Question? Just ask us!
Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
InspectAPedia ® Home
AIR CONDITIONING & HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
BACKUP HEAT for HEAT PUMPS
BANGING HEATING PIPES RADIATORS
BLOWER FAN OPERATION & TESTING
BOOKSTORE - InspectAPedia
BTU USAGE MONITORS
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CIRCULATOR PUMPS & RELAYS
DIAGNOSTIC GUIDES A/C / HEAT PUMP
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-BOILER
DIAGNOSE & FIX HEATING PROBLEMS-FURNACE
DIRECT VENTS / SIDE WALL VENTS
DRAFT HOOD, GAS HEATER
DRAFT REGULATOR, DAMPER, BOOSTER
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
ELECTRIC MOTOR DIAGNOSTIC GUIDE
FAN, AIR HANDLER BLOWER UNIT
FLOODED HEATING EQUIPMENT REPAIR
FLUE SIZE SPECIFICATIONS
GAS BURNER FLAME & NOISE DEFECTS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GEOTHERMAL HEATING SYSTEMS
HEAT PUMPS, DIAGNOSIS, REPAIR
HEATING COST SAVINGS METHODS
HEATING OIL PIPING TROUBLES
HEATING OIL TANKS
HEATING SYSTEM NOISE DIAGNOSIS
HEATING SYSTEM TYPES
GAS LP & NATURAL GAS SAFETY HAZARDS
MANUALS & PARTS GUIDES - HVAC
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
MOTOR OVERLOAD RESET SWITCH
NOISE, HEATING SYSTEMS
ODORS FROM HEATING SYSTEMS
OIL FILTERS on HEATING EQUIPMENT
OIL FILL PIPE LEAKS
OIL SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
PLASTIC PLEXVENT ULTRAVENT RECALL
PUFFBACKS, OIL BURNER
RELIEF VALVE LEAKS
RESET SWITCH, HEATER PRIMARY CONTROL
RESET SWITCH, ELECTRIC MOTOR
RESET SWITCH, STACK RELAY
SAFETY, HEATING INSPECTION
SAFETY RECALLS CHIMNEYS VENTS HEATERS
SOLAR HEATING SYSTEM DESIGNS
SOOT on OIL FIRED HEATING EQUIPMENT
STEAM HEATING SYSTEMS
THERMOSTATS, HEATING / COOLING
VIDEO GUIDES: HEATING SYSTEMS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
WOOD-OIL COMBINATION HEATERS
WOOD STOVE OPERATION & SAFETY
ZONE VALVES, HEATING
Oil burner installation, troubleshooting, diagnosis & repair guide: here we provide a detailed guide to oil burners used on heating systems, boilers & furnaces: basic parts, operation, maintenance, repair, performance and heating cost money-saving tips.
This article series answers most questions about central heating and water heating systems and provides guides for troubleshooting, inspection, diagnosis, and repairs.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
Oil fired heating equipment such as hydronic (hot water) boilers, steam boilers, warm air furnaces, and water heaters, have used heating oil, usually No. 2 heating oil, and various types of oil burners to burn the fuel, thus providing a heat source for nearly 100 years.
This article describes the basics of how oil burners work, and we provide a guide to their inspection and problem diagnosis and repair.
How Oil Burners Work
Refer to the schematic of a conventional oil burner shown below, where we list the major parts parts of a modern oil burner. The sketch at above left is courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
If you need to diagnose and fix an oil fired heating equipment problem with your oil burner, read the text below but also be sure to check out the detailed oil burner articles listed at page top or at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article listed
Sequence of steps in home heating or hot water heater oil burner operation:
Installing a New Oil Burner
Reader Question: We want to install a new oil burner but we don't want to get "robbed"
We have an oil burner that is in the house since 1966. I want to buy a new one that will save us money each month on oil and at the same time be effective, as well as heat up our house. Do you know some names or dealers? I also do not want to get taken or robbed.
We also want to have the sludge taken out of our oil tank, can you recommend someone for both these services. We live on long island and are seniors. - M.P., Rockville Centre, Long Island
Our photo (left) shows an antiquated cast iron Arco™ boiler that was converted from coal to oil.
The oil burner on this unit was itself an antique, low-speed unit - though not the system named above nor the upgraded oil burner system described below.
Reply: here are some things to check before upgrading an oil burner
A competent onsite inspection of your entire heating system and chimney, performed by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem or might make clear if upgrading the oil burner on your heating system makes sense. That said, here are some things to consider:
Before even considering a new oil burner, you will want a thorough inspection of your boiler or furnace to be sure it's in good enough condition to be worth the investment. For example if the heater is badly rusted or cracked, it needs to be replaced.
If the heater itself is in good condition, the replacement burner can improve its efficiency and save you money. Our photo (left) shows a modification we [DF] performed to a large cast-iron heating boiler in New York.
The original low-speed oil burner was fired into the very bottom of a quite large, 1930's vintage cast iron boiler that was in good condition but running at the low 70% efficiency range. Originally this had been a coal-fired boiler, converted to burn oil. The original oil burner fired into the bottom of a large combustion chamber.
After inspecting the boiler to confirm that it was not damaged, we installed a new Beckett™ oil burner, firing it up through a higher door on the heating boiler. The system efficiency increased from around 71% (after cleaning and tuning) to 82% efficiency (also after cleaning and tuning) - a heating fuel cost savings improvement of 11 percentage points, but actually a15% reduction in heating oil cost.
We can't make specific contractor referrals for oil burner upgrades nor service. But you can make these efforts to steer clear of a bad experience:
Continue reading at OIL BURNER INSPECTION & REPAIR or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Suggested citation for this web page
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: Oil burner keeps stopping
hi, our Deauville oil boiler is approximately 4 years old. It keeps going out and takes a couple of goes to re-light. Several people have been to look and have replaced parts but it still goes out at least once a day. Any ideas please??? - Mike
Mike I just don't have enough information to guess what's wrong.
