bulging, faulty gauges, base subsidence or a strong fuel smell. Also the valves and oil filters need checking. Normally, if you don’t spot a problem, then your delivery driver will, as they know what to look out for.

It’s recommended to also check your tank after extremes of weather. Really hot or cold spells can put tanks under stress. When there is lots of rain, be aware there could be water in your oil tank.

If for any reason your hating oil tank does become a hazard, your fuel supplier will advise you and refuse to deliver any more fuel until it is made safe. Don’t worry, this only happens in extreme cases.

Here to help:

A well-maintained heating oil tank should give you approximately 20 years of trouble-free service. But the first step is to decide which kind of tank (and fuel) you want, where’s the best place to site it and make sure it’s installed properly. Here at Northern Energy, we’re here to help at every stage. So whether you’re looking at a new oil tank installation or replacing your old one, we can take care of everything. And with our new Flexi Saver Plan, payments have never been easier! Leaving you to relax, safe in the knowledge that you’re in professional and highly experienced hands.