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Water in underground tank... should I convert to Propane?

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fil_jak
fil_jak Member Posts: 4
Hello all - I wish I found this site sooner!

I live in Southeastern PA and have an electric heat pump system with oil back up heat (forced air). The tank is underground outside of the house and recently came across the issue with water in the oil tank... the water was feeding into the oil burner inside the home. I'm in the process of trying to weigh out some options while resolving the current issue. Looking closer at the tank valves outside, I noticed a crack in the fill valve with a little pin hole where water could have entered. The tank and oil burning furnace inside are both 25-30 years old at this point.

1) Has anyone experienced anything like this and can the oil tank be salvageable/fixed/sealed and the furnace repaired?
1) I was told by an HVAC professional to get rid of the tank all together and replace with propane tank and gas burning furnace inside? I was told I should replace the heat pump system as well and use a standard AC unit outside. This would all be part of the system replacement.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated - currently running off of space heaters and electric heat pump in below 30 degree weather :(

Comments

  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,883
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    How old of a tank?
    how old of a boiler?

    The water can be pumped out and the crack replaced. 
    Sounds like you hired a sales tech. Worst of the worse. 
    fil_jak
  • fil_jak
    fil_jak Member Posts: 4
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    Both the tank and furnace are probably 30 years old - which is original with the house. Everything else in the house runs on electric including water heaters.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,438
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    The question is -- how did water get into the tank in the first place? The possibilities are: condensation. If you don't keep the tank reasonably full but leave it empty much of the time, that's the most likely culprit. Leak in the fill or vent pipes. Whether condensation is a factor or not, check both pipes and fix any leaks you find. Leak in the tank itself. This is the only one which is bad news. Unhappily, it means that the tank will have to go -- and you have to have someone reliable to determine how much oil has leaked into the ground and remove it. Much money.

    So... before I panicked, I'd verify that the fill and vent pipes are sound and that they are far enough above ground level that no water could get in, even if the covers were loose (they will be, from time to time). Then I'd have your regular oil dealer check the tank for water and arrange for any water in there to be pumped out (it's a hazardous waste, but they will be able to handle it). Then I'd monitor the tank for a while -- or month or two -- and see if it accumulates water.

    I regret to say that a tank that old probably isn't covered by the dealer's insurance (assuming, that is, that you do have a regular dealer...) and, worse, it is old enough that it probably should have been replaced some time ago.

    Now... replacement. An underground LP tank is only slightly less problematic than an underground oil tank. That said, since the oil boiler is probably also getting on for replacement, that may be a viable option. As you have discovered, heat pumps don't really cut it when it's cold out. Is there any space in the basement for a new oil tank? Or space in the yard for a new above ground LP tank?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    fil_jak
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    I'd abandon/remove the underground tank before I fixed it, and add an above ground or put a tank in the house.
    Newer heating oil (Ultra Low with or without bio) is problematic with long term storage.
    Being you are using this as primary backup, you could probably easily get away with a 165g Roth Tank if you needed to save room, and have better fuel turnover.
    If outside, add the rain cap. Whether inside or out, treat the tank with a pour point additive that also disperses water. Put in the additive, fill the tank in the Spring.
    I just wouldn't go propane.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    fil_jak
  • fil_jak
    fil_jak Member Posts: 4
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    Fingers crossed that there's no leak in the tank itself... doing research on this and not sure how much sleep I'll be getting in the next few days. Putting a tank in the basement is a viable option, maybe something smaller than what I currently have which is 500 gal.

    If it comes down to replacing everything, any advice on the best heating option to go with? I like the idea of the 2 stage heating with the heat pump and read good things about the efficiency. In this case, it allows me to have a heat alternative to keep my kids somewhat warm.

