Possible Water in Oil Tank

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by nin28, Nov 7, 2009.

  1. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    Last year I had a whole bunch of issue where my furnace would periodically stop working when it got very cold. I had a bunch of furnace guys come out and the final consensus was that the fuel feed was partially clogged and had to be replaced. They would replace the 1/4" with 1/2" copper. The plumber came out and when he took the old tubing out there was about 3" of ice clogging the end of the tubing. We have a horizontal tank with 2 tubes running to the top of the tank. He stated that when installed the tubing was placed too close to the bottom of the tank and when the water turned to ice, it clogged the system. It looks like the water got into the tank because fuel gauge and its washer had rotted leaving a nice wide open hole. After he finished everything worked fine.

    This year I called the same plumber to remove any water in the tank and a guy came out, stuck a steel pipe into the tank, swirled it around, and pulled the pipe out. After looking at the pipe he said there was no water in the tank. However, he did recommend that the tank be leveled because 2 of the tank's legs had fallen off the cinder blocks they were sitting on.

    So I jacked up the tank and repositioned the cinder blocks under the legs of the tank to get it fairly level and now during the first below-freezing night, I'm getting the same symptoms of last year of when the furnace would eventually stop running. The flow control flap on the vent will start flapping back and forth for a day or so, i believed indicating a lack of fuel flow, and then the furnace would just cut out.

    I'm concerned that when I "leveled" the fuel tank, the water that was resting at one end is now spread along the bottom of the tank. This water is now getting back into the fuel flow and causing the furnace to cut out again.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do? Thank you.
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    You can continue jacking up the tank so it is tipped the other way and drain out some of the fule...you will know if there is water in it you should be able to see it...and if there is keep going till it runs clear and then add some moisture remover if you can find some for heating oil...try calling the oil company and ask them what the additive is.

    I think the pipe had something on the end of it that changes color if it contacts water / moisture..
  3. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    There is a product called water finding paste that you can smear on a stick and run down to the bottom of the tank. If you have water the paste turns either green or red (depends on brand) By code, the tank should be pitched 1/4" per foot away from the outlet. Water can be removed in reasonable amounts with a product called AquaSorb. The same product is also breaks up sludge.
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,247
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    condensation

    Automotive gas line treatment HEET from an autostore will absorb the water and get you back into action.
  5. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    Last winter after I initially had the issues I added a container of fuel additive to get rid of gunk and water. I did it again after a fill up this fall. I forget the brand but it was suggested by my oil supplier. Also, I did get the paste to detect water in the tank and it didn't find anything. Could there be just lingering moisture that could be causing the issue? I will try the HEET additive to see if that finally clears things up. Any other ideas why the oil flow would suffer when I'm right at freezing outside? Thanks.
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,313
    Location:
    New England
    Oil floats on water. All it takes is maybe a tablespoon to block a line if it freezes. So, the detection may not have found any, but you have a little. The addative/treatment causes the water/oil to mix, and not freeze. It isn't technically absorbed, but it does let them flow.
  7. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    If you are not finding water in the tank then I would not mess with it anymore. Try blowing out the oil line, changing the tank filter and the oil pump strainer.
  8. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    I'll wait until the next freezing day and see what happens. In the meantime I will add the HEET additive just in case. Thanks.
  9. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    I'm aware that home heating oil is very similar, if not identical to diesel engine, should I use an additive specific to removing water in diesel engines? Thanks.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2009
  10. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
  11. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    Another follow up and a fuller description of the problem. My house is a split-level and is essentially set up into two heating zones: 1st level, which includes an office, a foyer and an utility room (where the furnace sits), and 2nd/3rd level which includes all other rooms in the house. In the small stairway between the 1st and 2nd level is a thermostat that controls the entire house. With that said, the furnace heats the 1st level and we have a pellet stove on the 2nd level that heats the 2nd/3rd levels. I've placed a drape in the stairway where the thermostat sits. During the day I move the drape so that the thermostat reads the temp on the 2nd/3rd level and during the night I move it so that it reads the temp on the 1st level.

    We depend upon the pellet stove for the majority of our heat but still need the furnace to supplement heat when its really cold. When we had the issue with the furnace failing last year, the repairmen said that one the reasons for the problem could be because we are using the furnace so infrequently. So I've configured the furnace to run early in the morning for 1/2 hour and late at night for another 1/2 hour.

    Now onto my current issue :) I've added the K-100 additive I mentioned above and that is supposed to get rid of water for up 250 gallons. Now last night the temperature dropped to about 32 degrees and this morning when the furnace kicked in, I heard the draft control start to flap back and forth again, but eventually it stopped and the furnace ran normally. I'm wondering is there still moisture in the tank causing the oil sporadically flow and do I need to add more of the additive? I'm really concerned because for the 2nd year in a row we have a newborn in the house and when the temp drops very very low, the pellet stove is not enough to keep the place properly warm. Thanks for any more info.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
  12. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    Has the oil line been blown out?
  13. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    No I haven't blown out the lines. How would I do that? I have a air compressor, can I do it on my own? We just had new oil lines installed last year. If there is moisture in there, shouldn't it be cleaned out with the additive when we run the furnace when its not cold out? Thanks.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
  14. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    Here are a few pics of my furnace:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  15. MAoilTech

    MAoilTech New Member

    Messages:
    25
    Location:
    MA
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2009
  16. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    Thanks for the help!
  17. Rich B

    Rich B DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Tanks are often tipped a little on purpose and the pickup line is positioned away from the lower end of the tank. Water will accumulate at the low end, and the pickup line would normally be up off the bottom of the tank at least a few inches. Moisture is usually present in an oil tank but shouldn't be much and should not be getting picked up. I would immediately inpsect the filter for signs of rust or water. You could remove the line from the inlet side of the filter and draw some fuel out of that line with a small hand siphon pump. I use one often at work and they are sold for less than $15 in various stores. I use it to prime diesel engine fuel systems and other uses. If your filter is clean and you are able to draw clean fuel from the line, your problem is with the furnace. Might need a nozzle or an adjustment on something. I have an old oil burner in my garage.....Thanks to it's quirky nature...I learned all about oil burners. I also take care of a 350,000 BTU waste oil furnace at work and it can keep me occupied for hours during the colder months doing various maintenance chores to keep it operating.......The fuel system is in need of cleaning often but that is understandable as it burns dirty oil......
  18. butler1227

    butler1227 New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    NY
    The k100 bottle you have treats up to 250 gallons of fuel, not water. Water treatment is one to one. So if you have say 1 quart of water in there you need 1 quart of k100. Also during the colder months that bottle treats up to 125 gallons. Hope this helps.
  19. nin28

    nin28 New Member

    Messages:
    45
    Boy I sure I hope I have less than a quart of water in the tank... but you never know. I'm assuming that the furnace is working fine and the filter is clean because I just got it inspected a couple weeks ago. Also, it runs perfectly when above the freezing. In addition, in order to get the water away from the fuel line I did tilt the tank away from it. Hopefully any water is now on the opposite end of the tank. I will try to remove the inlet line and check the filter for water. Thanks.
  20. cothomsrvllc

    cothomsrvllc New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Nazareth, Pa.
    water in heating fuel tank

    As I read these blogs, I'm troubled by one thing: the pitch of the tank.

    To make it clear, the tank should be pitched downward 1/4" per foot towards the fuel pickup line - not away from it. The tank label clearly states this. Besides the label, it makes sense that one would pitch downward thus allowing the water to collect at the fuel line and be drained periodically, preferably during the pre-season maintenance.

    I have a kerosene heating customer who has chronic water in fuel issues (outside tank), for whom I have fashioned and installed a water trap between the shut off valve and the tank filter, just for this purpose.

    Pitched the wrong way would allow the water to accumulate and eventually the tide would rise to the point of getting into the fuel line anyway...an event which naturally would occur at a most inconvienent time... like the middle of the coldest night, on a holiday, during a blizzard, with a house full of people, none of whom would be mechanically inclined, but one of whom would most definately be your mother-in-law! Water collecting in the tank and not being drained off, over many years, might even cause the tank to rust, causing more trouble.
    This advice is compliments of Cottage Care Home Services, LLC., Nazareth, Pa.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2010
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