can an oil tank be placed outside - not underground

maisoui1November 13, 2007

Right now our oil tank is inside in the basement. It seems the basement was remodelled or finished by the previous owners around it and so to get it out we have to tear down a wall. Can we put the new oil tank outside the house instead - like at the side of the house where the A/C stuff is located? Any code or resale issues to think of? Pros or cons to just taking down the wall and putting it back versus just having it outside.



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You'd have to check with your local codes officer.

Trailers all have tanks outside, but in the winter, if you live in the North, you'll probably have to mix fuel oil and kerosene to keep the fuel in a liquid state.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 8:03PM
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Codes vary by juristiction. Around here the local fire department issues the permits and approvals for tank installations.

You will probably need to put the tank on a concrete pad (around here you would). A roof should put over it to protect it from falling stuff.

The downside to having it outside is that condensation can collect inside it, rusting it out from inside.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 8:03PM
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You've got a bunch of questions, so let's see what we can do. I'm inferring here, but it sounds like there's something wrong with the old tank, hence a need to get a new one, and the subsequent dilemma of where to put the new tank.

1) Code issues: You really need to check with your local building department for the final word. I know that I've seen the tanks outside, but that may not be an option for you.

2) In general the oil tanks are gravity feed to the furnace. I'm going to assume outside is higher than in the basement, so shouldn't be a problem, but keep in mind.

3) Outside presents a visibility issue... Just like downstairs, and why the previous owners put it behind a wall. Outside you could wind up building a little shed around it, plant bushes, etc. to deal with the visibility. If you make it look nice I wouldn't expect resale to be an issue. By moving it outside I would also expect it to free up some floor space in the basement, something I would expect to be a positive selling point come resale time.

4) If there is not a reason to get rid of the old tank and get a new one (i.e. simply move the old one outside) then you should be aware that at least in Upstate NY the old tanks are considered Hazardous Waste when it comes to disposing of them. This doesn't mean you can't dispose of it, just that it usually entails an extra cost for disposal.

5) Don't forget about the plumbing to fill the tank. Someone has to be able to wrangle the fuel hose (not nearly as flexible or light as the fuel hoses at the local gas station) to the inlet (above the top of the tank). Unless they're super tall, that may be an issue.

6) With the tank outside you need to be aware of the effects of the weather in corroding the tank. If it corrodes enough, you are now looking at contaminated soil at your place, a definite resale problem.

7) As for tearing open a wall and then rebuilding it, I don't see that as too big a deal... but then again, I'm contemplating ripping open walls and ceilings to replace my plumbing lines... I'm not smart enough to be afraid. :-)


    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 8:27PM
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Facts Favoring Indoor Installation
Fuel oil storage tanks can be placed inside or outside of a building. Indoor
installation is by far preferable for heating oil applications, resulting in improved
service life expectancy. This is why:

Most oil spills are caused by outside installations failures,
 Fuel line breakage due to the weight of ice and snow or icicles snapping
lines when falling from the roof.
 Frost heaves causing lines to become stressed resulting in leaks or

Water contamination (condensation) causing freezing and splitting of lines.
 Ground settling causing line failure (over stressed) or tank tipping.
 Accidental damage of lines from being stepped on, hit or something being
 Tanks corroding at an accelerated rate; condensation formed due to
heating and cooling cycle from the weather, pools in the tank bottom
(heavier then oil) resulting in corrosion of the tank bottom.
 Vandalism (Line Cutting & breakage), Tank tipping, etc.
 Unstable foundations rotting / sinking resulting in tank tipping and line

Energy loss, operation and maintenance issues,
 Boiler efficiency is reduced due to temperature swings causing fuel
viscosity to change creating possible burner malfunctions.
 Fuel waxing in winter, plugging filters, especially on improperly installed
bottom outlet tanks.
 Fuel oxidizing and deterioration due to summer heating of the fuel (more
sludge and filter plugging).
 Bacteria growth in tank due to summer heat and condensation build up,
causes filter plugging and accelerated corrosion.
 Ice crystals formation in winter causes filter plugging / line freezing.

We always recommend that our fuel and heating customers install their tanks in the basement if possible.

We have plenty of customers with outdoor tanks. Many burn kerosene.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 10:29PM
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Excellent post by MarkJames.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 7:34AM
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The tank in the basement is probably between 25 to 30 years old . It's not leaking but the oil company says there's sludge. We want to change it out since it seems to be what clogged the furnace about 10 times last winter causing it to shut off and ? burn out an oil pump. We're replacing the 30 year old oil burner so we're replacing the tank also. By the way, we're in Yonkers, NY and aren't sure whether we need a permit to move it outside. The installers are suggesting the concrete slab with a plastic enclosure if we go outside and we want them to cut up and remove the old one to gain the extra basement space. Still, the post by Mark James gives us significant pause.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 9:16AM
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I don't know how tanks are disposed of outside of this area in Pa, but here they can be cut in half, cleaned out, and taken to the scrap yard for money.

