Oil Fired Furnace Maintenance
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    coaltrain's Avatar
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    Oil Fired Furnace Maintenance

    While I was in the HVAC supply business, I was never in the installation or maintenance end.

    My question is about annual maintenance items on an oil fired furnace that is 3 years old.

    I change the fuel filter every year before the heating season plus the air filters on a regular basis throughout the season. Other than changing the burner nozzle and adjusting the electrodes as needed, what else should I be doing? I can't see anywhere on the furnace itself that would need cleaning. And at what frequency should I be changing the nozzle - if it needs changed at all?

    I hesitate to call the local plubing outfit (who installed the furnace) as I am sure they will whack me at least $125 for what I am doing already.
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    Pretty much on the right track there.... We have a contract every year to have it done. This past one the Tec. noticed that the temp/pressure(?) gauges were frozen in place. Two anyway, replaced them. I always thought that the nozzle needed replacing yearly also? Not sure on that one. Defiantly look at where the Exhaust stack enters the chimney and make sure it as well as the piping to it is sealed from escaping combustion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by coaltrain View Post
    I can't see anywhere on the furnace itself that would need cleaning. And at what frequency should I be changing the nozzle - if it needs changed at all?
    I no longer have an oil furnace but when I did, the service guy pulled the nozzle every year had to test kit to figure out if it needed to be replaced or not. On average it seemed that they got replaced every 3rd or 4th year. After a while I just quit calling him and with the money I saved, I just replaced the nozzle every other year myself.

    There really isn't much to do for maintenance on an oil burner. You seem to be doing all of the major points. Don't forget to check the water jacket for any leaks while you're there and test the pressure relief valve.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HouseMouse View Post
    Pretty much on the right track there.... We have a contract every year to have it done. This past one the Tec. noticed that the temp/pressure(?) gauges were frozen in place. Two anyway, replaced them. I always thought that the nozzle needed replacing yearly also? Not sure on that one. Defiantly look at where the Exhaust stack enters the chimney and make sure it as well as the piping to it is sealed from escaping combustion.
    Oil fired furnace- Every year change the spray nozzle but be b careful that you use the proper size nozzle & pattern. Set the proper electrode gap. Assuming you have a fire brick lined fire box, it must be inspected for cracks. & it has to be vacuumed out. You should also have the flu gas temps checked & the burner adjust for max efficiency & a report that indicates burner efficiency. In other words you want a burner that's at least 85% efficient. The reaming 15% is going to waste out the flue. You get the idea.

    What else-
    Burner fails to start- Could be a weak electric eye which can't see the flame, or just dirty.
    A weak of failing start transformer, be it old style electric coil or a new so called electronic system.
    Pressure safety relief valves that are showing corrosion or are opening & dripping with normal pressure.
    Expansion tank failure- eventually they will go. Easy to replace but you need to drain down the system.

    If you call in a good technician & watch him you can learn a lot. There are some of these maintenance issues that should be left to an honest tech. After I learned my systems weak points, I routinely changed out the electric eye & the transformer. There's more to this than you think. But DO NOT Skip annual maintenance. Its a false economy & calling a tech at 3 a.m. in Jan Is a triple charge for most of us.
    Last edited by Maddog; 08-14-2017 at 04:54 PM. Reason: "abnormal" to normal
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    Quote Originally Posted by HouseMouse View Post
    Pretty much on the right track there.... We have a contract every year to have it done. This past one the Tec. noticed that the temp/pressure(?) gauges were frozen in place. Two anyway, replaced them. I always thought that the nozzle needed replacing yearly also? Not sure on that one. Defiantly look at where the Exhaust stack enters the chimney and make sure it as well as the piping to it is sealed from escaping combustion.
    Good catch! But yes I check the entire exhaust flue a couple times a year.

    Quote Originally Posted by JimR View Post
    I no longer have an oil furnace but when I did, the service guy pulled the nozzle every year had to test kit to figure out if it needed to be replaced or not. On average it seemed that they got replaced every 3rd or 4th year. After a while I just quit calling him and with the money I saved, I just replaced the nozzle every other year myself.

    There really isn't much to do for maintenance on an oil burner. You seem to be doing all of the major points. Don't forget to check the water jacket for any leaks while you're there and test the pressure relief valve.
    That was my take on the nozzle also.

    No water jacket is this is a furnace (hot air).

