Take steps to protect your oil tank from thieves, households reminded
Households are being reminded to take steps to protect their oil tank from thieves as evidence emerges that theft of heating oil from rural properties may be on the rise*.
Around 1.5 million households in the UK are not connected to the gas grid and instead rely on oil to heat their homes. Heating oil is usually stored in an outdoor tank, making the fuel an attractive target for criminals.
There are also concerns the cost of living crisis has led to the increase in heating oil theft from rural homes.
In response, OFTEC, a registration body for off gas grid heating, is raising awareness of the precautions that households can take to safeguard their oil tanks from unscrupulous theft. These include:
Install an electronic tank alarm system to remotely monitor the fuel in your tank. The alarm can notify you if the tank’s inspection cap is lifted or the oil level drops suddenly – and sophisticated models can even send an alert to your smart phone or watch. If you do have an alarm, make sure to put a visible sign on your tank to let criminals know that it is alarmed.
Motion activated security lights are cost-effective and will startle most thieves. For added peace of mind, place lights in areas which are visible from inside your house when triggered. CCTV cameras are also a good deterrent and can provide valuable evidence if your heating oil is stolen.
When the time comes to purchase a new oil tank, try to position it as far away as possible from the road and any other public access points like gates, fences or footpaths. If you can, install the tank somewhere you can still see it from your home. Make sure your oil tank complies with OFTEC safety guidelines and can be easily reached by your supplier to deliver your heating oil and for maintenance.
A strong and weather-resistant padlock is likely to deter an opportunist but may not stop a determined thief from trying to access your oil tank directly through force or sharp tools.
Join your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme or speak to neighbours about setting one up. More than 2.3 million households are members of local Neighbourhood Watch schemes across the UK, which see residents look out for each other, share warnings on social media about any anti-social behaviour in the area and, in the case of suspicious activity, communicate directly with the police.
Malcolm Farrow, of OFTEC, said: “While it’s still relatively rare, It’s concerning evidence pointing to an increase in heating oil theft, particularly during a freezing cold winter when families need it the most.
“There are a number of simple ways to discourage thieves, however, which should be welcome news for oil heated households. Most criminals are opportunists, so a few simple measures to make access to your tank more difficult is often more than enough to prevent theft from taking place.
It’s also a good idea to check how much heating oil is in your tank on a regular basis. This will not only show you how much oil your home regularly uses but will also alert you to any sudden drops in fuel level, which could be caused by theft or a concealed oil leak.
“If you have any questions, please contact an OFTEC registered heating technician who will be able to offer advice and support on how to protect your oil tank from theft.”
* Rural Crime Report 2022, NFU Mutual. www.nfumutual.co.uk/farming/rural-crime/