Fire Marshal on Residential Oil Tanks and Oil System Maintenance


The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection recommends that homeowners play an active role in ensuring that their oil system is properly maintained on an annual basis. They also give helpful tips on how to evaluate the health of their oil system.

Fire Marshal Paul Payne. Credit: Michael Dinan

Residential home heating oil tanks can be found:

  • In a home’s basement
  • Outside, above ground, near the house
  • Buried in close proximity to the house

Annual Service; service boiler, oil line and visual inspection of the tank. Indoor tanks rust from the inside out.

  • Insure oil lines have a protective sleeve 
  • Inspect tank legs for damage
  • Check for leaks at filters and valves, look for drips
  • Examine gauge for leaks and cracks
  • Check the condition of the oil tank. Look for blisters, wet spots, rust, dents, bulges or drips.
  • Excessive amounts of oil usage may indicate leak

Considerations for oil tank replacements:

  • Underground tanks made of unprotected steel have a life of approximately 15 years
  • Outside, above ground tanks have a life of approximately 25 years, depending upon conditions
  • Indoor tanks have a life of approximately 30 years

Record-keeping for Home Sales

Home buyers and banks frequently want assurances that underground tanks did not leak or that any leak has been cleaned up prior to closing. When you remove an underground oil tank hire a registered contractor. The contractor should remove the tank and collect soil samples to be delivered to a Connecticut certified laboratory where they will be analyzed for extractable petroleum hydrocarbons (ETPH). Tanks and excavation should be photographed if possible. The contractor should provide a report including the lab results documenting the tank removal and soil sample results. Keep these documents in a safe place. The Fire Marshal’s office stores these records as well.

For questions regarding this information or any fire safety topics please call the New Canaan Fire Marshal’s Office at 203-594-3030.

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