    The option proposed to replace the heat pump with a standard AC unit and go with the propane burning furnace.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    The proposal should include a full heat loss to get the proper size equipment, and an evaluation of your current duct work to ensure maximum efficiency and comfort.
    There are high efficient oil furnaces too, but it comes down to sizing as the smallest oil furnace may be very oversized.
    Even if I didn't own an oil company, I'd still not go with propane.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    fil_jak
  • fil_jak
    fil_jak Member Posts: 4
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    Haha thanks Steve. Noted. The current oil burner down in the basement is the size of two refrigerators so I’d imagine any New option will be smaller than what I currently have. 
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,622
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    @fil_jak

    In my area you can't sell a house with an underground tank so I agree with @STEVEusaPA Get rid of the underground tank, I would stay with oil
    fil_jakEdTheHeaterMan
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,438
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    Agree with @STEVEusaPA and @EBEBRATT-Ed . Keep the oil (replace the boiler when needed) but use a 275 or 330 tank in the basement, since that's a viable option -- and much better all around.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    fil_jak
  • Kickstand55
    Kickstand55 Member Posts: 110
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    When I saw this post it reminded me of a customer years ago that has water in an underground oil tank. Huge problems and lots of money.
    I currently have a customer who bought a house at auction with a 1,000 gallon underground tank in front next to the foundation. He's an insurance agent... The fill cap gasket was missing and there was about 5 gallons of water to be removed. That was taken care of and a fuel treatment added. The 3/8" two pipe system has been replaces with a 1/2" single line with triple filtration to include a water separator (the type used on diesel engines) and a TigerLoop self priming oil supply system. No problems to date. I did, however, strongly suggest removing the tank BEFORE any leaks occur. He stated " I'll roll the dice". This can bring a building owner into bankruptcy if things get real ugly.
    Insurance does not cover these kind of issues.
    Best advice is to remove the tank and if you can put one or two tanks in the basement. By the way, you can stockpile oil, you can't stockpile gas if reserves get low.
    I also have some customers who converted to LP gas from oil before we met. Their fuel bills are much higher now. Some even want with Mini Splits. Their bills are higher too and the house is not warming up in this cold weather. I believe I saw Sales tech mentioned here. Please take the experienced advice here. I'm not on this site to toot my horn, but in my 44 years in the trade I've seen customers make big mistakes. Example: in the early '80s, many folks installed wood stoves to curb the fuel oil expense. They bought a wood stove, had a chimney built, bought a chain saw, wood splitter, pickup truck, (broke the back window in the pickup truck a few times,) cleaned the chimney on an icy roof, had chimney fires and on and on. They could have replaced their heating system for much less money, bought a generator, set the thermostat and relaxed.
    I have oil heat today and am warm and satisfied. As I sit here my office is warm. The rest of the house will cool off as my system is zoned. I also just added heat to my basement so I can be comfortable working on projects and hobbies. I just turn up the thermostat when ready.
    EdTheHeaterManjimna01SuperTech
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 466
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    hello @fil_jak ... I agree with majority of the suggestions, which is get that underground oil tank out of your property... in CT it from what I understand, one can not sell a house with underground oil tanks. Although I am tree huger, and an environmentalist.... I have decided to stay with oil... new oil boilers and furnaces have nearly 82-84% efficiency... additionally there are more oil dealers that can get competitive oil prices... there are not as many gas vendors... at least where I am at...plus I would not even have a 1000 gallons of gas berried underground, at some point it will need to be replaced....

    by the way @Kickstand55, I have oil tank in the basement well maintained.... i was wondering what is "triple filtration to include a water separator "...? thank you
    Thank you!
    @LS123
    jimna01
  • bporter1
    bporter1 Member Posts: 3
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    Have the underground tank checked by a pro, maybe a leaker. Propane is nice because the propane company usually owns the tank, and they are responsible for any leaks up to your appliances. But, propane may be higher than oil. If you already have oil, stick with the oil. I would upgrade to a higher efficiency oil furnace, and I would definitely stick with the dual fuel system. I would recommend a 2 stage heat pump, a good thermostat that will sense outdoor temp. That way the balance point can be set to turn the furnace on only when needed. Usually temps below 35 degrees. That way you get the best of both worlds and are not using a lot of oil either.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,883
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    I believe In Ground oil tanks can still be abandoned In Place by certified contractors. Look into it in your jurisdiction.
    Install a indoor tank. Preferably a Roth Tank.
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    I just dint undersrand the distaste for propane. You certainly can stockpile it, you just need to own the tanks. I have enough propane on site to carry me through several years. It doesn't go bad....unlike oil....it isn't a chemical cleanup if there is a leak. You can heat with it, cook with it, and dry your clothes with it. The equipment modulates and condenses, plastic venting.... I just dont see it why some guys here dont like it. 

