Reprinted with permission from Levco, which opened a Wilton office in Fall 2017.

When your home heating oil drops to a certain temperature, it begins to solidify, almost like water turning into ice. But the difference is that when heating oil starts to freeze it doesn’t assume a solid state like ice, it becomes thicker and gooier, generally referred to as “gelling.”

As the gelling oil gets pumped out of your tank and through your oil lines, the oil starts to build up on the walls, narrowing the oils passage way. Eventually the oil becomes so thick that the pump can no longer pull it to the burner.

Thawed heating oil may not work as well as oil that’s never gelled, and as it breaks up, the larger particles may still clog the lines, even as you achieve flow to the igniters. If you experience freezing heating oil, there are some actions that you can take to unfreeze your lines. This may get your system working until your local professional oil heat technician can service your system.

Never use any sort of open flame, like a blowtorch, to thaw your pipes. Like all petroleum products, heating oil is flammable, so exposing it to open flames is risky. A safer alternative is handheld hair dryers. This method takes longer, but is less likely to set oil residue on fire. Be cautious about using any electrical equipment around snow, ice or standing water.

Preventing your heating oil from freezing in the first place is preferable to trying to unfreeze your lines or tank in the middle of the winter. In Connecticut and other areas that are susceptible to long periods of cold weather, it is best to have oil storage tanks located inside of your home. The basement or garage is usually a preferred location. But if you have no choice and your tanks are located outside there are a few things to know and some precautions you can take to try and avoid frozen oil lines and prevent your heating oil from freezing:

Shelter The Heating Oil Tank 

The outer metal skin of your outdoor oil tank is probably in direct contact with the cold. Building a shed around the unit can insulate it against cold and windy weather. A shelter can also prevent ice from forming on the outside of the tank or snow from sitting on or around the unit, which are both factors that can drop the temperature of the oil inside. Insulating the walls of the shelter would also increase the thermal protection.

Bury The Oil Lines 

If you have aboveground oil lines, you may consider burying them. By burying them, you’re using the ground to naturally insulate the lines.

Insulate The Oil Lines 

You can protect your oil line from the cold by wrapping or spraying it with an insulated material. Consult a heating equipment expert to determine the best kind of insulation to safely protect your line and handle the weather conditions for your area.

Add Heating Oil Additive On Each Delivery

Anti-Gelling additives can be added to reduce the gel point of your oil. You can add them yourself or ask your heating oil provider to take care of it with each of your winter deliveries.

If you are currently experiencing issues with your heating system and are looking for same day solutions and timely service, give us a call at 203-324-5500, we are happy to help.

Levco is Fairfield County’s premier provider of Heating & Cooling service as well as automatic fuel oil delivery. We are proud to have serviced thousands of homes in Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton since 1980.