For today’s update we are in a remote part of Kent, not far from the famous Biggin Hill aerodrome.
Our customer has lived for many years in this rural idyll, in a semi detached cottage.
Up until now, he has used a Trianco boiler running on solid fuel, in this case anthracite. The solid fuel boiler, located in the kitchen, is a relatively modern unit that greenies would now describe excitedly as a Biomass boiler. It is relatively modern in so far as it has a fan assisted combustion system and the collection of ash is partially automated.
Our customer had decided that he was fed up with going to the anthracite bunker in the garden and reloading the hopper in all weathers. We also noticed that the flue system connected to the boiler, whilst being made out of the correct materials, was incorrectly installed leading to potential chimney downdraft issues, which it transpired had been experienced.
We proposed fitting a new Worcester Bosch outdoor Danesmoor oil boiler, freeing up space in the kitchen for additional kitchen units, or perhaps a built in fridge freezer.
We also needed to remove the anthracite bunkers and create a new area for an oil storage tank.
Oil storage regulations are quite complex, but are primarily to stop leakage and damage to property and the environment. In our experience, most oil storage tanks don’t meet the minimum Government criteria, even ones installed yesterday. In fact, around 90% of oil tank installations we see, fail the regulatory requirements, whether old or new. And our experience is typical, talking to trade experts.
Part of the reason that there are so many dodgy oil tank installs is the conflicting and contradictory advice given, leading to confusion and apathy. And this job is a good way of demonstrating what we mean.
It is a common belief among oil using households that we need to keep the tank away from the house because it could catch fire, and set the house alight. In fact, it’s the opposite. Oil Tanks full of gas oil or kerosene do not spontaneously combust. However, if they were sited in close proximity to a small fire, perhaps some panel fencing, a shed or some wooden cladding to a house, that mundane fire could quickly escalate from a minor issue into something very serious indeed.
In proximity to a fire, an oil tank gets very hot and the oil flashpoint can be exceeded. When this happens the vapours can ignite, and then the tank explodes. Whether a metal or plastic tank, you have a potential bomb.Example of devastation after a domestic oil tank explosion in 2015 (picture from FuelOil News)
Therefore, OFTEC and British Standards set separation distances from the tank to flammable structures, so that if there is a fire, the chance of it heating up an oil tank is minimised. They also define the use of barriers that can be built to retain fire where siting an oil tank close to a flammable structure is unavoidable – the idea being, that the fire brigade could be expected to have turned up before the barriers are compromised.
Concrete base constructed, new Tuffa tank in position
Our customer had a timber trellis fence surrounding the anthracite store, and a garage on the other side of the space. He wanted to use the space formerly used for anthracite for the oil tank.
Note we’ve created a ‘well’ for the oil filter to enable removal. Many are left unmaintainable jammed onto the concrete
When we worked out the minimum separation distances, the spacing around the tank would have removed much of the adjacent driveway; and adding fireproof barriers would have been unsightly and also taken up a lot of space (the oil tank has to have room for inspection all around, and the fire barrier is therefore spaced away).
To us, the obvious choice was to specify an oil tank with inbuilt fire protection. These units, which are manufactured by J Seed and Tuffa Tanks, are a bunded design (in other words, a tank within a larger tank as an emergency containment) with the addition of fire proofing material between the inner and outer skin. This additional fireproofing within the tank structure (both plastic and metal types are available) can be specified with 30 or 60 minutes fire protection.
On the face of it, this was the obvious solution. But then we found that our registration body, OFTEC, does not recognise the products or allow us to register them. They say that because there is no defined British Standard for testing them, they cannot be proven to be safe. Tuffa Tanks therefore spent a small fortune fire testing their tanks at an independent fire testing laboratory, and obtained Building Regulations approval for their use in locations needing fire separation.
This places OFTEC, (the body similar to Gas Safe Register , but with a responsibility for oil,) in a difficult position. They don’t have any legal powers and although act as a method of an oil installer obtaining Building Regulations approval and prohibit the use of the fire resistant tanks, the installer or customer can simply register them direct using the Building Regulations technical approval document with the tank.
So for this installation, we technically left OFTEC for the tank installation and rejoined for the boiler installation! The new draft of BS5440 specifically mentions oil tanks with fire protection built in, so it is only a matter of time before OFTEC have to acknowledge them. But time waits for no man (unless you are a bureaucracy in Suffolk), so we fitted the tank our customer desired and needed, and left his driveway intact.
Boiler used to be sited to the right, we’ve fitted a fan convector in the base of the adjacent kitchen unit, running off the central heating system.New Evohome thermostat in kitchen (controls a radiator, and the fan convector pictured above)
The Worcester Danesmoor external boiler comes in a very neat dark green case, we added a ‘plume management’ exhaust kit that redirected the flue to higher point above eaves level. We also arranged for the boiler to be sat on a small raised concrete plinth, just as we do for most of our installations, as a protection against flooding damage. An extra few inches can be all the difference when it matters.
New boiler in position.
A new hot water cylinder was fitted, a Gledhill Stainless Steel Envirofoam unit, with minimal heat losses and fast recharge time.
Finally, we fitted the new Honeywell Evohome WiFi zone system, which, in this case, allows our customer a room by room automated heating control. Around 50% of our heating renewals are fitted with this system, because it is so efficient. No-one would turn all the lights on in the house when they got home, but we don’t think about our heating, it’s on everywhere.
New Evohome WiFi control, showing the zones of heating and hot water control
A 7 year boiler warranty topped it all off nicely.