Indoor Oil tank removal/replacement

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Old 08-05-10, 01:46 PM
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Indoor Oil tank removal/replacement

I have an indoor (basement) 275 gallon tank that I believe is original to my 1959 house. There are some black crusty spots on it that appear to be increasing over the past 5 years. My oil service guy told me to look into replacing the tank. I had 2 estimates so far. My oil company wanted $2250. Another (recommended by a friend) wanted $1800. I got a price from a local plumbing supply of approx $700 for a new tank with legs, gauge, valve, etc. Are these prices in line for something like this? I am considering tackling this myself if I can't find someone to do the job a little cheaper. I don't mind paying for work, but over $1000 in labor seems steep. My concern is how to dispose of the old tank once I get it out.
 
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Old 08-05-10, 04:08 PM
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My concern is how to dispose of the old tank once I get it out.
And that's really what you are paying for when the contractors handle the job for you. Not only disposal of the tank, but whatever remains IN the tank, and there is likely a pretty substantial amount of 'sludge' in the tank.

The 'over $1000' isn't all going to labor... disposal fees, permit fees, etc... several hundred there... they shouldn't reuse the old feedline, that should be included... there's lots of little charges you may not be fully considering.

Here in NJ, the going rate seems to be around $3500 to have an outdoor underground tank removed, and a new 275 indoor installed, so for removing an indoor and replacing with same, the quoted prices don't seem crazy out of line.

Tank removals and installation require permits from local building departments. I wouldn't try to sidestep that process, it's for your protection.

Keep shopping... two quotes isn't enough.
 
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Old 08-06-10, 07:32 AM
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Thanks NJ those are some good points. I am waiting to hear back from a 3rd guy on a price. I'm always of the mindset that if I can save some money by doing a job myself, I do it. But I have to draw the line when it comes to some things.
 
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Old 08-06-10, 07:39 AM
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Also, make sure whoever disposes of the tank provides you with proof it was done correctly. A few years ago they went wild chasing down everyone who contributed waste to a guy who dumped it in his back yard. Everyone had to share in the clean up expense.

Bud
 
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Old 12-02-10, 02:55 PM
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So I ended up doing the job myself. Actually I had a lot of help from my friends...4 of them! I was able to borrow a 55 gal empty fuel container and an electric fuel pump. I ran the old tank down as low as I could, about 1/8. We disconnected the feed line from the burner and pumped out the remaining oil into the 55 gal drum. This actually took a long time. I think the sludge at the bottom of the tank was clogging the line and filter. So it took a few hours.

Once that was done I just cut the old fill pipes with a sawzall and removed the feed line at the tank. We were able to get the old tank on 2 furniture dollies, and rolled it to the stairway. It was really heavy and with no place to 'grab' onto it, we decided to drive some 1 X 4 x 8ft pine boards into the sides of the tank. We then made a 2x2 handle to span the 1X4's for each end, and carried it up the stairs. It made me think of "Raiders of the lost Ark" and how they carried that tomb. It was a straight shot into the garage after that.

Getting the new tank in was easier as it was slightly lighter, and had built-in bars to grab on each end. The new tank was basically the same size (275gal) but the holes in the top were about 1" off from where the old tank's holes were. I had to make a HD run, and luckily a 45 elbow, and a few small pipe nipples got everything lined up for the fill pipes.

We pumped the old oil back into the new tank (about 25 gal). We also installed a new 3/8 coated copper feed line to the burner. Getting the oil primed into the new line was a bit of a challenge. We blasted a little compressed air into the tank and that eventually got the oil flowing thru the line. We fired up the burner and that was it!

Got 220 gal (ouch) delivered the next day, and no leaks whatsoever! All in all this was a full days work with 5 guys, but I saved a lot. All the parts came to about $760 with tax and no discounts. I then paid my oil company $75 to pickup and dispose of the old tank. I also bought the guys lunch. I'm just happy it's done!
 
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Old 12-02-10, 03:00 PM
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Here are some pics:

Old tank:




Pumping oil into temporary tank:




New tank:
 
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Old 12-02-10, 07:01 PM
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You pumped that sludge into the new tank? At least ya filtered it...

