Change from oil to electric without getting ripped off?

Our oil tank is leaking. Apparently its position doesn't comply with the latest safety regulations, so putting a new tank in somewhere else will be ridiculously expensive (ground work, fireproof barriers, etc). We've thought about taking this opportunity to change from oil to electricity (there is no gas supply). My question is: how do we get all that work done without being ripped off by opportunistic tradesmen and sales people? We're an old couple (75 & 80) with a tiny bit in savings and a monthly income that leaves us with a tiddly bit left over each month (very lucky, I know). But we aren't well-heeled. We have no family, it's just us and this damnable emergency (oil seeping out and no idea who to trust to get it solved for us). Any ideas would be very welcome, thanks.

Comments

  • lohr500
    lohr500 Posts: 945 Forumite
    First Post Name Dropper First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    It's a tough one and with current electricity vs oil prices, generally speaking, your running costs on electricity are likely to be higher than oil. ( Very much a generalised statement and will depend on the specific needs/size of your property).

    In my opinion if you are wanting to keep your house reasonably warm through the winter, you have two choices for electric heating.
    • Modern storage heaters running on an Economy 7 type electricity tariff which takes advantage of lower off peak rates, with a trade off of higher day time rates.
    • An Air source heat pump connected to your existing radiator/hot water system. (I am assuming because you have an oil boiler, you have radiators and/or a hot water storage tank.
    You really should avoid any sort of direct electric heating that runs on a standard electricity tariff as again generally speaking, unless you only need to heat a very small single room, this is the most expensive heating available.

    Whatever happens, DO NOT get drawn into any discussions with smoke and mirror sales people claiming modern daytime fancy electric heating panels are what you need. They will cost the same to run as a cheap plug in heater from Argos!!  

    How old is your existing oil boiler and what sort of size is your property? Do you know the boiler make and model? Do you have a separate hot water tank heated by the boiler or is your boiler a combi?

    If your boiler is relatively new and of a condensing design, it seems a shame to abandon it.
    Any switch to electric, either air source heat pump, or storage heaters, is going to need a fair bit of internal reworking of plumbing and/or wiring to deliver an effective solution. That = cost.

    Have you had several tank specialists out to review the location and requirements, or are you basing your comments on just one company? Sometimes a smaller tank can avoid the need for fire barriers or relocation. 

    Even if you need to relocate the tank, it shouldn't necessarily cost a fortune to do the work. 

    You need to get the old one emptied as soon as possible and stop the leak as a matter of urgency. If you can see where it is leaking from, rub a soap bar in the area where it is leaking as often this will form a temporary repair. Contact your insurance company as the work to empty and replace the tank could be covered on your house policy.
    Ours was. Total cost to empty a 2500 litre tank, replace with a newer bunder 2500 litre tank, with work to increase the size of the base and transfer of the stored fuel back into the new tank. +/- £2500 from memory.
     
    My gut feel is that you should try to claim on the insurance for the leaking tank and, if a relocation is needed, contribute to the cost of doing this if the insurance company won't cover the full cost.

    Please do let us have more details though as this may help readers to contribute with further suggestions, etc.
  • Wow, thank you so much for such a comprehensive reply! We really appreciate it.

    The oil boiler is an 8-year-old Firebird Enviromax Silver Utility Condensing boiler. It has been serviced every year since installation and, with the exception of needing a replacement actuator this year, it has run like a dream.

    We live in a 3-bedroom bungalow with a small extension and we have a total of 10 radiators. They're quite old (the house was built in 1975 and were here when we moved in 20 years ago). I think they will last us out, so we'd prefer not to have the expense of replacing them. We did think about storage heaters but that would entail a lot of plumbing and re-wiring (all adding to the costs). Also, we had storage heaters in our previous house and still needed an open coal fire in the living room plus an Aga in the kitchen in order to get day-long heat, so we'd prefer not to go back to that.

    Oh, another problem is that the only site available to put a new oil tank currently has a greenhouse and a shed on it, at least one of which would have to be removed. Also that site is right on the edge (literally) of a flood plain. In bad floods, the water has occasionally reached the very edge of the shed base. We fully expect that to get worse as the years go on and global warming progresses. Apparently if we site the new tank there we'll have to put in some kind of tethering system to make sure it doesn't tip over if it gets surrounded by moving water.

    The current site is a raised plinth 3 feet high, well away from possible flooding even if the water were to come that close - but we're told that the plinth doesn't conform to new rules about distances from house, fence and outbuildings. I wonder whether a fireproof barrier might be the answer, but the plinth is actually attached to the garage wall which may prevent a barrier going all around the tank.

    All very difficult, and we're making snap decisions as each new comment is made by the tradespeople involved. All we need is the old tank taken out and a new tank put in (the manufacturer has agreed to give us a replacement tank free of charge, which is nice). But there are so many tradespeople telling us different things which we can't be sure aren't just aimed at encouraging us to give them loads more work (and money) than we need to. So it goes. I suppose it's only natural for people to take advantage if they realise you don't know much about what's required. Human nature.

    Anyway, I'll stop bleating now. Thanks again so very much for your comments. It all helps to form a clearer picture for us.
    All the best to you.
  • lohr500
    lohr500 Posts: 945 Forumite
    First Post Name Dropper First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    I would keep asking for quotes and see if you can find someone who can provide a solution to use the existing plinth.

    Perhaps a smaller tank would create sufficient space. It would mean more regular filling up, but not a massive problem in the scale of things.

    As your boiler is only 8 years old and is of a condensing design, it should be reasonably efficient.

    Have you looked at your insurance policy to see if the tank leak is covered?

