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Water In My Heating Oil Tank!

heating oil tank

It’s that time of year already; an extra blanket on your bed, getting up earlier to defrost your car before work, and damp leaves getting walked in to your house from your garden.

It’s also the time of year when we start to hear about people getting water in their heating oil tanks. Has this ever happened to you? Is it a big deal, and would you know what to do should this happen? Well, don’t panic! Read our blog to find out all you need to know…

How Could Water Get In To My Oil Tank?

Newer tanks usually have two lids and a ‘bund’ overflow area for an extra level of protection, but there’s still a chance water could get inside. You may have realised that you accidentally left the top off when checking the oil level, or didn’t fasten it properly, and it’s since rained! Other less obvious reasons are condensation, faulty seals, damaged vents or cracks and splits in the tank.

How Do I Know If I’ve Got Water In My Oil Tank?

Annoyingly, if water does get in to your oil tank, it’ll sink to the bottom so it’s not visible; so you may not realise until your boiler starts to misbehave.

To find out if this is the case, you can buy ‘water finding paste’. Simply add this paste to the end of a long, clean stick and lower this in to your tank until it touches the very bottom, leaving it submerged for a few minutes. The water finding paste will change colour if it detects any hidden water.

How Do I Remove Water From My Oil Tank?

Just as you would if you accidentally put the wrong fuel in your car; if you get water in your oil tank, it’s important to get it out as soon as you possible, to reduce the chance of it doing any damage. The way that you do this will depend on the type of tank you have.

If you have a metal oil tank, you’ll hopefully have a ‘sludge valve’ which you can open to let out the water, however if your tank is a modern plastic one, you’ll need to get it pumped out by an OFTEC registered engineer.

Nowadays you also have the option of a removal sponge, which is a weighted sponge that sits in the bottom of your tank to absorb and remove any water, but this needs monitoring regularly, changing and disposing of properly. Another option is a heating oil water trap, which removes any water further along the line before it gets to your boiler. We don’t sell these, but they can be found on the internet.

We would always suggest preventing the need for these in the first please though; if your tank is letting water in, it’s better to fix the problem so it doesn’t continue to happen. This may mean a new tank, but in the long-run this will be a lot better for your bank balance, safety and piece of mind.

Will Having Water In My Oil Break My Boiler Or Cooker?

Once you’ve separated the water from your heating oil, the oil in your tank should now be fine; however you may want to get a central heating service engineer to double-check before starting to use it again - they may decide to flush the boiler pipe feed and/or change the oil filter.

Remember that the drained liquid will be a mix of both water and oil, so must be disposed of properly at your local authority waste disposal site.

I Need More Help!

Oil tanks have an expected working life of around 20 years, so any that are older than that are more likely to experience issues. Your oil tank should be inspected annually. If you still have questions about water in your heating oil tank, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help as much as possible.

If it’s something we don’t know or can’t help with, we’ll always advise you to get in touch with your local OFTEC registered technician. To reduce the chances of something going wrong with your heating oil tank, especially this time of year, why not read our Protecting Your Heating Oil blog.


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