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Do I Need Annual Oil Furnace Cleaning

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by MetMan, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. MetMan

    MetMan Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2010
    Messages:
    65
    Loc:
    Western New York
    I hope this is the right forum for this. Since I started burning wood, I've cut my oil usage in half or more. This year I won't go through 200 gallons. Do you think it would be OK to skip the annual service visit?

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  2. Mr. Heat Miser

    Mr. Heat Miser New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    53
    Loc:
    Northeastern MA
    Excellent question... I've been meaning to ask this myself. Since I installed my Harman P35i pellet stove my oil consumption has gone way down. Last year (my first year with the pellet stove) I cut it in half, from 520 gallons to 247 gallons and I burned 2 tons... this year has been milder, and I ramped up my pellet use and basically keep my oil furnace off 90% of the time, I have only used 80 gallons and burned about 2 tons so far. With only a month or so to go I am pretty confident that I will not use much more oil by the end of the season.
  3. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Messages:
    2,525
    Loc:
    SE PA
    I always thought that the service interval was 500-1000 gallons burned, SO
    I figured I could go two years between cleaning (running DHW water only, I use 300 gal/yr), BUT
    my system has sooted up to the point of blowing CO out the baro TWICE after 18 mos w/o cleaning.

    I think I have a new leak or other malfunction making it soot so much---I used to burn 1300 gals/yr
    no problem and clean on the annual plan. Grrrr.

    you should be fine going every other year, but in my case I haven't saved any $$ doing so....
    needing two WE cleanings w/o an annual service plan in 36 mos is > three annual service plans.

    I will post when my boiler has been taken to the scrapyard.
  4. yooperdave

    yooperdave Minister of Fire

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    Go ahead and skip the annual. You have an alternate heat source.

    But, when it is time to have some corrective maintenance on it, remember, it may not get serviced right away...you may have to wait a few days, that is.
  5. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Northern NH
    FYI, My usage was 300 to 350 gallons for several years and the service techs usually said that the boiler was really clean during the yearly service. Two years in a row, two different techs told me that I could skip a year so I did. It worked fine through the first two year cycle but a year and a half into the second cycle when I was working away from home during the week and only visiting one weekends, I had furnace problems while I was there for the weekend. I didnt really check it when I got there for the weekend but got woken up in the AM by the smell of smoke and heating oil. I wasnt on a service plan so kept the house warm for the weekend with wood and got a tech in on Monday. The furnace was plugged solid. After that, I bought a brush and learned how to clean the boiler. I went back to every other year service by a tech, but I do run the brushes through every year.

    Of course right about the same time, the local heating oil supplier got bought out by Irving Oil and the quality of the techs dropped. Their new annual cleaning consisted of pulling the igniitor only partiually removing the burner and reaching in with a 1" hose on a portable vacuum instead of pulling the burner completely and doing a good job with a real vacuum, Seeing the crunchy stuff in the bottom of the chamber, there was no way the 1" hose was getting much of it so I expect that the boiler was half plugged after the cleaning.

    A friend who knows oil boilers said that a lot of the loose powdery material in the heat exchanger turns into "concrete" during the summer when the boiler is shut down. I tend to agree, although not concrete it does seem a lot crunchier in the fall then in the summer. The system 2000 boilers are somewhat famous for summertime plug ups and the owners are told they have to have them serviced after the heating season before an extended idel period.
  6. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2008
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    Loc:
    media, pa
    I have oil forced air. But burn ~30 gal per year... so i am not getting it serviced. Getting it serviced is just too much. at 30 gallons its not a big deal if it is a little out of tune. When mine gets serviced it is just vacuum it out, change oil filter, change spray nozzle, and tune it. not an issue if you aren't burning much. I like the plan to serviced it every 800 gal or so.
  7. Jack Straw

    Jack Straw Minister of Fire

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    I went from 575 gallons a year (pre-stove) to 75 gallons per year ( maybe <50 gals this year!). The 1st year I serviced the boiler and it was almost perfectly clean. I now do it every 2 years w/o any problems.
  8. NH_Wood

    NH_Wood Minister of Fire

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    southern NH
    I also tried skipping a year and had a problem during the summer of the second year. Away at work and my wife called complaining of a smokey, oil smell. Unit needed to be cleaned and all was well - service guy indicated it should be cleaned once per year. We only use the boiler (10 year old high end Buderus) for DHW - wood for heat - and go through about 300 gallons per year. Cheers!
  9. yooperdave

    yooperdave Minister of Fire

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    Michigan's U.P.

