Photograph of  a modern oil-fired heating boilerInspect, Diagnose & Repair Oil Burners

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How to inspect, diagnose & repair oil burners used on oil-fired heating boilers or furnaces using a visual inspection approach as well as (optional) simple test equipment.

We include a description of common oil burner adjustment and operating problems and we illustrate some of the basic oil burner tests and measurements made in servicing and adjusting the equipment for safe, efficient operation.

We illustrate oil burner smoke testing and oil burner carbon dioxide level measurement.

This article series answers most questions about all types of heating system troubleshooting, inspection, diagnosis, and repairs. We describe how to inspect, troubleshoot and repair heating and air conditioning systems to inform home owners, buyers, and home inspectors and students of heating service methods about common heating system defects.

The articles at this website describe how to recognize common oil-fired heating appliance operating or safety defects, and how to save money on home heating costs

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How to Troubleshoot Problems at Oil Burners Found on Heating Boilers, Water Heaters, Furnaces

Oil burner schematic (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesThis article explains the inspection, diagnosis, & repair of oil burners used in heating appliances such as hot water boilers, steam boilers, & water heaters.

In the oil burner inspection article provided here we explain visual and other clues of oil burner problems.

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Article Series Contents:

An expert inspection of an oil burner begins either with having made note of building owner/occupant concerns (noises, odors, no heat, high fuel costs), or with having made some basic visual observations outside: a sooty chimney top, for example. The sketch shown just above is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates, a Toronto home inspection, report writing tool, & home inspection education company. [Click to enlarge any image]

The oil burner inspection continues indoors, even before entering the utility room where the oil burner (or often more than one of them if oil fuel is used for both heating and a separate water heater) is located: look at the building interior as you enter: are there odors, soot deposits, noises associated with the heating system?

The oil burner inspection becomes detailed, and diagnostic, when you can actually see the equipment. It's obvious that you should notice oil leaks, soot in the boiler or furnace room, noises, odors, signs of repeated repairs, piles of junked parts, signs of unprofessional work (covers off of controls, sloppy wiring or plumbing). But just what each of these clues might mean bears some additional explanation that we offer below.

Outdoor Clues of Heating Equipment Oil Burner Troubles

Heating company service tech rushing to leave the job (C) D Friedman

If the chimney top is sooty we don't yet know the cause of poor oil burner operation but we know there is a problem.

If your inspection of the chimney top, even from ground level, perhaps with binoculars, shows water, frost, or mechanical damage to the chimney itself, or a missing chimney cap, these conditions may not only affect the operation of the oil burner, but they may be very unsafe.


Indoor Clues of Oil Burner Troubles

Black stains on an indoor ceiling (C) Daniel Friedman On entering the building or by customer interview, start with a check for these signs of improper oil burner operation, regardless of whether the burner is powering a boiler, furnace, or water heater:

Water damaged oil burner (C) Daniel Friedman Water damaged oil burner (C) Daniel Friedman

Signs of Trouble at the Oil Tank that Cause Oil Burner Problems

We mentioned outdoor oil tank problems above, but even indoors you may spot signs of trouble that affect oil burner operation.

Boiler or Furnace Room Clues of Oil Burner Troubles

We have moved this topic to BOILER / FURNACE ROOM TROUBLE SIGNS - please continue reading there.

Signs of Trouble at the Oil Burner Itself - Visual Inspection

We've moved this discussion to OIL BURNER VISUAL INSPECTION

Signs of Trouble at the Oil Burner - During Operation



Signs of Trouble Inside the Oil Burner - Simple Disassembly, Inspection, Testing

We moved this topic to OIL BURNER INSIDE TROUBLE

Oil Burner Won't Run: Diagnostic Steps - what to check in what order

Aat OIL BURNER WONT RUN we have collected oil burner diagnostic procedures from several texts, [1] - [22] adapted, expanded, and generally re-ordered steps in order of most likely to be successful and easiest to perform.

Readers needing an approach to heating system inspections that assures thoroughness, should also

where we explain an organized approach to inspecting the entire heating system, beginning outdoors, continuing indoors, and ultimately in most detail in the boiler or furnace room.


Continue reading at OIL BURNER SMOKE TEST or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see OIL BURNER INSPECTION & REPAIR FAQs - questions & answers posted at this article

Or see OIL BURNER WONT RUN - Diagnostic Steps - what to check in what order

Or see OIL BURNER DIAGNOSTIC FAQs - diagnostic questions & answers about oil burners

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OIL BURNER INSPECTION & REPAIR at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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