It is often difficult to know what to do about it and when to act, we come across a lot of homes where the residents have noticed oily smells for months, initially they’ve just assumed that the smells are ok as they have an oil fired boiler in the house, or an Aga for example. Knowing when the smells are ‘significant’ is difficult at the best of times, but when you live in it you’ll find that you become accustomed to the odours so they become less noticeable. The usual story we get is that visitors to the house are the ones who comment on the odours and that validates that there is a problem.
Vapours are the next issue; spills are often noticed by slight odours which are ignored by householders until they become severe. If you smell odours in areas which aren’t usual then get your heating engineer in to assess your system.
Firstly what you can do for free is to have a look yourself, look around your tank, and the appliances you have and see if any dark staining is obvious or if any vegetation has died nearby, e.g. brown patches in your lawn, these can indicate that a leak has occurred.
Secondly, if you’re prudent and you keep fuel delivery receipts then check to see if you’re ‘using’ more oil than usual, this can indicate that a leak is occurring (or just that it’s a very cold month).
Thirdly, and now you may want to notify your insurance (which is always a good idea when something isn’t right with your house, even if you’re not covered), ask your plumber / heating engineer to check your system from top to bottom. They have some clever ways of testing tanks and feed-lines to find leaks.
If you find a leak then this post might be helpful in the short term – temporary fixes
If the odours are strong, i.e. they make you dizzy, give you a taste of oil in your mouth, then your health may be at risk and you should stay out of the areas which make you feel like this. If it’s your house then contact your insurer to see if you have any cover in place to help you. If you have to wait in the house then ventilate the rooms (e.g. open windows) well and close doors to rooms which smell the worst.
Guide to oil spill preparedness and response
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