But oil is still used for home heating in some regions. For example, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, 42% of homes in Atlantic Canada have an oil tank.
If an oil tank leaks or has a spill, it can become an environmental disaster. One litre of leaked oil can contaminate one million litres of water. On average, an oil leak cleanup can cost up to $500,000 or more. What’s worse, as the homeowner with the oil tank, you could be responsible for all costs associated with the leak and cleanup.
Preventing a heating oil disaster
Fifty percent of oil tank spills in the Atlantic region between 2008 and 2011 were the result of corrosion of the tank or lines. Homeowners who prefer to use oil for heating must play a role in preventing leaks and spills.
Buying a heating oil tank
- Never, ever buy a used tank
- Make sure the tank is certified by the Standards Council of Canada or the Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada
- Make sure it has metal pipe connections
- Look for an oil tank that automatically prevents the accumulation of water by allowing condensation to be drawn off with oil entering the furnace
Installing a heating oil tank
- Never transfer oil from a used oil tank to a new one
- Install your tank at least 15 metres or 50 feet from a well
- Place it on a non-combustible base such as a concrete slab
- Make sure it can be easily inspected
- Keep it away from a wall to prevent rusting
Maintaining your oil tank
- Inspect it regularly for signs of corrosion and rust
- To be extra confident, ask your oil distributor to give it an inspection as well
- Make sure tank lines are out of the way of foot traffic
- Keep the tank, lines and connections clear of snow and ice
Insuring a heating oil tank
Your homeowner’s policy covers your heating system – to a degree. You may or may not be covered for oil heating or the problems that may result because of it. Ask your insurer these questions:
- Do I have coverage for oil heating?
- Am I covered for oil spills if my tank leaks in my house or outside?
- Does my oil spill policy have a pay-out limit?
- Does my policy cover any damage to my own home?
- Am I covered if oil leaks onto my neighbour’s yard?
- What replacement requirements are there on the various types of tanks (i.e. corrosive versus non-corrosive)?
- You can expect that with oil heating your home insurance premiums will be higher .
If you prefer to heat your home with oil, be aware that you are taking on a high degree of risk. Responsible placement and maintenance will keep the oil safely in the tank and protect the environment. Should a disaster happen, the right insurance policy will help you make things right.