An oil tank has to be a minimum of 1.8 metres away from any part of a building or construction that isn’t fire resistant, such as doors, windows, eves, fences and cladding.
Oil storage tank installations need to comply with regional Building Regulations. In England and Wales, OFTEC registered technicians can self-certify their own work without involving Local Authority Building Control. If you choose to use someone who isn’t registered with a ‘Competent Person’ scheme like OFTEC, then you will have to obtain a Building Control Notice.
Under oil tank building regulations for England and Wales, if the oil storage tank’s capacity is:
Over 2500 litres – it must have secondary containment (bunding).
Up to 2500 litres – it may need secondary containment (bunding) depending on the outcome of an individual site pollution risk assessment.
However, oil tanks with less than 2500 litre capacity must be bunded if the tank is:
Condensation and leaks can occur in most Heating Oil tanks, allowing water to collect and build up over time. The presence of water can contaminate your fuel which can lead to a central heating boiler, or aga, failure. Your annual boiler service should include a tank inspection with a water dip made. If water is found your engineer will be able to remove the water, using something like a Tank Sponge which contains super absorbent polymers that remove water from the tank.
OFTEC suggest a typical oil tank can have an expected working life of twenty years. This can increase with good maintenance, but might decrease with neglect.
Avoid running out of heating oil, causing costly damage to your boiler, and the need for an emergency delivery.
Set a regular day to check
However you choose to monitor your heating oil, it is a good idea to set a regular day to check your tank's oil level.
Whether you have a fuel gauge or not, popping a reminder in your phone or marking a specific day on your calendar can make all the difference and gets you into a routine.
And please do remember to check that your gauge is in working order. If it hasn't moved in a month and you know you've been using your heating there's a good chance it's not recording the level correctly.
Get to know your fuel oil tank
It may sound obvious but it’s helpful to know your starting point. If you’re unsure of the size of your tank and its capacity you should find a label on the tank that tells you. On more recent tanks, it may be on the front or side.
To measure, some tanks have simple float gauges or sight level tubes that allow you to keep an eye on your oil level. Make sure you turn the sight gauge lever when you check the level. It should be left in the off position to minimise the chance of leaks.
When your gauge indicates that the tank is still about one quarter full, it is a wise time to order. The winter months are the busiest time for fuel oil companies so ordering in plenty of time will avoid leaving it too late.
If you have a digital monitor
If your tank has a digital monitor that plugs into an electric socket inside the house, such as an Apollo or Watchman, ordering when the digit reaches 1 or 2 (1 or 2 bars) is usually the ideal time.
Most systems are designed to flash at either Level 1 or Level 2. When the monitor first starts flashing at these levels, there’s no need to panic or turn off your heating as you have oil left in the tank - the flashing is merely a visible reminder to place your order.
A correctly set up tank should never have the sensors placed on the bottom of the tank so even when the monitor registers zero or zero bars there will still be approximately 10% of fuel left in the tank.
Can't beat a dipstick
If your tank has no gauging system, or you want to double-check the accuracy of your gauge, the best and most basic method is to measure and monitor how much oil you have with a dipstick by dipping the tank.
To avoid contamination, make sure you use a clean dipstick and that it is used solely for your oil tank.
To measure your tank manually Mister C says; take the cap off the top of the tank, which is where the fuel goes in, and put the dipstick right down to the bottom of the tank. When the stick is withdrawn, the oil will leave a mark on the stick consistent with the level of oil. When your tank level gets down to around the last 12 inches (approx. 30cm), we recommend it’s time to order your fuel.
A Watchman is an automated oil monitoring device which is fitted in your home heating oil tank and sends a radio signal to a digital readout in your house. It allows you to easily monitor the oil levels in your tank and prevent run outs. Watchmans have replaced sight tubes on many domestic heating oil tanks over the last few years.
If the receiver detects a low battery a warning message is displayed on the unit in the home. It shows the oil level in the tank plus a constantly flashing warning triangle.
The lithium battery fitted to your Watchman will have a long service life, but it will eventually become exhausted and will need replacing. The battery model required is: VARTA CR2430, and they are available locally from good photographic shops or chemists or can be purchased online.
How to replace a watchman battery
Other possible Watchman error messages:
F = Full
Red Light Flashing with no level = No Signal
Red Flashing Light = Tank is low on fuel
Fluid Level Low & “BAT LOW” = New power tube needed
C = Connection fault replacement needed
Further information can be found here. Watchman Ultrasonic Installation Instructions