There are many things that can happen to your home’s oil heating equipment in the winter. One thing that causes a multitude of problems is home heating oil sludge building up in the bottom of your tank.
Home heating oil impurities or “sludge” are particles that get trapped in the bottom of your fuel oil tank and build up over time. Sludge is made up of multiple types of impurities. The two main types of impurities that cause sludge are water and solid particles.
Water can enter your tank in a variety of ways. Condensation is the largest culprit. Think of it the same way as the wetness on the inside of your windshield on a cold morning. This also happens to your aboveground outside fuel oil tanks as temperatures change. This condensation forms from changing temperatures and allows moisture into the tank, a little at a time. Considering that water is heavier than home heating oil, it drops to the bottom where it accumulates. Bacteria can also be found in fuel oil tanks, most often introduced through leaking vents or in the fuel you purchase. As water builds up in the tank, a film can build up on the surface referred to as “slime” by service techs.
Another culprit is buying home heating oil from non-reputable “discount” fuel companies. These companies often don’t have their own storage terminals, they simply reload their tank truck where ever they can find the cheapest oil. There have been all too many times where these discount guys use anything that’s less expensive than pure fuel oil to supplement their product such as: used cooking oil / grease, waste oil from car dealerships, cleaning solvents from factories and recycled / reclaimed oil from areas where recyclers have pulled old oil tanks out for large industrial users. Common trick amongst many of these “discounters” is to ‘cut’ their oil with whatever is cheaper and will ‘mostly’ burn. We’ve found that the “cheapest” oil on the wholesale market is often from the “bottom of the barge” and full of contaminants.
Combined Energy Services doesn’t fill our small delivery trucks from the cheapest ‘rack’ of the moment. We have long-term supply contracts with trusted providers that guarantee the quality of their fuels through chemical analysis. In addition, every load has detergent anti-sludge agents added at our own storage facilities where we control the quality of the products.
The problems, damage, and expensive service calls that tank sludge can cause are many. Oil filter clogging, supply line clogging, strainer clogging, “fire-o-matic” valve / safety valve clogging, premature oil pump failure and oil burner failure are just some of the problems that occur due to tank sludge. Although the problems and damage caused vary, they all lead to potentially costly repairs, home heating failure and a decrease in your burner’s efficiency sending your heating money up the chimney.
Combined Energy Services has been delivering quality home heating fuel oil for 50 years and we stake our reputation on the line every day with every delivery. Our customers are getting only quality 100% fuel oil they deserve – not any underhanded “cutting” with other agents. From the moment we pick up the fuels from the terminals in our own tractor trailers, to storing in our own local storage facilities, to loading the fuel in our fleet of certified delivery trucks – we’re sure of the quality of the fuel we’re delivering our customers.
To avoid sludge build up – here are some tips:
- Always draw fuel oil off newly installed tanks off the bottom so small particulates don’t get a chance to build up.
- Tip new tanks towards the end where oil is being withdrawn so nothing builds up.
- Move your tank indoors or enclose to cut down on the huge daily temperature swings that cause tanks to “sweat” or drip condensation / water into your tank continually.
- Change your filter(s) at least annually.
- Have your heating system cleaned, serviced and set-up by a CES trained service technician using the latest electronic combustion analysis equipment to ensure the maximum burner efficiency.
- Add a “sludge remover” from the local hardware store or ask CES to add during your annual servicing if you suspect any build up.
- Have the bottom of older tanks cleaned out by a waste oil contractor. Removing years of built up sludge can save you endless money on service calls. Ask CES for information.
- Don’t buy from obscure “discount” fly-by-night fuel companies that can’t verify where their fuel is coming from. We find that often if they don’t own their own local storage terminals – they are buying whatever the wholesalers want to dump with poor quality fuel at a cheap price for these guys. That saying “you get what you pay for” with the discount dealers ends up costing consumers more money with service calls, sludge build up and lost efficiencies with lower quality fuels / blends.
- If your tank is outdoors – blend kerosene or an “anti-gel” product in the cold winter months to make sure your oil keeps flowing.
Stay with a consistent, reputable dealer that puts chemical additives into each truckload that helps to break down any sludge build-up. This may cost a couple pennies more per gallon – but that money is well worth it for your efficiency and to ensure your burner stays running during the long cold winter nights.
For more information – feel free to contact CES: 800-874-1975. We’ve been taking care of the home heating fuel oil needs of consumers all over the region since 1968. Put our decades of experience and quality reputation to work for you this winter.