    I've burned wood for several decades, and the money I've saved is well over enough to buy a brand new pickup. I've never cleaned the chimney on an icy roof, only clean every 3 years. I burned oil as a backup and it went bad as I didn't get a fill up in over a decade, tank was inside. 
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
    edited January 2021
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    Oh and I forgot to mention propane is great for running your generator on. If backup power is a concern.

    EDIT: Forgive me, I am passionate about such things, as most of us here are!
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,438
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    I have no particular beef about propane... except that around where I am, it costs about twice as much per BTU as oil, and the oil is already there...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 466
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    I agree with @Jamie Hall, I live in CT in litchfield county... so we have more oil than gas...@Solid_Fuel_Man, I also like gas, but oil is so much easier to get... yes, running appliances, heating, generators etc on gas is probably few % efficient than oil when it come to heating, save on chimney cleaning etc.... I am also scared having such large amount of highly flammable fuel near me... although I am sure that gas is as safe as oil these days... Is my understanding correct? I heard that gas furnaces, boilers tend to have higher degree of having CO (not CO2) in basements?
    Thank you!
    @LS123
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    Propane gets a bad name hooked to it by news reports of disasters involving it.
    Just the fact of being heavier than air makes it more dangerous in my mind.
    I have seen many hacked up LP piping DIY installs, so propane incidents come as no surprise to me out here in fly over country.
    NG on the other hand is 98% black pipe that most DIY's do not do.

    My insurance policy states that there is to be no propane work done by me....98% correct.
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 466
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    I do not like any gas! ( get it .. its joke :) Honestly, I am really scared of gas... while i was late teen to mid 20sI was a volunteer fireman. I have seen how easily fire / explosion can happen.... I was give an option by sales people for me to convert to gas from oil. and they would give me huge gas tank... I imagine.. probably size of one of the small size gas tank truck... plus if I had gas for energy, I probably would not be able to do the same type of things I do to maintain my oil boiler... I suppose its all bese on our preferences... @Pcemsg I looked up roth tanks... they are so expensive... I would invest on a regular tank... probably 1/3 or 1/4 of roth tank... if one keeps up with maintaining the oil tank... I would think indoor oil tank could easily last 20 years
    Thank you!
    @LS123
  • Kickstand55
    Kickstand55 Member Posts: 110
    Options
    When I saw this post it reminded me of a customer years ago that has water in an underground oil tank. Huge problems and lots of money.
    I currently have a customer who bought a house at auction with a 1,000 gallon underground tank in front next to the foundation. He's an insurance agent... The fill cap gasket was missing and there was about 5 gallons of water to be removed. That was taken care of and a fuel treatment added. The 3/8" two pipe system has been replaces with a 1/2" single line with triple filtration to include a water separator (the type used on diesel engines) and a TigerLoop self priming oil supply system. No problems to date. I did, however, strongly suggest removing the tank BEFORE any leaks occur. He stated " I'll roll the dice". This can bring a building owner into bankruptcy if things get real ugly.
    Insurance does not cover these kind of issues.
    Best advice is to remove the tank and if you can put one or two tanks in the basement. By the way, you can stockpile oil, you can't stockpile gas if reserves get low.
    I also have some customers who converted to LP gas from oil before we met. Their fuel bills are much higher now. Some even want with Mini Splits. Their bills are higher too and the house is not warming up in this cold weather. I believe I saw Sales tech mentioned here. Please take the experienced advice here. I'm not on this site to toot my horn, but in my 44 years in the trade I've seen customers make big mistakes. Example: in the early '80s, many folks installed wood stoves to curb the fuel oil expense. They bought a wood stove, had a chimney built, bought a chain saw, wood splitter, pickup truck, (broke the back window in the pickup truck a few times,) cleaned the chimney on an icy roof, had chimney fires and on and on. They could have replaced their heating system for much less money, bought a generator, set the thermostat and relaxed.
    I have oil heat today and am warm and satisfied. As I sit here my office is warm. The rest of the house will cool off as My system is zoned. I also just added heat to my basement so I can be comfortable working on projects and hobbies. I just turn up the heat and enjoy.