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Oil Furnace - turn on occasionally or not?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Dottie, Dec 22, 2008.

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  1. Dottie

    Dottie New Member

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    Virginia
    I got a Heritage wood stove last year and with your advice I've become more proficient at using it. So far this year I've been able to use the wood stove exclusively for heat and the house has stayed pretty comfortable. I've learned to keep the fire going by timing my lunches to go home and put more wood in and with building the fire up right before going to bed. There are usually enough coals to start it up in the morning, although on cold mornings like this one (it was 10 degrees), I got up at 4 o'clock and put some logs on.

    I'm thrilled to not be dependent on the oil companies for heat and have jokingly said that my ambition is to call the oil company in five years to see if the oil was still ok to use, but now I think I should ask you all for some advice.

    Should I be firing up the furnace to keep it running properly, and if so, how often and for how long a period of time. I have two tanks and I think I have about one and one-half tanks full of oil. The furnace is a forced air kind, if that makes a difference. I just shut it off completely last year at the end of the season and I haven't had it on at all this year and I've been thinking that maybe just leaving it there might case some harm to the system, or that the oil itself might degrade.

    I would appreciate hearing from people with experience with this.

    Thank you.

    Dottie

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  2. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    There are differences of opinion on this subject. Some will run their furnace once or twice per season, some once a month and some every week. And then, of course, there are some who don't run it at all. If it were me, I'd run it once or twice per season just to make sure it works. After all, you do have the fuel on hand already.

    As for the fuel, we've burned oil that was 10 years old and had no problems with it. Sometimes though you can get a lot of condensation so will end up with more water in the oil. A good filter helps.
  3. pinewoodburner

    pinewoodburner Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
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    Va.
    I live in Virginia and have an oil heat, hot water baseboard. My domestic hot water is electric. Each spring in the past I have cut off the oil and do not fire it up until late fall. Never had a problem. I have not had my oil heat on, the entire system off, for the last two weeks. Cut it on last night since the temps where going down very low and I need the oil heat to supplement the stove, house is not that well insulated. This system has been working like that since 1988 when the domestic hot water was pulled off and went to electric.
  4. pr0vidence

    pr0vidence New Member

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    Loc:
    south central CT
    I fire mine roughly once a month, or whenever I think of it, just to keep the juices flowing. i just fire it long enough to feel heat coming out of the ducts, then shut it right down and stuff the stove.

    Just whatever works for you and makes you comfortable, however often you feel you should fire it to make sure things work properly. You don't want to find out minutes before you go away for a long weekend that your furnace isn't working properly and it's going to be -15.
  5. ControlFreak

    ControlFreak Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    Holden, MA
    I would suggest that you run the system now and then, enough to ensure that the system is reliable enough for you to take a vacation without much concern of it failing.
  6. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    Our propane stove is set either at 66 or 68...it usually comes on in the early morning till someone tends the fire. For years we burned without a reliable back up and it doesn't bother us to hear it kick on a couple times a day.

    Just say'en, I think our old oil stove went bad from non use as the thermostat was closer to the wood stove back then.
  7. bridgerman

    bridgerman Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
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    155
    Loc:
    Montana
    I run my boiler several times a day, just to keep my pipes from freezing. I created the ThermGuard unit to run the boiler regardless of what the thermostat read. You can program it to come on just once a day for a couple of minutes if that is all you are looking for. Many folks program it to come on for a few minutes every 3 or 4 hours, just to make sure that some water is going through their pipes. This keeps them from freezing. If you don't have a problem with frozen pipes, you could run once a day for 2-3 minutes. It wouldn't use much oil and you would be assured that your system was realy if you needed it.

    ThermGuard is available with a 10% discount for Hearth.com members and has free shipping. if you search Hearth.com for ThermGuard you will see lots of people using it and their thoughts.

