I have home heating oil tank (in the basement) that is original to a
home built in the 50's. Is there a rule of thumb as to when to replace
them? I also wonder if when tanks fail do they usually develop small
leaks or do they "split" open and release a tank of oil all at once?
Thank you for any advice!
More likely it will develop pinholing along the bottom
since that's where the sludge and water accumulate.
A good backup is a long plastic tray (mud mixing)
under the tank.
If your home insurer does inspections or asks for
documentation, that may force a replacement.
OTOH, it might last another 50 yrs...
At 50 years, if it were mine, I'd replace it now, as it's well past
the safe lifespan of 30 or so years for an indoor tank. And if you
do it now, it won't be an emergency and you can shop around. I doubt
it will fail with a sudden massive leak though. I'd expect more of a
slow drip, but even that can make quite a mess if you don't catch it
I replaced a 40 year old tank a few years ago. It had developed a few
small pinholes along the bottom, and at the bottom of the seam on the
side of the tank. It was just losing a few drops of oil a week.
I showed it to my oil guy when he was in for the annual summer tune-up.
He said it would get progressively worse, but was very unlikely to
rupture catastrophically. He suggested replacing it in the "next year
or so" time frame. I replaced it a couple of months later.
Shine a bright light under the tank and look for what appear to be
"threads" running from the bottom of the tank to the floor. Those will
be the beginnings of leaks. They almosty look like some sort of spider
web at first glance. Whne you se those, it's time to start getting
quotes on tank replacement.
I would continue to keep it under observation and keep using it for
a few more years. By then, there may be another type of heating
system that will be much more efficient.
Meanwhile, keep it clean on the outside surface and keep a couple of
packages of gas tank epoxy putty handy. ( QuikSteel ) With that
stuff, you can repair a major leak in seconds and the repair will last
In some areas, home insurers have become very interested in the age of
domestic fuel oil tanks. I was forced to replace mine based on the
fact that the date of manufacture was unknown. This even though the
tank wasn't leaking, had a UL tag, and showed no signs of corrosion
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