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how can I protect a fuel line from the cold?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by snowleopard, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    Decided I need to install another heat source in the house, and am going with a Toyo Laser 73. I have oil tanks behind garage, about 60-80' from where the stove will be installed. Had thought about moving a tank closer to the house, but this will be a major pain to do.

    I think I can get by (at least for this winter) with running a fuel line over from the tank. My concern was that it might get stepped on by a moose and kinked or cut. I realized yesterday that I have two block walls that I could run it along, and they would shield almost all of the line, and I can a protect the small amout that is exposed by covering it with 2x6 or something similar.

    However, I am concerned about the cold. I run #1 fuel in the tanks, and that will help. I thought about heat tape, not left running all the time, but just available to plug in short term if I should have a problem. However, I'm seeing that this is considered a bad idea. (My clue is the "Do not use on fuel lines" instruction they come with.)

    I also saw that someone ran a hydraulic line and solve their icing problems that way. I don't know if they are formulated to stand up under that kind of use, or the expense involved.

    I plan on insulating the line, but that will only help so much.

    Winter is now here, the ground is frozen and we have snow. I want to come up with something that will get me through the winter. Next summer I can rethink this if necessary.

    Your help with this is very much appreciated.

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  2. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Just thinking out loud and not having any experience with this:

    -Somehow preheat at the tank (maybe a smaller inline tank) and then insulate the lines to maintain the temp?

    -Heat tape made for this application instead of water lines?

    -Install another loop parallel to the fuel line and within the insulation and circulate hot liquid through it?
  3. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Wow, ground already frozen eh? Then burying it will be tough. Your extreme climate will mean that your best answers will come from folks that share the climate. What do your neighbors do? I would actually call up a local HVAC shop and ask how they handle this.

    Easy to recommend burying a suitable pipe material below the front line.

    A freaking moose stepping on it!!!
  4. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    Self regulating heat tape should work but I expect they dont recomend it due to the liability. I used to use Tyco brand in industry and it didnt get very warm.
  5. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    Good stuff.

    Thought of preheating at tank, but it seemed wasteful/inefficient.

    Can't find heat tape for this application--yet. Still looking.

    Parallel loop a neat idea, but then I'd have to keep it warm or it could thermosiphon. Will chew on this one.

    Thanks for your ideas and time.

    Yep. We have snow, and it's not going anywhere until spring from the looks of it.

    Hopefully my neighbors had the wit to figure out their heating plans before the ground froze. HVAC shops will/have told me to move the tank. A royal pain that would be, and no ideal spot next to the house to set it up.

    Frost line is about four feet down.

    Yeah, they appear to be square-dancing in the garden area some nights, judging from the hoofprints. I'd want to run the pipe near a spruce tree under which they're fond of bedding down. Odds might be against their stepping on it, but the potential problems are worrisome. Losing many gallons of fuel oil in my yard would be inconvenient on several fronts. Even getting it stepped on and crimped could be a major pain.

    That's my reasoning, especially if I only plugged it in for 20 minutes or so when there was a problem. When you say that you used it in industry, what was the application? Water or something different?

    Thanks to each of you for your replies.
  6. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    I used Tyco which used to be Raychem to keep water and chemical lines from freezing.

    http://www.tycothermal.com/usa/engl...ndustrial/pipe_freeze_protection/default.aspx

    The tape is rated at so many watts per foot. As the temp goes down the resistance increases so its self regulating, if it warms up, it puts out less heat. If you need a lot of heat, you install more wraps. One watt isnt much heat. Roughly 1 watt is 17 btu/minute and one btu will only raise a pound of water 1 deg F.

    Normal heat tape doesnt self regulate it has a fixed resistance and puts out the same amount of heat no matter what the temp is. The method of control for this type of tape is to install a rmote temp switch against the pipe under the insulation and have it switch on and off.
  7. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    Local hardware store should have heating fuel stabilizer. Many already contain an "anti gel" additive to keep the fuel from freezing/gelling up. Truckers use it all the time to keep their diesel fuel from gelling.
    Use it in my heating oil, although not much in the tank these days, as the furnace don't run often.
  8. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Power Service 911
    I've run it in my big trucks at -20 plus the wind chill of driving down the road.
  9. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Is kerosene available?

    How about installing a small tank near the house.

    Hydraulic hose cost dollars per foot.
  10. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    She's running number 1 diesel which is pretty much kerosene. I'm trying to imagine what this hose will look like. Is it a hard copper line? Plastic? Surely it isn't very big.
  11. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, no end to the learning.
  12. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, fellas.

