Water damaged oil burner (C) Daniel FriedmanOil Burner Problems in the Utility Room

  • BOILER / FURNACE ROOM TROUBLE SIGNS - CONTENTS: indicators you can find right in the boiler or furnace room that helps Troubleshoot Problems at Oil Burners Found on Heating Boilers, Water Heaters, Furnaces
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about oil burner inspection, diagnosis, & repair, troubleshooting procedure, how to get the oil burner running again, best order of diagnostic steps.
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Signs of oil burner trouble in the utility room include several problems easily observed by eye and ear.

Noticing what's going on, even something as simple as a utility room door that is shut to cut off combustion air, can make a big difference in diagnosing oil burner malfunctions.

This article series explains how to inspect, diagnose & repair oil burners used on oil-fired heating boilers or furnaces using a visual inspection approach as well as (optional) simple test equipment.

We include a description of common oil burner adjustment and operating problems and we illustrate some of the basic oil burner tests and measurements made in servicing and adjusting the equipment for safe, efficient operation. The articles at this website describe how to recognize common oil-fired heating appliance operating or safety defect.

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Boiler or Furnace Room Clues May Explain Oil Burner Trouble

Water damaged oil burner (C) Daniel FriedmanAn expert inspection of an oil burner begins either with having made note of building owner/occupant concerns (noises, odors, no heat, high fuel costs), or with having made some basic visual observations outside: a sooty chimney top, for example.

The page top photo shows signs of water running down the chimney and through the flue vent connector - a possible cause of damage to the heating equipment.

The chimney itself may just need a rain cap, or the chimney may actually be unsafe, having been damaged by water, spalling, rust, or frost.

In our photo of the oil burner at above/left we see lots of soot, debris and crud around the unit - and a rusty lally column.

[Click to enlarge any image]

We also see what looks like water stains below the round combustion chamber inspection port to the upper left of the oil burner.

This heating equipment needs a much closer inspection for condition and for safety; I suspect there's water damage.

The oil burner inspection continues indoors, even before entering the utility room where the oil burner (or often more than one of them if oil fuel is used for both heating and a separate water heater) is located: look at the building interior as you enter:

are there odors, soot deposits, noises associated with the heating system?

The oil burner inspection becomes detailed, and diagnostic, when you can actually see the equipment.

It's obvious that you should notice oil leaks, soot in the boiler or furnace room, noises, odors, signs of repeated repairs, piles of junked parts, signs of unprofessional work (covers off of controls, sloppy wiring or plumbing).

But just what each of these clues might mean bears some additional explanation that we offer below.

Photograph of a badly rusted furnace

Audel guide to oil burner efficiency (C) Daniel Friedman - Audel

While it was possible to "eyeball" older oil fired equipment (spit on the flue for temperature and blow cigarette smoke at the burner for draft), modern oil fired equipment requires more accurate measurement and adjustment for good operation.

As our sketch from the AUDEL OIL BURNER GUIDE (free online book) shows, measuring the stack temperature and CO2 level gives a critical indication of the heating system efficiency, in other words, measuring what percent of each dollar spent on heating oil is going up the chimney versus into the building as heat.

The Guide also includes this CHART of OIL FIRED HEATING SYSTEM EFFICIENCY[image] at different CO2 levels and stack temperatures.

The little hole we describe is where the service tech inserts test equipment to measure stack temperature, smoke level, and CO level. Some tech's use two holes to permit more than one measurement simultaneously.

Oil burner stack temperature measurement (C) D FriedmanNo hole in the flue vent connector means that this heating system has never measured. (Or new flue vent connector parts have just been installed on older equipment and no one has made a hole yet.)

Details about this procedure for measuring oil burner efficiency are

Our photo (left) shows a Bachrach stack temperature measurement being made "in the breech" above a troublesome oil burner and boiler installation.

Watch out: don't record the stack temperature before the oil-fired heating system has been running for five minutes or so - you want to be sure the system has reached its stable and "normal" operating temperature.

Waiting a few minutes at this boiler we saw the flue temperature rise to 600 °F.

At 600 °F. this heating system was left running a bit "hot" by the service tech. Why? Because a too-short chimney meant the system had a history of inadequate draft, sooting, backpressure, puffbacks, and loss of heat. This "fix" was a band-aid that kept the system running longer between (frequent) service calls, but at the expense of higher heating bills and wasted fuel.

We could have addressed this short chimney with a draft inducer fan, but a taller flue would be smart anyway, to get the chimney top higher than the roof surface. We discuss examples of extending chimney height to improve draft, performance, and fire safety separately

at CHIMNEY HEIGHT EXTENSIONS. We discuss draft inducer or "draft boosting" fans for heating systems (and maybe for some fireplaces)

in detail at DRAFT INDUCER FANS.

Just how short is "too short" for a chimney is a problem along with roof clearance requirements discussed at CHIMNEY HEIGHT & CLEARANCE

Barometric damper inspection (C) Daniel Friedman

Readers needing an approach to heating system inspections that assures thoroughness, should also
see HEATING SYSTEM INSPECTION PROCEDURE where we explain an organized approach to inspecting the entire heating system, beginning outdoors, continuing indoors, and ultimately in most detail in the boiler or furnace room.

To find what you need quickly, if you don't want to scroll through this index you are welcome to use the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX to search InspectApedia for specific articles and information.

Article Series Contents:


Continue reading at OIL BURNER VISUAL INSPECTION or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



Or see OIL BURNER WONT RUN - Diagnostic Steps - what to check in what order

Or see OIL BURNER DIAGNOSTIC FAQs - diagnostic questions & answers about oil burners

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BOILER / FURNACE ROOM TROUBLE SIGNS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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