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water in tank

drhvac Member Posts: 190
I more of a gas guy looking to get back into some oil work. I know sometime tanks get water in them which eventually could get to the burner and cause problems.

My question is how does the water get in there?

How do you know you have water in there?

How would you fix that problem to get the peoples heat going again?

Thank you


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,272
    How does the water get in?

    Condensation, mostly, when the tank is partly empty.  It's the nature of the beast.

    If you suspect you have enough water to cause a problem, there are several products which can be used in you can get a dipstick into the tank; they change colour if they hit water.  But -- most tanks you can't get a dipstick into.

    And if you have enough water in there to shut the burner down, and it does happen (you're getting good flow and pressure when you try to prime, but if you check you're getting water  out of the line, not oil) about the only thing you can do is to go back to the tank and drain the water out.  If you haven't added oil lately (or shaken the tank!) the water will be on the bottom, and you should be able to drain it into a bucket -- drain at the filter until you get clean oil.  If it is an underground tank, you may be able to use the suction line in some manner to do the same thing.

    THAT WATER IS A HAZARDOUS WASTE.  Be sure you dispose of it properly.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • drhvac
    drhvac Member Posts: 190

    Like I said im a gas guy looking to get into oil. To me it seems like oil is easier to troubleshoot than gas? What's your opinion? The only thing that scares me is if something like that would happen, what would I do? I'm pretty much a one man show, so if I get stuck on something I don't have anyone to go to, its all on me.
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
    Oil easy?

    I,ve done both for over 25years and the  grass  is greener is true,Unless you like going out all hours (being all oil co offer 24 hrs service thats what people want no excuses)Then it may not be for you unless you like the following smelling like oil ,your truck and tools smell like oil and getting rid of waste oil ,slug up filters,strainers and nozzles a good waste bucket of oil  and some place to dispose of the wast oil .And of course and bunch of new tools ,push pull gun ,soot vac ,0 to 300 psi gauge,vacume gauge  and a bunch of pumps,motors, ingintion tranny ,oil relays, a variety of filters nozzle s and strainers and misc stuff.If you where familar w oil and had done oil service for a oil co and had a real idea of what real oil service invoules you might want to just do gas ,if you think oil is easier and gas is so hard then give it a eye opening try it not as easy money as you might think .It is usually dirty smelly and usually no tmuch fun  and most of all from my experences oil fired equiptment and vampires have one thing in common they both seem to always go out at night and when you burn oil it is not a waiting game like the ulities they want service within the hour and heat in even less time .Why another oil co will grab your custermers .Just as all services require knoweledge and experence i don,t think its some thing to jump into most plumbers ,hvac and ref guys i know and work w hate oil ,they love theinstall money but have no clue how to set up adjust and ensure that the burner is functioning and running properly they all seem to find out the hard way 3 to 6 months later when the home is full of smoke or the boiler is completly packed and in need of a good cleaning .Just remenber the grass usually always looks cleaner on the other side .As for water in a tank either the fill or vent pipe is rotted and letteing water in or the tank tops in rotted ,you get it out by making a dip tube and pumping it out with a approved pump and and paying to dispose of that water as waste oil ching ching then dig the fill and vent up and re pipe easy stuff .I don,t want to discourage you but gotta tell ya the truth .I only do oil for a few of my custermers and basically i do the cleaning after the oil co and they keep the oil co for emergency 24 /7 service and me to straighten it out and make sure it s all running correct .Can,t except much of a cleaning for 100 bucks and less then 1 hr to do it except for a noz filter strainer .Sorry for the rant and if i don,t sound postive i m sorry just hate hear everyone think its so easy when they have not been out there doing it when you do 24 /7 it means 24/7 espically oil custermers not in the am they want now .Peace and good lucl clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    Oil vs gas

    I think gas is easier to trouble shoot {depending on the system}, for example yesterday I did about 11 calls {9 service 2 sales}, and they were mixed between gas and oil, the oil service calls took longer every time..

    A gas furnace blowing cold air- Took the door off, watched the boards flash sequence, compared it to the reference sheet, failure to light 3 time lock out- I cycled the power to watch it fail, but it lit and then went out, pulled the flame sensor cleaned and inspected it, recycled and it ran through fine- FIXED in 5 minutes, watched it while I wrote the invoice and talked to the customer left in less than 30 minutes...

