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New fumes smell

Shalldierks
Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
edited April 16 in Oil Heating
Background information:
We have been living in our home for almost 12 years. We are in a remodeled 1890's brick Victorian farm house surrounded by farm fields. It is a four level home including an underground basement.
We have a New Yorker oil burner with 2 full size oil tanks in the basement. There are no windows down there but we have the original wooden bilko doors with an interior wooden door and screen door. It has cement stairs and we feel air under the door constantly. This has been the same set up for 11 years.
The boiler was installed 5 years before we bought the house. Please see attached pictures for burner and lay out.
It is a 2 zone system, forced hot water.
It has been cleaned yearly (except last year and the year before due to the planeddemic and such) and the chimney checked at each cleaning.
The only thing that has changed in the past 2 years is the spill over tank was replaced. Prior to that, a few years ago, we had the fill pipe to the tanks replaced with a larger size to accommodate the high pressure oil fills.
The chimney is about 40 feet high and has a cap that was installed last year.

The dirt and such behind the boiler and on the floor is from the chimney clean. It was not there when this started.

The Problem
The burner and everything has been fine. About a week ago we started smelling fumes that I would describe as exhaust fumes. First it was smelled in just the basement but has gotten worse to the point that we get them on the second floor now. It only happens when the boiler is running. How far into the house depends on how long it is running for. Once it shuts off, the fumes eventually go away.

What we have done so far
1. We checked and our service company checked from the fill pipe to the tanks to the feed between the tanks to the feed to the boiler to the boiler and even checked the exhaust pipe. No leaking oil found.

2. On April 14 2022 We had our servicer come out. He inspected the entire system and traced our above steps looking for oil or whatever.He checked the flame, the richness if the feed, filter and ran a test where he put a probe in the exhaust pipe and said it was fine. He said he checked CO levels with the furnace running for a while. The CO test, he said, was 6 parts per million or billion. (I apologize I wasn't there i am going off of someone elses memory) and was fine.

3. On April 15th, We had another tech come out to clean the furnace. That tech replaced the novel, cleaned it and performed a check on the system. He stated the chimney was blocked and red tagged it saying we should not use it until we have the chimney swept.

4. Still April 15th, I had a chimney sweep cone out. He pulled 3 or 4 bird nests out of the chimney. He put the brush in again just to check and make sure. He was able to hit the cap in the chimney with no further debris.

We put the heat back on to test. We still have fumes.  We waited a bit. We were told to allow the temp in the chimney to become warmer than the outside and test. We did. We still have fumes.

After an unpleasant (for them) call to the service company they are sending a "more experienced tech" out today 4/16.
They originally wanted us to wait until Monday and said do not use the boiler but it is our only heat source. We are still going down below freezing here. So they are coming tomorrow. 

Please note. In the pictures you can see some damage to the exhaust pipe. That wasn't there when this started. That happened with all the removing and reinstalling of the pipe.

I am not sure what questions to ask or anything. I am worried about my husband, our pets and myself. I am partially disabled so that is making this even more difficult. 

Does anyone have any suggestions, thoughts, etc? I am desperate to get my home back.

I apologize for the length of this but I wanted to give as much info as I was able. The outside pictures are a little older. It is almost 3am so I couldn't get new ones. The furnace chimney is the white one.