Where's the drip pan? (secondary containment)

Is that you 'huffing' the fuel oil in the drum? or one of your friends? That stuff don't get ya high!
 
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Old 12-02-10, 07:36 PM
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What happened to all the sludge?
 
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Old 12-03-10, 10:32 AM
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Yes we filtered the old oil out of the old tank, then filtered it again pumping it back in. It looked pretty clean. The sludge remained in the old tank.

I think I almost passed out a few times from the smell! Had to open a bunch of windows and get some fans going. But that was my friend with his nose in the tank.

Was not aware of a drip pan. I never had one. I wasn't expecting the new tank to leak. How much oil would a pan hold anyway? I would think if you had any significant leak a pan wouldn't be of much help or would it?
 
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Old 12-03-10, 12:22 PM
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hi deuce5 Ė

I know very little Ė not like the proís here. I just try to learn all I can on the forum. My tanks are just a little younger than your old one.

You said you cut the fill pipes with a sawzall. I think the answer to this is obvious but I just wanted to make sure. You added the 2 unions in the picture, correct? (Guess so- I sure donít see them in the old picture)

I donít have any unions on mine. Just a pipe from the tank opening , through the wall, on to the outside of the house. So I always figured thatís how it would be done to replace my tank: cut the pipe then add unions.

Do you know is it pretty much flexible where you can add unions? Looks like where you added them is the most logical place and makes it easy to replace the tank again if ever needed. Just wondered if there were some requirements/conventions in terms of distance from the tank for the unions ? (Or any other rules for unions?)

Also when you tighten the threaded pipe do you do it until your eyeballs bulge or do you use some kind of torque indicator? And I always wondered are you supposed to use some kind of pipe dope on the threads? I know you shouldnít use Teflon tape for oil connections but I was never clear on what (if anything) you should use? And are the unions a special case in terms of sealant?

Your job isnít leaking so it sounds like a success and it looks good! Great!
 
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Old 12-03-10, 01:42 PM
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I don't know what you use for the joints when piping with oil. I do know that you are supposed to tighten them until you see 2 threads left. I can confess that I didn't do this when I did some pipe work recently on my boiler, but I had to go back and tighten things up because of leaks. You don't apply sealant to unions. They have a soft metal, either brass or copper, where the two sides mate. When you tighten the nut, that soft metal makes the seal. You have to be careful not to over tighten a union.
 
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Old 12-03-10, 04:05 PM
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The drip pan don't hold much... the sides are a couple inches high so it would hold a fair amount... it's not really supposed to hold all the oil in the tank, they don't generally bust open and drop their contents... they drip first. The idea is to keep the oil out of any porous materials, like concrete. A drip pan will 'buy you time'... because you will notice the leak hopefully before it soaks the concrete. The local codes in my town require them, but all towns differ, yours may not.

I don't know about '2 threads left' as a 'rule', but if the pipe had 10 threads on it to start with, that would be about right. I think a better rule would be to bury 8 threads. Yes it would take some muscle... your eyes might bulge a little, but your _____ shouldn't pop. A bigger wrench is a good thing.

I use 'blackstrap molasses' on those pipes... KIDDING! Any dope that is rated for fuel oil is fine but I think that thick black stuff is the best.

Galvanized pipe unions have brass or copper faces?

I personally wouldn't use a union, but that's just me... I don't know if there are any code considerations regarding that. I bet Grady would know.

If I HAD to use a union, I would put the male end pointing DOWN.

My jury is out on sealant on the union faces. I can't see where it would help anything really... the seal is supposed to be METAL TO METAL. I've seen it done though... I guess it don't hurt anything, but probably not necessary. Tighten the snot out of 'em... you do NOT want them wigglin' loose!
 
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Old 12-03-10, 04:11 PM
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I've only messed with the black pipe unions. I've seen with copper and with brass. Don't know about the galvanized. I don't see why they wouldn't be. What metal do they use? Now that I think about it, I think only one side is soft metal.
 
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Old 12-03-10, 04:21 PM
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Dad, you said:

Just a pipe from the tank opening
"A" pipe? as in ONE pipe? You don't have a vent pipe and a 'whistle' in your tank? Delivery guys around here won't fill your tank if you don't have a whistle.

