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Oil Tank Cleaning

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Oil Tank Cleaning

An oil tank should be cleaned when evidence of sludge accumulation is present. This evidence can range from delayed burner ignition to clogged nozzle, filter, pump strainer or oil line.

In most cases sludge is found by the burner tech while changing the oil filter during a heating system tune-up. This is a strong indication that the oil tank should be cleaned. A dirty nozzle in an oil burner is just like a dirty injector on an automobile. In both cases fuel efficiency is greatly reduced and the chance of system failure is looming.

Sludge is an ongoing biological process. If oil tanks operated in a vacuum, sludge would be easily controlled by filters alone. Tanks are vented to the outdoors which allows moisture, dirt, dust and insects to enter the "closed" tank environment. Tank walls generally accumulate a paraffin wax layer that seemingly has little or no effect on tank integrity or system operation.


The Hamco SL in Action!

During the winter months in the northeast, cold oil is delivered to warmer basement tanks. The thermal loading of the different materials and products involved cause a chain reaction of events. One result of cold weather delivery is condensation. Warm climate deliveries also have condensation due to high humidity. Condensation is its own source of fuel for tank bottom chemical reactions. Even with the low sulfur oil, a mild sulfuric acid is formed leading to a host of biological consequences.

Outside above ground tanks suffer from extreme climate conditions as well. Most above ground outside oil tank exteriors are black. During cold days the black tank absorbs solar heat and condensation is formed. Outside above ground tanks should be painted white or silver to reflect solar loading.

Tank cleaning gives the heating tech an "inside look" at the tank bottom. Large amounts of rust could indicate that it is time to look at the integrity of the tank. Excessive condensation could mean a missing or lose vent or fill cap. Thick heavy sludge could be an early sign of a shortened tank life or no heat call. Typical residential oil storage tanks should be cleaned every 3 to 5 years depending on tank environment and oil consumption.

A proactive tank maintenance policy can reduce the oil companies and homeowner's liability, ensure peak operating efficiency and build a positive outlook for the oil heat industry.

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