Disposing of the sludge is another matter.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 11:12AM
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Sounds like Granby is in the business of selling tanks.
Do you actually think ice falling from a roof will break an
oil line ? NOT. You do not install a ridgid pipe from a tank to the furnace if there is any chance of movement.
( our codes ). Water contamination ? The tank is installed
with the back side, away from the delivery pipe, tipped back 3 degrees to allow water to collect away from the supply side.( about 11 gallons of water before it reaches
the filter ). I've been in this busness 30 years and NEVER
seen a tank tip over. NERVER heard of bacteria in a tank.
the fuel filter shoud be in the house NOT out side. Your
U.S. technology hasn't a clue as to how oil tanks and
furnaces evolve in extreem climates.( no offence ). We use #1 heating oil. #2 heating oil has not been around for 50 years. # 2 oil is the same as summer diesel. Fuel tanks in
a basement were used here because there was nothing but #2 oil. the oil had to be reasonabaly warm to flow. We don't have that problem. it's pretty rare to see an oil tank in a basement here. I know of one. As far as mixing kerosene
with the oil ? Not up here. It changes the viscosity and
i've seen more than one person on this site complain of
delayed ignition because some nut case decided to blend
his own oil. Kerosene and heating oil do not vaporize under
the same pressure. You don't just dump in 50 gallons of
kerosene to thin out your oil. Could be a big BANG. Bottom
line is to get someone in that knows what they are doing.
Looks like, as i see it, not that many companies have a
clue in your area or entire country. No offence to the techs. that actually know and to the ones that know what i
am talking about. I really feel for you, sherry. If i had done %10 or less then %10 of what i've read on this site
i'd be in jail for code infractions for oil and gas codes.
don't get me wrong. Your codes are nothing compared to ours. Ours are VERY strict. We have seen people killed
for less and stupider mistakes. Ex. If we find a home owner has even touched the gas line or installed a new pipe or drier, or furnace or fireplace without a permitt we give them 48 hours to get the permitt or we shut off the gas. I've shut off the gas in the winter at 40 below. That is very rare but the home was in danger. This is becoming a novel so hope everything goes good for you.
Put your tank outside. They might want a double walled tank
but contact your code people. They are God.The last two lines pertain to you. The rest to Granby tank's and installation and maintenance guidelines. Or who ever is
listening. Just my thoughts. Disregaurd this post if
offensive to anyone.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 8:42PM
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Algae/bacteria in diesel fuel tanks on trucks and boats is VERY common . . . . and they run cleaner, better fuel than your furnace does - My father had a 60 gallon auxilliary tank in the back of his RV hauler which would only hold 30 gallons of fuel at one point . . . . the rest was black algae

The good news is that old fuel tanks which are still otherwise sound and serviceable can be professionally cleaned and work as good as a new tank. To prevent further growth witin the tank, use a biocide in the tank during the summer months when the tank sits unused for long periods

In your case, I would make a few phone calls and see about having your indoor tank professionally cleaned - Much simpler and cheaper than replacing it. No walls to knock down, no cement to pour, no outside tank 'issues' to live with in the future

It took 30 years for your inside tank to become contaminated with algae . . . . it won't take nearly that long if you mount it outside


    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 9:12PM
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We won't pump into many outdoor tanks since they're in such bad condition. We used to have a few hundred customers with outdoor tanks but we don't see as many outdoor tanks these days. Some tanks are leaning, some are installed on blocks, some are in the dirt. Many have crushed lines, broken gauge glass, compression fittings, cans for vent/fill covers. Nothing would shock me since many outdoor tank installations are DIY jobs, many tanks are already *used* when they're installed and many people with outdoor tanks are low income customers. Just removed a horizontal stuffed under a porch that was touching the ground. The under-porch horizontals used to be pretty popular, but there pretty rare these days.

Since most homes in my area have basements, the majority of tanks are indoors. Most of the outdoor tanks are used for mobile homes, camps, or garages. It's rare to see an outdoor tank at a home with a basement. People with nice homes hate the looks of tanks in their yard, and most don't like the enclosure either. We've been very proactive about tank, piping and oil line safety. Most of our customers indoor tanks are in decent shape. Lots of Roth, Dehoust/Granby safety tanks and newer steel tanks, poly coated oil line etc.

"I don't know how tanks are disposed of outside of this area in Pa, but here they can be cut in half, cleaned out, and taken to the scrap yard for money."

