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What To Do If Your Oil Boiler Runs Out Of Fuel

If you have an oil boiler heating system that heats your home, then you probably know that it is best to stay on a regular delivery schedule during the winter months so you do not run out of oil. However, you may go through quite a bit of fuel during the coldest days of the year. If you forget to check the fuel gauge while cuddling up indoors, then you may just run out of oil entirely. If this happens, do not panic. Contact your oil delivery business for a an emergency delivery. Afterwards, you will need to do a few important things to make sure your boiler system starts up quickly and properly.

Wait At Least An Hour

If you run out of oil, then the new oil that is put into your oil tank will splash against the bottom of the container. While you may think that your oil tank is completely empty, it is not. A small amount of heating oil will sit in the tank, but it will not be enough to reach the elevated spigot opening on the side where the oil line is attached. Water from condensation, rust from the inside of the oil tank, gel from the old heating oil, and other debris will also sit on the very bottom of the tank. This material is called oil tank sludge.

While oil tank sludge is common and usually not an issue, it will mix with your heating oil when new oil is added. If your tank is mostly empty, then the sludge will kick up and be able to enter the spigot on the side of your oil tank. This is especially true if you decide to start your oil boiler immediately after receiving the oil delivery. If you do this, then the sludge can cause the oil lines, filters, and nozzle to clog. Heat loss and the malfunction of your boiler will soon follow.

If you want to prevent clogging issues, simply wait about an hour after your oil delivery to start your heating system. This will give the sludge time to sink back to the bottom of the oil tank. You also should invest in an oil tank cleaning at least once every few years by a company like to make sure that sludge is removed before it can cause a problem. Keep this in mind and also make sure to have your oil tank completely filled in the spring to cut down on condensation issues in the summer. The addition of zinc balls to the inside of the tank can stop corrosion issues too. These balls work in the same way that sacrificial anodes work inside your water heater. The zinc metal is corroded before the tank is to prevent the formation of rust on the inside of the tank.

Bleed The Fuel Line

If you rarely run out of oil, then you may be confused when you press the restart button on the front of your oil boiler and notice that the heater fails to fire. This issue occurs because the fuel pump attached to your boiler will pull air through the fuel line when oil runs out in the middle of a heating cycle. When you try to restart your boiler, new fuel will enter the oil line, but a pocket of air will stop the oil from flowing to the boiler. This means that you need to remove the air to allow the heating oil to flow normally again.

Bleeding your oil boiler is fairly simple. You will need to find the fuel pump first. Your oil line will be attached to this round part of the boiler on one side. On the bottom side of the pump you will notice a small metal protrusion and a nut on this protrusion. This is the bleeder valve that will release both air and oil once they are pulled into the fuel pump. The nut should be hand tightened, so loosen it with a small twist to the left with your fingers. The nut should be loose, but not removed. Set a small plastic bucket or pan under the spigot and press the start button on the boiler.

You will soon see oil spitting out of the valve. This will be the oil and air mixed together. When the air is fully released, a constant oil stream will start to appear. As soon as you see this, quickly tighten the bleeder nut. Oil will move to the combustion chamber of your boiler at this time and it should fire.