Thank you for your time!
Sheila




Thank you!
Sheila
«1

Comments

  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,596
    Posts pics of the combustion report. If it wasn't left on site, ask the company for a copy. Time and date should be on it.
    I'm not familiar with that model. Looks like a horizontal steel tube. Was that black front plate removed, baffles pulled, tubes brushed and vacuumed? Was the flue pulled off the back of the boiler so that portion could be cleaned and checked.?
    That's not the greatest spot for a combustion test hole. 
    6 PPM could be ok but the other numbers are just as important. Draft over the fire and at the breach, and of course a 0 smoke.
    ShalldierksSTEVEusaPA
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    Thank you so much for your reply. I do not have a copy of the report. I will ask for it. They are coming today but I doubt they will pull it before they come. We shall see.
    For your other questions about the baffles, the flue the answer to each is yes. When they came out yesterday they did a full cleaning. Our boiler plate lifts up and locks into place for cleaning and maintenance and then slides back into place. I have never seen it removed so I am not sure it comes off. Would that be the same or should I insist they take it off?
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    HVACNUT said:
    Posts pics of the combustion report. If it wasn't left on site, ask the company for a copy. Time and date should be on it.
    I'm not familiar with that model. Looks like a horizontal steel tube. Was that black front plate removed, baffles pulled, tubes brushed and vacuumed? Was the flue pulled off the back of the boiler so that portion could be cleaned and checked.?
    That's not the greatest spot for a combustion test hole. 
    6 PPM could be ok but the other numbers are just as important. Draft over the fire and at the breach, and of course a 0 smoke.
    I just heard back
     The tech that is coming out is the same guy as the first time. God help me.
    He can't print the combustion report because his printer isn't working. He offered to do the test again and transcribe the numbers but we have to pay for the test again. I can not believe this.
    It is going below freezing again tonight and tomorrow.  I have to let him look at it He is the only guy on call. I feel like my hands are tied. 
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
        Please make sure your CO detectors are in working order.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,970
    If you really are smelling diesel exhaust -- not a modern diesel, but an older one -- somehow combustion products are not making it reliably up the chimney. First thing to do, though, is to be double check what you are really smelling, and that it is fumes and not something else.

    Now assuming it is fumes, when the tech comes you need to have him be sure and check -- and record, in pencil if necessary (I sometimes wonder if people have forgotten about pencil and paper...) the combustion numbers and especially the draught numbers -- although you can get a ballpark on the draught yourself. That damper on the breeching should pill open somewhat when the burner is firing. That it is sitting there closed in the photos worries me, as even if the basement is pretty leaky there I would expect there to be some draught in that chimney.

    Running the brush up through the chimney is all very well, but it would probably be a good idea to have the chimney really visually inspected. Many sweeps have cameras they can use.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    MikeL_2 said:
        Please make sure your CO detectors are in working order.
    Thank you for the reply. We are replacing our CO detectors today. I am not sure how old the ones we have are so I want to be safe.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    If you really are smelling diesel exhaust -- not a modern diesel, but an older one -- somehow combustion products are not making it reliably up the chimney. First thing to do, though, is to be double check what you are really smelling, and that it is fumes and not something else. Now assuming it is fumes, when the tech comes you need to have him be sure and check -- and record, in pencil if necessary (I sometimes wonder if people have forgotten about pencil and paper...) the combustion numbers and especially the draught numbers -- although you can get a ballpark on the draught yourself. That damper on the breeching should pill open somewhat when the burner is firing. That it is sitting there closed in the photos worries me, as even if the basement is pretty leaky there I would expect there to be some draught in that chimney. Running the brush up through the chimney is all very well, but it would probably be a good idea to have the chimney really visually inspected. Many sweeps have cameras they can use.
    Thank you so much! At the time the pictures were taken the boiler had no power to it. When it is on the damper will open and close at different times and sometimes just be in constant movement.
    There are two things I did notice when it comes to the damper. 1. When the furnace is running you can feel heat coming out of the damper. 2. The winds get real bad out here often.  Sometimes the damper will move with really bad wind. It has been like this since we moved in 11years ago. We just started with this problem a week ago. Does that cause any red flags?

    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
          Also ask the service tech if there is adequate combustion air. 
          Any chance you have new or different appliances, exhaust fans, or other equipment that need make - up air and are competing with the boiler for combustion air?
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 570
    In the very first picture of the outside of the house I notice a completely EXTERIOR, white block chimney. If that chimney cools down, I would expect that draft to be very sluggish. I don't know if the boiler is connected to that chimney but like Jamie says, pay very close attention to the draft numbers from a combustion analysis.
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    psb75 said:
    In the very first picture of the outside of the house I notice a completely EXTERIOR, white block chimney. If that chimney cools down, I would expect that draft to be very sluggish. I don't know if the boiler is connected to that chimney but like Jamie says, pay very close attention to the draft numbers from a combustion analysis.