    Three-eigths copper tubing is standard.

    I've considered a smaller tank by the house. If I went new, it would be about $500 for a 100 gallon tank and stand. I could also put a 55 gallon drum next to the house and run that--haven't ruled either of those out, but since I'm set on a hillside and the soil is frozen, that's not the easiest solution to implement. It might be that a nearby tank will be less expensive than running the line.

    The coldest I would expect to see is around -40F, in the low swings. We had a prolonged cold snap last winter where temps stayed in -20 to -30 range at my house for several weeks. If I run it next to the wall I'm thinking of, and want to keep it on an angle, it's going to be exposed to the cold rather than sheltered by the snow.

    Had no idea that hydraulic hose was that expensive--that rules this out. It's $26.54 for a 20' roll of tubing--probably $100 for tubing, connectors, and insulation if I go that route. I may throw some heat tape in there as a just-in-case. That's still the least expensive and easiest solution.

    Thanks, Hog and Lee, will check this out. That would be the easiest--avoiding the gelling problem in the first place.
  13. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Raychem makes a heat tape to swoon over. Not cheap, especially for a temp situation but it is self-regulating. Will not burn up.

    Fuell usually gels up at the filter so I'd move that to the heated space. I know additives used to be used more around here but refineries now do local fuel blends and I'm sure with such harsh weather they're already adding to it (but a little more won't hurt). Straight #1 gels up around -20F but of course you're always going to get variables. That's pretty cold. Whatever you do, don't get the fuel on you when its that cold. It will burn like molten lead.

    How bout you run the insulated line through a conduit, then you could slide the heat tape in the same pipe so you're really just heating the pipe? I know its kinda cheating and you're still using it on fuel lines but at least its not in contact with the fuel line. If you plan on burying it anyway you could re-use the conduit, just paint it like a snake and the moose will keep off it.
  14. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    So you've got me thinking. I really, really don't want the fuel filter in my sunroom. Maybe this can be done with no problem, and maybe not--will look into it. However, since the fuel tank is by the garage, and the lines run in the garage, and I'm hoping to heat the garage, perhaps that could be part of the solution.

    Instead of branching the line outside the garage, I could do it inside, and then use Semipro's suggestion about the smaller heated holding tank. If I had a small holding tank inside the garage, and the filter on the other side of that, fuel would have a chance to warm up in the heated space--especially if I located it near the heat source and didn't insulate the tank. Since that would only be a few feet away from the outside tank, some heat could migrate back towards the garage and keep that fuel connection warmish (another place to insulate the line). Then I could locate the filter next to that, and run the fuel line inside for the length of the garage, which would eliminate about 30' of external run, and then go down to the house. That last stretch will also help eliminate most of the horizontal run and the outside will be more of the vertical run, so less likely to stagnate and coagulate, also leaving much less conduit to paint in a diamondback pattern.

    Interesting snake theory: two problems I foresee with this. The first is that the moose wouldn't see my paint job if there was snow on top of the conduit. I also wondered why moose would fear snakes, since we don't have snakes around here. I googled a query about whether moose fear snakes, and couldn't find much to confirm that but learned that if they did, it would imply that they were conflicted about their sexuality and feared intimacy. As Dune said, the learning never ends--and yet, I find I don't want to think about that very much.
  15. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    Not sure if this was suggested yet, but maybe make a loop with two lines and circulate out and back from the tank with a small fuel pump running intermittently. Keep the tank up above gelling temperature and you're done.
  16. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    You'd never be able to heat the tank enough, or circulate enough oil.

    Paint the conduit a big, angry snake color. GRRRRRR!
  17. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    Well it's pretty rare that I would question your thinking, btuser, but there's a first time for everything they say!

    Reservoir heating and recirculation is the way it is done with industrial #4 oil systems, so it's fair to assume it would work with the much lighter oils.

    The lines would need to be insulated some of course. If a heating tape could supply enough energy to have the fuel survive the trip one way, then a comparable amount of energy would heat the oil enough for it to survive the trip out and back. We're only talking about maintaining a temperature of 20 degF or so, shouldn't require a whole lot of energy with a little insulation even with a -15 degF ambient.
  18. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Also done in every commercial diesel engine made for the last several+ decades.
  19. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    If the gelling occurs in the filter assembly then why not just heat the filter assembly?

    I thought return lines on diesel engines were there for maintaining the correct pressure at the injector rail? That is, excess fuel is bled off after the fuel pressure regulator and returned to the tank.

    So you guys are saying that's done to heat the oil in the tank?

