Home heating oil prices are rising, so the last thing you want is a leaking tank that is losing precious oil and causing contamination problems. Read on for vital information about problems caused by sludge and water, and how to fix them.

Water Build-up in the Tank

Water can enter your tank in a number of different ways. Condensation can settle as a layer of water at the bottom of the tank. The tank may have a minor leak. Or the tank filler cap may have been left open, allowing rainwater to get in.

The presence of water in the tank can cause several problems. If your tank is metal, then rust is likely to start appearing and spread, and this can damage the tank to the point where it needs replacing. If there is water in the tank at the beginning of winter, and we have a spell of freezing temperatures, the water inside the tank will freeze. This has two undesirable consequences – firstly, the fuel can be degraded; and secondly, the water can block oil flows.

Avoiding Sludge

The water in the tank encourages sludge, and in turn this encourages bacteria to grow. And perhaps most seriously, water or sludge can be passed into your heating system, causing problems with your boiler. Sludge, in particular, can clog up pipes, corrode heating systems and reduce the efficiency of the fuel – with home heating oil prices on the rise, we all want to avoid this.

Sludge will tend to increase in tanks where the oil is being stored over a long period and not used. Sludge build-up will often be seen as a darker area at the bottom of the tank which may well have been caused by sludge or water eroding the tank.

It is possible to buy a paste which you put on to a long stick and use to probe the tank – the paste changes colour if there is water present. But this is really a job for a technician, who can also tell you what was the original cause of the problem.

As with all maintenance, it’s better to look after your tank regularly with annual inspections by a registered technician (www.oftec.org.uk/Consumers/FindTechnician. www.oftec.org.uk/Consumers/FindTechnician). Get your tank inspected, and then fill it by calling Valueoils to ensure you get the best home heating oil prices available.