GREEN VIEW: Have a plan for your heating

Green View by Peter Gudde
Green View by Peter Gudde
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It’s that time again when leaves fall off trees, squirrels bury nuts in my lawn and oil tanks leak. You have gone all summer without running your heating, a chilly night is forecast so you turn the boiler on. Nothing happens.

You do what most of us do – turn it off then on again. The warning light is on. Maybe you try to reset the boiler. Still nothing. So you grab the torch and trudge outside in the cold night air to see if the tank has any oil. That’s when you discover that you have run out, or more to the point it’s run out on you.

Have you simply forgotten not to fill up? Or have you been the victim of any accident, a leak or something more malign. If that is the case, you have a problem. Where has the oil gone?

Assuming the worst, the tank or pipes have leaked somewhere or been vandalised, what do you do?

Being the organised person that you are, you have planned for this eventuality. You know a helpful OFTEC-registered heating engineer and you have chosen your home insurance carefully.

But what exactly does your buildings insurance policy cover and what does it exclude?

Having checked out the policy documents of top insurance companies listed on the ‘Which’ website, there is wide diversity of policy exclusions. The policies all cover things like theft, and they may cover damage resulting from the escape of oil from your heating system. But they may not cover the building work needed either to establish how far the contamination has extended or to repair the system.

The policy may cover only a sudden or unexpected accident but not gradual pollution resulting from a leaky pipe joint. The policy may only cover oil leaks which have occurred during the period of cover.

Even if the incident occurred during the insurance period you may have to report to your insurer within a specific time, say 30 days from it occurring or you noticing it. These are not the same. When did the leak occur exactly? Do you know? If you have not run your heating system over the summer it could have occurred at least three months before you spotted the empty tank. What if you have been away?

So even the better policies raise some questions about what is, and is not, covered. Some home insurance policies don’t cover you for ground contamination and clean-up costs at all and the potential cost can run to tens of thousands of pounds.

Back to that plan. It’s worth considering some of these tips for safe oil care:

-- Get an OFTEC registered heating engineer to inspect your tank and any pipework

-- Regularly monitor your oil tank levels and check for leaks

-- Make sure access to your property is secure and lock the filler cap

-- Before a delivery, try to leave your tank unlocked for as short a time as possible

-- Screen tanks from view and hide pipework

-- You could install dusk to dawn lighting

-- Join a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and report any suspicious callers or vehicles.

Finally, for peace of mind speak to your insurer to check that your home insurance covers you in the event of a leak or oil theft.

-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils.