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Oil Burner Madness

sitesbyjoe Member Posts: 4
I have an oil hot water baseboard system on an older ranch home I own down in NJ. The furnace intermittently shuts down and has been for 2 years. (was my primary residence)

Over this time I'd usually hit the reset button and it'd be fine. If the heater is off for a while, I may need to bleed it to get it started again.

What could it be? Every piece the the furnace itself has been replaced from the tank to the burner motor etc. Still does the same thing.

The tank is outside. It's a replacement tank that is newer than my original but still used. The oil feeds from the top using a float system of some sort.

Now I have a tenant in the property and they're having the same trouble. I had all the pieces replaced this year after some flooding got the burner motor wet.

I'm considering switching to propane as this is driving me nuts and I'm tired of paying oil technicians who can't fix it again and again and again.

Any thoughts/suggestions? Will switching to propane make a difference?


  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,899
    "If the heater is off for a while, I may need to bleed it to get it started again"

    Sounds like you have an air leak somewhere. Try the Find a Contractor page of this site, there are some good oil men in Joisey. 
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • sitesbyjoe
    sitesbyjoe Member Posts: 4
    Good Oil Men

    That's the trouble - I've had all the oil guys in the area work on the system with no luck over the last two years.

    The house is down in Cape May County so I'm pretty far away from most of the NJ techs.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Oil Burner Madness:

    Your idea of "new" and replacement aren't the same. You said you replaced the old outside tank with a "used tank". Used tanks are usually full of sludge. Just waiting to be cleaned off by new oil. Did you use a canister type filter like a General or a Fulflo F4B? Change it to a Garber Spin on and use the restriction gauge on the filter to see what the vacuum is. Did you use flare fittings on the copper or compression fittings.

    If you need to bleed the fuel system after it goes off, you have a vacuum leak. Did you use a two pipe oil system to go into the top of the tank? If you only used one pipe, how did you connect the dip tube into the top of the tank? With a union/coupling?

    You need a Tigerloop.

    The reason you can't find any oil burner techs to service your burner is because you have tried to save money and either done it yourself or hired handypersons to do your installs. No one likes to follow up after a $&&& job and fix what is wrong. So the oil tech doesn't get the work and then then don't get the experience.
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    sounds like

    air leak, or lack of vacuum from fuel pump. As Ice said, that used tank is probably full of crap, and the suction line system is not a good setup. Have the bottom of the tank pumped, use cold weather fuel treatments, only flare fittings, double tap bushing for  the feed, no filter on top of the tank, make sure it is a "new" continuous supply line from the tank to the burner, change the pump strainer if it has one, and vacuum test it. It is not rocket science, and doesn't warrant changing to propane to have a working heating system, just need someone willing to roll up their sleeves. 
  • sitesbyjoe
    sitesbyjoe Member Posts: 4
    Good Oil Men

    True, I've tried to save money with the used tank. All other parts are new. I was advised by the oil guy that it (the tank) was in good shape. I original tank was rotting out and oil was leaking out the bottom. I was charged $1200 for the tank, installation and removal. He advised a new tank would have been at least $1200 by itself.

    My current guy is quoting me $900 for a real new "new" tank and putting it under the house.

    I don't know about your specific set up questions (parts and techniques) but I'll pass your thoughts along to the current oil guy.

    I found two more techs close enough they might come down. Is there a resource you recommend so help me learn more about oil systems so I can be more knowledgable?

    I'm stuck with the system for the next many years, so....

    Lastly, my tenant is a volunteer fireman and he's claiming the oil burner being reset is a fire hazard and could cause a backfire/explosion or something - would you agree with this? I always thought the burner wouldn't fire unless the mix was right (oil/air) making it much safer than that.

    Thanks again for all your advice!
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Firefighter Madness:

    The Volunteer firefighter should stick to putting out fires and leave the rest to Pro's like those of us who try to make a living doing such.

    The guy who told you that a used oil tank was cheaper than a new one must be a firefighter, New oil tanks are cheap. If the oil filter is outside above the tank, it doesn't belong there. It belongs snuggled up to the oil burner. Right next to the heating appliance. A old, dirty tank costs money from a shortened life and crud in the tank. Causing more service calls.

    The new oil piping should have been a two pipe system. Then, the oil is always cold and gels the filter. If a one pipe system is used, then you have vacuum issues. A vacuum leak will break the syphon. A Tigerloop is the only solution and the correct install for this equipment.

    If the tank could have been installed inside, it should have been installed there. Oil tanks don't belong outside if it can be helped.

  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
    Tenants not completely wrong

    But he also should not be hitting the reset more than once before calling for a knowledgeable service guy to work out the problem. Suction leak is what my money is on. Lots of compression fittings get used on oil over in NY it may be the same out in Cape May. It could also be an over head and undersized oil line. Some guys like using pixie straws for the oil line.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • World Plumber
    World Plumber Member Posts: 389
    Outside tanks

    You said OUTSIDE tank. What kind of oil are you using? Straight #2. You either have to mix it  with Kero or treat the fuel so it doesn't jell. Let it sit a while and the jell warms and tuns back to oil. Pulling form the top, one pipe or two? If two pipe Have the return line capped and a Tigerloop installed. What is the outside Temperature when it happens? Does it seem to happen when it's below 20?

         I think you need to be standing there with a can of antijell fuel treatment each time you get oil. Are you prone to bacteria? That will cause a lot of problems. Get a good fuel additive that controls jelling and bacteria. I use Super Heat. It does a good job keeping me home. I've taken over customers who have told me your story. !2 to 14 service calls a year, new boiler same problem. Found bacteria in the nozzle, treated their tanks. Two years later need to remind them they need to service the burner.
  • sitesbyjoe
    sitesbyjoe Member Posts: 4
    Bacteria Probability

    The area (Green Creek) was probably named after the huge amount of green mold that grows on everything rapidly. Does this mean the property is prone to bacteria - could be!

    Can you tell me about this a little more? This is quite interesting. I'm gonna print this whole conversation for the next technician I bring to troubleshoot the system!

    Thanks for everyone's comments - this is a good forum!
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