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Getting started learning about oil-fired force hot water?

rca Member Posts: 11
Hi all,

I first found Dan's books, and this board, 10 years ago after moving into an apartment with steam heat and terrible water hammer, and I quickly learned enough to start identifying and fixing some of the problems. I've recently bought a house that has oil-fired forced hot water and although I'm not aware of any problems with the heating system, I'd like to learn about those systems enough that I'll be able to perform basic maintenance and troubleshoot and repair common problems that might come up. I saw that there are a bunch of books in the "hot water heating" section of the HeatingHelp online store, and thought I'd ask here first for specific recommendations of which would be the best for getting started. Recommendations for other books or sources of information would be appreciated as well.



  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
    edited September 2017
    Anything with hydronic heating is good, as it applies to oil & gas or propane pretty much the same. Some controls may be low voltage for gas and line voltage for oil.
    As far as oil burner related problems, you should find a really competent oil burner tech to go over the system, properly clean it, set up combustion with an analyzer, and walk you through all the components and answer all your questions. Cleaning and tune-up may need to be performed yearly.
    And don't push the reset button, Not once, not ever. If it doesn't light, you're just pumping unburnt oil into the chamber, and when it does light off, if you're lucky the worse thing that will happen to you is it scares you into never doing it again. If you're not lucky, lot's of bad can happen.
    Pushing the reset button has never fixed a problem. And for troubleshooting, it's better the tech comes to the unit while it's locked out, without a flooded combustion chamber.
    I'm not saying you can't do it, I'm just saying at a minimum you are going to need an good electric meter, a properly calibrated/maintained combustion analyzer, a smoke gun, and good/accurate pressure and vacuum gauges to do proper diagnosis. And the proper skills to know how to use them.
    Right off the bat you're in the $1200+ range, so unless you plan on making this a career, you're not saving any money.
    If curiosity gets the best of you, try a local vo-tech night school. Most of them have a basic intro oil/gas/hvac type class.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,861
    On the water side, if you had a particular problem, you could post here and we might be able to help you in diagnosing and repair.

    As far as the burner goes, unless you have a combustion analyzer and smoke tester, I don't think it would be wise to do repairs or adjustments yourself.

    You can give a description and post pics of the system, and recommendations or thoughts can be addressed, but servicing the burner should be left to the pros.

    Question. It's 7 degrees outside, a Sunday night, 3:00 am in February.
    Who are you going to call?

    I recommend you get a service agreement with a reputable full service fuel company. Sure you'll pay more for oil than you would going COD, but you'll have peace of mind for you and your family.
    Ask you neighbors who they use and if they're satisfied.

    Tooling around with an oil burner (or gas) is not a hobby, and should only be serviced, repaired or adjusted by an experienced technician.

    If a tech does something, or recommends something you have questions, or are not sure about, post back and we'll be happy to help.

    An oil fired boiler should be serviced annually, and the tech should ask, or you should tell him if there's any existing issues of concern.

    The annual tune up should at minimum, consist of,
    Replacing the nozzle, filter and pump strainer.
    Checking/clearing the oil line.
    Inspect the oil tank if accessible.
    Brush and vacuum the boiler, chimney base, and smoke pipe as necessary.
    Check/clean the combustion chamber.
    Adjust the burner for 0 smoke and perform a combustion analysis for optimum efficiency.
    Check all safeties and limits.
    Cycle all zones.
    The tech should give you a print out of the combustion analysis, or leave it by the boiler.
    Give you a written report of all work done, and recommendations if any.
    Or the report sent to your email if the tech uses a tablet.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,614
    : Books

    1. Pumping Away
    2. Primary-Secondary Piping Made Easy
    3. How Come?

    There are others I don't have
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    Sid Harvery sells great oil books...
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
    j a said:

    Sid Harvery sells great oil books...

    Some of them are pretty outdated with outdated methods.
    Here's the best books on oil heat.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    Never did see a fire dragon book....so I cant compare....Manufactres sites offer great information...
  • rca
    rca Member Posts: 11
    Hi all, been busy with the move but wanted to stop back and say thank you for all the suggestions.

    I guess I was a bit vague in my initial post, but I'd like to gain a level of understanding of the system comparable to the (gas-fired) steam heat system where I lived before - to give a few examples, I understood the principles of steam heat well enough that I was able to:
    - track down incorrectly pitched pipes and radiators causing water hammer
    - figure out when air vents were sticking open or shut causing either loss of water, or for a radiator to not heat, respectively
    - recognize when the system wasn't cycling normally and diagnose a defective pressuretrol
    - adjust the pressuretrol (and eventually a vaporstat) to get the system running efficiently

    I'll check out some of the books that were recommended and hopefully that will get me on my way. In particular,
    @STEVEusaPA thanks for the advice on the reset button
    @HVACNUT thanks for the detailed checklist for the annual tune up