    Next an oil boiler, nh nhw. I get there weil mclain gold sooted up, I brush and vac it, change the nozzle, adjust electrodes, check pump pressure clean fan and restart it, it lights but starts really rumbly, so I wait for it to clear up, feed it a little extra air to burn off any excess oil, 15 minutes later, I try to restart it still a rumbly delay, I check the transformer and its bad, change that, and it starts much cleaner with no delay.... I perform efficiency test and dont get out of there for almost an hour and a half...

    Next oil furnace is out, go there open the transformer, take the jet line off and hit the reset {test of oil and ignition} sparks rite up and tests good, oil is dirty and sputtering, webster pump... I change the filter, blow out the oil line, flow good red fuel to the pump and hook up the pump tester, tests bad, change the pump and coupling, get it running do efficiency test again an hour and a half...

    Next gas boiler no heat- I get there and the circ isnt running but the boiler is at temp, I check for voltage at circ, its not there. I check the t-stat and control, tstats fine control is bad, change the control, circ starts rite up, 45 minutes

    Next gas boiler no heat- boiler is ice cold, I cycle power and check the thermostat is calling, all is good, check for 24v at transformer -good, check at gas valve not good, I start checking the bouncing ball and find a bad roll out switch, jump it and it lights, change it and leave- 20 minutes...

    So before i go through my entire day, Im sure you guys have better things to do, gas is easier to me, gas also seems to have less hard to diagnose intermittent issues...

    As far as water in a tank, I use the paste, put it on a stick or tape measure, feed it in the tank and it will tell all... But once you are in the field long enough and have the experience you can just taste it, or some of the old timers just rub it in an open cut, they can tell rite away.. :)

  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Oil Burners:

    Those oil burners must have been Beckett's.

    With F4B filters and no Spin-On's.

    With Spin-On's, there isn't even a need to check pump strainers. They are never dirty. But what passes through a pump strainer will plug a nozzle strainer, every time.

    As you are leaving.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,272
    Not as you are leaving...

    when you have just finished cleaning yourself up a bit and are getting in the truck...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Leaving on good terms:

    Correct. And you forgot to turn the power switch back on.
  • drhvac
    drhvac Member Posts: 190

    I didn't want to offend the oil guys, and I know there is more time involved to clean and service an oil burner properly. I think I could make a fairly easy transition to oil once I get my feet wet on a couple of them. Its not like I'm a kid , I've been in the business for over 28 years. I do combustion analysis everyday on gas units. I will need to get some tools, smoke kit, draft gauge, pressure test, & some of the parts, but yeah I like getting dirty. I've read about 4 books and have taken a class on it. I also learn alot from reading what you guys have to say when you answer people's questions.

    But what I was talking about as far as gas vs. oil, it seems to me that once you get the knack for oil, the parts, pumps motors, relays, etc are pretty much all the same. I know the basic gas boilers and furnaces are simple, but when you start getting into the variable furnaces, furnaces with the modulating gas valves and inducer motors, or the mod con boilers, they get a little tricky and they are all different. But to me if you know what you are doing, have the proper tools, and know how to test things, you could fix almost anything. Thanks for your help guys. I will definately be asking you for help if I run into a problem.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    No absolutes:

    There are no absolutes. But I once heard someone comment that "Plumbers make good heaters, But heaters don't always make good plumbers".

    I would say that

    Good gas service guys would make good oil burner guys(gals). But not oil guys would make good gas service guys". Gas is far more complicated. But it is the same sequence as a car. There are only two things that go wrong. Ignition and fuel. It is one of the two. How you get there is what the separation is.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Three things

  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    Four things

  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991

    with the mod cons and fancy gas units, there is usually a sequence light or sometimes a digital readout that tells you where to look for your problem, with oil sometimes you get there, hit the reset and ther eis ignition and fuel, you light it off and no smoke, start and stop it 30 times and there is no issue, then check the draft, pump, t-former, electrodes, ect ect ect and nothing wrong.. You leave and it goes off 3 hours later, you go back and its like deja vu all over gain, it lights rite up no smoke runs fine.... The second time I make a guess, I keep a good used primary control, pump, transformer, and motor on my truck, Ill start with the motor or maybe the oldest part, since there is no smoke ignition is probably not the issue. Some times you may go back 3-4 times before it stays off the book and you can bill them, but I only bill them for a single call, and I wont leave parts that didn't fix the problem, Ill either keep their part and leave mine or put theirs back on after i figured it out...

