Oil-Furnace Repair and Troubleshooting

When your oil furnaces quits, try some home diagnoses before calling in a professional, including these five tips and symptoms.

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    It's fairly simple to diagnose and repair residential furnaces, but precautions are necessary.

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On the whole, oil furnaces are considered to be among the most durable household appliances. Even though many manufacturers claim that their units have only a 10-year usable life, a homeowner can often expect 15 to 20 years of service from a properly maintained furnace.

However, this is not to imply that an oil burner won't develop a few ailments now and then, typically on the coldest night of the winter. In some instances, only a minor repair or adjustment will be required, but in many cases, you'll need the services of a qualified heating professional to restore the furnace to good health. Even so, if you're familiar with the common problems that oil burners develop and their recommended repairs, you'll be better able to judge the quality of a repairperson's work and ward off the incompetent or unscrupulous.

In the discussion that follows, former EcoVillage Director Leroy Richter, who teaches a popular introductory course on furnace repair at a local technical institute, lists some common oil furnace problems and some ways to correctly diagnose the trouble.

1. The Furnace Won't Start 

First of all, Richter advises, press the reset button, which manually starts the furnace. It's located either on the primary control at the stack (on older models) or on the burner motor (on newer appliances). Push the button once or twice; however, if the furnace doesn't come on and stay on within 60 seconds, stop pushing the button and check the fuses or circuit breaker. Don't keep pushing the reset button, which merely loads more fuel into the combustion chamber. If you do and the furnace finally does fire, you'll have a "heck of a lot of oil" in there, Richter points out.

Sometimes the motor on the burner assembly will burn out, Richter says. If this is the case, the motor will have to be replaced. Over-oiling the motor, which is sealed, is probably the most common cause of failure. Another possibility, though a rare one, is a faulty starting switch on the motor, which is an inexpensive repair.

2. The Burner's Running, But There's No Fire 

In this case, turn your attention first to the burner nozzle. "The opening in a nozzle is smaller than the tip of a needle," Richter points out, "and the slightest amount of water or trash can clog it up." If it's been a while since you changed the nozzle, replace this inexpensive part and see if the furnace will now operate properly.

1/30/2018 8:29:15 AM

I'm low on oil,1/8 tank, getting delivery today. Burner hiccups upon coming up to temp. Plan on bleeding looking for water, debris. Changed filter, screen, nozzle at first sign of trouble. Any clues?

1/5/2018 2:19:18 PM

for people who like to do it yourself check out "The Complete Guide to Residential Oil Heating and The Complete Guide to Residential Oil Burners at www.on-linegraphicsinc.com for discount prices

1/5/2018 2:19:17 PM

For DIY people check out The Complete Guide for Residential Oil Heating, and Oil Burners at www.on-linegraphicsinc.com for discounted prices



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