Outdoor heating oil tanks face a number of challenges that indoor heating oil tanks do not. Exterior temperature changes and moisture can affect the stability and functionality of the tank, leading to premature degradation of the metal. Inspect your outdoor tank every fall before the start of the heating season. This will help you to catch problems before they become urgent and will ensure that your tank continues to perform throughout the winter.
Inspect the Tank Legs
Bend down and look carefully at all four legs of the tank. The legs and supporting brackets should be unbent and firmly attached to the tank with no signs of rust or degradation, and all four legs should be firmly planted on the concrete platform beneath the tank. Lean against the tank and try to move it or cause it to wobble. The tank should be unmovable. If the tank does move, this is a sign of structural instability that could originate with the tank legs or with the concrete below. Check the concrete for signs of spalling, crumbling or cracking. This condition can only get worse. Remember, a full 275 gallon tank can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds when full of oil, and thus relies on the strength of the concrete and its legs to remain stable and upright.
If the legs are rusted and bent, this is likely a problem originating with moisture around the tank. Overhanging eaves and even trees can drip moisture onto the tank from above, causing the metal legs to degrade prematurely. To solve this problem, construct a shelter above the tank and then have your heating oil contractor inspect the legs to ensure the tank itself is still safe to use. If the concrete beneath the tank is crumbling, contact a concrete contractor to inspect the platform and make recommendations for repair.
Inspect the Tank Itself
Look for rust patches on the exterior of the tank. Patches that appear in the middle of the tank can be an indication that the tank is rusting from the inside out. This can happen because of moisture and condensation inside the tank as a result of exterior temperature fluctuations. To prevent further damage, talk to your HVAC contractor about putting additives in the oil that can protect against water inside the tank.
Look for Signs of an Oil Leak
An oil leak beneath your tank will look like a permanent wet spot on the concrete. Look underneath the tank for a wet blotch that never dries. If your tank is leaking oil, this must be repaired immediately. Lost oil costs money and also creates and environmental hazard. Contact your heating oil company to come take a look at your tank and make recommendations for repair.
For more information about safety when using heating oil, contact a company like Olympic Energy LLC.