    Good enough - just wanted to be sure I wasn't overlooking something important!
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    Quote Originally Posted by coaltrain View Post
    Good catch! But yes I check the entire exhaust flue a couple times a year.



    That was my take on the nozzle also.

    No water jacket is this is a furnace (hot air).

    Good enough - just wanted to be sure I wasn't overlooking something important!
    I no longer deal with this heating stuff. Down here in SC from upstate NY. Furnace was a big PIA the older it got. Now all I do is change Return system filters every 90 days. The original installer comes in twice a year for routine maintenance. Cost me $140 a year, but worth it. AC runs on electric & the hear is natural gas. As the commercial goes..."its hard to stop a Trane".

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimR View Post
    ... test the pressure relief valve.
    For water systems, I personally would NOT "test" the T&P (temperature and pressure) relief valve. I would, however, LOOK at it to make sure it isn't leaking/dripping. Years ago, I pulled the lever to test the T&P valve, and it then started leaking and would not seal anymore. Tried pulling it again a few times to clear the seat, but it didn't help. I had to replace it and to my surprise it was over $50.00 (IIRC).

    When I asked a service tech about "testing it" he told me that he didn't physically test it either. Particles in the water, along with aging of the seat almost always would cause older valves to leak. And pulling the lever to check it doesn't really tell you if it is working properly or not. There's not much to go wrong with the over pressure part, just a spring and seat. The overtemp part is a different mechanism and I don't think you can test it short of putting it in boiling water. If its not leaking, I'd leave it alone.

    As for fuel oil filter changes, my current set-up has a vacuum gage to let me know if the filter is clogged. I'll change the filter every few years anyway, even if I'm not drawing vacuum.

    Nozzles, probably every other year. They're fairy cheap (maybe $5.00 each) if you purchase them on-line from a supply house. I went to a brick and mortar heating supply and was quoted over $20.00 for a $5 nozzle. I asked a service tech why they charged so much ... his reply "Because they don't want consumers to change their own nozzles and service their oil burners, should be left to a service tech."

    I vacuum out the combustion chamber every year, before heating season and check my chimney draft too.

    If you have to change out your smoke pipe, consider stainless steel with sealed joints. It's costly, but will last a long long time.

    I used to have a service contract with my oil company for over 20 years. No one could get it to run right. All the techs fiddled and fiddled with my burner, and if it was running "OK", next year's tech would fiddle with it again and make it run rough again. Finally had the heating system changed, had it set up right, and stopped my service contracts. I just clean and change the nozzle and filter occasionally and it's been OK since. My recommendation is (if you are handy with the oil burner) have a pro get it running right, then do routine yearly maintenance yourself and don't change the settings. Maybe call in a pro every few years to do a maintenance and check efficiency.

    Be careful ... oil burners can be complicated, and if not set-up right and the entire system checked, can cause carbon monoxide to enter your house. NOT A GOOD THING.

    Just my 2 cents.
    Last edited by Tomfive; 08-14-2017 at 05:11 PM.
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    Sounds like you have it covered. Might buy a carbon monoxide plug in detector with back up battery and install it per instructions on unit.
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    Pull the exhaust pipe out of the chimney. Clean any debris out of the bottom.
    My cousin was renting my house while I was in the service. I told him that I had a contract to have the burner serviced yearly. All he had to do is call and open the door for him. Well I guess that was to much trouble. I ended up pulling the exhaust pipe to check it. Sure enough that pipe was 90% blocked.
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    coaltrain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patchnball View Post
    Sounds like you have it covered. Might buy a carbon monoxide plug in detector with back up battery and install it per instructions on unit.
    Glad you brought that up. I do have one but a good remimder to check it as part of the maintenance before the heating season.

    Quote Originally Posted by H-D dealer dude View Post
    Pull the exhaust pipe out of the chimney. Clean any debris out of the bottom.
    My cousin was renting my house while I was in the service. I told him that I had a contract to have the burner serviced yearly. All he had to do is call and open the door for him. Well I guess that was to much trouble. I ended up pulling the exhaust pipe to check it. Sure enough that pipe was 90% blocked.
    A good idea - especially with all the crtters around here. A mirror in the chimney to look for any nests.

    The chimney for my wood stove is easily accessed from the top and was always checked and cleaned twice a year. The one for the furnace however is not.
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