    Check out: www.bearmountaindesign.com

    Cheers,
    John
  8. edthedawg

    edthedawg Minister of Fire

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    I have a ~20+ yr old Weil-McLein boiler and run it many times a day purely out of necessity - it makes the hot water! but on these cold, cold days, I also use it to run alongside the Heritage. The oil heat (single pipe steam radiators - good old stuff!) heat up the entire house pretty quickly. The Heritage then does a decent job keeping it warm thru the day.

    Dottie - good to hear you are having such great success with your Heritage these days!
  9. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

    Joined:
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    3,876
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    Salisbury, MD
    In the mornings like this morning with it being in the teens outside with the below zero windchill my oil forced air furnace will kick on at 65 degrees. I still keep it on through the winter to supplement the wood heat in the house, sure I use some oil but I know it works and the house stays comfy. I don't use anywhere near the amount of oil that I would without the wood heat, I can live with a small oil bill.
  10. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I would definitely cycle the furnace occasionally. You want to be sure it works well when you need it if you get sick or injured or it's just damn cold out.
  11. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    Run mine a few times per year. Usually at least once or twice in the shoulder season, that way if there is a problem, I have time to get it fixed.
    Then a few times during the heating season. Just to keep her operable, and know I have back up if needed. Usually do this when its in the single digits or lower, as it is being tested to run and helping with getting the house up to temp on a lazy morning or extremely cold day. Like today.
  12. bcnu

    bcnu New Member

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    Second year with my Homestead soapstone and also have oil forced air. The furnace is original and 42 years old but runs well. last year i didn't burn more than 10 gallons the entire season(partly because I wanted to be a 24/7 wood burner).. Well, been there done that so this year I am using the oil to augment the wood. I have plenty of both oil and wood. I posted a question about how long oil should be good in a tank and received a variety of replies. Glad to hear that someones gone 10 years as most responses indicated 6 months to two years. Also herd that replacing filters was good idea. will continue to use some oil as wanted, especially now that I can replace my more expensive oil with cheaper stuff this year. We currently have about 15 inches of snow on the ground from this past weeks storm. I have enough wood in the garage to last thru the end of the month then will need to go to woodshed and replenish supply.
  13. FireWalker

    FireWalker Feeling the Heat

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    I have a radiant floor loop in my home on most of the 1st floor run by a oil fired boiler. I relocated my thermostat to the new back room (entry/master bedroom) addition so those spaces are colder/farthest away from my Equinox. I like the feel of warm hardwood floors so I set the thermostat for 64 and that will run the furnace most mornings somewhere around 4am for about 30-45 minutes (about 1/2 gallon of oil). Now at 6am when I get up the floors are nice and warm, the back room/master bedroom are at least 64 and the wood stove will (except on real cold days) do the rest of the days heating.

    Something I have learned in my short time heating with a soapstone stove. If you don't ever let the fire die down to just a few coals (just enough to re-light) you will never get to use the energy stored in the stones. This is why I don't get up at 4am to load the stove, there will be plenty of coals left at 6am, the stones are still cranking good heat and I only need 30 minutes to get things good and hot again. Make sense to you guys? It's all about stored energy and allowing that stored energy to be used.
  14. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Do you get your DHW from this boiler? Folks in the boiler room have discussed oil going bad. There's an additive that can preserve it. Any piece of "backup" or "emergency" equipment: boiler, generator, marital aid, Atari 2600- should be checked or cycled once in a while to ensure that it's there when you need it.
  15. bcnu

    bcnu New Member

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    Stored energy makes sense to me. Stove coming down from a 400 degree stovetop temp to 300 now and I'll let it get down to around 225-50 then add more wood. A little more snow falling right now with outside temp of 29 and a toasty 77 inside. I measured 7 inches of snow from yesterday - on top of the 1/4 inch sheet of ice and we have 9 inches under that. I know I know, it's kinda puny for some of you Yukoners, or perhaps even some of the extreme stuff on the east coast - but hey, this is our once in a 40 year record. :vampire:
  16. Gamalot

    Gamalot New Member

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    Loc:
    NY Catskills
    I begin opening windows much above 75*. This morning it was 0* and the entire house had an average of 70 which is perfect for us.

