Frozen oil supply line .. again..

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Old 11-04-12, 05:25 AM
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Frozen oil supply line .. again..

Every start of the heating season, as the temps start to dip below freezing during the night, my oil supply line will freeze up.
Ya, I know its from leaving my tank empty during the summer , but who has $900 to leave sitting around for that long ? The tank is tipped toward the outlet side , it's bottom drained and I regularly run SBG through it.

Some people have told me that I should change my 25' of exposed 3/8" copper line to 1/2". This would reduce the chance of freezing..the small bit of water would come through instead of log jamming up. I know when it does freeze up, I just gently apply a hot air gun to the supply fitting, valve and first foot or so of 3/8" where it elevates a little and it will clear out right away.

Is it worth changing out to the 1/2" line ?
 
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Old 11-04-12, 12:04 PM
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I wouldn't change the tubing. What I would do is install a water trap right at the tank outlet. You can make a water trap out of standard plumbing fittings and install it in a few hours and probably less than $40. Maybe considerably less as I haven't priced galvanized steel fittings for a long time. Post back if you want the details.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 04:45 PM
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A trap sounds like a cool idea.. I guess one would have to watch that it couldnt freeze solid and break (and thus drain the oil tank onto the ground ?).
Unfortunately, the drain end of my tank is probably only 3" off of the slab its sitting on.. Ill have to go measure it to be sure though. We used threaded pipe and flanges as the legs/feet, and I tried to keep it low for stability. Swapping out the legs in the summer is possible, if they will unscrew after 10yrs..
 
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Old 11-04-12, 05:01 PM
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Swapping out the legs in the summer is possible, if they will unscrew after 10yrs..
PB Blaster!! !
 
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Old 11-04-12, 10:05 PM
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Yeah, three inch clearance isn't going to work. You need the valve on the tank to a bell reducer to increase to a minimum of one inch nominal pipe, two inch gives you a bigger water reservoir. From the bell reducer use a close nipple to a tee and then a six-inch long nipple ending with a bell reducer to fit a drain valve. Take the fuel outlet from the side of the tee using whatever adapter fittings necessary.

The water drops to the bottom of the nipple/bell reducer and you drain it monthly from the drain on the bottom. Use all galvanized fittings to reduce rust and use Permatex Number 2 on the threads.
 
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Old 11-05-12, 05:10 AM
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Yep, sounds like a foot or so minimum..
 
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Old 11-05-12, 06:25 AM
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Where in Canada are you running into freezing issues already?
 
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Old 11-05-12, 05:33 PM
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Northwestern Ontario, Mike..
 
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Old 11-06-12, 07:09 AM
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Dave, are you using straight fuel oil. Not a pro on this, but with an outside tank, here in Maine, they will mix some amount of Kerosene when the temps get too low. It isn't that the oil freezes, but it gets too thick to pump. I'm thinking your last end of winter delivery it might be warm enough to not need the treatment, but comes this time of year you are now starting up with untreated oil.

Some of the oil pros will correct me if this is not a current practice.

Bud
 
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Old 11-06-12, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveC72
Northwestern Ontario, Mike..
Not often I find someone on here further north in Ontario then me. It's still pretty mild here in the French River area. Not remotely cold enough to freeze fuel although the ponds are starting to form ice.


Back on topic…
I think what Bud stated is what's happening. It's just getting too heavy for the pump.
I don't know much about the Kerosene treatment, so I can't comment on that.

I wouldn't reduce your feed pipe size down to 1/2".
A quick and dirty solution I would consider is simple foam wrap (or similar) and a low power heat trace cable on a timer. This should keep the fuel warm enough to make it flow.
 
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Old 11-06-12, 12:11 PM
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....Not a pro on this, but with an outside tank, here in Maine, they will mix some amount of Kerosene when the temps get too low. It isn't that the oil freezes, but it gets too thick to pump. I'm thinking your last end of winter delivery it might be warm enough to not need the treatment, but comes this time of year you are now starting up with untreated oil.
I'm not a pro either, but this makes a lot of sense to me.


 
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Old 11-06-12, 02:04 PM
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Number two fuel oil should not be a problem at even ten or twenty degrees F. below zero. Water in the fuel WILL be a problem. I would consider heat tracing the the exposed oil piping. Use a twenty-five foot electric heat tape WITH THERMOSTAT made for water lines and insulate the entire assembly after attaching the heat tape. The thermostat needs to be against the tubing to allow the heat tape to respond to the temperature of the tubing and fuel oil rather than the air temperature.

If the heat tape is a bit too long do NOT double it back or wind it around the tubing but just leave it hanging free. A shorter heat tape might be better and if you go this route be sure to get the valve assembly at the tank heated and insulated rather than starting at the end where it enters the house.
 
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Old 11-07-12, 04:46 PM
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Im pretty sure I read on a reputable site once, that furnace oil used to be different from off-road fuel oil... but that nowdays they are the same. So the same fuel they put in a backhoe goes into the boiler. Im not sure when they switch to the thinner 'winter' grade..

It's maybe hit 10f so far here.. not too cold, but cold enough for water to freeze, yep.

I put in a small bottle of gas/diesel line antifreeze, maybe that has broken up the rest of the water. I'll look at lifting the tank up and putting in a trap next summer..
 
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Old 11-09-12, 08:06 PM
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Another cheap and easy water trap is to install a General 30 filter can without a filter element right at the tank valve outlet. Water will drop into the empty filter can, fuel will flow out the top. But you will still need to raise the tank a bit sounds like.
 
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Old 11-09-12, 09:16 PM
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Yes, I went thru a lot of the tribulations of dealing with an outside fuel tank many years ago when I 1st bought this house in the Boston area; several pros from the fuel oil dealer came over & recommended several things: the 3/8" fuel line should not be positioned at the bottom of the outside tank, where it is easy to be clogged by ice crystals, thick half-frozen oil & any accumulated sludge.

They pointed out what happens when the sun hits the tank during part of the day, especially hitting a 1/2 empty tank that tends to have a lot of water vapor under those conditions--condensation; ice crystals form overnite & sink to the bottom of the tank to clog up the fuel line.

Instead a 3/8"copper flex line was installed going into the center TOP of the tank to a few inches off the bottom; and a l6 oz bottle of "Hot 4 in 1" by FPPF mfg. was added to each new fuel delivery ($5-$8/bottle) during the bitterest weather; I had good results with this routine, and tapping the tank from the center top made all the difference; it was later decided that either a little shed be built over the tank to avoid direct sunlight & bitter wind/temps, or the tank be somehow moved inside to an excavated-out small area of the crawl space.

This final option was eventually done & turned out to be the best resolution to the problem of the freezing fuel lines.

Also, talk to the local fuel oil dealers in northwestern Ontario---they deal with this problem every winter & should have some additional tips that will keep the oil flowing and the heat on.
 

Last edited by Dobbs; 11-09-12 at 09:37 PM.
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Old 11-10-12, 12:46 AM
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The problem with taking the oil from a few inches off the bottom is that the water then accumulates and rusts the tank bottom from the inside. Also, it is the water that creates the sludge. Take the oil from the bottom and you get rid of the water and the sludge BEFORE it can accumulate. Other alternative (with oil withdrawal above the bottom) is to drain off the accumulated water on a frequent basis.
 
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Old 11-10-12, 12:40 PM
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Haven't had a problem (in 20 yrs) with the tank bottom rusting out, or the fuel line locking up for that matter; they tell me the "Hot 4 in 1" keeps everything in suspension.
 
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