Tank disposal regulations vary between regions and salvage yards. We have salvage guys that help remove our tanks, boilers and piping. They cut up the oil tanks and take them to the salvage yard. Saves my back, trips to the salvage yard and flat tires.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 10:10PM
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Don21. We are not talking about R.V.'s or boats. I guess it just depends on the slop that is passed off as heating oil. Markjames. looks like you are right on the ball. Our
codes state that no oil tank shall be filled if anything is
not up to proper repair. Seems you are doing your part.
Good for you. Even if the fill whistle doesn't work we are
not allowed to fill the tank. 99% of all oil customers are
on automatic fill. Tanks used to be topped off the 1st
of April but or climate is changing and heating season is
now August to May. The tanks are now topped off May 30 for the summer. Condensation will NEVER form. Also the tank
cannot be subject to direct sun during the best part of the day. Also any rust, scratches, or exposed steel MUST
be repaired and painted. A d.i.y. tank install must be
inspected and passed before filling. This includes ground
structure, piping,saddle mounts, and distance from any
window or door. The oil tank night mares you describe
almost never happen up here. How the hell do you get sludge in an oil tank ? NEVER seen it. What do they
use or try to use for heating oil in your area ? It might
be that the average home owner here goes through three
275 gallon fills in one year and the tank always sits full
in the summer.No sludge. The more i read about what happends down south with oil and gas heating scares the crap out of me. I was going to say the S&^T word but this site is censored. This boggels my mind. I have an old
275 gal. tank with 3 year old oil in it. No sludge. Beats the hell out of me. Oh Yah. The guy doing the fill was a
crook. He gave my purple diesel and charged for heating
oil. He is no longer in busness. I made sure of that.
for all you techys out there, This one is for you. Keep up
the good work. Oh yah. Happy Thanks Giving. We had ours
in October.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 6:51PM
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Sherry, going to a new double-wall tank in the basement could give you a little more floor space over what you currently have, assuming you have the common 275 oval tank. Measure your tank then go to Roth or another company's website and check the dimensions.
You might not gain a lot of space, but you should be able to gain a little bit.
Roth double-wall tanks I think I remember reading you need to purchase an additional cover/roof for it to not void the warranty. If I'm correct, that would add some to the cost if you put it outside.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 8:56PM
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I'm in a line of work that is constantly bringing me to houses where outdoor oil tanks have spilled.

I've seen tanks blown over by strong winds. I've seen ice fall on feed lines and sheer them off. I've seen roofers drop shingles off a roof they were stripping and break off the filter. I've seen vehicles hit them and knock them over. I've see tanks rust through due to water collecting inside of them from condensation.

If I were replacing my oil tank, I would put it inside, in the basement, and I would put in a Roth tank. Piped from the top and piping run overhead. If I had to take down and replace a wall, I would do it.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 9:17PM
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My oil tank was 20 years old before it leaked from significant rust around the flat side. There was very little rust on the inside when I cut it in half. There was some sludge - yet only an inch or so. The local scrap yard took the tank for free when I loaded it in my old Colt Vista for its final drive to the junk yard. They would not have taken the tank if I hadn't cut it.

Oddly enough, the furnace was also rusty when I replaced it with the tank. Not just the bottom...the rust was everywhere. Methinks the previous owner worked with caustic substances or lots of water. The basement has never flooded, so it's not that. He had lots of leftover chlorine stored there for his pool that died...maybe that did it.

It's funny how you talk about codes. My original system didn't have a vent alarm as it wasn't code when the house was built. It was "grandfathered" for as long as I didn't replace the furnace, tank, or piping. The oil delivery guy complaind about having to put his ear up to the vent when he filled my tank.

When I replaced the system, I didn't reuse anything from the old one - why take chances? Yet I couldn't just replace older components with identical new ones, either. Several pieces had to be upgraded to meet current code. A vent alarm and larger vent piping was needed. The oil line was now covered copper (the original was bare). The line-ends had to be flared (the originals were crimped). Finally, a shutoff valve was added in line with the Firomatics (they're called "firematics" here...I don't know why).

In addition, a drip pan was also put in under a "strong suggestion" made by the building inspector. I've a walk-out basement leading to state land and a small lake beyond my backyard. Every home in the neighborhood draws well water. The drip pan will hold 25 gallons before spilling over - a good buffer against oil ending up in the enviroment should I have really screwed up.

My new Crown oil tank is made in Canada. I figure they know how to make a good oil tank with the looong winters up there. Its 13 gauge steel was a haevy haul in my Honda Element and down to the basement.

When the oilman saw the new piping, I had to show him the mechanical permit before he filled up the tank. He had me watch for leaks as he pumped it in the first time.

Kalining...Diesel is more expensive down here than home heating oil. So the switcheroo your oilman pulled would not make economic sense in the 'States. In's widely percieved that Diesel is somewhat cleaner than #2 because of lower sulpher content. I don't know if it's true. Yet some people run a little Diesel to "clean" their system because of this perception.

As far as I know, there is no #1 fuel oil in my area. I tried looking for "low-sulpher" home heating oil earlier this year after I read that its better for the heating system and the enviroment. However, many oil companies didn't know what I was talking about. One that did said it was "not available in this market". I guess cleaner-burning fuel is not a high priority.



    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 11:23AM
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"What do they use or try to use for heating oil in your area?"

Since we have sub-zero temperatures, people with above ground outdoor tanks generally burn kerosene to avoid issues with gelling. People with indoor tanks burn #2 heating oil since it's substantially less money and has a higher BTU value than kerosene. Many people with outdoor tanks are Will-Call, Minimum Delivery customers that buy their fuel from COD oil companies. The tanks are rarely full, often run-out of fuel and often sit all spring, summer and most of the fall nearly empty.

Many tanks and piping aren't up to modern codes since they're decades old.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 3:06PM
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As many have said, it totally depends on your local municipality.
Ours only allowed outside tanks for a while there. Something to do with insurance claims when oil leaked, I recall.
Thankfully they repealed it after a year.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 4:58PM
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