By the way, one thing I didn't mention above... pipe threads are designed for a METAL TO METAL seal when they are properly tightened. Although the pipe dope packages often call the stuff 'SEALANT' it should NOT be relied on for that purpose. When properly tightened a pipe thread connection should not need any sealant. I prefer to think of the stuff as a LUBRICANT that allows the joint to be properly tightened. This is also another reason I don't care for TEFLON TAPE. I'm OK with ONE WRAP of teflon tape... any more that is TOO MUCH.

Whatever you use, do not apply ANY sealant/lubricant/tape to the first three threads, because this is where the metal to metal connection is suposed to occur. You also don't need to glop the whole thing up with gobs of dope... think about how much space is actually between those threads... how much does it really take to fill that space? A THIN coating is all that is or should be needed.

Those of you with really old piping in the house... take a look at how much so-called 'sealant' they used... what? NONE? hmmmm... and hasn't leaked in 50 years...

One last thing... for all this to hold true, the threads have to be PERFECTLY FORMED. That cheap chinese crap they sell at HD and Lowes is exactly that, in most cases. Don't blame a leak with that crap on the fact that you didn't use 'enough' 'sealant'... 99% of the time it's LOUSY CHEAP CRAP THREADS... grrrrrr....

[/soap box mode off]
 
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Old 12-03-10, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
I don't care for TEFLON TAPE. I'm OK with ONE WRAP of teflon tape... any more that is TOO MUCH.
Thread "sealant" probably is more useful in making the joint easier to loosen several decades hence that it does to prevent leaks.

Teflon tape crumbles as the joint is tightened. And then when the joint is loosened, crumbs will wind up in your piping system. (I discovered this when re-doing a bathroom, and wound up with Teflon crumbs clogging the lavatory airator.) I do use pipe dope containing Teflon, like Ace Hardware sells.

Many, many moons ago, in my part of the U.S. Navy, Teflon tape was strictly forbidden. Punishment: worse than flogging. OK, you ask, if it was forbidden, how did it get aboard ship? Some ship's systems allowed it, I guess. Maybe the galley steam filttings and head piping?

My 50+ year-old-black joints do have some type of thread coating - possibly oil and fiber based? It's dried by now, but I have been able to loosen any threaded joint so far - with a pair of 24" pipe wrenches, or smaller.
 
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Old 12-03-10, 06:09 PM
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MAJOR Mistake

In pumping that old oil into the new tank, you have just seeded the new tank with loads of bacteria which produce sludge. I suggest having that tank sampled, analyzed, & treated with the proper biocide.
 
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Old 12-03-10, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Grady View Post
you have just seeded the new tank with loads of bacteria which produce sludge.
I am aware of remotely sited combustion turbine generators, fueled with light oil, that are infrequently run. If the oil is stored too long, there will be bacteria grow in the oil, causing problems.
 
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Old 12-03-10, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by drooplug View Post
I don't know what you use for the joints when piping with oil. I do know that you are supposed to tighten them until you see 2 threads left. I can confess that I didn't do this when I did some pipe work recently on my boiler, but I had to go back and tighten things up because of leaks. You don't apply sealant to unions. They have a soft metal, either brass or copper, where the two sides mate. When you tighten the nut, that soft metal makes the seal. You have to be careful not to over tighten a union.
Drooplug thatís really good information. I thought that you donít apply sealants to unions. Good to hear verification. The 2 threads goal is good to know.

Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
Dad, you said:
"A" pipe? as in ONE pipe? You don't have a vent pipe and a 'whistle' in your tank? Delivery guys around here won't fill your tank if you don't have a whistle.

By the way, one thing I didn't mention above... pipe threads are designed for a METAL TO METAL seal when they are properly tightened. Although the pipe dope packages often call the stuff 'SEALANT' it should NOT be relied on for that purpose. When properly tightened a pipe thread connection should not need any sealant. I prefer to think of the stuff as a LUBRICANT that allows the joint to be properly tightened. This is also another reason I don't care for TEFLON TAPE. I'm OK with ONE WRAP of teflon tape... any more that is TOO MUCH.