    My oil fired base board also make the DHW so it is always doing a little work. I also have 3 zones with the 2 topside ones never calling for heat but the lower floor does when it goes below 55* down stairs.

    Like anything else, use it or loose it, and I like keeping all the juices flowing just so I know when problems are present.

    My furnace is not even 2 months old and has already gone down on me so I don't have allot of faith in any mechanical heat source.

    Gary
  17. fishinpa

    fishinpa Member

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    SE PA
    For the first shoulder of this season the (oil/forced air) heater hasn't kicked on once. The 'kid' sleeps during the day and doesn't understand the consequences of having to pay the oil man out of his pocket, so the stove cools down. PLUS I know the 'ol lady is kicking on the oil unit as soon as I'm gone in the morning. Actually, I got up this morning & the back of the house was about 57 and the front was about 63. I though, well it's about 14 outside so I think it feels just fine in here and proceeded to walk the house naked (as I do every morning) without feeling cold at all. That way of thinking just doesn't seem to work for the female mind though.

    We got into the teens last night and today so the oil heater has been kicking on here & there. Nothing like last year though without the wood heater!

    I'm hoping to get through the season on less than a tank. Hopefully MUCH less, but we'll have to wait and see. Next year will be better because I plan on getting what wood I'll stlill need for next winter ready VERY early in the spring. I have a bunch split already and several pallets of stacked rounds waiting to be split. I have the 1st year blues of not enough wood and what I have is not as seasoned as it should be.

    One VERY large + on my side... Our 'old' oil company which I told to go take a flying leap last year (due to their rates) made an accidental delivery about 2 weeks ago of about 45 gallons, completely topping off my tank. I wonder if they think they are going to get $1 out of me?
  18. LeonMSPT

    LeonMSPT Minister of Fire

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    513
    Loc:
    From Maine, now living in Alaska
    I goof up enough... boiler runs "once in awhile"... nearly 4,000 square feet, heat and domestic hot water for five adults, 77 gallons of oil between 11/12 and 12/12. Getting the coal boiler figured out now, and the oil side hasn't run for three days now.

    Fairly cool here currently. Been a slim distance above zero or 10 below for almost three days now. Got a little snow yesterday afternoon and last night...
  19. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    For whatever it's worth, my new (2 years old) super-duper oil boiler automatically comes on about once a day for a few minutes even in the summertime unless it's been turned off at the switch. This kills me because it sounds like burning dollar bills. But my heating/plumbing guy says they're designed to do that now to keep them in good shape. Still, he had no compunctions about turning it off when I got my woodstove and was hoping to do without it entirely.

    I'd suggest you check with whoever services your burner and see what he says.
  20. eernest4

    eernest4 New Member

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    Loc:
    ct
    What provendence said above.

    I had my oil fired hot water radiator system off since may & fired it up in oct & it smoked for about 5 minutes. Then the nozzle strainer cleared itself out & allowed a proper stream of oil to flow to the nozzle & the flame pattern in the firebox stabilized itself & stipped smoking.

    This is probably an indication that i should disassemble the nozzle & nozzle stariner & clean it out with carburator spray cleaner and change the oil pump filter too but I am lazy & cheap, too & will only do it if the oil burner stops working.

    They recommend that this be done once a year as standard maintainance.
    Usually I can go a year and a half & sometimes two years but if you don't care to get stuck in the middle of the winter with a down oil burner & have to get it back up before the house freezes, it is way easier to do the yearly maintainance.

    I do my own & so I don't have to wait for a service teck that don't work on sat or sunday.
    I can do it at any time I chose or that the oil burner chooses for me.

    I keep a spair oil burner oil pump filter and a spair nozzle assembly handy so that I need not go running for parts in the middle of the night in my house that has no wood stove.

