Oil Fired Hot Water Heater Troubleshooting

It’s not unusual to see oil-fueled boilers and heating systems in areas that have limited access to natural gas. Having these systems in place allows homeowners to use renewable fuels while other companies offer their clients a mix of heating oil and biodiesel (both produce less pollution compared to heating oil alone).

But just like any other system, an oil fired hot water heater is also prone to some issues. Then again, knowing how to solve these problems by yourself means saving a lot of money and time in the process. After all, the issue with your hot water heater may be very simple.

This article will focus on what you can do when your oil-fueled hot water heater runs into trouble. In addition, you’ll also find other tips on how to maintain your heater.

When Hot Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs

This is something not to be taken lightly when it happens. And when it does happen, check the sacrificial anode on the heater right away to see its condition. Also, you should do this no matter what kind of water tank you have installed.

The reason for this may be because of debris in the water supply system. Whether it be accumulated debris in a water heater or debris from a corroded dip tube, the most important part is having these checked. Here’s a guide on how to inspect the sacrificial anode or the dip tube on a heater:

  • Turn the water heater off
  • Close the cold water valve (this valve lets water enter the heater tank)
  • Open a hot water faucet located nearby (this relieves the water pressure in the tank)
  • Remove the sacrificial anode
  • Install a new sacrificial anode

To avoid problems in the future (or at least minimize them), make sure you inspect the sacrificial anode of your heater in intervals of three to ten years. Some even suggest that the anode rod should be removed every three years for inspection and it should be replaced if it shows more than 50% depletion.

When There Is No Hot Water From Oil-Fueled Water Heaters

Here are the possible causes why there’s no hot water from your heater:

Thermostat. Some thermostats don’t just control the heating in your home. Sometimes, it controls the water heating as well. When you have this kind of thermostat, it might not turn on when its setting is above the ambient temperature of the room. So when you’re having hot water issues, make sure to check the thermostat to see that its setting is at least five degrees higher than the actual temperature of the room.

Electric. Sometimes, the issue might just be with a switch that is not turned on. So make sure to check that all the power switches on the heater are set to ON. In addition, try to check to heating circuit fuses as well as the circuit breaker itself. There’s a possibility that these might have been tripped, particularly if there was a surge to the electrical system.

Fuel. Again, the problem might be as simple as not having enough fuel. This is why you should exhaust all possible causes before calling in for assistance. An indication that your tank doesn’t have enough fuel is when the gauge indicates less than 1/8 full or you see the mark at the bottom of the gauge or you don’t see the mark at all.

In case you have a buried tank that doesn’t have an indoor fuel gauge, use a clean stick to check the tank. Doing this allows you to measure the level of heating oil that is left inside the tank.

Electric motor. Sometimes the reset switch of the electrical motor trips, especially when the motor overheats. When such a thing happens, the button pops out to signal that the internal safety device has been tripped. When this happens, the motor shuts off.

You can restart the motor safely when it has cooled down. To restart the motor, you just have to push the reset switch. In case it trips, turn it off as there might be internal damage with your system. You also need to call in a professional to see what that problem is.

Heating system reset . When you’ve checked for all of the above, the last thing you can do is reset the entire heating system. The color of the button is red and you just have to press and hold it for three counts before releasing it. When electricity is present, the system will attempt to restart. And if it does turn on smoothly, it’s still advised to call in a professional to have it checked.

When performing a reset, it’s important to not press the reset button more than one time. Why is that the case? It might cause fuel to flood the combustion chamber and that is very dangerous. This means that if the system doesn’t reset after you’ve pressed it once, call a professional to help right away.

When There Is Soot Blowing Out Of The Barometric Damper Or Flue Pipe

When this happens, it means that there is an improper burner operation taking place and the heater needs to be services right away. Other signs that this might be the case include:

  • soot and burn marks
  • noisy oil burners
  • odors
  • stumbling and rumbling

The appearance of soot is often caused by excessive pressure inside the combustion chamber. This is also known as “back pressure.” Another reasons for this happening is that the heater is very much past due for cleaning (keep in mind that soot blocks the exhaust flue). Or, it can also be caused by a blocked chimney, improper draft regulator adjustment and another defect altogether. As such, it’s best to call a professional to sort this issue out.

Some Maintenance Tips

  • Check for leaks or mechanical damage frequently.
  • Check the settings of the water heater.
  • Check for signs of improper burner operation (sooting, draft issues, back-pressure burns).
  • Check the water heater drain valve for leaks.
  • Check for heating oil leaks.

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