Whatever you use, do not apply ANY sealant/lubricant/tape to the first three threads, because this is where the metal to metal connection is suposed to occur. You also don't need to glop the whole thing up with gobs of dope... think about how much space is actually between those threads... how much does it really take to fill that space? A THIN coating is all that is or should be needed.

Those of you with really old piping in the house... take a look at how much so-called 'sealant' they used... what? NONE? hmmmm... and hasn't leaked in 50 years...

One last thing... for all this to hold true, the threads have to be PERFECTLY FORMED. That cheap chinese crap they sell at HD and Lowes is exactly that, in most cases. Don't blame a leak with that crap on the fact that you didn't use 'enough' 'sealant'... 99% of the time it's LOUSY CHEAP CRAP THREADS... grrrrrr....

[/soap box mode off]
Trooper you should be registered somewhere as one of the United States of America important repositories of information. Thanks for all the great information above and below.

Trooper I actually have more than one pipe. I posted some pics one time for another problem in the past where you happened to notice my configuration and offered some constructive criticism on the setup I have. I have two 275 gal tanks with a filler pipe to one tank, then a crossover filler pipe to the other tank, and one copper vent pipe with a whistle. (Donít know who did the copper pipe here or why they used copper? Maybe left over in the truck?).

But you mentioned back then that using copper for a vent pipe was not correct and the crossover pipe from tank to tank made you nervous.

When you say you wouldnít personally use unions (below), do you mean you would just run all new pipe from the outside of the house to the tank? Might be one of those things that I just canít see but seems to me if you donít use unions you have to do an entire new run of pipe. Not that thatís prohibitive, but I was wondering if thatís how you would do it?

Originally Posted by Mike Speed 30 View Post
Thread "sealant" probably is more useful in making the joint easier to loosen several decades hence that it does to prevent leaks.

Teflon tape crumbles as the joint is tightened. And then when the joint is loosened, crumbs will wind up in your piping system. (I discovered this when re-doing a bathroom, and wound up with Teflon crumbs clogging the lavatory airator.) I do use pipe dope containing Teflon, like Ace Hardware sells.

Many, many moons ago, in my part of the U.S. Navy, Teflon tape was strictly forbidden. Punishment: worse than flogging. OK, you ask, if it was forbidden, how did it get aboard ship? Some ship's systems allowed it, I guess. Maybe the galley steam filttings and head piping?

My 50+ year-old-black joints do have some type of thread coating - possibly oil and fiber based? It's dried by now, but I have been able to loosen any threaded joint so far - with a pair of 24" pipe wrenches, or smaller.
Very interesting Mike. Good information! But I bet the Teflon tape folks would not like you (haha)!

Originally Posted by Grady View Post
In pumping that old oil into the new tank, you have just seeded the new tank with loads of bacteria which produce sludge. I suggest having that tank sampled, analyzed, & treated with the proper biocide.
Grady in my wildest dreams I would have never imagined what you are pointing out. That is really good to knowÖbut in a way itís depressing for us newbie DIYíers. You think you are doing a great job and you find out you missed something very important! But seems like deuce5 could take care of that without too much trouble.
 
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Old 12-03-10, 09:55 PM
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Nothing wrong with using unions in fuel oil piping. The vast majority of steel (black or galvanized) unions have a brass seat and they seal just fine without any kind of "goo" on the seating surfaces, you can use a drop or two of lubricating oil on the threaded ring to allow for easier tightening.

One of the best thread compounds for fuel oil piping is Permatex Number Two. It does not set hard so it can be (relatively) easily unthreaded even after several years of it being in place. Permatex Number One can also be used but it IS a hard-setting compound and will be very difficult to unthread after a few years. For tightening 2-inch nominal pipe you need a 24 inch pipe wrench and a fair amount of muscle behind it. Poorly cut threads on pipe is probably the number one reason for leaks. The imported pipe and nipples are notorious for having poorly cut threads so it is imperative to carefully inspect the threads before use, preferably before purchase. Also, the "big box" mega-mart homecenters rarely change the threading dies in their pipe machines often enough so the chances are that any custom lengths of threaded pipe you get at the homecenter will have poorly cut threads.

