Heating oil is a valuable commodity and because it is stored locally, unlike mains gas, it can easily become a target for thieves. Heating oil theft not only leaves you out-of-pocket, it can also leave you without any way of heating your home. Crimes are often committed in summer when stores are checked less regularly, but oil can be targeted at any time of year. Fortunately, there are a number of simple ways to prevent heating oil theft – check out our three easy solutions below.
Lock Your Tank
One of the simplest ways to secure your heating oil tank is to fit a lock on to the opening of the tank. Locks come in a variety of sizes and generally take just a few minutes to install. In fact, some ‘easy-fit’ locks require no drilling or DIY whatsoever.
If you’re installing a tank lock, make sure you secure both oil extraction points: the filling point and inspection hole. One option you could consider is using a ‘tank arm’, which is a specially-designed lock that protects both from siphoning, but there are other options available.
In conjunction with a secure locking system, tanks can be fitted with alarms which sound when oil levels drop suddenly. Of course, unless your alarm is visible it may not necessarily deter thieves, but it could help catch a thief in the act. In order for your alarm to work effectively, you must check that your tank gauges are working correctly and make sure that you check the alarm’s batteries on a regular basis. Modern alarm systems can also inform homeowners via text message, as well as sounding an alert on-site, so you can contact the authorities even if you’re away from home.
TOP TIP: If you choose to add security measures to your tank, it’s a good idea to install a warning sign to let would-be thieves know that your tank is both locked and alarmed.
Keep a Look Out
It might sound obvious, but one of the easiest ways to prevent fuel theft is to keep a close eye on your heating oil. If possible, make sure your tank is in full view of the house so you can see it, but not visible from nearby paths or roads. Many thieves are opportunistic and are unlikely to strike unless they know that you definitely have heating oil stored nearby. Installing movement-triggered lights can also help, as they will alert you to the presence of any intruders and could startle any potential thieves.
Of course, you can’t watch over your fuel supply at all times, so installing CCTV cameras is another easy way to protect your oil when you’re not around. As with alarms, remember to let thieves know that you have CCTV installed, as it could act as a deterrent. It’s better to stop your heating oil from being stolen than it is to react to a crime that’s already taken place.
If CCTV cameras are too expensive, dummy cameras can be used to give the impression that your tank is under surveillance. While the threat of cameras is probably enough to put off some potential thieves, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you are targeted you will not have any footage to hand over to the authorities.
Another easy way to help prevent heating oil theft is to raise awareness of any crimes that are being committed in your local area. If you know other heating oil users in your community, discuss concerns and work together to think of ways to improve your tank security. It’s also a good idea to ask your neighbours to keep an eye on your tank when you go away on holiday to make sure it isn’t targeted – next time they go on holiday you can return the favour!
It’s also important to look out for reports of oil theft in the local news. If you know oil thieves are active in the area, you can take extra care of your tank. You might also want to consider signing up for free email alerts from websites such as OilTheftWatch, which let you know if any oil-related crimes have been reported locally. Of course, the best way to improve awareness of fuel theft is to regularly check your oil levels, particularly during summer, so that if a crime does occur, it can be reported immediately.
Ultimately, the more aware you are of heating oil theft in your area, the easier it will be to protect your tank.
What do you think – did we miss anything important? Share your top tank protection tips in the comments below!