For the past few months we have been talking about water in tanks and the problems it will cause as well as the oil lines and how to avoid trouble there so the oil gets only to where we want it’the oil burner. We need to get the oil from the storage tank to the oil burner safely. It doesn’t really matter whether you have an AST or UST, if the fuel is where it shouldn’t be, you have a problem. And we hate problems.
We have all experienced the trouble of oil leaks, even if we are very careful. Remember when you went on a service call where the oil line was blocked with sludge and you cleaned it? Remember how after you got all that yucky stuff out of the line, the fuel flowed nice and freely? Remember the service call the next day when your customer calls and tells you that there is oil leaking out onto the floor? Well, it will, unless you have a safety net installed.
Sludge in the oil line can sometimes be our friend. What? Sludge, our friend? In some cases, yes’when it prevents a leak. The funny thing about oil leaks from fuel lines is that even though the oil line can wear thin, the leak point is sometimes blocked by sludge. The problem of the potential leak has been there for a long time, but when you cleaned the oil line you removed the sludge stopping the leak. It can be said that the sludge was the ‘finger in the dyke.”
An oil safety valve, usually called an OSV valve, can be your safety net and prevent any oil leak that comes from the oil line. If you have a tank in the basement, your customer needs an OSV valve. If your customer has an AST outside, you need an OSV valve. If your customer has a UST buried in the yard, you need an OSV valve. Do you hear what I am saying? It is in your customer’s best interest to provide you with a safety net’an OSV valve.
The oil from the AST tank will flow by gravity out of the oil tank, when the oil line develops a leak. Oh, I can hear some of you now saying, ‘Since I have an UST, I don’t need an OSV, right?” How many times have you opened up a fuel unit to change the strainer and had oil continue to seep out of the unit? Many times the oil will siphon out of an UST if the point of the leak is below the level of the fuel in the tank.
Remember siphoning gas when we were younger? I know some of you do, at least. Same principle. This is where the OSV shines. The OSV valve works because it requires the vacuum of the fuel unit to lift the valve to the open position, allowing the fuel to flow, period. No vacuum, no fuel, no fuel leak.
Some of you may be working in cities, like I did, where you had black iron pipe used for fuel lines. You can have the same problem here. If the tank is buried in the yard or driveway, you may have a funny looking thing at the basement wall, where the lines enter the building. This is probably an anti-siphon valve. These things have been around for a very long time and their function is very similar to the OSV valve, but many are serviceable. Some of them are designed to be taken apart and cleaned.
The problem here, in my opinion, is that they can be taken apart and serviced. Take them apart and not put it back together correctly, and it won’t work. It may not allow fuel to pass through it. Parts may get lost or broken and then it will be put back together ‘without the guts” installed. Hey, we needed to get the burner working, right? We will return tomorrow to replace it. Well, tomorrow sometimes never arrives. In this case you have to thank a mechanic of yester year for the ‘trap” he set for you so long ago. You can follow my thinking, if you wish, ‘trust no one but yourself” when it comes to your customer’s safety.
Although anti-siphon valves and OSV valves are similar, they are not the same. While an OSV valve is designed to open under vacuum, it will not open under pressure. This makes it perfect for use on a loop system since the OSV will not open unless there is vacuum from the fuel unit.
Always read the manufacturers instructions when using these devices. You are dealing with devices that are designed to provide you a safety net and provide safety to your customer. As with any safety device, you want it to fail in a safe position. I would rather have a customer call me and say that the oil burner stopped working than to have them tell me they had to leave the house because of the fuel that is all over their basement floor. How about you?
I have my own stories about how an OSV valve saved my day; I would like to hear yours.
John Griffin can be e-mailed at email@example.com.