Teflon tape is a very good product for threaded pipes carrying potable water and a mediocre to very bad product for most other fluids. It is absolutely taboo for any hydraulic systems because the threads cut off while screwing pipes and fittings together will travel though the system and cause havoc with the close tolerances of pumps and valves. Teflon paste is often suitable for a variety of fluids but there are other products that will often be better. Teflon paste is at best mediocre for fuel oil.

I don't know how widespread the problem of biological sludge is in residential fuel oil tanks but my experience with large quantities (20,000 gallon and up) stored for several years is that it is not anywhere near the problem that some think. Of course this may be the result of having fairly large burners (20 gph minimum firing rate) where the biological sludge is just too small to cause a problem.
 
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Old 12-03-10, 10:07 PM
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Trooper you should be registered somewhere as one of the United States of America important repositories of information. Thanks for all the great information above and below.
Sounds good on the internet, but can you imagine if you got stuck talking to me in real life? Y...A...W...N.........

Thanks Dad!

I do very vaguely recall your tanks setup... probably not 'constructive criticism'... my bet would be more like 'nit-picking'.

I would probably run new pipe... I just like stuff all shiny and new when I'm done.
 
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Old 12-04-10, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Furd View Post
Nothing wrong with using unions in fuel oil piping. The vast majority of steel (black or galvanized) unions have a brass seat and they seal just fine without any kind of "goo" on the seating surfaces, you can use a drop or two of lubricating oil on the threaded ring to allow for easier tightening.

One of the best thread compounds for fuel oil piping is Permatex Number Two. It does not set hard so it can be (relatively) easily unthreaded even after several years of it being in place. Permatex Number One can also be used but it IS a hard-setting compound and will be very difficult to unthread after a few years. For tightening 2-inch nominal pipe you need a 24 inch pipe wrench and a fair amount of muscle behind it. Poorly cut threads on pipe is probably the number one reason for leaks. The imported pipe and nipples are notorious for having poorly cut threads so it is imperative to carefully inspect the threads before use, preferably before purchase. Also, the "big box" mega-mart homecenters rarely change the threading dies in their pipe machines often enough so the chances are that any custom lengths of threaded pipe you get at the homecenter will have poorly cut threads.

Teflon tape is a very good product for threaded pipes carrying potable water and a mediocre to very bad product for most other fluids. It is absolutely taboo for any hydraulic systems because the threads cut off while screwing pipes and fittings together will travel though the system and cause havoc with the close tolerances of pumps and valves. Teflon paste is often suitable for a variety of fluids but there are other products that will often be better. Teflon paste is at best mediocre for fuel oil.

I don't know how widespread the problem of biological sludge is in residential fuel oil tanks but my experience with large quantities (20,000 gallon and up) stored for several years is that it is not anywhere near the problem that some think. Of course this may be the result of having fairly large burners (20 gph minimum firing rate) where the biological sludge is just too small to cause a problem.
Good information Furd. Saving in my archives.
 
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Old 12-06-10, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by zoesdad View Post

You said you cut the fill pipes with a sawzall. I think the answer to this is obvious but I just wanted to make sure. You added the 2 unions in the picture, correct? (Guess so- I sure donít see them in the old picture)

I donít have any unions on mine. Just a pipe from the tank opening , through the wall, on to the outside of the house. So I always figured thatís how it would be done to replace my tank: cut the pipe then add unions.

Do you know is it pretty much flexible where you can add unions? Looks like where you added them is the most logical place and makes it easy to replace the tank again if ever needed. Just wondered if there were some requirements/conventions in terms of distance from the tank for the unions ? (Or any other rules for unions?)

Also when you tighten the threaded pipe do you do it until your eyeballs bulge or do you use some kind of torque indicator? And I always wondered are you supposed to use some kind of pipe dope on the threads? I know you shouldnít use Teflon tape for oil connections but I was never clear on what (if anything) you should use? And are the unions a special case in terms of sealant?

