Last winter, police in East Anglia alerted homeowners and businesses to a significant rise in the number of heating oil thefts across the region. Some reports suggested that thefts had more than doubled over the previous 12 months.
It was a trend that clearly mirrored the rise in crude oil prices: as crude oil became ever more expensive, so heating oil was becoming increasingly valuable. This made it a target for thieves.
Unfortunately, oil prices have continued to rise and with it the threat of thefts has risen still further.
Homeowners, who were already concerned about higher monthly heating bills now have to cope with the even greater worry of the loss of all their heating oil.
Unfortunately, the problems caused by theft are exacerbated by the fact that many occur at night. By the time the theft is discovered, not only have several thousand pounds’ worth of oil been taken, but much of the remaining oil from the damaged tank has leaked out causing extensive environmental damage and leading to an expensive clean-up operation. Sadly, the property owner can be liable for the costs of any oil spill or leak, which may not be covered in their property insurance.
But homeowners concerns haven’t been confined to security and rising costs. We also know of another problem; delivery drivers unexpectedly refusing to fill oil tanks and turning away, because the tanks were incorrectly or poorly sited.
So, with all this in mind, what can you do to manage your bills and costs, as well as help your family stay safe and warm this winter?
Firstly, get your oil tank checked by an OFTEC registered plumber or installer to advise if the tank is fit for purpose, or needs a service. Regular maintenance and servicing of the oil tank and oil boiler will ensure their efficient working, lower bills and prolong the life of the heating system.
They can also advise if your tank is still in warranty. If it is more than 10 years old, its warranty will have expired and if there is a leak or spill, you, the property owner will be liable for clean-up costs. Unfortunately, as I’ve already indicated, not all property insurance covers such an incident – plus of course, there is the added expense of buying and installing a new oil tank.
We always recommend storing oil in a bunded tank which is essentially a double-walled tank or a ‘tank within a tank’. As well as protecting against spills and leaks, double-skinned tanks can make it harder for thieves to access the oil than, say, a single skin or steel tank. Also, if your tank is punctured, then at least some of the oil will collect within the bund, limiting the amount that leaks out, and reducing the resulting clean up.
An oil level monitor and tank alarm is an additional wise investment, particularly in the current climate. If you take a Watchman Alarm as an example, a transmitter on top of the tank uses ultrasonic level techniques to measure, continually, the level of oil. The can be viewed through a receiver which is plugged into an electric wall socket within the home. In the event of the oil level dropping at a rate that is not typical for a domestic oil tank the receiver will emit a siren-type sound that indicates either a leak or theft, is occurring. Labelling the tank as ‘alarmed’ should act as a further deterrent, however, we don’t recommend fitting any other locking devices to our tanks as this invalidates our oil tank warranty.
Additional security measures might include installing a sensory light close to the oil tank, enclosing the tank in a trellis, or laying gravel around the base.
In terms of safe siting, an oil tank should be installed directly on a flat, level, secure and non-combustible base extending 300mm on all sides. Paving flag stones are an ideal suitable base. It must not be propped up in any way – say, on support blocks under tank legs. Again, your OFTEC plumber or installer should be able to advise you further.
For more information, email email@example.com, tel. 028 3836 4411, or visit our website, www.sensor-systems.com