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How to Prevent Heating Oil From Freezing in Winter

Posted On: September 26, 2018

Though we still have our fair share of warm days ahead, the weather is most certainly deciding to trend to the cooler side. It brings to mind cool fall days, the coming of the holidays, and—to the more practical of us—a need to ensure an adequate supply of heating oil. As fuel delivery specialists this is, of course, always on our minds, and today we would like to cover a potential concern those of you who rely on heating oil may have: how to prevent heating oil from freezing.

Follow along with the heating oil pros at SOS Xtreme Comfort while we cover the why, the how, and the prevention of a heating oil freeze-up.

Is your fuel supply covered this year? Contact our delivery experts today to take advantage of our price protection and service plans!

Can Heating Oil Actually Freeze?

Many homeowners equate heating oil to gasoline, kerosene, propane, diesel, and other common fossil fuels. However, these all have some differences both in use and in chemical composition, which will change whether or not they can freeze, and at what temperatures they might do so. As for heating oil, yes, it certainly can—though not exactly in the way most of us are used to.

When heating oil is exposed to low enough temperatures, the paraffin content of the oil will begin to gel. The process starts at just above standard water freezing temperature, and at this point, the product will begin to cloud and condense a bit, which will not impact performance. However, when temperatures fall below around 15-20 degrees, the paraffin in your heating oil will start to separate and crystallize, forming a sort of gel.

If heating oil gels, it can begin to cling to the sides of the tank. It can gum up the system as a whole, and it can drastically alter the flow rate of your heating system. All of these together means no heat and a whole lot of cold folks—and this is why prevention is important.

Best Ways to Prevent a Heating Oil Freeze in the Winter

If you’re reading this during the winter months and you already have a freeze on your hands, your best course of action is to call a specialist! Do not attempt to thaw your heating oil on your own—and avoid tampering with the tank!

Proactive effort is the ideal course of action. Do these:

  • Insulate all fuel lines that are above-ground or otherwise exposed to the elements. This is easily done with pipe insulation sleeves, which are rather cheap at any hardware store.
  • Consider moving your fuel filter indoors where the ambient temperature remains warm. The most common reason a system fails is due to heating oil “freezing” comes because the filter gets jammed up with the separated and gelled wax.
  • Consider anti-gelling additives that are designed for use specifically with residential #2 heating oil. If you’re unsure of what to use, or whether you should use it at all, contact your fuel supplier to ask!
  • A better long-term solution is to move your tank and associated pipes underground. This requires a professional service that is certified in the replacement, removal, and movement of heating oil tanks, but if freezing heating oil is a consistent problem then this is a solution well-worth your interest.

Heating Oil Specialists & Delivery in PA, NJ & NY

Need help keeping your heating oil supply up, or looking for a service team that can maintain and repair your oil furnace or boiler? Get in touch with the experts at SOS Xtreme Comfort today!

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