    This happens much more in oil than gas, in my experience when gas is broken, its broken... And it seems like you can do a lot more gas service calls with out buying any pars than oil, you always spend money on parts when oil is down, even if its just a coked up endcone, you still change the nozzle after you clean it all up.. With gas a lot of times the HSI or flame sensor needs to be cleaned, a control needed to be cycled, ect.. No parts needed, with oil that is rare... The only time it happens with oil is when the cad cell needs to be wiped, but usually if its was sooted up, you should change the nozzle, and brush and vac it, I almost change the nozzle everytime I pull the drawer assembly out of a unit... not sure why? Just feel better if there is a new nozzle in there..
  • drhvac
    drhvac Member Posts: 190
    another question

    from all my readings and research it seems like it is very rare that a oil tech will actually take out the burner when servicing. To me if Im taking a boiler apart and cleaning out a blocked up heat exchanger, all that **** is going to the bottom of the and chamber. Doesn't it make sense to pull the burner out and put something there to catch the stuff and throw it away. Eventually if that isn't done, over the year is that build up is going to become a problem, maybe causing the erratic problem you were having heatpro on the one you spoke about that works fine, then goes out a couple days later? Or checking the proper alignment of the nozzle and electrodes, if that isnt right, that could cause erratic operation. Am I wrong? I seems like guys never take the burner completely out?
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Cleaning Bottoms:

    Weil-McLain came out with the oil Gold's in 1995. They had swing away fronts that the burner was mounted on. Probably because of all the boilers that failed because no one cleaned out the kibbles & bits in the chamber. On some cold start boilers, the level got to the burner. Today, there is no excuse for not opening up the front and cleaning it out.

    I also think it was done in response to Beckett lovers who wanted to check the famous "Z" dimension. You couldn't check that dimension without taking the burner out.  Today, every decent oil boiler has the ability to swing open the front and access the chamber. Really old ones that just have a plate held on with 4 or more bolts can be dangerous to your health. Emotionally (break off a bolt and have to fix it) and physically. Because the refractory contains things that are bad for your lungs. Like asbestos or silica.

    The real answer is though, you can't take a burner out, clean inside, put it back in and do all the other things to service the boiler in one hour. It will take over 2. Some people want a three hour job for $50.00. That's not a loss leader, it's a loss failure. It can't be done.

    When people shop around for the cheapest cleaning and service, they get what they pay for. Not much.

    It costs more to answer the phone than anyone makes doing the service.

    Then the Gas Syndicate, an active arm of the Wall Street Crime Syndicate, tells everyone and have convinced everyone that oil companies don't want to clean and service your boilers because they can sell more oil. That's bogus. They CAN'T service boilers if their loosing money on every cleaning.

    In the scheme of things, there is VERY LITTLE #2 oil product lost to the ground. If consumers had any idea about how much vapor gas is lost annually, world wide, they'd be outraged. Just the ground leaks alone is shocking. Above ground are as bad. In underdeveloped countries like Mexico City, it is fueled by LPG. The tanks are on roofs. They pump the liquid into rooftop tanks. They leak. Out of sight, out of mind. In some places, the smell of Mercaptan is terrible. Gas fires are common.

    With #2 oil, first you smell it, then you see it. Then you fix it. With gas, you don't see it. If it doesn't go BOOM, you smell it. Then, it goes BOOM. Like on Park Avenue, East in NYC where 7 people were killed the other day and two buildings were demolished? Then the Wall Street Crime Syndicate and their lobbyist's, lobbying the EPA to get rid of the competition. Some call that Corporate Greed.
  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232


    paste on dip stick.

    Get the transfer pump out , then whatever it takes to get it right and not have to come back until the service company they were using lets the ball drop again.

    just yesterday , i ran this entire thing past a homeowner ... i suggested to the oil tech taking the general filter out and puting in the tiger loop while nice to cut down on the condensation in a two pipe below ground tank , was not exactly the best way to roll.

    the way i did that was to say ,

    " i like to go with double or triple fitration ,

    and "what is the name of the company that evacs tanks cuts them up and disposes of them ? "

    : )

    this is part of the education experience lol..

    we are supposed to be helping young guys without doing all their thinking for them .

    : )