    Thank you for the reply. The white chimney is the one attached to the furnace.
    The one toward the back of the house was for the wood burner that they originally cooked on in this house many many years ago. It is blocked off and not used. I jokingly say it is my decoy to keep birds and other critters from the furnace chimney. I don't know if you can see a 3rd chimney but that is attached to a totally different building...our summer kitchen.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    MikeL_2 said:
          Also ask the service tech if there is adequate combustion air. 
          Any chance you have new or different appliances, exhaust fans, or other equipment that need make - up air and are competing with the boiler for combustion air?
    That "room" has the boiler, washer, dryer, well pump and 2 chest freezers. It is a very large basement.
    To note: the dryer is electric and vents off of a different wall.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    All if you have no idea how much I appreciate you replying. I am so thankful and in your debt.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    MikeL_2 said:
          Also ask the service tech if there is adequate combustion air. 
          Any chance you have new or different appliances, exhaust fans, or other equipment that need make - up air and are competing with the boiler for combustion air?
    That "room" has the boiler, washer, dryer, well pump and 2 chest freezers. It is a very large basement.
    To note: the dryer is electric and vents off of a different wall.
    When I listed the appliances I forgot to add that the same appliances have been in place for the last 6 years.  Would help if I actually answered your question. My apologies.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,596
    If you need to pay again, get your monies worth.
    Crank the heat and run a bathtub full hot for the tests. The test should be done at steady state, which is when the flue gases have reached its maximum temperature. 
    Ask if you can take a picture of the analyzer screen rather than writing it down. 
    A separate draft gauge is used to check over fire draft as the firebox  is too hot for the analyzer. And the smoke test is a different tool as well. It looks like a hand pump.
    I must admit, sometimes I can't smell what a client is describing but if you bring the tech to where you notice the odors the most, maybe it can be pinpointed. 
    The removal of the Nests and a proper cleaning should've been an easy fix. 
    With the electrical appliances, it's not an electrical burning odor? Definitely diesel fumes?

  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,805
    what else changed when the problem started?
    any new windows, or weatherization projects?
    any new ceiling lights up on the second floor, holes to the attic?
    any other remodeling? opening up walls ?
    known to beat dead horses
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    neilc said:
    what else changed when the problem started? any new windows, or weatherization projects? any new ceiling lights up on the second floor, holes to the attic? any other remodeling? opening up walls ?
    Nothing else has changed. No projects if any kind.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    It is not an electrical smell. It is an exhaust smell.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    UPDATE:
    The technician is still here. He has been here since around 9 AM it's now 10:35 AM. What he has done was burned paper in the boiler to see if there was any smoke coming out around seals etc. we did see smoke coming from where the exhaust pipe connects to the wall and out of the damper. There was no other smoke coming from any other areas of the furnace Once that burned off he taped up and sealed up the different areas of the exhaust pipe where there are connections. He also used caulk around where the pipe meets the wall. We then fired up the burner and originally we received a burning paper smell which was expected but then I was standing next to it and I was hit with this hard exhaust smell up until this point the technician had not smelled it but when I started coughing and my eyes watering I got away from it He came around and put his face in front of the damper and immediately said that the smell is just pouring out of the damper.
     He has now gone to his truck and called his supervisor and is looking for direction.
    That's the update as of 10:48am.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
    CLamb
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 570
    Put a hand mirror in the clean-out door at the base of the chimney. Do you see daylight (sky)? If not...the chimney is blocked.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,543
    Your issue is that the chimney isnt drafting. The vent isnt sealed it relies on negative pressure generated by the chimney to keep the combustion products inside. The smoke from the paper should have been drawn up the chimney rather than spill out minor cracks and the barometric damper. It being outside and exposed to the cold doesn't help. The tech that can fix this would know that. Might need someone specifically for the chimney that knows what they are doing.

    I'm not sure the products of combustion should smell, I'll defer to the oil burner techs on that, but they definitely shouldn't spill out.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,970
    You have a serious chimney problem. Not sure what without being there, but that chimney is at least partly blocked.

