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What causes sludge in a heating oil tank?

sludge in heating oil tankOne of the things we sometimes find when performing routine service on oil-fired heating systems in Montgomery and Bucks County homes is a build-up of thick black sludge in the fuel filter.

That sludge forms when dirt, rust, and oxidized fuel accumulate at the bottom of your tank (the fuel is oxidized by bacteria that grows in the presence of condensation resulting from temperature changes). This viscous material robs your heating oil system of efficiency and, if left untreated, can even cause your heating system to seize.

Typically the pickup line for an oil furnace rests several inches higher than the bottom of the tank to avoid sucking this sludge into the supply line. But a tank filling can stir sludge into the fuel mix, clogging filters and causing problems for your heating system.

What can you do to prevent a sludge problem in your heating oil tank this winter and beyond? Here are three key actions you should take:

  1. Keep your oil tank at least half-full year round – an empty heating oil tank enables condensation to accumulate on the tank’s interior walls, which accelerates the growth of sludge-forming bacteria. If your tank is less than half full, schedule an oil delivery today.
  2. Have your heating system serviced annually by a qualified technicianRoutine annual maintenance includes a filter change – a must for your heating oil system.
  3. Consider a tank draining – If you have an older heating oil tank, consider having it drained by a waste oil contractor (or, if it’s older than 20 years old, consider having it replaced). Removing years of built up sludge this way can save you money on repairs and help your heating system to perform better.
  4. Buy your heating oil from a reputable supplier – “Discount” fuel companies commonly offer fuel that is less refined and contains more contaminants than more reputable providers. Always remember: you get what you pay for!

Contact the heating pros at Clyde S. Walton today to schedule maintenance for your heating oil system or a heating oil delivery– or to learn more about our expert heating oil equipment installation and maintenance services in the North Penn area!

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