    Metman, you didn't specify if you had a boiler or furnace. The advice I gave was in regards to a furnace. Not too sure about the requirements of boilers...especially if you use it year around, to heat water as some others have noted.
  10. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    Since putting in my woodstove I've gone to an every other year cleaning . . . I should mention that my boiler was only a year or two old when I got the woodstove and it's a direct vent and I use very little oil . . . so that may make a difference.
  11. MetMan

    MetMan Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2010
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    Loc:
    Western New York
    Thanks for all the replies. It is a forced air furnace, btw. I think I'll skip this year and see how it goes.
  12. Stevebass4

    Stevebass4 Minister of Fire

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    Nov 18, 2006
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    845
    Loc:
    Franklin MA
    i do the exact same as jake. new system put in the same time the stove went in. called my oil man and he said once every two years is fine given the amount of oil i use. i actually had it done this past summer and the tech showed me how clean the unit was.
  13. Adkjake

    Adkjake Member

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    Loc:
    Adirondack High Peaks
    The two previous winters I only burned about 225 gals of fuel oil in my boiler. (have separate hot water tank). Had it serviced each year, and again this past fall. Furnace tech told me, with the amount I'm burning, it really didn't need cleaning this year. He said to go with a 2 year servicing.
  14. Puffins

    Puffins Member

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    Loc:
    Connecticut
    I'd factor in the age of your unit when determining service frequency. I have 2 16 yr old Heil oil furnaces and just had them serviced Friday. One was deemed a safety hazard due to a small hole on the heat exchanger. Tech said the other one was on its way too. I'm glad I had the service done. Getting a single unit for both zones installed next week- a much more efficient unit to boot!
  15. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    I used to burn over 1,100 gals/year, now down to about 200 for DHW. I've gone 3 years without cleaning, no problems, but will have it serviced this year as a precaution. I have oil-fired hot water heat, and it runs all year 'round because of the DHW. I used to clean and service it myself, but it's better to have someone else do it, especially when it's getting done so seldom.
  16. FrankMA

    FrankMA Member

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    Loc:
    Merrimack Valley - Northeastern MA
    This is my fourth season having my furnace cleaned every other year. For the most part, it is only used to heat the water in my 40 gallon hot water tank. I use my furnace a bit during the shoulder season to knock the morning chill out of the house but once it gets cold, I pretty much burn wood 24/7.
  17. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    I compromise. I clean the heat exchanger my self every other year and have a local burner tech do the cleaning and a tune up/combustion check. I have a Bacharach kit but would rather have the burner tech go through it. One thing I learned is that oil company service techs are over scheduled and cut every corner they can since Irving Oil bought them out. They get OT in the heating season to fix units that are down so why do a good job servicing' as it cuts back on their call ins.
  18. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Nova Scotia
    In the 17 years I had my wood/oil boiler, it was only serviced once that I can remember. No more than twice for sure. It was a Riello burner. When I took the smoke pipe all apart this fall to take it out, there wasn't any excessive soot in it. The boiler was kept at least 150° year round over the 17 years, and I think I averaged about 180 gallons/year. Never had any issues with the burner not working right, quitting or not starting. Maybe I was lucky...
  19. Stegman

    Stegman Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    Sterling, MA
    I have an older furnace [early to mid1990s] that was in the house when we bought in June of 2010. I think the last time it had been serviced was 2009. Got it serviced for the first time earlier this fall and the guy said it looked fine.

    Like us, the previous owners heated primarily with wood. We only use about 125 gallons of oil a year.

    That said, I signed up for the annual service contract anyway due to the age of the furnace just so I could keep tabs on it. The service contract is actually cheaper than a straight cleaning, and they give you a steep discount on parts [30 percent, I think] if anything goes wrong.

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