Oil heating systems are known for their durability. They can last more than a double longer than propane-run systems. It is not uncommon for oil furnaces and burners to last for 30 years. This can only be achieved through proper maintenance.

If you want to perform basic checks on your own you need to know basic principles of how burners work. A heating oil burner consists of an electric water pump, oil spraying nozzle and an electric spark – similar to that in gas powered kitchen ranges or lighters. Some of most common problems which occur in oil burners and tell you that burner service is needed are:

  1. Burner won’t start. This indicates problem with the pump. It is first needed to check electric wiring and fuses to see whether the burner actually gets power. If there’s power in the socket your pump may be broken and professional repair is needed.
  2. The pump is working but there’s no fire. This indicates possible problems with the nozzle. Nozzle is the most vulnerable part of your heating system and should be replaced every year. The nozzle opening is very small so even very small particles which are hard noticeable to naked eye can clog it. Water can also clog it, so it’s good to check whether there’s water in the oil.
  3. Burner smokes. The most common cause to this problem is not the burner itself, but there’s an issue in another part of your system. What can be in such situations due to burner is an eroded nozzle. It is needed to replace the nozzle or end cone. Even if the issue is found with the burner, it’s good to check other parts of your system – chimney, heat exchanger and valves.
  4. Excess oil consumption. This problem can be due to many causes, but if it’s in the burner then it should be a wrong nozzle installed or improper pump adjustment which all may lead to inadequate oil spraying and combustion is not optimized.

Scheduled maintenance – annual burner service

oil-burner-serviceRegular checks and scheduled maintenance is the key  to burner’s long life. Fall maintenance is the most important task. It’s good to perform it while days are still relatively warm to have enough time for handling possible problems. Some basic checks can be carried out by the home owner, such as possible leakages, and whether the system runs or not. A complete system checkout however requires professional assessment. It is needed to know whether the system lost some of its heating capability due to some of many problems which can occur during its long term operation or even over the summer due to corrosion of certain parts. A burner nozzle is a clear example of a part which can deteriorate over summer. Other parts subject to corrosion include metal pipes and valve which may leak.

Oil and air filters would also need replacement as they’re usually designed to last a single season – similar to filters in your car.

Possible problems can even happen to the oil tank, so it’s not recommended to procure oil before the complete fall check is done.