Your job isnít leaking so it sounds like a success and it looks good! Great!
Yes we added 2 unions. I didn't want to have to break the old pipes out of the basement wall and have to redo that because there is nothing wrong with the old pipes and it would have added extra work. I was concerned with getting everything done in one day. The plumbing supply I dealt with recommended the unions as a better alternative to a compression fitting.

They are not really 'flexible.' I had to get the pipes lined up pretty exact to get the 2 sides of the union to mate properly. I did not really notice what the mating surface was, I assumed it was all the same material as the rest of the pipes. I did not use any sealant on the union mating surfaces. I just used pipe dope on all the threads. I just used my arm as a torque gauge, using 24" pipe wrenches. I watched the tank being filled from truck the next day. There were no leaks, no sweating so I think (hope) I'll be good.

As far as the location of the unions, I put it there pretty much out of necessity. I had bought a few pre-cut pipe lengths and I had to work with what I had. I had to go to HD for a few pieces that I was missing as it was a Sunday and the plumbing supply was closed.
 
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Old 12-06-10, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Grady View Post
In pumping that old oil into the new tank, you have just seeded the new tank with loads of bacteria which produce sludge. I suggest having that tank sampled, analyzed, & treated with the proper biocide.
I was not aware of this. My original thought was to dispose of all the old oil, but when I got 2 estimates from licensed plumbers they both said they would pump out the old oil, and pump it into the new tank. That is where I got that idea. Do you know where/how I would go about having it analyzed as you say?
 
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Old 12-06-10, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by deuce5 View Post
Yes we added 2 unions. I didn't want to have to break the old pipes out of the basement wall and have to redo that because there is nothing wrong with the old pipes and it would have added extra work. I was concerned with getting everything done in one day. The plumbing supply I dealt with recommended the unions as a better alternative to a compression fitting.

They are not really 'flexible.' I had to get the pipes lined up pretty exact to get the 2 sides of the union to mate properly. I did not really notice what the mating surface was, I assumed it was all the same material as the rest of the pipes. I did not use any sealant on the union mating surfaces. I just used pipe dope on all the threads. I just used my arm as a torque gauge, using 24" pipe wrenches. I watched the tank being filled from truck the next day. There were no leaks, no sweating so I think (hope) I'll be good.

As far as the location of the unions, I put it there pretty much out of necessity. I had bought a few pre-cut pipe lengths and I had to work with what I had. I had to go to HD for a few pieces that I was missing as it was a Sunday and the plumbing supply was closed.
Gotcha deuce! Thanks for the very clear response and good information!

Now that you mention it I do remember that one of the things I worried about in doing a tank replacement job was that it might be pretty tough to get the 2 sides of the union aligned correctly, because it seemed to me that there is no flexibility. I used unions a few times for some things where there was some flexibility and managed to get proper alignment, but I thought the case with the oil tank might be a nightmare. But looks like you got it done fine!

Thanks again!
 
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Old 12-06-10, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by deuce5 View Post
I was not aware of this. My original thought was to dispose of all the old oil, but when I got 2 estimates from licensed plumbers they both said they would pump out the old oil, and pump it into the new tank. That is where I got that idea. Do you know where/how I would go about having it analyzed as you say?
I know Sid Harvey used to have a sample kit you could buy. As I recall there were three bottles, one each for top, middle, & bottom of the tank. You collected the samples & returned them to Sid's who would send them to the lab & notify you when the results were back. Along with the results would be a suggested treatment. Don't remember the cost.
I'm sure if you do a web search for fuel oil testing you'll find others as well.
 
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Old 12-07-10, 11:15 AM
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I see a few places selling analyzation kits and biocide to treat problems. For around $20-$30 would it be worth it to just treat the tank and skip the analyzation? Another thing I thought of is what if the next truck that delivers is contaminated already? Is this something to worry about all the time, like a maintenance issue?
 
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Old 12-07-10, 06:06 PM
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The thing with biocides is knowing which to use. You could use a broad spectrum biocide & hope for the best. The most common one is bio-bar (sp?). For $20-30 I'd have it done but naturally I'm one who likes answers.

Many companies treat their fuel at the bulk plant. Hint: Many discounters do not. Ask your supplier.
 
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