Oil boilers are common in some areas of the country that see the coldest temperatures during the wintertime. The boilers use heating oil that sits in a tank, runs through a long oil line, and sprays into the firebox area of the heating system. Oil boilers can have specific issues that allow the boiler to run, but keep the system from firing or creating heat. You will need to investigate the problem and try some of the below fixes when this occurs.
Unclog the Oil Line
If you notice the temperature dropping well below freezing in your area, then the oil in your tank may start to freeze or gel. While an additive is usually placed in the tank to keep this from happening, excessively low temperatures as well as the small width of the oil line can cause some gelling problems. Heating oil that gels will clog the fuel line. If you think this may be the case, then you can add a different additive to your tank that will remove water that has mixed with oil and may cause further freezing issues. The additive will also assist with lowering the freezing temperature of the oil. Ask your heating specialist about additives or think about purchasing a dry fuel or gel reducing material from your local home store. Make sure the material is made for heating oil specifically and not for diesel, and add it directly to your tank.
Once you place the additive in with the heating oil, think about also wrapping heat tape around the thin oil line that sits outside the home. Purchase tape for use with flammable materials or fuel lines to reduce fire hazards.
Clean the Electrodes and Sprayer
There are two different parts within the oil boiler fire box that allow the heating oil to burn and the system to start. These parts are the sprayer nozzle and the igniter electrodes. The electrodes produce a small spark while the sprayer releases fuel into the furnace. The fuel spray then combusts when it is hit by the spark. However, if the spray nozzle and the electrodes are dirty, this is not likely to happen. The spark will either not be strong enough to cause the fuel to alight, or the nozzle will not release enough fuel.
It is wise to clean the electrodes and the front of the spray nozzle if you are having a boiler problem. You will need to loosen the bolts on the front door of the furnace and swing the door open. The spray nozzle will be sticking out from the back of the door and the electrodes will sit right above the nozzle. Gently wipe these parts with a clean cloth and then place a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad and wipe them again until all soot and debris is removed.
If you have questions or cannot figure out the problem, contact a company like Erickson Plumbing & Heating for help.