oil tank life expectancy

scottysDecember 13, 2008

My basement oil tank is original to the house (1952). From the exterior, its in excellent condition but i was told they tend to wear from the inside out. There are currently no leaks at the bottom or anywhere else, nor are there signs of any developing.

Reason why I'm asking is that I will need a new furnace this spring to accomodate my central a/c and I don't know if i should convert to natural gas which is already in the house for hot water and cooking. If this tank can last another 5 or 10 years, I just may stay with oil. Any experts out there that can help me?

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I wouldn't worry too much about it. The life expectancy can vary from the quality of the steel to the amount of water and other stuff in the bottom of the tank and the environment around the tank. It's been there for 56 years already. Just be aware of any odor or leakage spots on the bottom of the tank.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 7:16AM
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If the tank were outside or buried in the ground, I'd say you were on borrowed time. However, a basement tank protected from the elements, could conceivably remain serviceable indefinitely. You could have it inspected, then you'd know.

The thing about sticking with oil, is you don't know where the price of oil will be down the road. Think back to last July, then think about the price of oil today. It's a roller coaster. Once the economy improves, the price is very likely to head north again.

Historically, natural gas prices have been more stable, and generally cheaper to burn as a heating fuel. You also get a monthly or bi-monthly bill, instead of a whopping shock each time oil is delivered. Since you're replacing your existing furnace and have a choice between gas or oil, you might want to consider switching. Ask your friends and neighbors already heating with gas if they'd want to switch back to oil. I can pretty much guarantee that none of them would.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 11:22AM
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I disagree with the statements made in both of these responces. If the tank is that old by all means replace it. Why take a chance. If it lets go in your basement the clean up cost could be astronomical and the odor never totally getting out of the house. As for a buried tank being more suseptable to leaks, yes and no. The backfill around the tank can corrode the tank from the outside but as far as a tank rusting out from the inside,, being in a warm basement contributes to that. As you use oil up in your tank it's replaced with air. Thats the purpose of the vent to the outside. So if the air your tank pulls in is cold, which it will be if your using oil to heat your home, the warm oil will condense any moisture in that air and it will settle to the bottom of the tank. Over time that water can cause enough corrosion to cause a leak. And there is no way to have a tank inspected on the inside. One indication would be to see how your oil filters look when they get replaced. Is it sediment in the filter bowl or a mix of sediment and watery sludge? "If in doubt change it out"

    Bookmark   December 14, 2008 at 9:50AM
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We've removed or changed out old tanks that were like new and removed or changed out older tanks with microscopic pinholes plugged by sludge and rust.

Since tanks rust from the inside out, much depends condensation (whether the tank topped off frequently, whether the fill and vent were properly covered, whether or not the tank was pitched properly/ filters changed frequently). Year round vs seasonal usage makes a difference as well since water isn't sitting for months at a time with systems that also produce hot water with the boiler.

Changing or removing a tank is almost a no-brainer when you compare the value of home vs the cost of a tank.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2008 at 1:16PM
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Thank you for all of your replies.
Wa8b: I took your advice and spoke to 2 neighbors with the same house as mine who converted to gas.....both said they never looked back. Interestingly enough, one of the conversions 2 years ago was prompted by a slow drip leak from the bottom of their tank....also the original from 1952.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2008 at 8:04AM
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Homes heating with oil is shrinking by 3-4% per year, that figure was true a couple of years ago and I'm sure it is higher now, and for good reasons.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2008 at 9:01AM
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I would replace if you're going to continue with oil.

As for the decision which, right now NG is cheaper, but the two move in fairly close relationships over the long run. the advantage of NG is that there's a lot in the US and canada, whereas oil comes from the rest of the world.

To me the biggest issue is convenience. No worry about a tank. Gas is "always on"--no worries about refills etc. No oil smell in the basement. And it's somewhat cleaner burning.

As for the shock of a delivery cost, most oil cos. will put you on a budget plan, as will gas cos., where they bill you the same over 12 mos. for your average/expected use. So that shouldn't really be a consideration.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2008 at 10:07AM
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