Off the grid: Oil fuel tank options

Off the Grid Property Fuel Tanks

In Britain the most popular method of heating and cooking at home is via the mains gas supply, however, this is not always possible for those living off the mains grid and in rural areas.

Research published by the National Grid, in conjunction with the Department for Energy and Climate Change shows the percentages of households in East Anglia that are disconnected to the main gas grid below:

Suffolk Councils
non gas
Mid Suffolk District Council
Forest Heath District Council
Babergh District Council
Suffolk Coastal District Council
St Edmundsbury Borough Council
Waveney District Council
Ipswich Borough Council

If your property is a Non Gas Property and you are contemplating the possibility of installing your own combustion fuel tank for domestic use. Saunders’ team have expert knowledge in the design, installation and maintenance of these systems. Please read this blog to find out more about the systems available to you and to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the subject.

Selecting the right storage tank

First making sure it is manufactured to OFTEC standards, you can get an OFTEC registered technician to help in choosing the type. Oil tanks come in mainly 2 different materials:


Steel fuel tank example

Steel tanks provide a more secure storage for your fuel, as they are harder to drill and tap into. If your tank is located in a secure location, theft shouldn’t be an issue. Steel tanks are also available up to a larger capacity of 120,000 litres. However tougher material and larger in size will mean it is heavier and harder to manoeuvre, if you wish to move it somewhere else in the future.

Steel is a highly durable and should last a long time, however it can begin to corrode in time and can become vulnerable at welded connections, as a result it may need repainting and ongoing maintenance.



Plastic Oil Fuel Tanks Saunders

Plastic tanks are generally easier to transport and install as they are much lighter, however these can be less secure and be drilled into easier. Plastic has insulation properties, which means there’s less chance of heat build-up inside of the tank.

Unlike steel tanks, which can be designed and custom made to client’s specifications, plastic tanks come in off-the-shelf shapes and sizes. There are literally hundreds to choose from, we are sure one would be suitable for you. Most plastic tanks are not welded and have no seam, so they are less prone to failure and leakage.

Selecting tank location

It is important to consider the location due to fire hazards. Even though it is very unlikely for a fire to be started by the oil tank itself, the location of it does have to comply with the fire separation distance set by the International Building Code in 2009.

An OFTEC registered technician should recommend these distances in order to protect the stored fuel from fire risks. They are generally:

  • 1.8 meters from a non-fire rated roof

  • 1.8 meters from a non-fire rated building

  • 1.8 meters from an opening window or door

  • 1.8 meters from a flue terminal

  • 760 mm away from a non-fire rated fence

The oil storage tank can be sited indoors such as a garage or outhouse. The tank will need to be installed in a self-contained chamber with fire rating of 60 minutes. As Saunders have our own OFTEC registered GasSafe Engineers, if you have any further questions regarding this installation we can advise further.


Don’t forget, it may seem light weight when the tank is empty, once it is filled it will most certainly need a suitable base to sit on. The tank itself can be weakened if not sitting on adequate support. Your OFTEC Technician should flag up any issues and recommend suitable base solutions.

Permission to build

Installations are generally considered to be permitted development, the conditions and limits are as follow:

  • Tanks are to be less than 3500 litre capacity

  • Overall height 3 metres

  • Maximum height of 2.5 metre if located within 2 metres of a Boundary e.g fence.

An OFTEC Registered technician can self-certify their work, and you won’t have to go to the trouble of obtaining a Building Control Notice and arranging an inspection from local authority, this can be a costly method.

Maintenance and Repair

An oil leak can be dangerous, damaging to the environment and your wallet, so be sure to keep your tank checked and maintained regularly. Checks can be carried out by an OFTEC registered engineer or can be part of the annual gas safety check. They will check the tank, as well as supply pipes to your boiler.

However you can carry out cosmetic checks more regularly yourself in-between the professional checks:

  • Making sure there’s no vegetation over growth on the tank itself.

  • Check the support/base is still adequate, no cracks or give-away underneath.

  • Check for leaks on external cosmetics, signs will include dampness or stains, especially around joints

  • Check the tank bunds for oil, water or rubbish, as it could collect over time

In addition to this you should check plastic tanks for discoloration of plastic, like lightening cracks, splits and bulging. For steel tanks you should check for rust, paint blistering or peeling, dampness along the seams.

For more advice on the installation of heating oil storage tanks and oil tank maintenance, check out the OFTEC website, or contact us here at Saunders.