On the way home from dinner with friends tonight, I heard on the radio
(KYW in Philadelphia) that an heating oil company accidentally delivered
heating oil to a home that had converted from oil to gas heating. As a
result, the oil flooded the basement of this home. The home's occupants
were not there at the time. The news story said another company made the
same mistake a few weeks ago.
This got me wondering about something. I might be wrong, but I seem to
remember that when my parents converted their oil heating to gas, they
had the plumber weld the gas pipe shut on the outside end so no one
could take the cap off and make the same mistake. My parents were also
concerned that pranksters could not pour anything down the pipe into the
basement. This took the plumber only a few minutes to do and I assumed
everyone who got rid of oil heating did the same thing, but apparently
not. My parents' gas heater conversion was done by a close family friend
so maybe their got special treatment, but I am curious why all people do
not have the cap welded shut on their oil pipe or just remove the pipe
It Happened Again WPVI-TV
Oil Delivered To Wrong House KYW
Another similar story, from central/north New Jersey
Thanks to a flood of oil, family won't be 'home for holidays' Newark
My neighbors had oil delivered to them even though they have gas heat.
Apparently the Chestnut Street gang had written Chestnut Street on the side
of a house on our street. The oil delivery man assumed he was on Chestnut,
I thought it was good for a (sad) laugh.
Oil in a basement would make a house uninhabitlble for perhaps months of
repeated cleanings. I saw a 100 ft yacht on vacation the dock worker
pumped the diesel in the water tanks. Their vacation was terminated. I
dought cleaning would ever cure it and big water tanks dont come out
The oil delivery guy was an ignoramus who should have lost his job
When he didn't hear a whistling overfill alarm signal within a couple of
seconds after opening the hose nozzle he should have known something was
wrong and slammed the nozzle closed.
IMO the oil company is liable and to a lesser degree the jerks who
dragged off the old fuel oil tank without removing or at least capping
off the fillpipe on the inside of the house.
(In earlier days I happen to have spent a dozen years as CE of The
Scully Signal Company which developed the "Ventalarm" whistling fuel oil
tank fill signal in the 30s and still making them today.)
A somewhat reverse situation happened to a $1 mil plus house near me two
winters ago. The owners had put it on the market and moved to a home in
the next state. In order to make it salable per local codes they had to
remove its underground 1000 gallon fuel oil tank, which they replaced
with an above ground 275 gallon tank behind the house. The contractor
who did the work for them (It was not their oil company.) partially
filled the new "275" with some of oil from the 1000 gallon tank they
No one thought to inform the fuel oil company, which, thinking they
still had a 1000 gallon tank, and based on the date of that tank's last
fill and the degree days which had transpired, didn't make an
"automatic" delivery in time to keep the 275 gallon tank from running
dry. The heat went off, pipes froze and burst and water kept running
until it emerged outside the house where I happened to be the one who
noticed rivers of brown ice running down one of their garage doors from
somewhere inside the house.
I took on the unpleasant task of calling and breaking the the bad news
to the owners. The damage to the interior of their house was terrible to
My own thoughts about the smarts of a homeowner who'd leave a house
unoccupied during a New England winter without so much as a low
temperature remote alarm system or even simply turning off the house's
main water valve are best left unsaid.
Agreed, but in the absence of a whistling tank fill signal the only
acceptable alternative IMO is to be able to get to the tank and check
the available volume with the tank gage or by sticking the tank, before
starting to pump as much as one gallon into it.
Anything less is taking too big a chance, and my sympathies go to any
fuel oil delivery truck operators who are pushed by their bosses to fill
the customer's tank "regardless".
Way back when we didn't lust for so much material goods and have so much
of what we earned confiscated to fund welfare programs most wife's jobs
were maintaining a proper and nurturing environment for their children.
So, there was usually someone at home to receive an oil delivery.
Typically there were two guys with the tank truck, one to go down in the
basement and watch the tank level, and the other outside to handle the
hose and nozzle. When the tank was safely full the guy inside would bang
on the fillpipe with his wrench to signal the guy outside to stop filling.
The development of the whistling signal by Scully in the 30s made
"unattended delivery" by one operator possible, as access to the tank
was no longer required in order to make a safe fill. As you pointed out,
it is a marvelously simple and virtually fail-safe device.
Thanks for the mammaries, and Happy Holidays,
Sounds good but not realistic. Many people are not home and the tanks are in
the basement. which means the delivery guy cannot verify anything and you
typically can't stick an inside tank.
Also the idea of listening for the whistle will only minimize damage. Modern
oil delivery trucks can pump at 50 gallons or more a minute. So even a quick
"squirt" can put 25 gallons into a basement if someone were to remove a tank
and leave the fill intact.
Most of the blame rests with whoever did the gas install. Even if they
decided to leave the fill lines in place they could have removed the fill
cap and installed a $1.00, 2" black cap so no one could accidently fill.
True, but one of those reports said 100 gallons went in, and if the
delivery guy didn't hear a whistle in the first ten seconds he should
have closed the nozzle.
I think I'm inclined to lean in that direction and put more of the blame
on those gas installers than the delivery guy, because capping or
removing the fill line should be SOP.
But since the reports both said somebody screwed up the street number,
it looks like the oil company's gotta pay up. And I hope they cap off
that poor guy's fillpipe while they're at it. <G>
Think we've saucered and blown this one now?
I happened to sit next to a fuel oil dealer at my Rotary Club's lunch
meeting yesterday and asked him if tank overfill signals for "hidden"
tanks were required by code here in Taxachusetts. He replied that they
have been for as long as he can remember. He also said that the code
requires capping disconnected fillpipes.
I don't know nuttin about Jersey though...
Its the homeowners responsibility to take care of a capped tank.
The company that removed the unit should really be held liable for this
Oil company has nothing to do with the damage. Its an unfortunate
accident but thats it. Around here in NY is required to have the pipes
either capped or removed from the outside of the home.
Every once in awhile I still hear about overfilled oil tanks or worse, the
disconnected fill line. Seems to me like one answer would be to take a can
of that expanding foam "Great STuff" and pack that into the fill pipe. Would
keep oil from filling the cellar, and provide a very minimal insullation.
I'd guess that the gas installers took the pipe off with a sawzall, which
doesn't leave much threads to cap the indoor end.
Christopher A. Young
Keep Jesus Christ in CHRISTmas
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