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Heating Oil Tanks: Does Heating Oil Last?

5th November 2022 in oil

There are two ways to answer this question – because, really, it can be interpreted as asking two different things. Any answer is dependent on which way you choose to read the question. It could mean: How long does heating oil - the substance - physically last before it degrades and becomes unusable? Or it could be asking: How long do heating oil tanks filled with oil last when I’m using it to heat the home? We’ll answer both as best we can.



Heating Oil Itself


As a physical substance heating oil should last between 18 to 24 months before it degrades. The most common cause of this degradation is bacteria naturally occurring in the oil, and it will begin as soon as it is pumped into your tank, whether the tanks is a metal or plastic oil tank, though you can slow down the effects. 


Rust, sludge and other contaminants in your tank can also contribute to oil degradation. Water is another substance which causes heating oil to go ‘off’ more quickly. In addition, the colder weather can coagulate the oil (which means its consistency alters). This change can clog lines and filters (though the oil should return to its usual state when the weather is warmer). Once your oil starts to break down it is not possible to restore it, though it is possible to prolong its life a little. 



Heating Oil and the  Home


Answering on these terms is merely down to logistics – and, in fact, an exact answer cannot be given. How long your tank of heating oil will last depends entirely on a range of factors such as the size of your home, the size and condition of your domestic oil tank, the efficiency of your boiler – and, of course, how often you use the heating system. 


Size of the home


It’s the most simple logic, really. The larger the home you have then the more likely it is you will use greater amounts of oil during the heating of it. Someone with a much smaller property – a standard terraced house or a cottage, say, is going to use a lot less oil than someone in a four or five bedroom semi- or a detached farmhouse. 


Frequency of usage


Similarly, if you use your heating system often then you will diminish your supply of oil much more quickly than if you are frugal. Projecting how much oil you are likely to need across certain parts of the year is a wise move so that you don’t run out, or can predict when you are going to be running low and can ‘book in’ a delivery. It’s also essential to only order the correct amount of oil for your home and lifestyle. If you constantly over-order by quite an amount then each time a delivery takes place there will be more left over and, cumulatively, your tanks will be full of a mix of oil from different deliveries, much of which has ‘expired’. 


Condition of your tank


This is also important and keeping track of the condition of your tank can actually prolong the useful life of your oil. You should keep an eye on the condition throughout the year. Check regularly for cracks or general damage, as well as, on steel tanks, any degradation involving rust. Vents and gauges should be protected from rainwater, and you should also check that alarms are functioning correctly. 


Weather and temperature


The weather will have a bearing on the amount of oil you use. In colder months (ie. through the autumn and the winter) it’s likely that you will have your heating switched on more often and for longer periods. So, obviously, oil will be used up more quickly than during the spring and summer months. Also, oil consistency can change with the different temperatures of different weather conditions, so oil levels can be affected. You should only ever fill the oil tank to between 80% and 90% to prevent overflow.


Oil boiler efficiency


The efficiency level of your heating system’s boiler is also a factor when it comes to your oil usage, so it’s important to ensure that your boiler is working as efficiently as possible. To monitor heating oil levels, you should regularly check the physical gauge – perhaps every week or so. Or, if you have one fitted, you use your phone, tablet or PC to check the smart gauge no matter where you are and how often you choose. Order a refill when you get down to about half a tank.




Here at Tanks R Us we can help you with all aspects of heating oil – from working out what is the correct tank to suit your purpose (bunded oil tank, plastic or steel) to installing, removing or replacing your tank, or to supplying the necessary accessories (such as filters, gauges, alarms and meters). We can also answer any of your questions related to your heating oil tank, or you can read up on some FAQs here.

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