What is heating oil sludge, and how do I prevent it?

oil tank sludgeWhat is heating oil sludge, and how do I prevent it?

One of the things our technicians sometimes encounter when we perform annual tune-ups on oil-fired heating systems is a build-up of thick black gunk in the fuel filter.

That gunk, commonly known as heating oil sludge, forms when bacteria oxidize the fuel in your tank; the bacteria lives in the fuel and grows in the presence of water, which condenses on the tank walls as temperatures outside the tank change. Sludge robs your heating equipment of precious efficiency and, if left untreated, can even cause your heating system to break down.

Typically the pickup line for an oil furnace rests several inches above the tank bottom 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 in the months to come? Here are four key actions you should take:

  1. Keep enough heating oil in your tank – An empty heating oil tank promotes condensation build-up on its walls, which accelerates the growth of sludge-forming bacteria. If your tank is less than half full, schedule an oil delivery today.
  2. Get professional heating maintenance every year – A heating tune-up includes a filter change – a must for your heating oil system. It will also help technicians to spot a sludge problem early, before too much damage is done.
  3. Consider draining your tank – Sludge accumulates over time; if you have an older heating oil tank, consider having it drained by a waste oil contractor. Removing sludge this way can save you money on repairs and help your heating system to perform better.
  4. Choose a reputable heating oil supplier – “Discount” fuel companies commonly offer fuel that is less refined and contains more contaminants. Remember: as with many things in life, you get what you pay for!

Contact the heating pros at Pemi River Fuels today to schedule a heating system tune-up or heating oil delivery in the Plymouth, NH area – you’ll be glad you did!