Oil burning furnaces are not very complicated and if they are maintained properly they will run efficiently for years. There are two major types of oil burning furnaces that are used in residential systems and while they are a little different, they work through similar processes. Here are a few tips to help you keep your oil burning furnace running through the year.
Hot Air Versus Hot Water Furnaces
The way these systems work is pretty straight forward. The furnace has a fire box where the fuel, in this case, heating oil, and the air mix. There is a nozzle that atomizes the mixture of air and fuel, spraying it into the firebox where it is ignited and used to warm the heat exchanger in the firebox. Air then passes through the heat exchanger and is warmed then pumped out into your home. The hot water system, or boiler as it is often called, works much the same way but instead of hot air, boilers create hot water that is circulated through pipes that transfer heat to the home through radiant heat baseboards.
Common Failures in Oil Burner Systems
If the hot air system is going to fail, the most common issue is the fuel nozzle. The nozzle can wear over time or become clogged with soot that will lower the efficiency of the nozzle. In some cases, the nozzle becomes so clogged that the fuel/air mix changes and the burner can become over saturated with fuel. The furnace can not run this way and if it does, it will use a large amount of fuel and cause damage to the firebox. The best solution for this is to have the furnace cleaned once a year by a qualified technician. The nozzle will likely be replaced with a new one and the firebox, heat exchanger, and other parts in the system cleaned so the furnace runs at its best.
Circulator Pump Failures
One of the most common problems with hot water systems is the circulator pump in the system. The pump or pumps on multi-zone systems are critical to proper functioning of the system. If the pump stops working, the hot water will not be pumped through the system to the baseboards. This can be the pump or the electronic controller that causes the problem but in either case, the problem should be diagnosed by a service technician because both parts are expensive and changing them when they are still working doesn't make sense.
If these oil burning systems are maintained properly, these failures are a lot less likely and the systems are pretty efficient. They are used commonly in homes and businesses across the country and offer years of service in most cases.