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Preventing Home Heating Oil Leaks

A leak in your home heating system can cost you more than the price of the oil spilled. A typical heating oil tank holds 275 gallons of #2 heating fuel. If a leak occurs in the delivery line, (the line which runs from the tank to the furnace), it can contaminate the soil around or beneath your home, and the environmental impact can be worse than visible mess.

In older home, many times the delivery line is buried in soil, or run through the concrete floor or foundation of the home. Since the lines are made of metal, they can corrode or crack, or in cases where the ground or concrete is disturbed, the line can easily be snapped in two. At times the leak will be immediately apparent, either by the odor of heating oil or the fact that the tank runs empty sooner than expected. Smaller leaks can occur which slowly drain oil into the soil or into ground water beneath the home. These leaks can go undected for weeks, months or years.

Metal oil delivery lines in new home heating systems are now required by code to be encased in a non-metalic sleeve, (plastic, pvc or other), to prevent corrosion and leaks. This is required for oil heating delivery lines in newly constructed homes and when replacing older lines in existing homes.

There are several types of valves and devices which can be installed to prevent or detect leaks. Installing one can save you the cost of the leaked / spilled oil, and a much higher costs of clean-up if you need to excavate and remove contaminated soil, dig up foundations or floors, or otherwise clean up after a larger spill.

When you have your next oil-burner tune-up or cleaning, ask you oil dealer / service person to inspect the tank, valves, delivery line and any filters or couplings between the tank and furnace. The cost to replace or fix the line, or install an automatic shut-off valve for the delivery line will give you peace of mind and insure you do not have a much more expensive problem to fix in the future.

Note: Any leak or spill of (10) gallons or more of #2 Home Heating Fuel Oil Must be reported to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP), within two hours. You can contact DEP on their 24 hour, toll free, emergency phone line at 888-304-1133.

homeowners, contractors, builders, heating oil service companies and others can get more information about spill cleanups from the MA State Government website.

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