If you have an oil boiler heating system, then it is imperative that you have the system serviced before each heating season. Your technician will likely spend time changing the oil filter, replacing or clearing the nozzle, and making sure that water is moving through the system properly. While oil lines may be visually inspected, your oil tank probably will not be looked over unless you are having a specific heating issue. Unfortunately, materials can build in the oil tank and cause line clogging problems. Keep reading to learn about the things that can enter your tank and find out how they can cause an issue.
Water can enter into your oil tank and collect inside of it for many different reasons. Condensation is likely to be the main causes of the water, as a half or quarter filled tank is exposed to fluctuating warm and cold temperatures. Water also enters the tank as you or your heating oil delivery technician removes the top cap. Water can seep into small seam openings as well as through loosely sealed caps and gauges. Water will separate from your heating fuel and lie on the bottom of the oil tank. This helps to keep the water from entering the tank spigot and line. However, when water levels become too high or when water mixes with the oil during an oil delivery, it can easily enter your oil line. The small diameter of the external oil line as well as the cold temperatures outdoors can cause water in the lines to freeze quickly.
One of the easiest ways to stop large amounts of water from accumulating in your tank is to keep the tank as filled as possible, even in the summer. If the sun directly hits the tank, then think about placing a barrier near the tank to reduce thermal transfer and condensation issues. A tree with a large canopy like an elm, maple, or oak tree will provide shade. So will a simple lattice fence placed on the south side of the oil tank.
You can reduce water issues by making sure to tighten oil caps fully and to invest in a new gauge if your old one breaks. Also, think about asking your heating repair specialist or your oil supplier about additives called dispersants that help to safely mix water with your heating oil so it can burn away in the firebox of your heating system.
If your heating oil becomes too cold, it can actually start to freeze into a waxy or gel substance. This gel is most likely to form after the oil moves through your oil lines, and it occurs most often if the heating oil reaches a temperature between 5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, this type of temperature must remain consistent for a day or two before gel forms in a large enough amount that it will clog your oil lines. While you cannot stop your oil tank and lines from being exposed to extremely low temperatures, you can heat up the oil lines slightly to help keep gel from forming. This can be accomplished with either an insulating line cover or with heat tape wrapped tightly around the line. If you do decide to install a line warmer, plug the device in when temperatures reach close to 10 degrees.
You also can stop some gel from forming by lowering the gel point of the fuel in the tank. Kerosene has a much lower gel or freezing point than heating oil at around -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider adding several gallons of kerosene to your fuel oil to lower the overall freezing point so that gel cannot form. You should do this a few days before the forecast calls for cold temperatures so the kerosene has the opportunity to dissipate throughout the heating oil in your tank.
For more information about keeping your tank and system in good shape, contact a company like Allied Mechanical & Electrical, Inc.