How Long Do Heating Oil Tanks Last?

Written on: August 21, 2023

How to Spot and Prevent Oil Tank Problems—and Know When It’s Time to Replace Yours

oil tank Cold Spring, ny When was the last time you thought about your oil tank? Except when you need to fill it, it probably doesn’t even cross your mind. And that’s fine: heating oil tanks are built to last a long time. But eventually, they need do to be replaced.

So what kind of lifespan can you expect from your oil tank? The honest answer is “it depends.” There are several things that can influence how long your oil tank will last: Age, maintenance and construction are the main factors. The good news is that modern heating oil storage tanks have come a long way, and a new tank will provide decades or virtually leak-proof performance compared to older types.

Wondering if it’s time to replace your heating oil tank? Here’s what you need to consider:

Age If your tank is less than 15 years old, you’re probably ok for a few more years. If you don’t know when it was installed, and your home was built before 2000, it’s probably time.

Construction What is your oil tank made of? Older tanks are made of steel and can be of single- or double-walled construction. In addition, the steel can be different gauges or thicknesses. Thicker, double walls are better. Also, the location of the connector valve can make a difference. Connectors at the bottom of the tank (instead of the side) last longer. Newer tanks are made from plastic and fiberglass and are designed to last 50 years or more.

Steel tanks are still available today, but they are built to a much higher standard than in the past. Using alternative construction materials such as fiberglass and polyethylene for the inner lining of double-walled tanks make them virtually leak-proof.

Maintenance If you leave your tank empty over the summer, condensation can build up inside. That can lead to rust. Sediment at the bottom of the tank can also result in corrosion. All that damage happens from the inside out, so if you see rust or seepage on the outside of your tank, you need to act fast to avoid a costly leak and spill. Consider having a professional inspection every year.

Avoiding Oil Tank Leaks: 3 Signs You Should Not Ignore

Replacing an old oil tank is a lot less expensive than dealing with a leak or, worse yet, a spill. Ideally, you should replace your tank before it starts leaking. Here are the telltale signs that your heating oil tank is leaking—or could start soon.

  1. Damp Spots: The first sign your oil tank is leaking is a damp spot on the tank. Usually, they will appear on the underside of your tank or along the seam at the bottom of the tank. As the leak gets worse, oil will travel up the side of the tank.
  2. Sticky Drips: If the leak goes undetected, black icicle-like deposits or sticky drips will form on the underside of the tank. You may or may not notice an oil smell.
  3. Floor Stains: Reddish black spots will appear on the floor underneath the area. Depending on how long the leak goes undetected, an oil stain will begin to develop on the floor.

The bottom line is that a new heating oil tank costs far less than the expense of an oil spill or cleanup. With more than a century of experience, the pros at Downey can help you choose the right size and help with installation and removal of your old tank, too. If you think it’s time to replace the tank in your Hudson Valley home, contact us today.