Amidst fluctuating oil prices, your domestic fuel tank can become a target for thieves. Especially, as oil tanks are often located in remote locations where suspicious activity may go unnoticed.
Whilst the chance of heating oil theft is relatively low, we recommend that you always remain vigilant and take action to deter thieves. Adding protective measures to your heating oil tank will help to avoid the inconvenience, upset and financial complications that heating oil theft can cause.
So, we’ve put together some useful tips for heating oil theft prevention and what you can do in the unfortunate event that you do experience an oil theft.
10 top tips to avoid home heating oil theft
1. Place your heating oil tank in a secure location
When considering where to place your heating oil tank, not only do you need to think about OFTEC regulations, convenience and safety, but you should also consider security.
Locate your tank as far away from the road as you can. Placing it further from public access will make it harder for opportunistic thieves to notice your tank and make getaways more difficult.
Secondly, you can further conceal your tank with a fence or trellis, or even a wall and a roof. Installing a roof over your tank will prevent it from being spotted on any satellite images which thieves may be using to target homes. Just be sure to leave room for servicing, maintenance, and oil deliveries and adhere to OFTEC’s fire-safety recommendations.
You could also create a gravel path up to and around your tank. Adding gravel is a cost effective and easy solution to put intruders off as it creates a noise, alerting you of any trespassers.
Finally, place your tank somewhere that is visible from inside your home if possible. The potential of being seen is a big deterrent for thieves.
2. Fit an oil tank cage
If your tank is outdoors, there are still plenty of precautions you can take to avoid fuel theft. One of these is to install an oil tank cage.
An oil tank cage is a good method of security as it adds an extra barrier for thieves. However, you will need to ensure that the cage fully encloses your tank, while leaving enough room for maintenance and heating oil deliveries. The cage should also be either bolted or concreted to the ground.
An oil tank cage doesn’t work for everyone though as you’ll need a bigger amount of space. They’re also not the most aesthetically pleasing.
3. Install CCTV cameras near your tank
CCTV cameras can be a good theft deterrent and help provide evidence should your heating oil get stolen.
There are plenty of affordable modern CCTV systems available, such as ring security cameras. These systems include features such as night vision and motion detection, which sends alerts directly to your phone when the detector goes off. Ring security cameras also store footage in the cloud, so you can access the footage remotely from anywhere with an internet connection.
It’s important to consider the picture quality of any CCTV equipment you’re planning to install. Also, if your tank isn’t very well lit, an infrared camera can help as thieves usually operate after dark. The memory capacity of any CCTV equipment is worth considering too as you might not realise that a theft has taken place straight away.
4. Add security lighting to your property
Dusk-till-dawn lights can be fitted to ensure lighting around your tank 24/7. Alternatively, motion sensor security lighting could help deter trespassers and alert you to their presence.
However, it’s very important that you do not install security lighting if you can’t see your tank from your home, as this could help thieves more than prevent them.
5. Plant prickly bushes around your tank
Defensive plants such as blackthorn, hawthorn and native roses can also be a deterrent for thieves. They will want to avoid them during a theft, not only to protect themselves but also because they don’t want to risk leaving any fibres or evidence behind.
Please do leave enough room for maintenance and fuel deliveries if you are planning to use defensive plants.
6. Get a wireless oil tank alarm installed
Some fuel gauges can be linked to an alarm inside your home. If your heating oil level drops suddenly, the alarm will make you aware of thefts and leaks.
Additionally, you could display a sticker on your tank to warn intruders that your tank is alarmed.
It’s always worth checking your fuel levels on a regular basis so that you know how much you have in your tank.
7. Put a spinning cap on your tank
When a spinning cap is locked, it spins freely, making it all but impossible to get off. Its design means forced entry with crowbars or other similar tools is virtually impossible.
With a spinning cap, you won’t need to rely on a padlock to secure your tank.
8. Fit a good quality padlock to your tank
Oil tank locking is an effective additional safety measure. It’s worth spending a little bit extra on a top-grade padlock as thieves often carry tools and bolt cutters.
Look for a padlock with a high-grade classification for maximum security. Grade 1 is the lowest security. Also, choose one with a close shackle as they are more difficult to cut. Alternatively, external ‘arm’ locks are designed to secure the points where your fuel is extracted from bunded and single skin plastic tanks.
When you’re fitting locks to your tank, it is important never to lock your tank vent.
9. Install a smart fuel monitor onto your tank
A smart heating oil monitor, such as our FoxRadar tank monitor, can help you to spot sudden drops in your heating oil levels. FoxRadar allows you to monitor your tank remotely, so wherever you are, home or away, you can check your fuel levels. It sends alerts to keep you notified of low oil levels.
10. Invest in insurance for your tank and heating oil
Finally, invest in insurance for your oil tank and its contents. It’s not just the cost of the fuel that is stolen that puts you out of pocket with a theft, your tank or pipes may have been damaged while taking the oil too. Even your securing measures could have been damaged.
Additionally, if any fuel has been spilt during the theft, you may have to pay out thousands for an environmental cleanup, but the right insurance can help to cover that as well.
What can you do if your fuel is stolen?
If you become a target for heating oil theft, call the 101 police number and report the crime. Save and share any information you have with the police such as your CCTV recordings or anything you have noticed and written down. Once you have a crime number, share it with your insurance provider if you have one.
If you have been the victim of a theft, then it’s an opportunity to review your security measures and consider changes and additional precautions to prevent it happening again.
If you need any help or advice with heating oil tank security, contact our specialist tank team on 0345 600 3423.
Explore our Helpful Guides for more expert insight into living in an oil-heated home.