For many rural home and farm owners, particularly those in colder Southern parts of the country, oil powered heaters are effective and economical ways to heat buildings that aren't connected to mains gas and/or electricity. However, if you own an oil heating system you may find yourself the target of oil thieves, who can drain a tank of valuable kerosene or gas oil swiftly and silently. With many oil-heated homes situated in rural, isolated areas, oil thieves can operate largely without disturbance, so if you have an oil heating system you should take steps to protect your oil tank from the attentions of these marauding burglars.
Location, location, location
The location of your heating oil tank can make the difference between airtight security and theft waiting to happen. Many people who own large plots of land can keep their tank in a garage or outbuilding, where the tank is not visible from outside the property and the building's own security measures can protect it. This is obviously not possible for everyone, and if your oil tank is outdoors and exposed, you should work to conceal it as much as possible.
An easy and effective way to conceal your tank is with foliage -- bushes, shrubs and dense trees, either planted or potted, can all provide excellent cover, and evergreen plants will provide the same level of concealment year-round. Solid screen fences are also good options, and providing your fence is robust enough it will also add an effective visible theft deterrent.
If for whatever reason you are unable to screen your tank in these ways, you can still keep thieves away from a tank in plain sight. Motion-sensing security lights will deter thieves and alert you to intruders on your property. Even simple stickers warning of security systems and dogs (that may or may not exist) can be effective.
A feather in your cap
Even the most visible and easily reached tank is no use to a thief if they can't get it open, and a secure vent and fill cap are very effective physical barriers to oil theft. Fit a sturdy lock to your fill cap, and the vent cap too if possible -- standard padlocks provide some protection but can be easily bypassed with bolt cutters, so shoot for a more robust shackle lock (even bicycle locks can be very effective).
Of course, a locked cap is no use to anyone if you can just punch a hole in it, and many oil heater tanks come with plastic caps that can be broken with relative ease. These plastic caps may also perish due to sunlight and weather exposure, so replace your caps with sturdy metal caps (make sure they fit properly) if you can.
If you are able and willing to invest serious money and effort into your oil tank security, consider the following comprehensive home security system options:
- Alarms - Motion sensitive alarms are as effective against an oil thief as any other unwanted intruder. Bear in mind, however, that if your home or property is sufficiently isolated from help, a particularly brave thief may simply ignore it. Alarms that automatically notify the police in the event of a break-in are available, but make sure they aren't triggered by errant wildlife (or yourself).
- Cages - Placing your tank in a strong cage is an excellent way to secure a tank that can't be sufficiently walled or fenced off. Cages are available off-the-shelf (the cages used to protect valuable air conditioning units from thieves are very secure) or you can have one specially constructed at additional cost.
- CCTV - Surveillance cameras are more accessible for the average home owner now than ever before, and a single, visible camera can be an extremely effective deterrent. Cheaper 'dummy' cameras are available if you have less to spend, but bear in mind that some thieves are adept at spotting these fake cameras.