Home heating systems running on fuel oil are common in the northern United States. These systems do not burn oil by itself; they mix oil from the storage tank with air and deliver that mixture to a burner header. The ignited fuel oil heat air, water or steam that is circulated through the home. Heating oil systems are very safe to use because ignition can only happen after the burner have turned the oil into a fine spray of minute oil particles. Fuel oil by itself will not burn.
Like many things around the house, home heating systems require regular maintenance if they are to provide the most efficient and trouble-free service for the length of their life. Some of this service should be done at the end of the winter season before you stop using the system for the warm months. But there are other things that you should do as you prepare your system to go back into heavy use around this time of the year.
Checking Your Heating System Parts
Just as you should be doing all year, check your pipes, boiler and tank for signs of damage or leaking. Catching those early will save you money and prevent a small repair for accelerating into a huge one.
Checking Your Heating Oil Tank
If you don’t get your oil delivered automatically, you’ll need to figure out when you need oil. So check your oil level before the winter starts and be sure to schedule a delivery before you get below ¼ of a tank. You don’t want the level to drop below a quarter, as this will cause sediment and sludge on the bottom of the tank to be pumped into your fuel line and clog your filters and equipment.
Treating Your Fuel Oil For Better Heating System Performance
The start of winter is the perfect time to treat your fuel oil to help your heating system get back up to speed. Adding a treatment like ATX-942 will help to clean and remove any sludge that has developed in your tank over the summer. It will also remove water in the fuel and enable your heating system to fire back up with less trouble, less black smoke and better efficiency. A treatment like ATX-942 will typically do this with one quart treating 500 gallons of fuel oil, making treatment very economical.
Start with these tips to get your heating system ready for heavy use in the winter.
In Part 2, we'll look at some simple things you can do around the house to help your system, as well as the importance of your annual system tune-up.
This post was published on September 28, 2011 and was updated on January 18, 2016.