#2 fuel oil undergroud tank, wont pull up the oil

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  #1  
Old 01-18-03, 06:35 AM
charliebrown66
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Question #2 fuel oil undergroud tank, wont pull up the oil

I've read through all of the other messages and could not find anything like my problem...........Yesterday our furnace stopped working. We have a forced air, oil burning furnace that is 28 years old. We had a service tech come out after my husband dipped to check on the oil amount (approx. 275 gallons). The service guy changed the filter and the nozzle, and did the adjustments needed. He then attempted to bleed the line (we have a 1000 gallon underground oil tank that is a one pipe system, the furnace is located in the basement). He insisted to me that there is no oil in the tank and that is why he can not get any oil to come through the pipe. He blew out the pipe in case of clogging...no luck. He told me to order more oil and see if that takes care of the problem..........When my husband came home, he checked the tank again....still 275 gallons showing on our dip stick. Last year we went down to 75 gallons before calling for a refill and no problems. Right now there is a terrible cold front and temps are in the single digits to near zero at night. We thought that maybe the #2 fuel oil gelled up???? A call to the oil company this morning, and they said that that shouldn't happed in an underground tank. They are sending someone out to test for water in the tank (maybe a possible leak?). If that is true, wouldn't the pipe just bring in water/oil mix instead of nothing? We put air in the pipe ourselves to see what we could hear.....sounds like air blowing on top of the oil. Could something have broken off inside the tank and it will not pull up the 275 gallons of oil. ANY HELP????? Thanks!!!
 
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  #2  
Old 01-18-03, 07:57 AM
bigjohn
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Possible, not probable, but I guess almost anything is possible. Can you lift the line out of the tank and see how long it is? Compare the depth of the line with your dipstick. I'm inclined to agree with your fuel oil supplier that it would be hard for the contents of an underground tank to gel or freeze. Did the service guy put a guage on the inlet side of the pump to measure the vacuum? Is the fuel line buried exposed in the ground between the tank and the house? Maybe it has some pinhole leaks from corrosion. With the kind of weather you're having, I find it hard to believe he left you with no heat. He could have tried running a temporary line on the ground and into the tank to verify his hunch. A roll of copper tubing isn't that expensive. Are you absolutely sure about your calculation of how much oil is in the tank? If the tubing is broken off, you'll have to run a new line. Maybe you can go to Home Depot and get a 50 ft. roll of tubing and run a lne to get you thru the cold spell, Take an adjustable wrench, close it down over the existing tubing, then sldie it off and measure the gap in the wrench jaws. This will tell you the Outside Diameter of the tubing. Buy the same size. DO NOT put the tubing together with compression fittings, They leak air in.

EDIT: Maybe the fuel oil company could set up a temporary above ground tank and you could pipe that in? Rght now, your first priority is heat, then figure out what's wrong with the in ground tank. If that tank is 28 years old, your local environmental codes may require you to replace it.
 
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Old 01-18-03, 08:15 AM
charliebrown66
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Will try that.....Thanks!

We do have a wood burner and I have shut off all doors to bedrooms and utility room. The main part of the house stays at about 67F pretty good considering the cold outside. Our kids have to sleep on the floor.......Your suggestion sounds like a good work around. My father said that if we can't get the fuel in the underground tank to come up, we should get a small tank for the inside basement. I'm worried about tank shifting with the frost, we have patio blocks over the ground were the tank is and they are bowing upward slightly. We do not want to have to dig up the old tank, as that would be very costly! Thanks again for your help....I'll post what the fuel provider finds out about if any water is in the tank.
 
  #4  
Old 01-18-03, 08:36 AM
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oil burner

You have a lot of IF'S here.First with an under ground tank we use a two pipe set up for the oil lines.No the oil cant gel up. IM with bigjohn. Didnt the guy check the pump out?For now I'd get some copper tube 3/8 and run it out into the tank and put it in the fill pipe. let it go down till it hits the bottom then pull it back up 2" and run it to the pump then try it. If the pump dont pick the oil up when you bleed it get a new pump. Now make sure no snow or water can get into the tank if you do this. cover up the fill pipe. If you can are want to you could get a new cap for the fill here . Drill it out and tap it for a FPT 3/8". Now get a 3/8 "compression fitting and put it into the cap. Ream this fitting out to 3/8". Put the cap on the fill pipe. Now the 3/8". copper tubing will slide down and in this compression fitting.Like above slide the copper down till you hit bottom of the tank and pull it back up 2".Now tighten this compression on the line and it will hold the copper line where you want it. Now water or snow will not get into the tank.Like bigjohn said to do. Have done this when its to cold to do anything else. Use flare fittings onanthing else ED
 
  #5  
Old 01-18-03, 02:23 PM
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It is a very valuable piece of information to know that you used oil down to a lower level in your tank previously. Rule out freezing and gelling. What needs to be considered is ANY vacuum leak in the suction piping. You will need the most vacuum to prime the pump when the tank level is low so no leak (or source of one) can be overlooked. If he changes the fuel pump screen, the gasket surface needs to be clean and a new gasket installed. If the oil filter was replaced, a new gasket needs to be installed there also and the air bleed on the filter housing needs to be tight. All fittings (as said before) should be flare fittings and not sloppy ones. Then when the pump is being bled, the F terminals on the safety control should be jumpered to let the burner run as long as it takes to get a solid stream of fuel.

