Home heating oil is one of the more reliable and efficient methods on the market for keeping your inside temperature comfortable. It's also one of the more controversial and understandably so. Like nuclear power used for commercial energy purposes, home heating oil tanks are potential ticking bombs that are almost entirely benign if the right installations are made and the right precautions taken. The controversy stems from the fact that when residential oil tanks do fail, they cause all kinds of environmental problems. The fact that the limited supply of crude oil is always in the news doesn't help the perception of heating your home with oil, either. Still, for many homes, (especially ones that are already heating with oil) this heating fuel makes the most sense.
Home Heating Oil Tanks
Notorious for their leaks, home heating oil tanks have gotten a lot of flak over the years (some of it justified, some of it not). Older tanks made from steel are susceptible to rusting and catastrophic failure. The problem is, these tanks rust from the inside out; you may have little or no warning that your tank is about to fail. A qualified oil tank inspector can help determine if your tank is in danger of failing. If a tank does fail, it can be an absolute disaster, and clean-up costs can sometimes exceed the value of the property itself. Worse, if you haven't read the fine print on your homeowner's insurance, it's entirely possible the insurance company has written a disclaimer for pollution coverage, making it your responsibility to clean up the mess.
That said, newer tanks have heavier gauge steel, fiberglass, or double polyethylene walls that reduce or eliminate this rust problem and risk of tank failure. If you have an older steel tank, you should review your homeowner's policy (possibly with a lawyer) and have your tank inspected on a regular basis. In some places, you may be legally required to have this inspection at certain intervals. Improper maintenance, damp locations, or structural damage will almost certainly reduce the life expectancy of your tank.
Home Heating Oil Tank Removal
Depending on the laws where you live, you may be able to do this yourself or you may need to hire a licensed professional. Proper removal includes having the tank and piping safely pumped, cleaned, and excavated to a salvage yard or landfill. After the removal is complete you must then have a site assessment performed to determine that the tank has been properly removed and no dangerous materials have been left behind. Underground tanks may be filled with an inert material and sealed, but this isn't generally recommended unless removing the tank would compromise the stability of a nearby building.
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Home Heating Oil Prices
First, it's important to dispel any notions that home heating oil is not a cost-effective method to heat your home. For many years now, home heating oil has been the cheapest fuel to heat homes, outperforming natural gas, electricity, and propane. Of course, you may already know this, and the real question becomes what will home heating oil prices be in the future. We're not going to pretend to be Nostradamus and tell you what home heating oil prices are going to be two, five, or ten years from now. We can tell you, however, that the price of all heating fuels are rising, and will most likely continue to rise. Oil probably won't suddenly become drastically more expensive than other fuels. You probably don't need to scrap your home heating oil tank just yet. If you do feel the time is right to start planning for the future (never a bad idea, right?), the best idea is to go green and install home solar panels rather than hang your hat on a different conventional fuel.