We are frequently asked how long an oil tank lasts. This is hard to answer because there are so many variables that can contribute to the corrosion and maintenance of your oil tank. Let’s talk about these variables; some of which you won’t have control over.
The first being the thickness of the tank. The most common is 14, 12, and 10 gauge. This relates to the thickness of metal. In the U.S., the thickness of metal is commonly specified by a traditional, non-linear measure known as its gauge. The larger the gauge number, the thinner the metal.
Tank Feed Line
Another key variable is where the feed line comes out of the tank and goes to your heating appliance. If it goes out of the end of the tank, a layer of oil, water, and minerals (what is typically called sludge) settle under this and cannot drain out from the bottom of the tank. If you want to check your oil tank, a minimum evaluation would be to look for the gauge metal the tank is made of on a label usually found on top of the tank. Then, check the feed line to see if it goes out the bottom. If this is the case then a typical age is approximately 30 years.
Moisture and Quality of Oil
However, there are also variables that you do have control over that can assist in the length of time a tank can last. The first being the moisture in the area of the tank. Humidity inside the tank causes condensation so it’s imperative to keep the area dry, so you want to dehumidify the area. The tank should have good stable legs and slope towards the feed line so the oil does not pool on the bottom as easily. Lastly, the quality of oil is a big part of the impurities you’ll see at the bottom of the tank. I know we all want to save money on oil, but it has been shown the cheaper, discount oil companies have more impurities in the oil that cause the metal to rot quicker. With that in mind, don’t skimp on the quality of oil you put in your tank and be sure to do your homework here.
To get back to the initial question of how long a tank lasts, I have seen them leak as early as 16 years and last over 40 years without a leak. Completing an ultrasound test can help determine how far along the deterioration of the tank is.