How To Keep Heating Oil Sludge From Clogging Your Boiler

If you have an oil boiler in your home that provides your house with heat, then it is wise to contact a boiler repair specialist if the appliance is not heating your house properly. Your boiler may need a tune-up or a repair, or there may be too much sludge flowing through your fuel line. A repair specialist may suggest an oil tank cleaning when this is the case. These cleanings should typically be performed every three to five years to reduce the build up of sludge on the bottom of the tank. Once a cleaning is performed, you should try to prevent new sludge from forming and clogging your fuel line. Some of the suggestions below can assist you with this.

Invest in Regular Oil Deliveries

Fill the Tank in the Summer

Most people do not use their oil boiler heating systems in the summer, and this means that homeowners typically do not refill oil tanks at the end of the heating season. This can actually be very harmful to your oil tank. When the oil tank becomes empty, condensation can form on the inside of the tank as the weather gets warmer. This water can eat away at the metal inside your oil tank and rust can form.  

When the rust breaks away from the tank, it forms a layer of debris inside the container. The water also allows bacteria to become active, and this can cause the fuel oil to break down naturally. When this happens, hard wax and other debris build in the tank.

You can easily reduce the amount of sludge and debris that build inside your fuel tank by investing in a fuel deliver at the end of the heating season. Ask your delivery person to fill up your tank completely to reduce condensation concerns.

Top Off the Tank in the Winter

If you do not regularly receive oil deliveries during the winter, then you may allow the oil level to drop significantly inside your fuel tank before you purchase more oil. When you do this, new oil flows into your mostly empty tank and the debris that builds at the bottom is disturbed. The debris then mixes with your fuel oil and it can be pulled through your fuel line. This can clog the line or prevent oil from flowing consistently to your boiler.

You can prevent sludge from mixing with your fuel oil by arranging for an oil delivery after you use about 50% of the oil in your tank. Check the gauge often on the outside of your tank and make arrangements for an oil delivery once the gauge reaches just above the 50% mark. Your local oil delivery business may not be able to deliver fuel to you immediately, so this ensures a delivery at the right time.

Inspect Your Filter

Your home heating system will be fitted with a filter at the end of your fuel line, and this filter helps to remove the dirt, debris, and sludge that makes its way out of your oil tank. The filter stops the debris from entering your fuel pump and burner, but the filter can become clogged with debris over time. When this happens, it will no longer be able to collect sludge, and the debris will form on your fuel nozzle.  

This fuel nozzle forces oil across the burner so that oil and air can mix together to create a flame. You may need to clean the nozzle when it becomes clogged, but you can easily prevent the problem by cleaning out the oil filter. Clean this filter two or three times a year to make sure that it stays clean.

Clean the Filter

Cleaning the oil filter is a relatively easy job. Before you start cleaning, make sure to purchase a pair of rubber gloves. Also, find a clean rag and place a small amount of heating oil or kerosene in a plastic container. When you are ready, place the gloves on your hands and locate the small metal canister that sits at the end of your fuel line. Look for a small lever or valve that sits behind the filter and turn the valve. This will stop oil from flowing through the filter.

Look for a nut that sits on top of the oil filter and turn the nut until you can pull it completely out of the filter. Pull on the lower part of the filter canister until it releases from the top cover. Use your hands to pull out the filter that is located in the canister. The filter will likely be covered by a great deal of black or brown sludge. Use your rag to wipe off the thickest sludge material. You should also use your rag to wipe out the filter canister.

Once the thick debris is removed from the filter, place it in your container of kerosene or heating oil. Move the filter around in the fuel until the filter appears visibly lighter. Replace the filter in the canister and secure it to the top cap or cover. Tighten the bolt at this time and turn the fuel valve so that oil can move through the filter again.

If you have difficulties with your oil boiler, then a professional repair person from a place like HomeSmart From Xcel Energy may be needed to remove the sludge or debris from your fuel tank. This sludge can accumulate again and reduce the amount of oil that flows to your boiler. You can prevent this from happening with the suggestions explained in this article.