There really isn't any more to it than that. You probably have a vacuum leak somewhere.

A vacuum gauge would be helpful as would a two pipe system from your tank but you need to use what you have at your diaposal.

If you have other questions, put them up here and we can hash it out.
 
  #6  
Old 01-18-03, 03:56 PM
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charliebrown66:

An interesting bit of info is that you apply air to the fuel line and hear it blowing and not bubbling in the tank.

Is there a chance things got mixed up and the line you are blowing is a return line?

Or............Could the serviceman have put 100 psi or greater on the supply line and caused it to whip up above the fuel level?
 
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Old 01-18-03, 06:04 PM
bigjohn
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I had considered dicussing a two pipe system with them but they've been one pipe for 28 years. I'm thinking that with the furnace in the basement, the burner is probably below the tank, especially if it's near the floor. The thing that astounds me is that the service guy they called walked away and left them with no heat in the middle of Winter. I went to a house one time where the inground tank had leaked it's contents out. I made sure they had a temporary tank and heat before I left. I remember that lady, she was a recent widow in her 40's. She didn't need the grief of a leaking tank. She had just had it filled like 2 weeks previously. The fuel oil company brought out a small tank that we set outside the back window of the garage. We cracked open the window and I ran a fuel line to the furnace which was in the garage. Charlieb brought up the issue of the tank shifting. I imagine the tank is on a slight slope in the ground; is it possible it has shifted? I hadn't thought of that.
 
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Old 01-19-03, 05:44 AM
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The shifting thing isn't a high probability. If the tank is 48" diameter X 10 ft. long like most 1000 gallon tanks, they have 1/4 tank of oil. If they checked the level at one end and the pickup was at the other, the tank would have to be out of level by about 16". I know its possible but I don't think I would stop trying to find a vacuum leak.

We had one this past week that was similar. We had to do a tune-up and replace an oil line from the wall to the burner with the new pvc coated copper. When the tech got finished, he couldn't get the pump to pickup the prime. It was the same goofy setup. One pipe on an underground tank, but we have taken care of it for over 15 years and it has never been a problem. He called me and said maybe the tank was empty as the oil level was at 9". I asked what the probability was of the tank going empty at the exact moment he turned the system off for maintenance and ruled that out. It turned out that there was black pipe from the tank to the inside of the basement wall and just the slight movement that it took to remove and install the new line on the fitting inside the wall, caused the corroded pipe in the wall to spring a vacuum leak. I suppose the mortar between the stones ate into the black pipe. We had to break through the frozen ground to find the inlet on the tank and replaced the line. It primed in less than a minute after that.
 
  #9  
Old 01-19-03, 12:34 PM
charliebrown66
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Talking We Have HEAT!

First let me go back to Saturday morning....Our oil company called and said they would send out someone to check the contents of the tank for water. They came out just before lunch and put paste on the dip stick.....YEAH! No water! Then I had them put in 100 gallons of #2 fuel. The delivery guy came in the basement and tried to bleed the line and start the furnace, but no luck. When my husband came home from work, he tried to bleed the line a couple of times, no luck. The oil company called and suggest that it could be the pump and we should test it by getting a bucket of oil and disconect the line close to the furnace and see if it will pull up the oil from here. Also, the service company was sending someone over with some new pumps, just in case......It worked with the 5 gallon bucket! When the service guy came, he had to disconect a lot of fittings and replaced the gasket on the oil filter and pump. Must have been a vacuum problem. He did say that we should carefully dig up and replace the copper tubbing in the spring/summer.....because we still do not know why the pipe would not pull up the 275 gallons. Any ways....we are considering getting a back up above the ground tank at that time also......just in case!! THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR ALL OF THE VALUABLE INFO......WE REALLY NEEDED YOUR HELP!!!! Sharon and Charles Brown.
 
  #10  
Old 01-19-03, 03:47 PM
bigjohn
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Interesting- KField- I'm amazed that someone would run a line in a concrete wall and/or in the ground without using a PVC sleeve. If for no other reason than to make replacement easier the corrosion probability not withstanding. I agree, the orirginal problem is still there. Who knows what condition a 28 year old pipe is in? Probably a lot worse than a 28 year old supermodel. I'm glad your heat is back on.
 
  #11  
Old 01-19-03, 04:59 PM
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How dare you compare a 28 year old supermodel to an oil tank? You just made my job not quite as boring. I'm not sure if PCV was invented when the oil tank I worked on was installed but I think black pipe was invincible then. There are 50 ways to flare a piece of copper and 49 of them are wrong. You have a vacuum leak.
 
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