    Job 1 though is to get the oil emptied out of the old tank into a temporary holding tank or tanks. If the leak gets worse you could end up with a serious contamination issue which will be very expensive to clean up. Again, if your household policy covers the tank, it should cover the work needed to empty it and make good.

    Even if you do need a fire screen, the cost doesn't look to be completely crazy. I found these online but there may be other suppliers.

    https://thetankshop.co.uk/collections/fire-resistant-barrier-kits-for-oil-tanks

    Perhaps something like this between the tank and the side of the garage would achieve compliance?
  • Once again, thanks for your input. I'll certainly speak to the insurance people when I can get them to answer their phone! Half the oil is now in drums and the soap I've plastered over the leaking crack seems to be holding it for the moment. A tank replacement expert is coming on Monday, so here's hoping...
  • lohr500
    lohr500 Posts: 945 Forumite
    First Post Name Dropper First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Good luck with your insurance company (assuming you do eventually make contact with them!!) and I'm glad the soap bar trick I mentioned is holding up.

    Been there twice over the years with leaking tanks and I know how stressful it can be.

    The 1st time was when our old steel tank started leaking and I replaced it with a plastic tank. On that occasion it was a DIY replacement with help from a local farmer who had a spare tank that we could temporarily transfer the oil into.

    The 2nd was 15 years later when a small tree fell on top of the tank I had previously replaced myself. For that one I ended up going through the insurance company as the farmer didn't have a tank big enough and the risk of a major leak was much greater.

    In both cases, a bar of soap worked wonders until we could get the tanks emptied  :)  
  • djp64
    djp64 Posts: 194 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post
    I've just had to replace my tank and had a specialist tank replacement firm come out.  They built a new base and the cost of the new base, tank removal, temporary siphoning, etc was less than £3000.  The tank itself was @ £2200 so their labour etc was a great price.  They were very knowledgeable on the separation distances etc and we didn't need a fireproof barrier.
    This is the first time I've had oil heating and I've found it to be very cheap to run and quick to warm up.
  • mandarin6
    mandarin6 Posts: 35 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post
    edited 2 July 2023 at 12:23PM
    We also had to replace our tank three months ago due to a constant smell of oil. After checking out reviews a local company came out. Luckily the tank wasn't leaking however it was cracked (over 25 years old), the base was unsafe, it had no fireproofing around and under new regs wasn't in the ideal place. However after looking round they agreed there was nowhere else it could go to comply with regs. They sent us a quote which we were happy with and two weeks later the following took place. Two men with crane, large pickup and holding tank arrived early. Transferred remaining oil in 2500l tank into holding tank, lifted old tank onto pickup. Dismantled old base of bricks and concrete plinth and transferred onto pickup to dispose of. Dug out base to make even, built new base, erected firescreening, installed new double-bunded 1300l tank with sensor to monitor usage and fitted new connections to existing pipework. Transferred oil back into tank. Received a warranty for all work and a few weeks ago received a compliance certificate from Oftec to say it met regs. All this for the total sum of 2k plus vat. A job very well done for the price we paid.
     
    As per the poster above we are happy with our oil ch even though we haven't used it before. It keeps our Home warm throughout winter and isn't expensive to run.

    Hope this helps.
  • boingy
    boingy Posts: 1,309 Forumite
    First Post Name Dropper
    Our oil tank is leaking. Apparently its position doesn't comply with the latest safety regulations, so putting a new tank in somewhere else will be ridiculously expensive (ground work, fireproof barriers, etc). We've thought about taking this opportunity to change from oil to electricity (there is no gas supply). My question is: how do we get all that work done without being ripped off by opportunistic tradesmen and sales people? We're an old couple (75 & 80) with a tiny bit in savings and a monthly income that leaves us with a tiddly bit left over each month (very lucky, I know). But we aren't well-heeled. We have no family, it's just us and this damnable emergency (oil seeping out and no idea who to trust to get it solved for us). Any ideas would be very welcome, thanks.
    Your dilemma is a big fear of ours because we'd be in exactly the same situation. Our unbunded tank is behind the garage almost touching the boundary fence and within a foot of several mature trees on neighbouring land, which were not there when the tank was installed about 22 years ago. Rules now state you can't be that close to anything plus it has to be bunded so a new tank would have to be the size of a jerrycan to meet regs in that location. The only place a tank of the current size would meet regs is smack in the middle of our very small back garden. I'm not sure what the planning inspectors would think about that in what is a conservation zone with very strict rules about garden structures!

    Two years ago our neighbours had the same problem but managed to find a local "father and son" outfit who were happy to, let's say, be a bit more liberal with the rules. The new tank is the same size as the old but bunded so it's a slightly lower capacity than the old one but it's in the same place and just as safe as the old one. The downside is they have no certificate for the new tank but then none of us have certificates for our existing tanks and, as my very pragmatic neighbour says, by the time they come to sell the house oil heating will probably have been banned anyway and if t hasn't they will just say the don't know where the certificate is!

    I'm not necessarily recommending it as a solution for everyone but different installers might have different levels of pragmatism so it's maybe worth seeking out some smaller companies to ask their view.

  • Rolandtheroadie
    Rolandtheroadie Posts: 5,102 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary
    Do you not qualify for any of the schemes on the go just now? 
     Might be Scotland only, but there's a few people I know that have had a free ASHP fitted along with free solar panels.

     Below gives an outline of the scheme in Scotland, I don't know if it's available elsewhere in the UK. Ignore the contact-form bit, there's an option to fill in a form if you were in Scotland and were looking for more information.

     https://www.scottishenergygrants.co.uk/contact-form/
  • Sorting_Hat
    Sorting_Hat Posts: 123 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    Why not change from oil to LPG?   Yes there is criteria for the siting of the tank but generally it is straightforward enough.

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