    It seems that raising all the oil in the tank a to temperature below gel point would take a lot more heat input than would heating only what's in the filter or lines.

    Edit: maybe you build a small insulated box around the filter and put a night light in there to warm the filter/fuel.
  20. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    You're right, the tank only needs to be above the 'pour point' of the oil where it can ooze or be pumped gently through fat pipes into a reservoir. The reservoir is heated enough to make the oil thin enough to be pumped through thin pipes to where it's going to be used, and it's then circulated back to the reservoir to keep the oil from cooling off and getting too viscous in the thin pipes.
  21. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Trying to solve this by heating the tank will not work. The distance is too far and the oil travels too slow to hold heat the entire way.
  22. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Ok, you "could" heat the tank/fuel lines "enough" to keep it from gelling up. I know water will keep from freezing (to a point) if you keep it moving. I don't think fuel is the same because its made up of several different molecules that all have their own boiling/freezing points or whatever paraffin does. When you say heat the tank I've just got a picture in my head of an electric blanket draped over the top of a 1/2 full oil tank somewhere in the middle of a wind-swept field. The expense of the pump, the second fuel line and the additional pump (I don't think the pumps on space heaters are going to pull the same vacuum as an oil burner) not to mention the cost of btus to heat the oil is probably not the best solution for this particular installation. But you could do it. I believe the OP is trying to do this as economical as possible.

    Is it the aesthetics of putting the fuel filter in sun room that would be the problem or the potential smell? Properly installed there will be no odor save once a year when you change it. You could also box it in, or just make a planter (probably need a plastic plant so close to the heater!) and hide it.


    It would be tricky trying to pull through from one tank into another. You'd need a tank that could hold a vacuum. Maybe its common but I think you'd end up in a situation with two pumps and trying to control supply/return lines in between the reserve/primary tanks. Starting to get expensive. Its a thought to have a reserve tank in the garage that you could tee to your primary fuel line. That way it would be a matter of a few valves and priming the lines if you ever woke up to a cold house.

    "MOM! There's a moose fighting with the snake again!"
  23. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    Somehow I got the impression the OP had the tanks inside a structure where they would be could be maintained above the gelling point, but it looks like they're out in the open so he's pretty much doomed once the tank gets too cold.

    Not really relevant to the thread, but I do know that if your tank gels on you and it's just outside the structure, you can back a V8 car or truck up to it, dump snow along the sides of the vehicle and around the tank leaving tunnels for exhaust and radiator flow to travel back around the tank, and within a hour or so you can have hot water again.

    --ewd
  24. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    Me: Oh, Raychem, you're so . . . so long! and so warm! But you keep your cool! You're not cheap and trashy like that non-self-regulating Yankee heat tape.
    Raychem heat tape:
    Me: Oh, my! A snake-colored conduit! I feel a swoon coming on!
    Raychem heat tape:
    Conduit: GRRRRRR!
    Me: Oh, Raychem, catch me!
    Raychem heat tape:
    CRASH

    Weather right after the break, but first: A homeowner was found in her garden early this morning trussed with heat tape and conduit with a can of snake-colored paint dumped over her head. Several sets of moose hoofprints were found nearby, but troopers say that none match the prints in their database. The homeowner refuses to comment.

    Talked to a friend about this situation yesterday. He said that the tank location would exceed the maximum drop of the fuel for Toyos, and recommended moving the tank closer to the house. He has a pump that I can use to move the oil over to the other tank, and said it's not hard to move an oil tank, and I can just crib it up with railroad ties. Thought I had this all figured out. My weekend looks like it's already spoken for.
    I had pictured a small (five gallon or so) oil tank in the garage that was gravity-fed from the bigger pipe.

    Here's the situation: circular drive off the access road. Second floor of the house is at ground level at three o'clock on the driveway, which is on the north side of the house, garage is at ground level at twelve on the driveway, with doors facing west, and the driveway joins access road at eleven and eight. The tanks are located behind the garage, where they feed through the back wall to hook up with the remains of my former boiler. The length of the house runs parallel to the driveway, and is set into a hillside. Property is treed, mostly aspen, some spruce and birch. The ridge crests right at the access road, but there's enough of a slope that storms pass dramatically overhead, but don't hit the house much. The Toyo unit would go into the lower level, on the south side.

    Yes, concerned about oil smell. I've seen these fail and drip. Yuck!
  25. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    These pictures might help. The outside one was taken when the snow went off my roof last spring. If you look carefully, you can see the block wall south of the garage that I was thinking of running the fuel line along.

    The second picture is of my sunroom where I plan on putting the Toyo.

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