Now that the winter is hopefully upon us, many oil dealers are thinking about what oil additives can be used to help eliminate or reduce service related issues often caused by different oil qualities. There are many good additives available, but I’ll explain why I think that you must be careful what you wish for when it comes to adding sludge removal additives.
You’re probably looking for a chemical that will break up that black gunk, called sludge; that has been lying at the bottom of the tank, on the pump strainer, tank filter and, of course, let’s not forget the all-important nozzle. You may also be looking to eliminate the water in the tank and or something that will make the oil thinner during the cold temperature conditions.
I know that many of you still use a 60/40 kero/oil blend on outside tanks and sure it works, but how about the cost? The fact is, there are chemical additives available that can address all of these issues, including cost.
However, in the case of the sludge issue, this is something that builds up over time, somewhere within a 10 to 15 year time period, and is not an easy fix. Yes, there are tank cleaning devices and some companies have used this method as a way to diversify their services. In fact, I invested in this myself over 25 years ago and it worked.
When it comes to a small amount of water in a tank, this can often be corrected simply by replacing the tank’s filter element. However, there are other additives available that will emulsify small amounts of water and allow it to pass through the burner.
When treating a tank for a sludge issue with an additive, be sure when you buy any additive for sludge that you always follow the directions to the letter. If not, you may release the sludge in larger particles causing you to spend several hours on call backs trying to clean and re-clean the fuel oil delivery system from the tank to the burner. Most likely doing it for gratis!
Keep in mind the words ‘gradual release over time,” this is what should be expected. In the case of cold oil, when the temperature goes below 32 degrees, the fuel oil will begin to become cloudy and change viscosity, which is the ability to flow. As temperatures drop lower to 15 degrees or below, paraffin or crystals begin to form in the oil, again causing further service related issues that are very difficult to overcome.Finally, if you are changing a 30 year or older heating unit with the original oil tank, sell a new tank and give the homeowner’s new heating system a clean bill of health. There are companies available that will insure oil tanks, do all the work at a very reasonable rate, and all the oil dealer needs to do is call the tank replacement company when there is a tank problem and bill for the tanks insurance.