Preventing Home Heating Oil From Freezing

Regular maintenance for your home heating system is essential, and this includes looking after your heating oil. Simple things like insulating your oil tank, can ensure you get plenty of heat from a system running at maximum efficiency.

If heating oil freezes, it behaves differently to water. Instead of forming ice crystals that eventually turn into solid ice, oil becomes progressively thicker and goes gooey, ending up as a kind of sludge. This process can be called freezing, gelling or waxing. If you notice a significant reduction in the performance of your heating system, this could be the reason.

How frozen oil can affect your heating system

The first area to be affected is the storage tank, where the heavier sludge sinks down to the bottom. This means there is less room for the usable oil in the tank, and this space will continue shrinking as more and more sludge settles. 

While the oil is still relatively viscous and able to flow, the waxy paraffin crystals start to build up on the inside walls of the oil lines. This makes the passage narrower, so less fuel reaches the burner, resulting in a less efficient system.

Further on in its journey, the oil will also accumulate waxy deposits in the filter and nozzle, where it will clog up the tiny openings and prevent the fine oil spray from reaching the igniter. Eventually, the heating oil can become so thick and viscous that it is no longer able to move and your system will fail altogether.

How to keep your heating oil from freezing

There are some basic preventative measures you can take such as insulating your oil tank and fuel lines to keep them from freezing. You can reduce the impact of adverse weather by building a protective shelter around your tank or keep them in the basement away from exposure from the temperature fluctuations and weather.

This keeps out rain, wind and snow, and prevents ice forming on the outside of your tank. Insulating the interior walls of the shelter will also help keep temperatures up.

Exterior fuel lines can also be protected from the cold, either by coating them with waterproof insulation or by burying them underground. Consult a heating system expert before spraying or wrapping your fuel lines to make sure you use the right materials. Alternatively, ask your local hardware store about pipe sleeve insulation.

Another thing you can do is to move your fuel filter indoors where it's warmer. You'll need professional help to do this, but the filter is one of the key areas where the buildup of waxy deposits leads to clogging and blockage.

Preventative maintenance

As with any machinery or system, prevention is always better than cure. It helps to have your heating oil tank regularly and professionally cleaned, and to schedule this in the spring or summer, rather than waiting for the first cold snap to set in. You should also install a new fuel filter every year to ensure peak performance.

You might feel like you don't want to spend extra money on insulation or additives for your heating oil, but it's way cheaper than breakdowns or major repairs. Click here to find your nearest, best price heating oil dealer.