Signs Oil Tank Needs Replacement

It’s Vital To Know The Signs Oil Tank Needs Replacement

Heating oil storage tanks are critical to many residential and commercial building systems. In homes and businesses not connected to natural gas pipelines or other central heating infrastructure, fuel oil provides the energy source for heating systems and hot water production.

The storage tanks link bulk oil delivery and the furnaces/boilers that create heat or hot water. Properly sized tanks allow fuel oil to be stored on-site until needed and provide a steady supply to the heating system on demand.

With adequate oil storage and the constant pressurized supply the tanks provide to burners, the heating systems could operate consistently and efficiently. Any issues with the storage tanks, like leaks, blockages, or flow problems, directly impact the ability to produce heat and hot water.

The same applies to backup generators in a power outage. So, in regions that rely heavily on heating oil, the tanks play an indispensable role in residential comfort, allowing many businesses to function throughout cold seasons and weather emergencies. Keeping oil storage tanks adequately maintained is critical.

Here, we will explore the signs oil tank needs replacement and what you must do. But first, let us explain the two main types of heating oil tanks.

The Primary Two Types of Oil Tanks

There are two primary heating oil tank types- above ground and underground. Above-ground tanks are typically cylindrical or rectangular metal tanks that sit on top of the ground outside a home. They are more affordable and accessible to install than underground tanks but are unsightly and exposed to weather elements that can accelerate corrosion and degradation.

Underground tanks are installed below grade, usually in a basement or buried outside, with only a capped top visible above ground level. Underground tanks are more aesthetically pleasing and protected from temperature swings but require excavation to bury them and are more challenging to access and replace.

They are also prone to corrosion issues due to moisture and soil chemistry. Both tank types have vent and fill pipes that connect to fuel supply lines and the building’s heating system.

While underground tanks have advantages, above-ground tanks are much more common for residential heating oil storage, mainly due to lower costs and easier maintenance access. But either type requires proper maintenance and eventual replacement to avoid leaks as tanks age.

Signs Your Oil Tank Needs Replacement

Testing your oil tank is crucial to ensure the tank’s integrity and to prevent potential damage to your home or the environment. Individuals with above-ground tanks have an easier time testing their tanks than underground oil tanks as you cannot see the visible signs but can experience increased fuel consumption.

The Oil Tank’s Age

Oil tanks have a typical lifespan of around 20-30 years. Once a tank reaches 15-20 years old, there are some valid concerns about its condition and the need for replacement. At this age, corrosion and rust can develop on the tank’s inside and outside surfaces. This can lead to small leaks or holes, causing oil to seep into the ground. Old tanks also lose some structural integrity over time, increasing the chances of a rupture or collapse.

Outdated parts like gaskets and seals are also more prone to wear out and fail. When a tank reaches this advanced age, the risk of a large leak or spill increases substantially. Even if it is not yet actively leaking, proactively replacing an aging oil tank before any problems occur is recommended. Doing so eliminates the environmental and safety hazards of leaks, spills or failures of an old, degraded tank. 

Visible Signs of Deterioration

Here are some common visible signs that an old oil tank is deteriorating:

  • Rust and corrosion on the tank’s exterior will appear as red, flaky areas and can cause pitting or holes in the metal over time.
  • Dents, scrapes or damage to the tank walls or legs from impact and settlement can warp and weaken the structure.
  • Cracks or holes anywhere on the tank may visibly leak or seep oil from these openings.
  • Degraded paint or protective coatings on the tank exterior, exposing more metal to corrosion.
  • Overflowing or leaking at pipe joints, gaskets, or seals indicates worn-out parts.
  • Tank not sitting level on the ground signals uneven settlement or compromised structural integrity.
  • Bulging portions or swelling in tank walls shows interior pressure building up from gas or vacuum.
  • Oily sheen on nearby soil/ground surfaces is a telltale sign of small leaks.
  • Heavier external corrosion near the tank bottom with continuous ground moisture accelerates corrosion.
  • Loose, shifting, or detached legs or supports under the tank demonstrate the weakening of the substructure.
  • These visible warning signs indicate that an old oil tank is deteriorated and should be inspected further or replaced to prevent more significant problems from developing.


Increased Fuel Consumption

There are a few reasons why increased fuel consumption can indicate that an oil tank needs a replacement.

  • Leaks – Fuel oil can slowly leak if the tank develops cracks or holes due to corrosion or age. This means less oil gets to the furnace/boiler, causing it to run longer to provide the needed heat. The longer run times equate to higher fuel consumption.
  • Sludge build-up – Over years of use, sludge, sediments and scale accumulate at the bottom of the tank. This sludge can get stirred up and drawn into the fuel lines, clogging filters and restricting proper oil flow to the furnace. With decreased flow, the furnace struggles to operate efficiently, using more fuel.
  • Poor insulation – Older tanks often have damaged or degraded insulation. This allows temperature fluctuations to affect the oil, especially with tanks above ground outside. Colder oil is more viscous and doesn’t flow as well, requiring the furnace burner to work harder to atomize and combust the fuel. Again, this lowers efficiency and increases fuel usage.
  • Internal corrosion – Corrosion inside the tank can cause the walls to thin and weaken over time. As structural integrity declines, the internal vacuum created by fuel drawdown can deform the tank walls inward, restricting oil flow to the furnace supply line. The lower flow and pressure require more effort from the furnace to operate.


Replacing an aging oil tank eliminates these common issues that reduce system efficiency and require the furnace to work harder, burning more fuel. Installing a new, leak-free tank with proper insulation and flow dynamics can help optimize efficiency and normalize fuel consumption again.

You See The Signs, Now What Do You Do?

Replacement must be considered if an oil tank shows signs of aging, such as corrosion, leakage, or decreased efficiency. Tanks over 20 years old, leaking, or having suffered structural or fire damage are candidates for new tank installation. Replacing degraded tanks prevents safety hazards and environmental contamination.

Homeowners should never attempt DIY oil tank replacements, as the process requires specialized equipment and expertise. Licensed professionals are best suited to remove old tanks properly and install new ones that meet current codes and regulations.

Professionals have the skills to size, situate, and integrate replacement tanks for optimal performance and efficiency. With training in safe handling techniques and disposal procedures, oil tank specialists can replace aging or damaged equipment while minimizing environmental impact. Trusting oil tank replacement to qualified experts helps ensure a smooth transition to a new, long-lasting tank.

Oil Tank Testing and Replacement Services

Homeowners and commercial property owners with aging or problematic oil tanks must immediately contact a professional. 

All American Environmental is a leading New Jersey oil tank service company that meets or exceeds NJDEP safety and environmental protection standards. All American Environmental abides by state regulations and performs the proper procedures for old tank decommissioning, certified disposal, and new tank installations.

With All American Environmental, New Jersey homeowners and commercial property owners can feel confident knowing their oil tank project is in excellent hands.

For more details on testing and oil tank replacement, call us at (973) 663-1680 or send us a message via our online form. We look forward to meeting you and serving all your environmental service needs.