    Which means, bottom line, don't run that boiler or anything else with heat or flame into that chimney until you get that attended to. Use space heaters if you need to, but there is a very dangerous situation there.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 406
    You need to get your chimney guy back, preferably with a lift so the chimney cap can be removed and a proper inspection done.  My guess is that you have debris or a bird/bees nest still in the chimney.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,691
    edited April 16
    Maybe you're just underfired, the flue pipe isn't connected properly, and the blower wheel is dirty.
    Burning a piece of paper is a stupid way to do things and tells you nothing.
    A CO monitor around the equipment will tell you of any CO leaks, and a combustion analyzer, smoke test and draft test will tell you the rest of the story.
    Curious of nozzle size and pump pressure.
    Also agree with @Robert_25 for a proper second look at that cap. There should be no debris with a proper cap. Is the chimney lined?
    If the chimney isn't blocked it will draft fine, maybe too good. Just might need pre-purge/longer pre-purge.
    steve
    Robert O'Brien
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    UPDATE
    After listening to the tech argue with his boss for a half hour (us in the house, him in his truck)...he confirmed the cleaning was done properly. Opened everything up, pulled stuff out, back in. Etc. Took off all the sealing on the exhaust pipe that he just did and confirmed there were no blockages anywhere in the flue or the burner. He did the combustion test again.  They determined there is no drafting and told us to call the chimney guy and left.
    I should have almost $600 and skipped the tech and just listened to all of you.
    I attached his feedback from the invoiceMonday.
    I was told I would receive the results of our combustion test in email. I checked the email and there is nothing. I paid for it twice so I think I deserve at least one report. I will post that when I get it.

    We called the chimney guy again and we haven't heard back. We have a roof hatch so if he doesn't have a lift we can toss him out of the hatch.  We are doing the no heat and hot water thing until at least monday. Space heaters it is.

    Thank you all for your posts. Means so much you took time to help us out. I will post as I have more information. 

    Thank you
    Sheila


    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    edited April 16
    I forgot. I did get pictures inside the chimney and the back of the furnace. I am posting them now... the chimney pics are taken through the exhaust pipe connects area. The clean out door is below it.
    It didn't upload the pictures in the order I did. Sorry they are mixed up..

    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 600
    Combustion air and flue problems are a little harder to diagnose on oil than on gas, but it still only takes draft readings. If you are in a room breathing there is usually air in that room. An oil burner has a combustion air fan so unless there is a whole house fan running, it will find all the air it needs.

    An oil burner operating in a room with negative pressure can usually overcome the negative, draw plenty of air into the burner and have a draft reading. If there is a combustion air problem or negative pressure problem the draft will disappear almost instantly when the burner shuts off,

    A restricted flue or improper flue, (includes if it is wet) will have marginal draft when the burner is operating, but when it shuts down the draft will actually rise. Draft should never rise when equipment shuts down and this indicates a serious problem. I would certainly like to know how a flashlight and mirror or camera can determine marginal problems? A draft gauge can!!
    Shalldierks
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 570
    In the series of flue pictures, WHAT is that first picture? It looks like some kind of auger in the flue!?
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,185
    The first pic is a turbulator in the boiler. The last pic still shows some straw from a bird's nest. I'm guessing the chimney's not too clear yet. Be interesting to see what's hiding under the cleanout (square door under the breaching). Not quite sure what the hose-clamp-looking thingie in the second pic (& last two), but I'm not an oil guy.
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    captainco said:
    Combustion air and flue problems are a little harder to diagnose on oil than on gas, but it still only takes draft readings. If you are in a room breathing there is usually air in that room. An oil burner has a combustion air fan so unless there is a whole house fan running, it will find all the air it needs. An oil burner operating in a room with negative pressure can usually overcome the negative, draw plenty of air into the burner and have a draft reading. If there is a combustion air problem or negative pressure problem the draft will disappear almost instantly when the burner shuts off, A restricted flue or improper flue, (includes if it is wet) will have marginal draft when the burner is operating, but when it shuts down the draft will actually rise. Draft should never rise when equipment shuts down and this indicates a serious problem. I would certainly like to know how a flashlight and mirror or camera can determine marginal problems? A draft gauge can!!
    Funny you bring up the draft Guage. We actually asked about doing a draft test. Our tech said he didn't have one but has requested it multiple times. He also has a problem with the printer for his combustion test unit and couldn't print or results.
    He said he has been a tech for years but has only been with this company for about 4 months. They told him the draft Guage is something for chimney guys not furnace guys. I am thinking I need a different oil company and service company. They have been so good for the past few years but when $hit gets serious I hear excuses and resistance. Very disappointing.
    Thank you!
    Sheila
    mattmia2GGross
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    psb75 said:
    In the series of flue pictures, WHAT is that first picture? It looks like some kind of auger in the flue!?
    Sorry about that. I uploaded the pictures in one order and they came on in a different order.
    Here are the flue pictures:



