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How Do You Get Rid of Heating Oil Sludge?

oil sludge clean up Gray, meIf you just had your spring maintenance on your heating system, and the tech found signs of an oil sludge problem, don’t ignore the warning.

Heating oil sludge is the leading culprit of many heating system problems. It’s a thick, black mixture of dirt, rust, and oxidized fuel that can clog filters, forcing your equipment to work harder to provide heat, reducing efficiency—and driving your energy costs up. Left unchecked, it can cause heating system breakdowns. A sludge problem that’s gone undetected for a long time can corrode your tank from the inside out and lead to a tank failure, which can be very costly to remediate.

Where Does Heating Oil Sludge Come From?

If your heating oil tank sits empty in the warm summer months, condensation forms on the interior walls of the tank. Because water is denser than heating oil, it drips down and sinks to the bottom of the tank, where it becomes an ideal environment for bacteria and other microorganisms to turn it into sediment or sludge that corrodes your tank.

The line that draws oil to your furnace is located several inches above the bottom of the tank to avoid pulling sludge into the supply line. However, when you get a fuel delivery, it can stir up the gunk from the bottom of the tank and draw it into your system, where it clogs filters.

Removing Heating Oil Sludge

Got sludge? Your best option is working with a waste-oil contractor. They can drain your tank quickly and safely, saving you money on repairs, improving performance and preventing bigger problems.
If your tank is very old, you may want to consider replacing it. Older tanks are made of steel and have varying thicknesses, some with only single-wall construction. They are much more susceptible to corrosion. Newer tanks are made from plastic and fiberglass, which is less vulnerable to sludge-related damage. They’re designed to last 50 years or more.

Preventing Tank Sludge

While it’s possible to get rid of sludge, it’s far easier to prevent it. Here are three measures to stop or slow the formation of sludge in your tank.

  1. Get a fill up in the spring. In the winter, your tank doesn’t stay empty long, and condensation is less likely to form in colder temps. But in summer, especially if your tank is outside, condensation forms quickly, which accelerates the growth of sludge-forming bacteria.
  2. Choose a reputable heating oil supplier. Cheap fuel isn’t always a great value. Discount fuel companies commonly offer fuel that is less refined and contains more contaminants.
  3. Get professional heating maintenance every year. The best way to stay on top of a sludge problem is to have a heating system tune-up every year. A heating system tune-up includes a filter change and helps technicians to spot a sludge problem early, before too much damage is done.

Need to schedule a heating oil delivery to protect your tank over the summer? Contact Pitstop today.