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Kevin Rooney
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Important Safety Information for Making Changes to Heating Oil Tanks

, August 6, 2013 When heating oil customers choose to replace, relocate, or remove their heating oil tanks, the work must be done properly and completely to avoid problems ranging from a minor inconvenience to serious safety issues. Discontinuing the use of a heating oil tank, whether from a tank replacement or switching to an alternate fuel, poses some significant issues that homeowners need to consider before beginning their project.

There are significant costs associated with replacing, relocating, or removing a tank– and it’s important to avoid adding even more unexpected costs if the job is not done according to best industry practices and state or local regulatory requirements. Too often, consumers make quick decisions to have a project done by unreliable or unlicensed contractors – which can lead to even more expenses after the contractor leaves, and can also cause major safety issues.

If a homeowner has done his or her research, and decided to hire a licensed and reliable contractor for any of the projects listed above, the Energy Communications Council provides the following information to help keep home owners safe before, during and after this process:

1. In many areas, a change in equipment generally requires a building, plumbing or heating system work-permit from a local jurisdiction. These permits help to make sure that the job is done according to code and to ensure your safety. In many areas, the homeowner is responsible to obtain the permit but most reliable contractors will do it for them. It is important for all homeowners to ask if a work-permit and/or subsequent inspection is required.

2. If replacing or removing your heating oil tank, first use as much of the fuel as possible, and then make arrangements to have the remainder drained and disposed of by a licensed professional. In some jurisdictions, there are procedures for leaving a tank in the ground by removing the oil and then filling it with an inert substance – such as sand, concrete or foam. However, full removal is always the preferred option. Be sure to consult with your contractor about this process and the associated costs BEFORE starting any project.

3. Customers should always contact their heating oil dealer prior to beginning any project that affects the heating oil tank (even if the project may end a customer’s business relationship with a dealer) to make arrangements to modify or curtail deliveries.

4. If the tank is removed, it is critical that the oil fill and vent pipes are removed or otherwise permanently disabled. If the tank will remain in place and no longer be used, or is only being removed temporarily, then the vent pipe must remain in place, but the fill pipe must either be removed or sealed. This is required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 31) or local regulations, and is often required by the building permit. It has become an issue, however, as not all contractors are doing this. Failure to take this step could result in an accidental release of petroleum directly into the house or the surrounding property.

5. To avoid safety risks such as carbon monoxide poisoning, it is essential that an assessment of the chimney condition also occurs BEFORE considering an alternate fuel. The chimney used for oilheating may not work correctly with other fuels. In most cases, the chimney will either need to be relined or directly vented through the wall of the house. This is a considerable cost which homeowners must fully understand before initiating any type of heating system replacement.

If customers have any questions before, during or after a project, they can always call their heating oil dealer.
The ECC is comprised of the Delaware Valley Fuel Dealers’ Association, the Empire State Petroleum Association, the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island, and the New York Oil Heating Association, Inc. It is funded in part by the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA).

National Oilheat Research Alliance ECC is funded in part through the National Oilheat Research Alliance.