    Here is the back of the boiler picture


    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • Shalldierks
    Shalldierks Member Posts: 26
    ratio said:
    The first pic is a turbulator in the boiler. The last pic still shows some straw from a bird's nest. I'm guessing the chimney's not too clear yet. Be interesting to see what's hiding under the cleanout (square door under the breaching). Not quite sure what the hose-clamp-looking thingie in the second pic (& last two), but I'm not an oil guy.
    I went downstairs and took pictures inside the cleanout door. I do not know what I am looking at so I don't know the best picture to post. Below are a few of the pictures. Please let me know if you need something more.

    Behind clean out door


    Thank you!
    Sheila
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,543
    ratio said:

    Not quite sure what the hose-clamp-looking thingie in the second pic (& last two), but I'm not an oil guy.

    It is a chimney liner with a hard fitting at the bottom where a saddle piece sticks in through the breech and clamps to the hard pipe on the bottom of the liner.

    Shalldierks
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,543
    In light of them not having the tools to set up an oil burner or to diagnose your particular problem, it would seem reasonable to not pay them twice. You need a draft gauge for both.
    Shalldierks
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,596
    Time to find a new company. 
    CLamb
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,899
    captainco said:

    They told him the draft Guage is something for chimney guys not furnace guys. I am thinking I need a different oil company and service company.

    Any oil company that doesn't think you need to get a draft gauge to set up an oil furnace is screwing up a lot of furnaces and costing increased usage.

    There business IS selling oil after all!
    STEVEusaPA
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,691
    pecmsg said:



    There business IS selling oil after all!

    Do you honestly think their running high draft on all their furnaces, to eek out a few percent of increased oil usage, or do you think they're just ignorant or uniformed?
    Running the systems poorly and having customers lose confidence in oil & switch to gas would cost them way more in profit.

    steve
    Robert O'BrienShalldierks
  • captainco
    captainco Member Posts: 600
    Do you honestly think their running high draft on all their furnaces, to eek out a few percent of increased oil usage, or do you think they're just ignorant or uniformed?

    I think they are just ignorant. But that said, ignorance costs more than intelligence.
    STEVEusaPApecmsg
  • MikeL_2
    MikeL_2 Member Posts: 373
    captainco said:
     If you are in a room breathing there is usually air in that room. An oil burner has a combustion air fan so unless there is a whole house fan running, it will find all the air it needs. 
              Captainco,
                     I want to be certain I understand your position on combustion air and boiler manufacturers installation instructions that include detailed directions to determine the correct amount of air for combustion & ventilation. 
         Manufacturers refer to NFPA 31; are you not in agreement?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,970
    I'm sure @captainco would agree with the code. However, let's consider a little common sense here before we resort to chapter and verse in a code. First, a truly sealed space is a pretty rare beast. Second, if you are breathing comfortable in the space, the pressure altitude is less than about 8.000 feet -- around 10 psia, in fact. This will have a significant (!) effect on combustion.

    The boiler manufacturer's instructions are an effort to ensure that there is enough air allowed to get into the space so that the pressure at the intake to the boiler is not much less than "normal" for the site (they're usually rated for sea level -- about 14.7 psia) and, perhaps more important, constant any time the burner blower is operating. Then, and only then, can one get a consistent adjustment of draught and hence air to fuel ratio.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    bburd