But as parts have been replaced and you still have the problem, it's time to ask to speak to the manager of your heating company service department. Politely let him know that you've had multiple service calls without success, and ask him to send out a more experienced service technician. Let us know what you're told - it will help other readers.
for Jessie, who asked what might explain why the oil burner isnot working properly:
. Air was bled properly
Question: oil burner won't run after power loss, fuse keeps popping
(Jan 9, 2013) steve said:
after a storm, a tree fell knocking power out to the house,several days later power was restored. whene i did an inspection of the house i found that the furnace[oil-fired]ran for several mins. and shut down. it seems that a fuse on a gray box keeps popping.furance was cleaned about a year ago, furance approx. 25 yrs old
With last oil burner service a year ago it's time for an oil burner cleaning and tune-up anyway. But a breaker that keeps tripping or fuse that keeps blowing suggests a more serious electrical problem. Could be a shorted wire or perhaps a frozen oil burner motor.
Question: furnace keeps shutting down, I think our oil heat service tech is incompetent
(Jan 26, 2014) sally said:
We used an oil company for about 17 years. Through these years they replaced our oil furnace (which resulted in a blowback)and removed our inground tank (about 4 years ago). We have never had a problem with the loss of heat unless it was due to a missed oil delivery and I have had the burner tuned up every year. Due to customer service issues, we recently switched oil companies. Since then, we have had 5 service calls in about a month, four of which occurred in the past week.
Our furnace keeps shutting down and we have to hit the reset button for it to start. At the tune up, they replaced a couple parts. The first service call, they changed something on the furnace because they really didn't know what the problem was.
Most recently, after cleaning the burner,the tech said the line was frozen and put MORE additive(from the previous day when they came out)to prevent the oil from gelling up and blew out the line FYI we have the "heat" additive in each fill during the winter months. Now it is Sunday night and once again the burner has shut down. For over 17 years we've had NO problem and although these guys come highly recommended by friends and neighbors, is there any direction that we should be looking into besides their incompetence?
Sally, before giving up on your service company give the service manager a call, calmly and politely explain the ever unsuccessful service you received and ask him or her to send a highly expert service person to straighten things out.
Keep us posted.
Question: oil burner keeps cycling on and off
(Feb 24, 2014) Bernard Mc Carron said:
Bernard, I can't be very precise without knowing the installation, but the complaint you cite is surely worth investigating.
First, if the system were installed and working properly it would be very odd to cycle on and off indefinitely at a regular cycle as you describe. But we don't know if the problem is:
- a bad thermostat or other control
It would make sense to call your service company, talk calmly with the service manager, and ask for a senior, experienced technician to inspect, test, and diagnose the system.
Question: my heating system keeps running out of hot water
(Mar 1, 2014) Jim C. said:
Jim if your hot water is made by a tankless coil (as it appears) it may be that the controls on your system are not working properly; if the circulator sends hot water to the heating zones (baseboards or radiators) while you're in the shower, cold water returning from cold baseboards or radiators will chill down the water in the boiler, chilling the tankless coil and chilling you in the shower.
Question: short cycling oil burner at start-up
(Aug 27, 2014) Chris D said:
I'd diagnose by simplifying the analysis: skip the zone valves entirely and call for the burner to run right at the control terminals on the aquastat. If it's still short cycling the problem is in the cad cell or cad cell relay or the burner itself needs to be cleaned, serviced, adjusted.
Question: how to disassemble a Wayne oil burner
(Sept 27, 2014) pooch said:
Pooch use our email found at our CONTACT link at page top or bottom to send me some photos of your system so I can see what you are asking about.
Question: water coming out of overflow pipe when we turn heat on
(Nov 5, 2014) Jack d said:
Jack I'm unclear what "overrflow pipe" you mean but if you are talking about a relief valve on the oil fired heatig boiler, a discharge there means the system is at over-pressure, or it is at over-temperature (or the TP valve is leaking ) and repairs are needed. Else your system is unsafe.
Jack - what "overflow pipe" - if you refer to a relief valve, there should NOT be leaking there - the result would be unsafe and risk a very dangerous BLEVE explosion. See RELIEF VALVE LEAKS in the article links at page left.
(Nov 23, 2014) Anonymous said:
(Nov 23, 2014) Jim kool mechanical said:
(Nov 23, 2014) Anonymous said:
Anon you are not entirely correct: water heater tanks can explode as a BLEVE explosion; water pressure tanks can burst and have been known to cause fatalities when over-pressurized. "Explosion" as a term needs some clarification.
TP valves operate at a variety of pressures and temperatures and BTUH discharge rates according to the application. Details are at
Most hydronic heating boilers in one family homes operate at around 12 PSI COLD and heat to under 30 PSI when the boiler is operating. The cold-pressure may be a bit higher for homes requiring heat on a third floor.
Question: oil leak at the oil burner pump motor
(Dec 30, 2014) Walt said:
Walt I suspect a leaky oil line connection - in turn that risks improper or even unsafe burner operation. Wipe the pump and nearby oil line fittings dry and watch to see where oil next appears. Let me know.
Question: irregular running of Beckett oil burner
27 January 2015 Anonymous ( Chuck ) said:
it may help diagnose this intermittent problem by being at the oil burner when it goes off on re-set (I know that's difficult). You want to know if the failure is in ignition, electrical power, or fuel delivery, or in venting. Also take a look at the combustion chamber and nozzle assembly for formation of soot whiskers, crud, cracked nozzle electrode ceramic insulators, and of course loose wires
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
Search the InspectApedia website
HTML Comment Box is loading comments...
Technical Reviewers & References