How to prevent oil theft in rural areas

Norfolk Police are urging people to be especially vigilant in winter when storage tanks are full of

Norfolk Police are urging people to be especially vigilant in winter when storage tanks are full of heating oil Picture: Eastern Daily Press - Credit: Archant

For many Norfolk homeowners, the theft of home heating oil is a serious issue, especially now, as winter starts to really bite.

While living in Norfolk's spectacular rural areas is hugely appealing to a multitude of homeowners for obvious reasons, relying on antiquated heating oil to keep your home warm can give rise to concern.

At this time of year, many of those based in villages or out in the countryside and off the mains gas grid, worry about more than just rises in oil prices – theft of their much-needed fuel becomes a serious issue too.

It is throughout the winter months when storage tanks are often kept full of heating oil, that Norfolk Police urge people to be especially vigilant. The beginning of the season always sees a sharp rise in thefts and then, as the cold weather persists and winter deepens, heating oil supplies continue to remain at risk.

According to the police, it is not unusual for homeowners to forget to check their tanks regularly throughout the winter. Many only discover a theft has occurred when they run out of fuel oil and their heating goes off. They're then reliant on unregulated oil suppliers, who hike prices up in the colder months, to deliver new supplies.

What is oil theft?

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In November last year, Norfolk Police announced they would be leading a national campaign to combat fuel thefts across the country. Not only did they offer vital advice to county residents about protecting their oil storage tanks, but they also started collaborating with suppliers and insurance companies to put together a bigger picture of the problem.

Oil theft tends to occur in homes that are secluded or sit within quieter rural communities. Unsightly oil tanks at these properties are often well screened themselves and positioned in places that are poorly lit and not surveyed by CCTV. Under the cover of darkness – or even brazenly by day – thieves then either drill holes in the storage tanks or siphon the fuel out into containers.

How to fight back

Ideally, oil tanks should be situated within sight of regularly occupied buildings. Checking fuel levels regularly is essential and fitting an oil monitor or oil tank gauge is advisable. Norfolk Police also suggests considering

an electronic oil alarm or potentially securing your oil

tank within a cage or fencing. Fitting a high-quality lock that makes cutting through with bolt croppers difficult can also be effective. And outside lighting or CCTV should also help deter thieves.

Those wishing to rid themselves of the anxiety of oil theft completely, however, should consider moving over to an alternative energy solution.

What are the alternatives to oil?

Alternatives to oil include a range of renewable technology solutions, from air source heat pumps to ground source heat pumps.

Air source heat pumps draw in renewable heat from the freely available air outside and then upgrade it to supply hot water and heating, making them a simple, clean and cost-effective solution.

Ground source heat pumps extract heat from the ground, which can then be used for radiators, underfloor, and warm air heating systems and hot water.

Other low-carbon solutions include biomass boilers, photovoltaic solar panels and water source heat pumps that draw heat from lakes, rivers, and streams.

An oil-free future

Replacing home heating oil with an air source heat pump is becoming an increasingly popular choice in rural locations. For those living in Norfolk, an air source heat pump, such as the Mitsubishi Electric Ecodan, not only addresses the problem of oil theft but also means an end to ongoing concerns about oil price rises, the unregulated heating oil industry, leaks and smells. With no oil, homeowners also no longer have to wait in for deliveries or put up with unsightly tanks close to their homes.

The Mitsubishi Electric Ecodan air source heating system is low maintenance, easy to install and only requires electric and water connections.

It offers an environmentally friendly hot water and heating solution that can help homeowners say goodbye to oil once and for all – ensuring they remain warm while the oil thieves stay out in the cold.

Thanks to Mitsubishi Electric for help in compiling this article. For more information and advice, visit