After an initial attempt to
haul fuel in containers, I rigged up some plastic tubing and
employed the old furnace burner pump to pump the oil outdoors
into 55-gallon barrels.
About 8 Hours
Bruce W. Maki,
In the fall of 2002 our oil furnace began acting up, and instead
of fixing it or buying a new oil furnace we switched to propane. For
more about the decision to switch fuels, read Killing
The Fuel Oil Furnace.
Once the propane furnace was installed, we dismantled the oil
furnace and hauled it out in pieces. But the oil tanks were another
issue. We had about 100 gallons of oil in the tanks when the furnace
conked out. I asked our fuel oil supplier if they would buy back
unused fuel oil. "No", they said, but for $100 they
would pump out the tanks and haul away the fuel oil.
Luckily I had the foresight to save the oil burner pump
unit from the front of the furnace. I knew I might find it useful
for pumping something.
|The old oil tanks in the basement.
There were two tanks, about 250 gallons each. There were
big 2" steel pipes for fill lines, and 1¼"
steel pipe for vent lines. This all had to be removed
My initial thought was to use the burner pump I salvaged from the
old furnace to pump oil into a 5 gallon fuel can, and then carry
the can outside and pour it in a 55-gallon barrel. I realized that
this would entail 20 trips up the stairs, but this was only a
||I rigged up the old burner pump. I put the pump
on a chair and re-connected the oil line from the tanks.
Of course, the pump needed an electrical source. I was
going to just connect an old power cord to the pump motor, but I
thought that I might find it awkward to unplug the unit if, I had to
hastily turn it off. So I attached a metal electrical box to
the pump motor and hard-wired a simple light switch. I used
an old electrical cord to supply power to the switch. I could just
flip the switch to activate the pump.
|I positioned the pump outlet line (arrow
2) into the fuel can.
Arrow 1 points to the incoming supply line from the
oil tanks. Note how the supply line is 1/4" copper
tubing, while the outlet line is only 1/8" copper tubing.
Yellow fuel cans are for diesel fuel, which is the same as
heating oil, just taxed higher.
||I turned the pump on and a stream of oil shot
out (red arrow).
Well, actually I had to bleed the air from the pump first,
which is required whenever the tanks run dry or the supply
line is disconnected.
It took forever to fill up the 5 gallon can. Actually, it
took 20 minutes. That would be a total of 400 minutes (almost 7
hours), and I would need to remain nearby so the fuel can didn't
overfill. Sitting around and watching an oil can fill up did not
appeal to me.
|I had parked my utility trailer just outside the
house, with two empty 55 gallon barrels placed just ahead of
the axle. Since fuel oil weighs around 8 pounds per gallon,
these barrels are going to weigh over 400 pounds each
So I dumped the plastic jug of oil into a barrel and started to
consider other approaches.
||I had parked the trailer right in front of the
oil fill pipe. Since these pipes were being removed, I figured
they would also make a good way to get a hose out of the
house, instead of running a line through a window or door.
As a thunderstorm loomed on the horizon, I drove to my
local Ace Hardware store and bought some parts.
|Using a big pipe wrench, I removed the vertical
pipe and fittings from the vent line.
However, I was not able to rotate the pipe that went
through the basement wall. So I went inside and cut the other
end of this pipe with my reciprocating saw and a fine-toothed
Then I ran a long piece of 1/4" polyethylene
plastic tubing through the vent pipe.
||I placed one end of the tubing in the opening of
|Since it was starting to rain, I placed a block
of wood over the hole. This also held down the tubing so it
wouldn't fall out. I knew I would have to leave this
unattended for a while, and I didn't relish the thought of oil
spewing all over the ground.
||I removed the outlet line from the pump.
|I was not able to buy an adapter for the 1/8"
flare fitting, so I removed the elbow that the outlet line
was connected to.
||Luckily I guessed correctly that this elbow
screwed into a 1/8" NPT (tapered pipe thread)
|I had bought several adapters, just in case.
The adapter that I needed had a 1/8" NPT thread on one
end (the right hand side) and a 1/4" compression fitting
on the other end.
||I screwed the adapter in the outlet port of the
pump. This is a small fitting and took only a very small
wrench. I wasn't worried about leaks, so I tightened the
fitting just a bit.
|I placed the compression nut and ferrule on the
end of the plastic tubing.
I didn't realize until later that I forgot to get the
little brass "T" insert that is supposed to go
inside the end of the plastic tubing. This insert prevents the
plastic from deforming if the compression nut is tightened too
much, which I seem to do every time.
||I placed the tubing into the adapter and
tightened the compression nut. I realized my mistake as I was
tightening this nut, so I stopped.
|With the plastic tubing connected, I turned on
the pump, and red-dyed oil started flowing.
||This is where the tubing exited the building.
The red arrows indicate the section of vent pipe that I
removed. I made a cut about 4 inches from the elbow, and then
I used a pipe wrench to unscrew the short piece of pipe.
|I figured this connection would leak a bit, but
it didn't. I suppose because the other end of the line was
open, the pressure in the tubing was quite low.
||At the other end, fuel oil flowed into the
What you can't see from these pictures is just how slow
the fuel flowed from this tubing. Furnace oil pumps are meant to
create fairly high pressure (about 150 PSI) to spray oil into the
combustion chamber. Our old furnace had a spray nozzle rated at 0.85
GPH (Gallons Per Hour). The nozzle capacity dictates the consumption
rate of oil.
Without the nozzle restricting flow, the pump can deliver more
gallons per hour, but it is still a slow rate. I occasionally went
outside to check on the fill level in the barrel. It took about 6
hours to empty the oil tanks.
|While the pump was working, I dismantled the
fill and vent piping. There were a couple of union fittings
that I could disconnect.
Prior to this task, the biggest pipe wrench I owned was a 24
incher. Never one to miss an opportunity to get a new tool, I bought
this big 36" aluminum pipe wrench ($87 at Tractor Supply Co.).
I needed this monster pipe wrench to hold the 2" fittings,
though my 24" wrench could (barely) grab the 2" pipe.
||After disconnecting the unions, I removed the
supply pipes from each tank
I also had to use the Sawzall to cut the big 2" fill
pipe where it went through the basement wall, since it was too
difficult to turn with all the mortar holding it.
|The next day I strapped the barrels to the
trailer to haul them away.
These are basic 1-inch ratcheting tie-down straps
with hooks on the ends.
Not being sure of which day I would be able to haul away the oil,
I did the filling of the barrels with the trailer disconnected from
my truck. I thought I might have difficulty hitching the trailer to
the truck with almost 900 pounds of steel and oil on board, but I
was actually able to move the trailer a couple of inches without
tearing all the muscles in my back. The alternative would be to use
a hydraulic bottle jack to lift and lower the tongue of the trailer.
Or get a helper.
||I placed a block of wood on top of the two
barrels, so the strap would hold better.
|I used 3 ratcheting tie-down straps: One over
the top, one in front, and one behind the pair of
In Michigan if you spill fuel on a public highway they'll
give you a big 'ol fine, call the HazMat team, and bill you
for the cleanup cost.
These one-inch wide straps are rated at 1,200 lbs breaking
strength (I think). I never use rope anymore for tying
||To be doubly sure the barrels would stay put,
I placed some scraps of 4x4 against the barrels, and
pinned those in place with other blocks of wood. I did this on
both front and back.
These barrels didn't move an inch. I only had to drive five
miles. A few weeks before this, my local metal recycling company
mentioned that they had a furnace that burned waste oil, so I
offered them the unused heating oil. They lent me the barrels, so it
was a deal. It would be nice to get some money for the oil, but we
just wanted to get rid of it.
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