What should I know about heating my home with oil?

oil tank

Oil heat offers homeowners fast, efficient, and even heating throughout the home. With the benefits, however, come serious consequences. For example, just one cup of oil from your 1000 litre tank can contaminate the contents of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. For this reason it is important to assess your risk and to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your home.

Am I at risk?

If you heat your home with oil you are at risk. Spills can cause lasting environmental damage and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection surveying over 500 homeowners shows cleanup costs ranging anywhere from less than $20,000 to more than $300,000. In fact, we’ve seen claims as high as nearly $600,000 in both personal and commercial lines! These incidents put people out of their homes for months, and we’ve seen clients out of their homes for up to a year while cleanup takes place.

How do I minimize the risk?

While we cannot completely protect ourselves from spills there are steps we can take to minimize our risk.

  1. Be aware of the risk.
    Spills can be caused by corrosion, the overfilling of your tank, improper installation, improper maintenance, and breaks in your fuel line, among other things. Actively check for the smell of oil; reduce your outdoor tank’s exposure to water, snow, and ice; be sure your fuel lines are properly secured and away from high-traffic areas. The Nova Scotia Environmental Home Assessment Program has created a 21-Point Oil Tank Checkup which you can use to help guide you in inspecting your tank.
  2. Have your tank inspected by a trusted professional.
    A professional will recognize a tank that might be at risk. Such tanks might be old or damaged, improperly installed, or improperly supported. Your professional will know whether your tank meets ULC guidelines, whether you have a serious problem or simply require routine maintenance, or whether your tank is just past its prime. A professional can also offer you guidance in upgrading your system.
  3. Have a plan.
    It is your responsibility as the homeowner to report and cleanup the spill. The sooner the better! You drastically reduce your cost by addressing the spill immediately. The Massachusettes DEP has created a great comprehensive Cleanup Guide which you can use to prepare for a possible spill.
  4. Be sure you’re protected.
    Insurance for oil spills ranges from no coverage to full coverage. Know your policy!

What do I do next?

If you have concerns about whether you are adequately protected speak with your account manager. Despite our best efforts, oil spills can still happen and your account manager will have all the details regarding your policy and whether or not you are protected in the event of an incident.

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