Oil burner won't fire/ oil "freeze up"?


Old 01-16-04, 02:33 AM
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Exclamation Oil burner won't fire/ oil "freeze up"?


I live in Putnam County, NY (region between Danbury, CT and White Plains, NY).

We moved into this house May 2003--experiencing our first winter. House has an exterior, above-ground oil tank. Boiler is late-model Beckett-fired; hot water then heats air (air exchangers) for forced-hot-air in house. I have had service calls/ cleaning-maintenance on this unit regularly this winter.

We REGULARLY lose heat in this house, esp. in recent cold snaps. My service technician tells me that the oil is "freezing"--by which I understand that it is becoming so cold it won't flow through the supply lines to the boiler--which then starves for fuel and won't light.

So far, I have taped "heat tape" (water pipe electrical heating cable) to the supply lines; this worked last weekend, but istn't working during this recent cold snap. What else can I do to remediate this situation.


Thanks! C. E. Smith
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Old 01-16-04, 04:24 AM
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I bet the oil in the tank itself is gelling up on you, and it won't flow out of the tank into the lines that you wrapped. I have not delt with oil so I would call your oil company to see if they have an additive that you can add into the thank to keep it from gelling on you.
Old 01-16-04, 05:52 AM
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You are probably correct about the temperatures effect on the fuel. What really happens is the parrafin wax in the oil solidifies at low temperatures. It also becomes sticky and will stick to other parrafin particles until there is a ball of wax usually at the filter or some point of restriction. I am very surprised that your fuel dealer does not add a chemical to your fuel to prevent this. I add a chemical called a 'pour point depressant' to all outside tanks and have not had a freeze up in 10+ years. The chemical modifies the wax crystallization characteristics of the oil and prevents the wax particles from sticking to each other. I'm not trying to get too complicated, but I hear every explanation you can imagine from customers who get tired of ho-heat calls in the coldest days of winter. It is probably not a water problem so most of the chemicals that are made to treat fuel oil will not help you. My suggestions are.
#1 if the oil filter is outside (which it should not be) remove the cartridge and run without one for a few days until you can get the oil treated.
#2 make sure that from the time the oil line leaves the tank until the time it reaches a heated space, it pitches downhill. It can not have any loops or dips that are more than the diameter of the pipe which is probably 3/8" or 1/2". This allows any small amount of water to flow inside before freezing and plugging the line.
#3 Go to a truck stop or a well stocked auto parts store and look for an anti-gel or anti-freeze for diesel oil for trucks. Estimate the amount of fuel in your tank and get enough to treat that amount. I have never found that the chemical would break up wax that is already solidified but you will need to try to mix it in with the oil anyway. I usually treat the tank and fill it at the same time for a new customer and then warm the bottom of the tank with a portable heater.

There is a product for trucks I have heard about that is supposed to break up the wax but I have never seen or used it.

The heat tape is a good idea but it is hard to keep it in intimate contact with the oil line. I hope you put insulation over the line and heat tape too.

Let us know how you make out or if there is anything else I can help with.

Old 01-16-04, 06:51 AM
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oil burner

Like Ken said here for sure. I have had when its very cold where the parrafin has got on in to the small filter on the back of the nozzle and just shut the oil off. ED
Old 01-25-04, 08:50 PM
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Smile Oil burner won't fire


Thanks to all for good input; burner is now working, and has faithfully through the last few days of cold spells.

I am now using additives to my home heating oil, as suggested in prior posts.

In addition, I offer the following helpful advice for any others who find themselves in this position:
* At the advice of the boiler service technician and my oil company, I added 10 gallons of kerosene to the oil tank to help get the boiler started again.
* I used heat tape on supply lines, with extensive use of metal tape to keep tape element in contact--then insulated with foam and "reflectix" R10 insulation.
* I also used heat tape in "s" patterns on bottom of oil tank, and covered bottom of tank with reflectix.
* Finally, I covered the whole tank with a brown tarp, to reduce snow/ ice contact with tank, and reduce wind.

Thanks again to all for helpful input.

Best regards,

C. E. Smith
Old 01-26-04, 09:02 AM
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When it works go for it and let it alone.

But I wonder about the company that you get oil from. Are they a jobber and get the bottom of the tank when they get their oil?I know for sure this will stop a burner when it gets cold. I have also had them put in #2 when it should be #1 .

Like ken said why didnt they put in a chemical treatment. They should have the additives there on the trucks and should have when it got that cold.

Does the tank tilt to the out let on the bottom of the tank a little?If not do so with it. Next time your low on oil and before they fill it . This can get any yuck out of the tank and keep it out. It might pay to change the oil filter more often.

just my .02 cents here ED
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