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How to drain a home oil tank

Updated February 21, 2017

Home oil tanks store the oil used by your oil burner to heat the radiator pipes that circulate heat throughout your home. These tanks can be of various sizes and are usually located in an area such as the backyard or the basement. If you're upgrading to another form of heating, gas for example, you'll want to get rid of your old oil heating system. But before you can do that, you'll first have to drain your home oil tank. There are several different steps you can take to do this.

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  1. Burn off the fuel. This is probably the easiest step, but the most time consuming (and expensive).

  2. Use your home heating pump to remove the fuel. This step requires some mechanical know-how. Use the pliers or wrench to loosen the coupling that goes from the pump to the heating oil burner. Remove and set aside. Purchase new couplings of the appropriate size and attach them, along with a drainage hose, to the pump. Insert the end of the hose into a suitable container. Turn on your home heater. The pump will pump out the oil from the tank and into the container. If this is a large tank or you have a substantial amount of oil remaining, this process could take several hours.

  3. Look for the tank drain nozzle. Some of the newer tank models will have a tank drain nozzle located near the bottom of the tank, usually by the fuel outlet. In this case, position a bucket or certified container beneath the drain nozzle and then open it. Keep an eye on your container, especially in larger size tanks, so that it doesn't overfill. This is definitely the cheapest alternative, but it is not recommended for larger tanks. There is a greater possibility of fuel spillage with this method than with other methods.

  4. Purchase a siphon pump (see Resources, below). With one of these pumps, you can pump out the fuel oil by hand. Insert one end of the pump into the fuel tank and the other end into the disposal container. Pump until the fuel oil tank is empty. This is most useful for smaller home oil tanks.

  5. Rent an industrial pump. These will quickly pump out any remaining fuel from your home oil tank. These need a source for power, either from electricity or some type of fuel-powered motor. Once hooked up, these pumps work fairly quickly and can make short work of even the largest tanks.

  6. Tip

    The amount of oil left in your tanks will determine the number and size of the containers you drain the oil into.


    Always wear proper safety equipment when working around chemicals such as home heating fuel. Dispose of home heating oil properly. Check with the regulations for your municipality.

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Things You'll Need

  • Pliers or wrench
  • Container(s) rated to carry home oil
  • Extra couplings and drain hose
  • Siphon pump
  • Industrial pump

About the Author

Nathan McGinty started writing in 1995. He has a Bachelor of Science in communications from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in international journalism from City University, London. He has worked in the technology industry for more than 20 years, in positions ranging from tech support to marketing.

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