    My other house with the wood stove, the oil burner has not yet run in 2008 but if it keeps being cold (6 deg) I am thinking to turn it on for an hour, just to get the whole house warm & not meerly the rooms that the wood stove heat reaches.

    Step through the door to the other room, from 74* to 45*
    oh don't forget to put your cold weather jacket on first!!! :p
  21. FireWalker

    FireWalker Feeling the Heat

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    We are having the coldest morning of the season right now (-10). My furnace was running from 3am on and the stove was crusing at 300. I went back to sleep but couldn't take it anymore by 5 so I got up and stoked the stove and went back to sleep for an hour. When I got up it was 70 in my main space and mid 60s in the back where my thermostat is, I kicked the stove up to high and let it go hotter than I ever had. The new stove smell happened again and I closed to half reading 450 on the pipe. After 45 min I was up to 75 and the air was getting to the back thus keeping the oil monster at bay. I've been waiting for this morning to test this stove. It just can't heat my whole house to 70 but it can if pushed a little make a whole lot of heat. I have yet to let it run a full load at more than 1/2 throttle as my main space gets too hot, and I start to chicken out running near max temps.
    I'm now at work in Glens Falls, temp outside -18. It's so cold the closer on my office door (alum. & glass) won't work and the door slams shut shaking the whole building and I expect the glass to break any time now.
  22. eernest4

    eernest4 New Member

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    hi firewalker,

    I couldn't take it any more either. Was 6 deg at 2 am but at 5 am it had dropped to 2 deg , last night so I actually turned on my oil heat for one hour.

    It is so nice to have all the rooms in my house warm (70* ) instead on only two rooms.

    I think I am going to splurge & have a load of oil delevered so I can be warm on the coldest days. I still run the wood stove, but when enough is enough, I can flip the switch & be really warm.
  23. Dottie

    Dottie New Member

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    Loc:
    Virginia
    Thank you all for your replies. I'm glad to know that oil will last a long time with no apparent harm. I will start turning the furnace on periodically, just to make sure it's ok, as this does seem to be the consensus and it does make sense.

    I haven't had the oil furnace serviced in a couple of years as they always charge 2-3 times what they advertise as the tuneup price. I think I'll wait until summer for a complete tuneup as that's when they have a special; think I'm in a better position to bargain with them now that I'm not dependent on them for heat!

    I also envy the ones that know how to change the filter and nozzle themselves, I would love to know how to do that, maybe the oil guy will give me lessons.

    Thanks again for all your good advice.

    Dottie
  24. FireWalker

    FireWalker Feeling the Heat

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    Dittie,

    It worries me some that you have skipped the service on your oil furnace for a couple of years. I had mine serviced at the beginning of last winter and skipped this winter. I did this because I only used one tank of oil last winter and only intend to use one this winter. If I was heating with just oil, I would use total of 4-5 tanks (275 gallons/tank). So what is my point you ask? When your furnace is serviced not only do they change the nozzle, clean the burner filter and change the tank filter, they clean the soot off the heat exchanger inside the furnace itself. Why is this important you ask? Well, as you burn oil, all this crusty stuff sticks to all the internal components in and around the firebox. If left long enough this soot will grow thick on the heat exchanger and in your flue causing your furnace to work much harder to produce the heat you are calling for.

    So, I recommend if you have run more than 3 tanks of oil through your oil burner, you may want to spend the $250 to have it serviced so when you do use it, it is running cleanly (less pollution) and at peak efficiency. A furnace that is not serviced often enough can easily burn twice as much oil than if it were serviced regularly. Just a heads-up. I am not in the furnace repair or fuel oil business.
  25. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Ditto. Not to mention, the older your furnace/boiler, the more life you'll get out of it if you get it serviced every year. And also not to mention a competent heating service guy can spot a part near failure and fix it before it stops your boiler in the middle of the coldest night of the year and require a very expensive emergency call. Annual servicing is not a good thing to skimp on, IMHO.
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